More To Know

Dec. 14, 2021

In Acts 16, Luke, the writer and traveling companion of the Apostle Paul, shares in extensive detail their ministry travels and incidents. One very interesting section of that chapter focuses on the imprisonment of Paul and Silas. The specifics shared from Acts 16:25 - 39 highlight “Nine Exceptional Elements” associated with the Unusual Prayer Service that took place that night.

Earlier in the chapter (Acts 16:13 AMP) Luke mentions that they went to the “bank of the river where we supposed there was an [accustomed] place of prayer…”. Then in Acts 16:16 AMP Luke says, “As we were on our way to the place of prayer…”. Both of these passages indicate places where prayer was expected. People considered these places suitable and conducive for prayer. Beside the river was probably shaded and peaceful. There may have been soothing sounds of nature that encouraged prayer. These were known gathering spots where the people were in the habit of communing to pray.The atmosphere there was calm and pleasant. It was likely very easy to approach the throne of God in these locations and lift their voices, petitions and thanksgivings to the Lord.

This other setting is in extreme contrast to the place of prayer where Paul and Silas led a prayer and praise service later in the chapter. Paul was instrumental in a woman’s deliverance from an evil spirit (Acts 16:18). This enraged those who were profiting financially from the woman’s bondage. They were so outraged that they dragged Paul and Silas to court and had them thrown in prison. But At Midnight! Acts 16:25 continues Luke’s narrative surrounding those events. This is where the Nine Exceptional Elements of Unusual Prayer are revealed!

25 But about midnight when Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them;

Element 1 - Unusual Place - Prison is not the usual place that these men were accustomed to praying. It is important to keep our usual spiritual disciplines even in and especially in unusual circumstances. Sometimes when the unexpected happens people break from the things that they know to do to maintain their spiritual strength, focus and stability.

Element 2 - Unusual Prayer - These men were praying and singing hymns of praise to God. They were not praying for the Lord to strike down their captors or to punish those who caused their imprisonment. They weren’t worrying or wringing their hands fretfully about what might happen to them the next day. They weren’t asking to be delivered or for the Lord to heal their bodies. During the upheaval their clothes had been torn off of them and they were struck with many blows and beaten with rods. (Acts 16:22-23) They weren’t asking for revenge or for the Lord to organize a grand escape.

 26 Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so [powerful] that the very foundations of the prison were shaken and at once all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened.

Element 3 - Unusual Power - Who knows what this earthquake would have measured on a Richter scale? This power was so intense that the very foundations of the prison were shaken. And yet, the earthquake was localized to just that place...the place of prayer! The quake didn’t shake the entire city. Only the prison was affected. All the chains were unlocked or unfastened from every prisoner.

 30 And after he brought them out [of the inner prison], he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

Element 4 - Unusual Persuasion - The jailer was persuaded to seek salvation because Paul saved him from certain natural death. If the prisoners had escaped the jailer would have been put to death by the authorities. When he saw all the prison doors open, he assumed that all the prisoners had gotten free and had run away. Rather than being killed by the decree of the magistrates, the jailer planned to fall on his sword and end his own life. What Paul and the others did by not escaping was unheard of. It was natural to expect that they would all have fled. The jailer would have been executed especially since he was sleeping during the expected escape. He was so sure that the prisoners were securely bound that he was sleeping soundly with no concern that there might be a break out.  Acts 16:23-24 states that he was given a strict charge to keep particular watch over Paul and Silas. To accommodate that instruction he had put them in the dungeon, the innermost part of the prison. Plus he had fastened their feet in stocks. The jailer had been asleep and was only startled out of sleep by the earthquake. He was not influenced by hearing the men singing, praying or praising. Even though the jailer didn’t necessarily hear them, their unusual prayer and worship produced unusual persuasion. When the jailer thought his life was over he was persuaded to ask, “What must I do to be saved?”

Element 5 - Unusual Population - The people present at this prayer service are not the usual attendees. Prayer services are typically the least supported. In a congregation of 100 it is a stretch to see more than five to gather for prayer. Keep in mind the 100 include Bible toting believers who hold offices and positions in the local fellowship. The 100 are made up of pastors, deacons, trustees, ushers, prophets, evangelists, teachers, apostles, bishops and overseers. But prayer service is generally deemed not as important as the other services. Or many think only the holiest of saints should attend. They can pray for the rest of us while we enjoy our evenings, weekends, holidays and families. Or only the widows and old maids have time for prayer meetings. The rest of us have to keep our social lives on and poppin’.

But this was an unusual population present for prayer. No one there was decked out in a big hat or a fancy robe. But my, oh my, were the ones present greatly rewarded for being in a bad place at the right time!

 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord [concerning eternal salvation through faith in Christ] to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their bloody wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household. 34 Then he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, since he had believed in God with his entire family [accepting with joy what had been made known to them about the Christ].

Element 6 - Unusual Provision - The jailer and his entire household were provided salvation. All he ever received from prisoners before this was probably a lot of cursing, name calling and death threats. But this time he received life-giving, life-altering transformation. There was divine provision for him and all those who were dear to him. His heart and perception were changed. He became the recipient of unusual provision. Then he was the provider of unusual provision. He actually bathed the wounds of Paul and Silas. He supplied relief and comfort to their battered bodies. Plus he brought them into his own home and provided food to nourish and strengthen them.

 Element 7 - Unusual Praise - Verse 34 tells of the jailer expressing with exuberance the joy of the Lord he is now possessing! This kind of unusual praise is not done silently. It not only fills the heart but it bubbles up and gushes forth out of the mouth in almost overwhelming glee!


35 Now when day came, the chief magistrates sent their officers, saying, “Release those men.” 36 And the jailer repeated the words to Paul, saying, “The chief magistrates have sent word to release you; so come out now and go in peace.” 37 But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us in public without a trial, men who are Romans, and have thrown us 
into prison; and now they are sending us out secretly? No! Let them come here themselves and bring us out!” 

Element 8 - Unusual Pronouncement - When it was daylight the magistrates decided to release Paul and Silas. They sent a message to the jailer to let them go. The magistrates had no clue as to all the excitement that had transpired during the night. They thought this was a casual, inconsequential (without importance or significance) command. How shocked they were by Paul’s unusual pronouncement that he and Silas refused to leave prison quietly and secretly! Paul’s premise was that the men had been very public and insulting when they threw them in prison.  So he was not going to leave by a mere message delivered by a messenger. Paul’s reply, in essence was, “You were all in the mix when you illegally sentenced us. Don’t think that you can get away with shooing us away with a wave of your hand. No indeed!” Surely this was the first time they ever had prisoners refuse to leave jail!

 39 So they came [to the prison] and appealed to them [with apologies], and when they brought them out, they kept begging them to leave the city. 

Element 9 - Unusual Pardon - The magistrates came shaking in their boots after learning that they had illegally imprisoned Roman citizens. Instead of being rude, crude and just plain wrong as they had been the day before, now they are apologizing. Suddenly fear has changed their barbaric, egotistical attitudes. When daylight came they thought they were really doing something by sending a lightweight message of pardon and release. How shocked they were to find themselves seeking pardon instead of granting it.

 Conclusion: Unusual Prayer produces unusual results. Be diligent in prayer. Use that time to draw closer to the Lord. Don’t just approach Him to get your long list of wants and needs met. He desires and enjoys relationships with His people. Don’t just pray in the usual way. Be sure that prayer is an unusual priority in your life.



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~~God Bless You~~

Oct. 20, 2021

This is a follow-up to the previous post of “What To Do Before and During a Spiritual Crisis”. Before an attack, it is advantageous to be prepared and fortified. Once the battle has begun, it is difficult to build up strength and resistance against the attacker. It is preferable and far more effective to already be strong, secure, resolute and rooted in the Lord when the assault occurs. 

Also, during a crisis, it is much easier to remain focused and diligent if you have already established spiritual disciplines and are practicing them regularly. It is not easy to create a godly habit when you are already in the midst of the fight. When things are calm some people use that time to relax. They let down their guard, a little. Quite often, these times of calm can be used to build faith and endurance. Increase study, prayer, discipline and meditation of the Word of God when there is no present urgency.

Acts 19 recounts a spiritual crisis for Paul and the other believers in the city of Ephesus. This fiasco was initiated by one man, Demetrius. Never think that one person can’t make a difference. The church at Ephesus had started with about twelve men (Acts 19:1-7). Paul remained in that region for two years (Acts 19:10). Paul’s reputation as a man of God grew. Even an evil spirit testified of Paul’s renown in the spirit realm (Acts 19:15). This testimony concerning Paul and his influence and power (Acts 19:11-12) became so widespread that some folks became nervous, angry and agitated. Demetrius was one of those people.

 He was a craftsman who made idols and called them gods. He and others had become wealthy through this vocation. Demetrius and those who did similar work were fearful that their businesses and incomes would dry up because of Paul’s teaching and preaching (Acts 19:26-27). The Bible describes the effect of Paul’s ministry like this:

Acts 19:20,23 AMP

Thus the Word of the Lord [concerning the attainment through Christ of eternal salvation in the kingdom of God] grew and spread and intensified, prevailing mightily.

But as time went on, there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way [of the Lord].

 This Demetrius raised such a ruckus and incited the people into a chaotic frenzy. So much so that the entire city of Ephesus was filled with confusion. (Acts 19:29) The emboldened mob all rushed together and dragged with them two of Paul’s ministry companions. They erupted into an unruly assembly in the amphitheater. Paul wanted to join the group in an effort to bring some order and wisdom to the situation. But because the wrath of the crowd was so intense his friends urged him to stay out of the mix. The out-of-control mob carried on with shouts and chants and madness for about two hours. (Acts 19:34) Finally, a town clerk was able to settle the crazed crowd and dismissed the assembly.

We know that once something like this is stirred up, life does not just return to normal. People’s minds are stirred to exhaustion. Their hearts are troubled. The entire atmosphere is charged with doubt, anxiety, fear and anger.

Intentional steps need to be taken in order to bring people back to a place of peace. The effects of spiritual trauma, just like any other trauma, do not just go away. Processes need to be employed to restore calmness, assurance and strength. Trauma attacks and often destroys confidence and faith.  People’s hearts, minds and spirits need to be settled. The Truth of God’s Word must be reaffirmed to them and in them. Godly focus must be restored.

Acts 20:1 is an example by Paul of a Nine-Step Process for restoring order, confidence and stability. This is an excellent guide to follow in the aftermath of any chaotic or traumatic event. Some may use this as a guide to restore fellowship among the body of believers. Others have suffered brokenness in their natural families and may use this to bring members back to wholeness. We are living in a time where life as we knew it is uncertain. We have and are experiencing things that have not taken place before in our lifetime. The Bible lets us know that before the Lord Jesus returns there will be many more instances of insanity among the people. Plagues, killings, shortages of goods and services are all quite likely to continue and increase. Be ready. Be prepared to restore whatever group you are called and equipped to help. Arm yourself with God’s wisdom and peace so you can share the same with others.

This is Paul’s Nine-Step Recovery Process according to Acts 20:1 AMP.

After the uproar had ceased, Paul sent for the disciples and warned and consoled and urged and encouraged them; then he embraced them and told them farewell and set forth on his journey to Macedonia.

 

Step 1 - “After the uproar had ceased…” Wait until the disturbance is over before trying to restore order and peace. People will not be able to hear effectively if chaos is still swirling and twirling and charging the atmosphere. They will not be able to receive instructions or implement them. (Proverbs 11:14)

Step 2 - “...Paul sent for the disciples…” Gather the people together. There is strength and safety in numbers. There is wisdom in sharing the same message of peace and safety to all the people at the same time. People benefit from seeing that they are not alone. Their confidence in God, themselves and the future is bolstered when His truth and promises are reiterated in a group setting. (Hebrews 10:25) People need to be reminded that they are a part of a thriving, vibrant community that has the ability, through God, to prosper in any circumstance.

Step 3 - “...and warned…” Don’t sugarcoat the severity of what has happened. Acknowledge and validate their sufferings. Be realistic about the dangers and deceptions. Informed people are powerful people. (Hosea 4:6) Admonish them to arm themselves with spiritual weapons. (Ephesians 6:10-18)

Step 4 - “...and consoled…” Don’t leave them with the bad news. Fear paralyzes and impairs the senses both spiritually and naturally. Comfort the people. Remind them that God is for us! Therefore, no one can successfully overcome us. (John 14:27) We are the righteousness of God. He is our Redeemer, Protector and Provider!

 Step 5 - “...and urged…” Paul persisted in earnestly advising them to stay on course. To be alert, aware and committed to the cause of Christ. Be diligent in persuading the listeners to remain faithful to what they have learned, seen, heard and believed in the Lord. (2 Corinthians 4:18)

Step 6 - “...and encouraged…” Remind them to be steadfast in the faith. When faith is challenged, that is no time to let go. Share the sure promises of God. Rehearse in their hearing that the Lord never loses. He does all things well! His timing and methods are perfect. There is no one greater than Him! (John 16:33)

Step 7 - “...then he embraced them…” Actively demonstrate your love and care for them. You have reminded them of God’s love. Now show them your love. Don’t act like you are a separate entity who has not been touched or affected by the tragedies. Let them know that you share in their purpose (their future and destiny), their passion (what they care about), and their pain (where they are hurting). Demonstrate your concern. Let them know that you are invested in their well-being.

Step 8 - “...and told them farewell…” This is probably the most difficult part. Know when to let go of their hands. It is vital that they train or retrain themselves to keep walking and recovering without your immediate guidance. Allow them to mature and to regain or gain their strength in the Lord. It is vital that they rely and depend on the Lord and not on church leadership only. (John 16:4, 17)

Step 9 - “...and set forth on his journey…” Don’t lose sight of what the Lord has called you to do. While helping others, don’t allow their trials or troubles to interfere with the timetable and mission that God has for you. (Acts 20:16) Some have missed the timing and temperature of the Lord. “Timing” because they have stayed in a place physically, mentally, emotionally and/or spiritually for two years when they were only supposed to be there two days. “Temperature” of where the Lord wants us to be may not be exactly where we want it to be. So we are constantly either trying to change the temperature or move to a different location. This journey is not about your comfort. It’s about your purpose.

 Your continued presence in a place where you are no longer supposed to be will hinder the creativity of others. Their development and maturity will be adversely affected. The direction they are supposed to be going will be off and/or delayed.

A little white in red paint makes the color pink. The intensity and the impact of the red are greatly reduced by the white. A little blue in red paint makes the color purple. White paint and blue paint are good. But if the Lord’s plan is for red, the presence of the other colors interferes with God’s plan. It distorts the perceived purpose and alters the entire complexion of the ministry, corporation or household.

Know when it is time to move on and do so. Delayed obedience is disobedience. People cannot be their authentic selves if you are in their midst longer than you are supposed to be. Paul knew when to depart and so should we. Don't allow sentiment or tradition to outweigh hearing and obeying the voice of the Lord in your life and spirit.

 

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Aug. 24, 2021

Spiritual leaders are facing some serious challenges. So much of what the Bible warns concerning believers of the faith, has and is happening. People who once seemed to be on fire for the Lord are now lukewarm and uninspired. Many who demonstrated a passion for the Word and Truth of God now rarely pick up a Bible or gather with other believers. The soul-winners, the evangelists, those who were consistently committed to witnessing to the lost have barely shared a tract or a testimony. 

There is a demonic campaign afoot to lull people to sleep, spiritually. The devil does not want people to be aware and awake. The intent of the enemy is to divert attention away from the Lord, His Word, His Ways and His Warnings.  

1 Peter 5:8 KJV 

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: 

1 Peter 5:8 AMP 

Be sober [well balanced and self-disciplined], be alert and cautious at all times. That enemy of yours, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion [fiercely hungry], seeking someone to devour.   

The Greek word in the original text translated ‘devour’ is katapinÓAccording to Strong’s Concordance #2666 the word means ‘to drink down’. The word is also used to mean ‘to swallow’, ‘to destroy’ or ‘to consume’. 

The devil’s desire is to get rid of you, if you are a child of the King. If you belong to the Lord and have submitted your life to Him, your adversary wants to destroy you. He, the devil, is cunning and crafty. He doesn’t come running at you with a big butcher knife to stab you in the heart and slit your throat. His tactics are much more subtle. Know that what he does is certainly as effective as the attack just described. But he does it in less obvious ways. Anyone with any sense of self-preservation would avoid any association with an individual who wants to kill them. But this enemy is clever, strategic and doesn't mind waiting for an opportune time to attack. He does not initially let a person know what he is all about. He presents himself as an angel of light. (2 Corinthians 11:14) But he is actually the devil of darkness and danger. 

2 Corinthians 2:11 KJV 

11 Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices. 

In the verse above, Paul the Apostle warns us that the devil uses many forms of deception. He has various tricks and tools that he uses against humanity. If one idea doesn’t produce the results he wants, he will try another form of trickery. We are to be aware of how the enemy works. Something that may seem like it is not detrimental to your spiritual growth is actually weakening your stamina.  

1 Peter 5:9 AMP 

But resist him, be firm in your faith [against his attack—rooted, established, immovable], knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being experienced by your brothers and sisters throughout the world. [You do not suffer alone.]   

Our stance of success is resistance, refusal and rebuking. Too many believers accept what the enemy says and does as fact. If you know a person hates you and wants to destroy you, why would you listen to or believe anything they say? 

James 4:7 AMP 

So submit to [the authority of] God. Resist the devil [stand firm against him] and he will flee from you.   

Becoming and remaining strong in the Lord begins with submitting to, yielding to and obeying the Lord and His Word. Come under the Lord’s authority and remain there. Some folks want to keep climbing out the window in the middle of the night. They sneak back in just before dawn and act like they have been inside all night. But the devil knows who is authentic and who is just ‘playing church’. Just when it will hurt the most, that snake in the grass will expose those who are living a double life. Don’t let him make a fool out of you. 

1 Peter 4: 1-2 KJV 

Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; 

That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God. 

Thinking and believing like the Lord Jesus Christ arms us and fortifies us against the wiles or tactics of satan and his imps. The scriptures are one way that the Lord makes His thoughts known. If you want to know how and what someone thinks, read their writings. The Bible is given to us so we know how the Lord expects us to live. 

2 Timothy 3:16 AMP 

16 All Scripture is God-breathed [given by divine inspiration] and is profitable for instruction, for conviction [of sin], for correction [of error and restoration to obedience], for training in righteousness [learning to live in conformity to God’s will, both publicly and privately—behaving honorably with personal integrity and moral courage];   

 In the natural, we are not smarter than the devil. He has more experience, he has no morals and he doesn’t follow the rules. He will cheat, lie, steal and kill to get his way. We need help in recognizing his evil ways and instructions on how to stay out of his traps. We have the Word of God which satan cannot overcome. And we have the Holy Spirit Who knows all things. The Holy Spirit will lead and guide us into ALL Truth! 

John 16:13 KJV 

13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. 

Sadly, a spiritual crisis isn’t coming - - it is already here. Many spiritual leaders have given up the fight. They quit resisting, learning, leaning and loving. They are exhausted from trying to pull people along the path of righteousness. It is hard to inspire people who no longer care. We must arm ourselves (Ephesians 6:13-18) with the whole armor of God. And sincerely encourage others to do the same. Don’t think that becoming lukewarm can’t happen to you. The only ones who are immune to satan’s tactics are those who have already fallen asleep in the Lord. If you are not in the grave then you are a target of the enemy. He is out to get you and he will unless you prepare according to the wisdom of the Word and Spirit of God. 

In the book of Judges Samson was used mightily by and for the Lord. But without realizing what was happening, he became weak. It is vital not to rely on past successes and victories. It is of utmost importance to spiritually build ourselves up. We must keep ourselves spiritually fit, aware and prepared. 

Jude 1: 20 AMP 

20 But you, beloved, build yourselves up on [the foundation of] your most holy faith [continually progress, rise like an edifice higher and higher], pray in the Holy Spirit, 

Samson expected that he would continue to be able to conquer and overcome just as he always had. But the enemy was working on him and slowly eroded his resolve. Eventually Samson gave away the source of his strength and the enemy was able to surprise and capture him. Samson’s demise happened a little at a time. He had no idea that he was being lulled to sleep, spiritually and naturally. When he woke up naturally and shook himself, his power was gone. 

Judges 16: 19-20 AMP 

19 She made Samson sleep on her knees, and she called a man and had him shave off the seven braids of his head. Then she began to abuse Samson, and his strength left him. 

20 She said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” And he awoke from his sleep and said, “I will go out as I have time after time and shake myself free.” For Samson did not know that the Lord had departed from him. 

When some people realize that a crisis is here many will shake themselves like Samson. But because they have not armed themselves, they, like Samson, will discover that their strength is gone. Prepare now. Abide in the Lord and let His words abide in you. (John 15:7) 

Be strong in the Lord. (Ephesians 6: 10-18)  Study and apply these instructions.

Be Ready. The war is won but the fight is on! 

Jul. 15, 2021

This passage is toward the end of the book of Job. It is after Job’s friends have shared their thoughts and Job has shared his. Now the Lord God is speaking and He is challenging Job. Based on what Job has said, the Lord charges that Job has spoken “words without knowledge”. (Job 38:1) Based on Job’s big talk, the Lord asked him some questions: “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” (Job 38:4) “Have you commanded the morning…and caused the dawn to know its place?” (Job 38:12) “Have the gates of death been revealed to you?” (Job 38:17) In Job 38:18 the Lord says to Job, “Tell Me, if you know it all.”

In the next chapter, Job 39, the Lord asks Job about his knowledge of the animal kingdom. This is Job 39:14 – 15 AMP:

14 The ostrich leaves her eggs on the ground and warms them in the dust,

15 Forgetting that a foot may crush them or that the wild beast may trample them.

When we look at the other birds, the ostrich seems like an oddity. Most birds fly - - the ostrich cannot. Birds usually, not always, but usually build their nests in the trees or some other high place which helps protect the eggs. The ostrich makes the nest on the ground. And it is kind of like a community nest because other females also put their eggs in the same communal nest. One ostrich may lay 12 – 18 eggs but the nest may have as many as 60 eggs in it. The dominant female puts hers in the middle, then the other eggs are placed around those. Even though ostriches are often depicted as sticking their heads in the sand they don’t really do that.

Job 39:16-17 AMP

16 She is hardened against her young ones, as though they were not hers; her labor is in vain because she has no sense of danger [for her unborn brood],

17 For God has deprived her of wisdom, neither has He imparted to her understanding.

The Lord Himself is saying here that the ostrich is not that smart. Yet God created them the way they are for His purposes and for His glory. He likes them!

Job 39:18 AMP

Yet when she lifts herself up in flight [so swift is she that] she can laugh to scorn the horse and his rider.

Even though the ostrich is lacking some attributes that are seen as advantageous and common for birds, the Lord gave the ostrich some characteristics and abilities that other birds lack.

Their ‘flight’ mentioned in verse 18 refers to their speed.

  1. They can outrun most horses.
  2. They can sustain a running speed of 40 miles per hour.
  3. The stride for an adult can be as much as 25’ in length.
  4. They can live as long as a human being…generally 50 to 75 years old.
  5. They fight with their feet. They can kill a lion with one kick.

Now if God put all that thought and originality into a witless bird, what about you? What about us? He took a lot more care in our development than He did with the ostrich. We know that we are fearfully and wonderfully made! Sometimes believers live and think like their life doesn’t matter, or that God has forgotten them or He has no real purpose for them being here. None of that is true.

Remember what the Lord said to Jeremiah as recorded in Jeremiah 1:5 AMP “Before I formed you in the womb I knew [and] approved of you [as My chosen instrument]…

The Lord says, ‘knew’, past tense. He knew everyone of us even before our parents met each other. He also gave us the ‘thumbs up’. He approved of us. He was pleased with the life we would live for Him. He was satisfied and pleased with how He created each one of us to be!

This is the rest of Jeremiah 1:5 AMP

…and before you were born I separated you and set you apart, consecrating you;[and] I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.

This is God’s stamp not only on Jeremiah, but also on every believer. He marks us as His own. This is the distinction…

  1. Knew you – way, way back He already had you in His thoughts and plans
  2. Formed you – your character, attributes and abilities are specifically suited to what He has determined for you to be and to do
  3. Approved of you – He looked at you, clapped His hands and said, ‘Yay! It’s all good!’
  4. Separated you before you were born – you were put into a different category from those who would not obey, not listen and not serve.
  5. Set you apart – those He can trust with His assignments and purposes are deemed different from the rest
  6. Consecrating you – in the AMP all of these other distinctions are past tense. This one is not past tense. It is current. The ‘ing’ ending means it is ongoing, active, current, still happening. Consecrating means being singled out from the crowd specifically for the Lord’s use and glory. This special treatment began before you were even known by your mother and continues even right this minute!
  7. Appointed you – He chose you on purpose. Because He does all things well, He equipped, prepared and chose you.
  8. Gave you your assignment – He told Jeremiah at the end of verse five what he would be doing for the Lord. God said, “I appointed you (again, past tense) as a prophet to the nations.”

What is going on in our lives isn’t always clear to us. But it is crystal clear to the Lord. The plan didn’t just start when we became aware of it. It has been in the works way, way back…a long time ago!

 At some point in our lives we have desired to have a talent, gift, attribute or strength that we lacked. Or maybe we had the trait or ability but desired to have it developed in a much greater measure. Think about this…hummingbirds and sparrows can fly. But they will never be able to soar to the heights or the speed of an eagle. Nor should they because their habitat is designed differently and they are equipped for the environment in which they are to live and thrive. We all also are designed and supplied to serve, thrive and excel in the areas that God has ordained for us. We have what we need to do what God has called us to do. We can also develop what we have to become more proficient.

 Think about the twelve men Jesus chose to impart to on a regular basis. They were all different. The Lord doesn’t only use one type of personality in His ministry. He can use all types of people. Obedience is one of the few common requirements. But as far as strengths and attributes, the Lord delights in variety!

As an example, look at a couple of the disciples. Many times when people quote a biblical personality and they name that person it is often someone who had a big presence like David, Paul, Peter or Isaiah. But think about Matthew. He didn’t seem to have an exceptionally noticeable personality. He was probably what might be referred to today as a geek. An accountant. A studious, quiet, boring man. Extremely different from loud, exuberant Peter. Matthew was a tax collector. He had a desk job. Didn’t get out in the open air much. Wasn’t prone to hunting, fishing, exercising or being one with nature. If they had eyeglasses back then he probably would have had a thick, unattractive pair. He probably wasn’t much for fashion or other fancy things. He would have been a matter-of-fact type of person who was a logical, methodical thinker.

While we know that Peter, on the other hand, was an outdoorsman. He would not have been happy sitting in an office all day crunching numbers. He wanted to be out in the open, braving the elements, using his hands and physical strength to be able to ‘see’ at the end of the day what his efforts had accomplished: a boat load of seafood! Peter was impulsive: quick to act and quick to talk. He was a man of action who believed in jumping into a situation with both feet!

These men were very different in their demeanor and perspectives. Jesus chose both of them. Their personality differences did not exclude them from being valuable and vital to the ministry. The writings they left for future believers are reflective of their different temperaments. Matthew’s account is detailed, thorough, logical and a straightforward telling of the facts. He doesn’t use poetic language like David. He doesn’t use the prophetic voice like Isaiah. He doesn’t use the emphatic voice like Peter. Matthew uses his own voice as inspired and instructed by the Holy Spirit.

That is what the Lord wants from each one of us. He did not create or desire clones or robots. He likes and treasures our individuality. We all possess abilities that please the Lord. He is the One who gave us those abilities!

When I was preparing this I thought about my parents. They wanted me to do something I do not have the capacity to do. They wanted me to be able to play the piano. I do not have good eye-hand coordination. I can’t keep time very well. Don’t have an ear for music, no sense of rhythm. Just no aptitude for it at all. And yet, they kept sending me to piano lessons. I think the teacher must have finally advised them to quit wasting their money.

But God isn’t like that. Whatever His desire is for us, we have the capacity to do it and be it. Because He sees to it that we do. The Holy Spirit endows us with what we need to fulfill our assignments. There is no failure in God. There is no shortcoming in Him. He doesn’t miss anything or forget anything. He does all things well!

 We may not appreciate some of our individual characteristics but God likes variety and He is the Master. He created each one of us on purpose. Our goal is to identify and learn our gifts and talents. Allow them to be developed and strengthened through the Holy Spirit. Then use them to glorify God.

 

 

 

Jun. 23, 2021

Matthew 17: 24 – 27 AMP

24 When they arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the half-shekel [temple tax] went up to Peter and said, “Does not your teacher pay the half-shekel?” 25 Peter answered, “Yes.” And when he came home, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do earthly rulers collect duties or taxes, from their sons or from strangers?” 26 When Peter said, “From strangers,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are exempt [from taxation]. 27 However, so that we do not offend them, go to the sea and throw in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a shekel. Take it and give it to them [to pay the temple tax] for you and Me.”

 

The tax spoken of here was not decreed by the Roman government. It was first mentioned in Exodus 30:11 – 16. The Lord spoke to Moses and directed that every male 20 years of age and older was to pay the tax, probably annually. In Moses’ day the funds were to service the Tabernacle or the Tent of Meeting. In Jesus’ time the tax was to support the Jewish temple. So, the tax was instituted by God and it was for legitimate purposes.

 Before Peter broached the subject of the unpaid tax, Jesus brought it up first. Know this – - whatever is troubling you, Jesus already knows about it and He has the solution.

Notice that those who collected the tax were keeping track of Jesus’ payments. At the time they were questioning Peter, his temple tax hadn’t been paid either. But these tax collectors don’t mention what Peter owed. They also didn’t have nerve enough to confront Jesus directly. To his credit, Peter didn’t argue with these harassing cowards. When they asked if Jesus wasn’t in the habit of paying the tax, they already knew the answer. They were keeping track. The enemy will try to rush and push people to worry about something that is not even on the horizon. The enemy will try to needle a person about a bill that isn’t due for six months. He wants to clutter our minds and drain our energies by suggesting we fret and worry about all kinds of things. He will tell you the mole on your leg looks different today than it did last week and it’s probably cancer. But we know the devil is a liar and the truth is not in him.

 When Peter came into the house Jesus addressed the matter by asking him a question.

“What do you think, Simon? From whom do earthly rulers collect duties or taxes, from their sons or from strangers?”

Jesus was not disturbed at all by this situation which seemed very pressing to Peter. Have you ever been going along in life, minding your own business, focused on what you are planning to do next? And somebody, seemingly out of nowhere, brings up a question or makes an assumption or levies an accusation that clouds the rest of your day. You are blindsided by this topic that they hit you with. Your plans for the next few minutes, days or weeks had nothing to do with what they were talking about. You were on track and focused. Now, after they dropped this bomb, you feel like you have to rearrange your thoughts and actions to try to deal with this matter. It is distracting and disheartening. It causes a person to feel anxious, sullen and discouraged. Then the enemy is jumping up and down and clapping his hands because his mission has been accomplished.

But God! Praise the Lord! But God!

 Jesus HAS the answer and He IS the answer! When Jesus asked Peter, “Who do earthly rulers collect taxes from their children or from strangers?” Peter answered correctly, “Strangers.” The point that Jesus made is that He, Jesus, is Lord of the temple. He does not need to pay tax and neither do those who belong to Him because they are His sons. A modern-day example would be that the owner of a restaurant does not charge his own kids, his own household, to eat there. The following verses explain Jesus’ superiority over everything.

 Colossians 1: 16 - 18 AMP

16 For by Him all things were created in heaven and on earth, [things] visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities; all things were created and exist through Him [that is, by His activity] and for Him. 17 And He Himself existed and is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. [His is the controlling, cohesive force of the universe.] 18 He is also the head [the life-source and leader] of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will occupy the first place [He will stand supreme and be preeminent] in everything.

 Even though Jesus was absolutely correct and He had the right not to pay the tax, He paid it. It wasn’t worth offending those who cared (the tax collectors). Jesus could have justified His right and exercised His authority and refused to pay the tax. But instead He demonstrated wisdom and humility and submitted Himself to a law from which He was exempt. It is hard to win over people that we have offended. Offense has a long memory and a short tolerance. Sometimes we just need to let people have their say and offer no argument, no resistance. They asked Peter, “Doesn’t your Master pay the tax?” Peter didn’t raise a ruckus or become indignant that they were suggesting that Jesus might not be a citizen in good standing in the Jewish community. Peter just said, “Yes.” He didn’t jump up and down lamenting that the ministry treasury was low and there weren’t enough funds to pay the tax. He didn’t moan and beg for an extension. Peter maintained his integrity and his composure. We need to remember to do that too.

Even though this conversation with the tax collectors had Peter feeling forlorn, the issue in question was a really easy fix for Jesus. Whatever you might be wrestling with internally is an easy fix for the Master. The verses in Colossians verify that everything is under His jurisdiction. You have nothing to fear.

 Peter didn’t want to be viewed as a person who refused to obey the financial requirement. We support the local house of worship where we are fed because we love our God. We also choose to participate in the upkeep of the property because that is a practical and necessary thing to do. It would be ungodly to allow the place where we gather to worship to fall into disrepair and ruin. That would not be a good representation of our Father or a positive reflection of us, His children. Peter also did not want people to think negatively about Jesus. Peter was concerned about something that was not difficult for Jesus to resolve. But participating in the solution, in the miracle did require following specific instructions.

 Reread Matthew 17:24 – 27 and note the following instructions.

  1.    Go to the sea. Go to the specified location. Don’t go somewhere else and don’t send someone else.
  2.   Throw in a hook. Use the stated equipment, method and tools. Don’t use a basket, a net or your hands if the Lord said to throw in a hook.
  3.  Take the first fish that comes up. Don’t insert your own logic that this fish is too big, too small, the wrong color, doesn’t smell right or it is not the type of fish expected.
  4.    Open its mouth. Don’t gut the fish, fillet the fish, cut off the tail, don’t sell the fish or eat the fish. The fish did what it was supposed to do. It is likely that the fish was to be put back in the water and was blessed to live a long, happy life.
  5.    Take the coin. Jesus did not say to take the fish. He only said to take the coin. As mentioned before, it is quite possible the fish was to be placed back in the water to swim away joyfully.
  6.     Give the coin to the tax collectors. Don’t give the coin to a messenger and send that person to the tax collectors. Don’t use the money for some other purpose even if it seems like a worthy or a more pressing cause.
  7.    Pay the tax for both of us. Don’t pay the tax for one of us and get the change back.

Sometimes when God gives the “whole” answer people only apply “half” the principles or a fraction of the instructions. When the Lord supplies the means to pay the entire electric bill, pay the whole bill! Don’t just pay the past due amount and then have to finagle and fret to pay the rest later. The value of the coin was the exact amount needed to satisfy the need for both men for an entire year! Following instructions relaxes difficult circumstances. Not following instructions compounds the original issue.

 

Obeying instructions demonstrates:

  • Humility. When we don’t know what to do and the Lord offers a solution that does not make natural sense, we have to humble ourselves and follow what He said.
  • Maturity. Immaturity follows feelings and emotions. Maturity trusts the Lord.
  • Wisdom. Knowing who to listen to and who to ignore requires wisdom. Listen to God. Ignore the devil.
  • Self-control. Most of us have been faced with a dilemma that seemed not to have a workable solution. We might feel like jumping ship, throwing in the towel or doing something destructive, illegal, immoral or cowardly. It takes discipline to be able to keep a calm and spirit-directed mind.

 

One of the greatest benefits of doing what the Lord says is that it makes us free. There is liberty in obedience! If we follow all of the Lord’s directives, then He is responsible for all of the outcome! If we tamper with His plan, He is released from providing the results. I would rather have His results than mine!

When God provides the miracle, the solution, the answer…do you know what to do with it? Peter did exactly what he was told to do. He didn’t fry the fish or cash the coin. He didn’t do 50% of the plan and hold the rest of the money for another purpose. It is necessary to have already purposed in our hearts and minds that we will do as the Lord says, when He says and the way He says. That way, when we are blessed to participate in a miracle, as Peter was, we will not succumb to temptation to misuse the miracle.