By Steven Davis
Last time we looked at context regarding God’s Word, and I concluded with the importance of asking these two questions: How do you fit and how are you fitting within the truth and scope or God’s Word? Another way to put it: “How are you doing?”
Now the second question. How do you fit, and how are you fitting with who God is? In other words, “How’s your relationship with the Lord?”
Do you have the mistaken belief that commandments are all about “Do this,” or “Don’t do this”? Yes, you read that right. It’s a mistaken belief. When you look at the greatest commandment as told to us by Jesus Christ himself, it’s more than just doing.
“The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’” (Mark 12:29-30 NLT)
Now the heart is just one of the things we are to love the Lord with. We’re also to love Him with all our soul, mind and strength. What does that mean?
- To love the Lord with all your heart, means to love Him with all your emotion, your passion.
- To love the Lord with all your soul, means to love Him with all of your spirit.
- To love the Lord with all your mind, means to love Him with all of your intellect and will.
- To love the Lord with all your strength, means to love Him with all of your physicality.
Some of us would like to think that loving God is as simple is following a bunch of rules, but it’s not. In fact, it’s the other way around, because love comes first: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15).
So, how do we love God? Or, how do we learn to love God?
First of all, we must understand that we can love God, “because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19 NASB). And because He loves us and we love Him, we want to spend time with Him. We want to be with Him. And that’s where the biblical phrase “before the Lord” comes into play. What’s the context for this phrase? Well, look up “before the Lord” in a concordance and the context is:
Come before the Lord… To offer sacrifice and bring offerings. To speak with Him. To receive forgiveness. To hear His word. To feast before the Lord, with your family, and rejoice in all the things which you have accomplished because He has blessed you. When you have a dispute. To enter into covenant with Him. As you prepare for battle. For direction. To wait. To grow. To confess your sins. To plead your case. To dance. To be blessed. To pray. To ask questions. To learn. To sing. To give thanks. To stand. To fall down. To worship. With great gladness. To obey. To do what is good, right and true. To kneel. To complain. To remember. To tremble. To fast. To be silent. To mourn.
Do you see how all these “come befores” pretty much deal with life? They deal with thoughts, words and deeds. They have to do with head, heart and hand. They deal with sorrow, and they deal with joy. But every single one of them is an act of coming before Him. It is a spiritual act, in which we live life before Him. And there’s our context.
Imagine the impact we will have on those around us, even when we are in the midst of others, when we are “before the Lord.” And this isn’t just a matter of prayer. This is a matter of BEING. So my word for 2018 is context. And I’m pretty well convinced that it would be a great word for you too.
“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8).
By Steven Davis
A couple of weeks back I said my word for 2018 was consistent. But as I was out walking today, I realized my word for 2018 is really context. What does that mean? There are two aspects of context that will help to define it for you and make it something you can live in.
For Advent I taught through a series at my church called Prophecies for Christmas. And the first two I tackled were Isaiah 7 and 9. Here they are. You probably know them.
“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14 NAS)
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6 NAS)
Most of us know these verses from Christmas Eve services, but did you know that’s not all of either prophecy? So what’s the context?
The rest of the prophecy from chapter 7 is a good news, bad news situation. And the bad news is the kings of Egypt and Assyria were going to swarm in and wipe out Ahaz’s kingdom. So part of the prophecy happened within a few years and had national repercussions. The other part happened 700 years later and was fulfilled with the birth of Christ, which had global repercussions.
For the prophecy from chapter 9, it’s all good news. First, 700 hundred years after Isaiah’s time, a child was born, a son was given—Jesus. The earlier verses of the prophecy speak to the nature and role of Christ:
“The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them” (Isaiah 9:2 NAS). This perfectly describes Jesus. Why?
“He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying, ‘Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised. I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people. He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!’” (Luke 2:28-32 NLT)
“Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.’” (John 8:12 NAS)
There’s a third part of the prophecy from chapter 9: “There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this” (Isaiah 9:7 NAS).
Those are 700-year-old and 3000-year-old prophecies. Why 3000 years? Because that kingdom will increase and will be “upheld in justice and righteousness” forevermore. That’s yet to be, which means, we’re in the middle of this prophecy! We’re in the middle of its context.
So when we look at these three parts of the prophecy, we have to ask these huge questions: How do you fit, and how are you fitting within the truth and scope of God’s Word? Are you knowledgeable or ignorant? Obedient or rebellious? Consistent or erratic? Intentional or haphazard? Another way to put it: How are you doing?
“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (John 14:15 ESV)
“Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15 NLT)
And we can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments. If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.” (1 John 2:3-6 NLT)
There’s a second question we need to ask, and join me next time for that.
by Steven Davis
Dr. Randy is wrapping up the year with a series entitled Your Word for 2018. This is a good time to take a real look at your life and select a word that you want to represent your whole year. This word will be a brand or a trademark of everything you do in the next 12 months. It’s your goal for the new year.
If you need help selecting that word, I suggest that you spend some time with Dr. Randy while he’s teaching this series. Once it hits the archives, you can listen to it anytime.
Why is this important? Well, words are powerful. They can tear down, or they can build up. They can wound, or they can heal. They can cause you to stumble, or they can help you to overcome. So why are words so powerful? Let’s go way back, to the beginning.
Verse 3 of Genesis chapter 1 says: “Then God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” For 27 verses, God spoke all of creation into existence. Just words. But something wondrous happened on the fifth day in verse 22. He not only spoke the aquatic creatures into existence, He blessed them.
On the sixth day He spoke humanity into existence, and not only blessed us, but gave us dominion over His Creation: “Then God blessed them and said, ‘Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground’” (Gen. 1:28).
Words are powerful. Need another example?
“You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance” (Psalm 32:7 NIV). If God could speak all of creation into existence with just a few words, imagine what He could do with an entire song.
So on day six, God spoke to us. And being made in His image, the words we speak also have a power of their own. Consider the folks who were building the Tower of Babel.
“At first everyone spoke the same language, but after some of them moved from the east and settled in Babylonia, they said: ‘Let’s build a city with a tower that reaches to the sky! We’ll use hard bricks and tar instead of stone and mortar. We’ll become famous, and we won’t be scattered all over the world.’ But when the Lord came down to look at the city and the tower, he said: ‘These people are working together because they all speak the same language. This is just the beginning. Soon they will be able to do anything they want. Come on! Let’s go down and confuse them by making them speak different languages—then they won’t be able to understand each other.’ So the people had to stop building the city, because the Lord confused their language and scattered them all over the earth. That’s how the city of Babel got its name.” (Genesis 11:1-9 CEV)
When pride drives our words, we can get into a heap of trouble. Therefore it makes great sense to speak humbly. Jesus said: “Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one” (Matt 5:34-37 NLT).
Being a firm believer that sarcasm is a spiritual gift, my sense of humor sometimes gets me into trouble—or at least difficulty. It seems to be my lot in life to maintain a running commentary on the inequities, absurdities and imperfections of humanity around me. Maybe my word for 2018 should be quiet.
Actually I want my word to be consistent. I really do love Jesus, and I love His people, but sometimes I love me more. Sometimes my thoughts betray my actions. Sometimes my actions betray my words. I want to live like Jesus wants me to 24/7, day and night, in crowds and alone, at work, at rest, at home and at church. Yeah… consistent.
As I said before, be sure to catch Dr. Randy’s program this week, then in the archives after that. Spend some time asking God what your word for 2018 should be.
As we move into Thanksgiving and Christmas, a question arises: How thankful are you? Are you occasionally thankful? Rarely thankful? Begrudgingly thankful? Or maybe—completely thankful? Of course we want to be completely thankful, especially when it comes to expressing our thanks to God. So how can we do that? Only when we come with our whole hearts.
I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders. (Psalm 9:1 NASB)
I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever. (Psalm 86:12)
Praise the Lord! I’ll give thanks to the Lord with all my heart, in the company of the upright and in the assembly. (Psalm 111:1)
The Psalmist described giving thanks to the Lord with “all my heart.” And that includes taking some significant action steps. David said he would “tell of all Your wonders.” Tell is actually an accounting word, and most often is translated as the word count. David counted all of God’s wonders—things too marvelous to even comprehend.
Next, he said he would “glorify Your name forever.” Forever… That’s a long time. These are huge tasks. But then David reminded us to do them “in the company of the upright.” When we meet with our brothers and sisters in Christ, we’re to be thankful together.
But that’s not the only time and place we should proclaim our thanks:
I will give You thanks with all my heart. I’ll sing praises to you before the gods. (Psalm 138:1)
Giving thanks not only takes place with God’s people, but it should take place before the gods—that’s gods with a little g. When we give thanks with our whole heart and all of our actions, unbelievers are able to see that the God we worship is greater than any idol that could ever be imagined. We worship God—with a big G.
Telling of all His wonders, glorifying Him forever and giving thanks before sinner and saint alike. How is that even possible?
For God has poured out his love into our hearts by means of the Holy Spirit, who is God’s gift to us. (Romans 5:5 GNT)
You can do all this because He has poured His love into your heart. That kind of love—that magnitude of love—will change your heart forever. And that is why you can do all these things—and more—with all your heart.
May God’s love empower you to thankfulness with all your heart.
In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
by Steven Davis
This month Dr. Randy is hosting a great series on intentional prayer entitled, “Two Approaches to Prayer.” These two approaches are exemplified by well-known biblical characters: Nehemiah and Jonah. Nehemiah’s prayer was kind of a “get me there” prayer, while Jonah’s was more of a “get me out of here” prayer. And though their approaches were polar opposites, they did share two common characteristics. And these two traits are essential to all of our prayers as well.
The first characteristic is faith. “So you see, it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that there is a God and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him” (Hebrews 11:6 NLT).
The first chapter of Nehemiah chronicles his prayer. “Let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses” (vv. 6-7).
We see Nehemiah’s faith in God in four ways:
- Nehemiah understood Who God is.
- Nehemiah understood the history, the relationship and the covenant between God and His people. He understood the requirements of that relationship and covenant and knew that Israel had fallen short.
- He understood the necessity of repentance.
- He believed God would answer his prayer.
Jonah’s prayer from the belly of the great fish is included in the second chapter of his story. “For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over me. Then I said, ‘I am driven away from your sight; yet I shall again look upon your holy temple.’ The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head . . . yet you brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God. When my life was fainting away, I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple” (vv 3-7).
In Jonah’s prayer we see his faith in three ways:
- He had faith that the Lord both heard and answered his prayer even while he was in the stomach of the fish.
- He had faith that he would look again toward the Lord’s holy temple.
- He knew he would be delivered.
The second attribute of their prayers is humility. “The Lord detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished” (Proverbs 16:5).
Humility comes to both men because both suffered the consequences of sinful actions and then confessed.
“I confess that we have sinned against you. Yes, even my own family and I have sinned!” (Nehemiah 2:6-7 NLT). The entire nation had turned from God and were dragged off into captivity. But some repented and were brought back.
“Those who worship worthless idols have abandoned their loyalty to you. But I will sing praises to you; I will offer you a sacrifice and do what I have promised. Salvation comes from the Lord!” (Jonah 2:8-9 GNT). Jonah’s idol had been his pride and not wanting to serve the Lord in the land of his enemies. But he repented and chose to keep his promise.
The prophet Habakkuk shows how faith and humility work together. “I, the Lord, refuse to accept anyone who is proud. Only those who live by faith are acceptable to me” (Habakkuk 2:4).
Faith and humility are the two essentials for effective prayer. Some you’ll recognize in the lines of these two prophets. And here’s how they work together:
You pray with humility because:
Humility brings us to the one true God.
Humility teaches us how to pray
Humility admits we are broken.
Humility admits our need.
Humility speaks our prayers.
You pray with faith because:
Faith brings us to the one true God.
Faith teaches us what to pray
Faith believes we can be fixed.
Faith believes He will supply all our needs.
Faith trusts He will hear and answer our prayers.
May you pray with humility and faith. Amen.