Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Week Twenty Nine - Own

“If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth…”  Isaiah 58:13, 14
Psalm 122:1 says, “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD.”  This was one of the first memory verses I learned as a child.  My grandmother was my teacher and she made going to church and Sunday school a precious and pleasant thing.  I looked forward every Sunday to being with my church family and being in her Sunday school class.  Sunday was a special day.  We dressed up.  We had family time.  We did not do work on the farm or go to “worldly entertainments”.  It was a day to rest and just be together.
When I came across this verse in Isaiah 58 I was challenged by the instruction.  Now, New Testament Christians do not observe the Sabbath as they do in Jewish culture, but the idea of keeping a day set apart for God and holy is not a bad one.  Look at the things the Lord challenged them to lie aside during this time – “…not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words…”
It got me thinking.  How many times do we go to church on Sunday all the while thinking about what we have planned for the remainder of the day?  How many times do we see Sunday as just another day, nothing special, just a time to do our thing as Christians?  Do we really see Sunday as a “…delight, holy and…honourable…?”  Are we really glad when we are told it is time to go to church?  Or are we caught up in our own ways and our own pleasures and our own ideas?
There is always a blessing attached for those who put the things of the Lord ahead of their own.

“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding….Be not wise in thine own eyes:  fear the LORD, and depart from evil.“  Proverbs 3:5
Pride is a vicious spiritual disease.  It leaves us thinking that we can solve our own problems, go our own way, and judge our own motives.  We might call it being self-sufficient or confident, but it is really a matter of our own pride trying to convince us that we have no need of humility or subservience to our Creator.  We go at life as if we have all the answers and nothing and no one is above us.
Another word for it is conceit.  A conceited person is convinced that his understanding is better than others.  He looks upon himself as wise and fully sufficient to judge not only his own motives, but also the motives of others.  His pride has him persuaded that superiority is key.  God tells us differently.  Romans 11:25 warns us to not be “wise in your own conceits” because that is akin to blindness.  Like the Laodicea church, the conceited man does not even see that he is “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked…”
I can’t count the times God has called me to “heal” when I allowed my own ideas and pride to lead.  That old song, “If I Ruled the World” resonates in my ears!  Oh, if I ruled the world what kind of place would it be?  We all think that our way is the best way and that our idea of right and wrong is valid.  All the while we are failing miserably in trusting the Lord and fearing the Lord.  We have set ourselves up as God – and we are NOT God.
If you take time to consider the last little phrase of the verse you will have to admit where following our pride and conceit will take us.  “…depart from evil.”  Pride is in direct opposition to the Christian life and will always lead the follower into sin.  Pride is the source of contention and at the root of nearly all sin.  Better for us to take a step back and get in line with God than to continue traveling down our own path to ruin.

 “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes; but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.  Proverbs 12:15
“All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the LORD weigheth the spirits.  Proverbs 16:2
We have already talked about pride, but there is a way about us that can seek to excuse or even deny accusing ourselves of pride.  We can simply move over into stubbornness.  We are totally convinced that our own way is best.  We stubbornly believe God is a fool and those who waste their time trying to please Him or adjust their lives to His standards are fools as well.
Such a stance is self-destroying.  It will come to no good.  We can read story after story in the Bible about the outcome of people who were stubborn.  And, it doesn’t take much time to read history to see the downfall of many others - Adolf Hitler for example.  Whose downfall was the result of believing they were right to go at life their own way.  And, even Hollywood and an abundance of authors attest to the understanding that those who stubbornly refuse to yield wind up destroying themselves and those around them.  It makes for a good plot.
So, if even without a Godly admonition we can see that stubbornness yields bad fruit, why in the world are we so thickheaded?  I think it is because we want to be right.  We want to say that we have it all figured out.  We like to believe that God is on our side and if so, we have no need to change.  We can travel down our path unhindered and unbothered.
But everything around us tells us differently.  We run into conflict with our family, our church, and work mates.  We are bombarded with God’s Word and choose to ignore it.  We excuse our stubbornness calling it perseverance or steadfastness.  Yet, God calls it foolishness.
He admonishes us to come face to face with the truth of our spirit and instructs us to seek godly counsel.  You see - stubbornness is the pride of self.  To admit weakness and to yield to instruction is humility and wisdom.
If you want the type elevation and praise you think you will find by stubbornly holding onto your own ways, you are deceived.  Stubbornness is sin and God will not bless it.  Only by yielding will you ever find what you are searching for - before honour is humility!

 “Also take no heed unto all words that are spoken; lest thou hear thy servant curse thee: For oftentimes also thine own heart knoweth that thou thyself likewise hast cursed others.”  Ecclesiastes 7:21-22
Learning how to handle hurtful words is a hard lesson.  No one likes to hear disparaging words about themselves.  Godly wisdom teaches us how to conduct ourselves in this matter and how to deal with others.  We are not angels, we are fallen people, and as such, we are liable to speak unkind words.  We should be ready to make amends and seek forgiveness when we are guilty and be ready to forgive and even overlook those who injure us, acting as if we did not even notice.
Being overly interested in what others say of you can be distracting.  Too much praise is not good for us, and too much criticism is also damaging.  If we pay too much attention to what others are saying we may hear something we don’t like.  It is easier to not seek to hear than to deal with what has been said.  Better that we to be more concerned with our own attitude and standing with the Lord.  “When a man’s ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.” Proverbs 16:7
Our own faults are sufficient to keep us humble and in prayer.  If we are honest, we must admit that we, too, have spoken out of turn concerning others.  Matthew Henry writes, “Be not enraged at those that speak ill of thee, for oftentimes, if thou retire into thyself, thy own conscience will tell thee that thou thyself hast cursed others, spoken ill of them, and thou art paid in thy own coin.  If we be truly angry with ourselves, as we ought to be, for backbiting and censuring others, we shall be the less angry with others for backbiting and censuring us.”
How do you deal with hurtful words?  Seek vengeance?  Spout more hurtful words?  Seek to set the record straight?  Better be checking your own heart and observe the words of Proverbs 16:3 – “It is an honour for a man to cease from strife: but every fool will be meddling.”

“Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.”  Proverbs 31:31
This Proverbs 31 Woman is a challenge for all of us.  Seems she can cook, clean, sew, keep her husband, children and neighbours happy and cared for, and all the while run a business.  Amazing.  As we look at this last verse we can see the result of the sum of her work.  She produces fruit.  This isn’t just apples and pears; it is the produce of all of her ventures. 
The Bible says, “In all labour there is profit...” Proverbs 14:23   It’s that old law of sowing and reaping.  This woman has put her life into her family and community.  There will be a reward for her. Matthew:6:4 says “That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.”  God will not forget her work of love.  She has given faithfully and she will be rewarded.
Her reward will be open.  …in the gates.” means that the whole community will know of and speak of her good works.  What she has done by simply doing her own business and doing it well speaks for itself.  Others have only to look at the care she has given and they recognize her quality.
I heard someone say once that a woman should not work to be recognized.  She should serve in silence and quietness.  And that is true, however, God does not allow any servant to go without due recognition.  Someway, somehow, God will let the servant know that He approves of and recognizes a work done for Him.
The opposite is also true – a woman who goes about doing things and calling attention to what she is doing, or, who does things only to get recognition and praise, is going about it wrongly.  This is the odious woman spoken of in Proverbs – she is loud, in the streets, and not truly caring for her home. 

We will all be rewarded for our own work.  God will be the judge.  In the end our greatest reward will be to hear that, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant…enter thou into the joy of the Lord.”  Matthew 25:21

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Week Twenty-Eight - Obeyed

“By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.  Hebrews 11:8
“And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.  Genesis 22:18
Simple and strict obedience is the characteristic of Abraham. Genesis chapter twelve records that he heard the voice of God telling him to leave his home and go out into the wilderness by faith alone. To leave the comfort and security of a city and go out as a nomadic wanderer with no definite direction seems an absurd idea. He would have to live in a tent and always be in danger of robbers.  But Abraham’s faith meant that no danger or difficulty would deter him.  Obediently, he went out – not knowing whither he went.
He had only one promise in this venture and it was a futuristic promise:  In him would come a great nation, a great name, and abundant blessing.
Now….let’s just put ourselves in the shoes of those around Abraham.  His father has just died.  We might think Abraham is simply acting out of grief. Or, that he is in denial.  He might be trying to run away from some responsibility or accountability.  No matter what label we put on it, we would not think this is a good idea.
When people surrender their lives to following God’s will or plan, we sometimes have this same reaction.  We look for reasons why they might be taking such a deviation from the norm.  They “got religion” we might say, or, “lost their heads”.  But the truth of the matter is that they simply chose to obey God.  They are going out with only the promise – “and lo, I will be with you…”  It is strictly a faith matter.
Just as Abraham was blessed because of his obedience, they, too, can rest assured that God will bless.  He will bless obedience.  Don’t be thinking that it can be any other way.  God does not bless so we will obey, He blesses because we obey.
Abraham saw only a glimpse of the fulfillment of his God-given promise.  We, too, may not see all God will do with our obedience, but that does not negate the promise.  God’s blessing is there for those who choose to simply and strictly obey.
Are you an obedient Christian?  Would you be willing to simply and strictly obey God’s call and design for your life?  Would you go out – not knowing what the future might require?

“And Saul said unto Samuel, I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice.”  I Samuel 15:24
Poor Saul is an example of the opposite of strict obedience.  He was always cutting corners and coming short of the mark.  Excuses were his resort.  It was always someone else’s fault that he failed to obey.
Keep in mind that Saul knew what was right.  He knew the command of God to destroy everything of the Amalekites.  But he chose to take Agag the king alive.  Then, he and the people took the best of the livestock for themselves.  Now, the people also knew the command of God.  They were complicit in the act.  Saul was the leader; they were the cohorts.   When Samuel arrives on the scene and hears the bleating of the sheep he knows the truth of the matter and makes this statement:  “…behold, to obey is better than sacrifice and to hearken than the fat of rams.  For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.”
There is no place for Saul to justify his actions. Just as he had chose to reject the word of the Lord, the Lord has chosen to reject him from being king.  (I Samuel 15:26)
God is serious about obedience.  He is clear about what He expects from us.  He does not mince words.  Saul’s instructions were clear.  It was pride and arrogance that made him decide that his way was better than God’s.  It was rebellion and stubbornness that made him choose to cream off something for himself and ignore God’s command.
To obey our own idea, or the voice of others instead of following what we know is revealed in Scripture is a sign of pride and arrogance in our own lives.  Rebellion and stubbornness are paths that lead to destruction and great disappointment.  We will not lose our salvation, but we will lose the blessing of God and many times our testimony and position.  Better to obey than sacrifice!
Are you trying to get around God’s direct commands?  Do you think God will overlook your little indiscrepancies?  Does your heart buck when you are given instructions that go against your own plan?  It’s a sign of pride and rebellion – better be cutting that out!  It will cost you.

 “And Jeremiah said unto the house of the Rechabites, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Because ye have obeyed the commandment of Jonadab your father, and kept all his precepts, and done according unto all that he hath commanded you: Therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not want a man to stand before me for ever.”  Jeremiah 35:18-19
God is using the family on Jonadab to paint a picture for Israel.  He comes to Jeremiah and instructs him to bring the family of Jonadab into the house of the Lord and give them wine to drink.  Jeremiah obeys.  But the response of the sons of Jonadab is not what Jeremiah is expecting.  “We will drink no wine; for Jonadab the son of Rechab our father commanded us, saying, Ye shall drink no wine, neither ye, nor your sons for ever: Neither shall ye build house, nor sow seed, nor plant vineyard, nor have any; but all your days ye shall dwell in tents; that ye may live many days in the land where ye be strangers.”
These sons, no doubt fully grown men, were keeping the commands of their father.  No one in their family drank wine and they had never settled into a permanent dwelling.  They obeyed their father.
This was a live illustration of how Israel should have been obeying God.  “…notwithstanding I have spoken unto you, rising early and speaking; but ye hearkened not unto me…” says the Lord.  God, the Father, is to be obeyed.  And the children of Israel were failing miserably.  Though God spoke and spoke, they chose to ignore Him.
The book of Proverbs is full of references to obeying the words of the father.  We see also the blessing for those who keep the words of their fathers and who live lives that are honouring to their parents.  Jonadab had set a standard for his family, and they were keeping it, Israel was not.
How many times do we throw off the instruction of our parents once we are adults?  Or even as we look at society we can see the whole thing shifting from what once were accepted norms, decorum and respect?  However, the sons of Jonadab stood strong.  They were obedient and God gave them a promise – the family would never be without a man to stand before God.  They were not priest or Levites, but their obedience had brought them into direct blessing.  God honours obedience!

 “Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.”  I Peter 3:6
Now…you will probably not hear a wife of today going around calling her husband, “lord”.  It just isn’t in our culture!  And, we can be thankful that the Bible does not even ask us to do this!  Imagine!
But we are still commanded to obey our husbands.  When you think about Abraham, a man of great faith and called a friend of God, you might think that he would surely be a man easy to obey.  But when you read the story you will find that Sarah was asked to obey in some rather doubtful and odd situations.
First, he announces that they are to leave the family behind and go out camping.  He doesn’t even know where they are going to camp, or what is to be the final destination!  Then, when he is fearful in facing Pharaoh, he denies that Sarah is his wife and lets her go into the king’s haram.  She obeys!  Not once, but twice.  Because a few years later this same fear brought Abraham to choose once again to deny her as his wife and turn her over to the King of Gerar.
This couple makes for a strange illustration of obedience.  They did obey God, but they were not perfect.  They disagreed and they struggled with God’s plan for their lives.  They even tried to “fix” things for God.  Yet, God says of Sarah, “she judged him faithful who had promised.”  (Hebrews 11:11)
This must be true in order to have real obedience.  We have to believe that the one we are obeying knows what is going on and is able.  She believed God was able. 
I like the phrase, “not afraid with any amazement.”  Sarah faced some amazing situations, but by faith she chose to trust God and simply obey.  She did not let fear cause her to disobey. 
What about you?  When your husband asks for obedience do you balk and squawk?  Are you fearful and second-guessing?  Or, are you able to trust God?  No one said obeying is easy – but it necessary.

“She obeyed not the voice; she received not correction; she trusted not in the LORD, she drew not near to her God.  Zephaniah 3:2
“And they came in, and possessed it; but they obeyed not thy voice, neither walked in thy law; they have done nothing of all that thou commandedst them to do: there fore thou hast caused all this evil to come upon them…”   Jeremiah 32:23
“But they obeyed not, neither inclined their ear, but made their neck stiff, that they might not hear, nor receive instruction.”  Jeremiah 17:23

Obeyed not.  We have to look at this.  Since obedience is a choice, we must face the fact that sometimes people choose not to obey.
In each of these verses Israel is the offender.  Israel chose not to obey her Lord.  You can read her history of disobedience in full glory throughout the Old Testament.  Then, in the New Testament you can read again of her choice to deny her Messiah.  The Bible uses words and phrases like stiff necked, stubborn, dull of hearing, blind, etc. to describe Israel as she disobeyed.
Sadly, these same adjectives can be applied to those of us today who still choose to disobey the Lord.  If you take a look at these verses you will see that the Lord has truly tried to make the choices plain.  He says he has given instruction, given His law, tried correction and spoken, but the disobedient refuse to hear and obey.  They will not trust Him.  They will not draw near.  They will not hear.
What can we do?  Not much.  A person must choose to obey.  To any real profit, you cannot make them obey.  Proverbs 13:15 says, “…but the way of the transgressors is hard.”  Evil will come to them.  They will not prosper nor find the happiness they seek.  (Proverbs 11:21, 27, 29)  God cannot bless or honour disobedience.
What can we do?  We can strive to be obedient ourselves.  Our example and the blessing of the hand of God upon our lives will be a light.  Those that choose to live righteously/obediently bring blessing to those around them.  Their prosperity is a benefit to all.  (Proverbs 11:10, 11)
Is there any area of your life where you are choosing to be disobedient?  Tithing, forgiveness, faithfulness, service?  We can be obedient in the big things, and disobedient in the smaller things.  Consider your choices.  “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Twenty Seven - Necessary

“Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food.” 
Job 23:12

Food is a rather vital component to life.  Not one of us can do without it and most of us have more of it than we really need.  Sad to say, when we compare our desire and availability of food to our desire and availment of God’s Word there is a mighty chasm.

Job was serious about his need and respect for God’s Word.  It was absolutely vital to his life.  Now, you must ask yourself…what part of God’s Word did Job have?  Some say Job is one of the oldest books of the Bible.  Since the Pentateuch is the recording of the beginning of things and the establishment of Israel as a nation, then we might have assumed that these are older.  However, even in these first five books we read of people like Adam and Eve who were given instruction and Cain and Abel who also knew what was required to make the necessary sacrifices.  God’s Word, instruction, was already there.  There is also Melchesidic, who worshiped and served God even before the giving of the Exodus and the Ten Commandments.  In Genesis 26:5 God calls Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees saying:  Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.”  These were all following God’s command before the Exodus and the giving of the Ten Commandments.
“Henry Morris who has authored an interesting commentary on Job agrees writing that...Although it is now lost to us, God had given early man some kind of law code, long before Moses. Whatever this was, it was eventually superseded by the Mosaic laws and the rest of the Scriptures as we now have them.”
It has always amazed me that these and many others spoke of their love for God’s Word, but they didn’t have a complete Bible.  They didn’t have the whole revelation.  What did they have?  Commandments.  Laws.  Just try reading Leviticus or Deuteronomy and see if a steady diet of this would rejoice your heart.  Imagine not having more than the first five books of the Bible.  Would you really esteem those five books more necessary than your daily food?
Something to think about….just how necessary is your Bible to you?

“And let our also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful.”  Titus 3:14

While the word necessary in Job 23:12 meant a prescribed task or portion, here in Titus it means something one can not do without, indispensable and especially in connected bonds of nature or friendship, what ought according to the law of duty be done, what is required by the circumstances.

Good works are a part of Christianity.  These works include a variety of activities that are profitable to life.  They might include honest labour and employment, caring for the man of God, avoiding evil, showing generosity and kindness, or giving to the poor and needy.  Whatever goodness can be shown or kindness extended, it is our portion and calling to do so.  As required by the circumstances or as opportunity arises, we are to be going about doing good.

Why?   Matthew Henry puts it this way – “This is of good report, will credit religion and be good to mankind; they will not be unprofitable members of the body, not burdensome and chargeable to others, but enabled to be helpful to those in want. To maintain good works for necessary uses; not living like drones on the labours of others, but themselves fruitful to the common benefit.”

There seem to be two qualifiers to this command.  First, that the good work be required.  For example, it might be fun to buy ice cream cones for every child in the Sunday school, but it is not required.  And the second qualifier is that the work be truly beneficial.  Not every parent would appreciate their child coming out of Sunday school with a dripping ice cream cone.

Good works are necessary, but should also be executed with purpose and for the purpose that God might be glorified.

Are good works a part of your Christian life?  Consider that old idea of doing one good work each day – do you measure up?  They are necessary.

For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things…”  Acts 15:28

After the great discussion of the Jerusalem council as letter was sent out to the believers living in the Gentile area on what would be expected of them in order to have a good understanding and an avoidance of offence with the believing Jews. Three things were cited as necessary: the avoiding of fornication, necessary to all Christians at all times, the avoidance of eating blood and of eating things previously sacrificed to idols.

The letter was sent with an expression of tenderness and fatherly concern that the new believers not be overwhelmed with the Judaic law and customs, but rather that they maintain the necessary abstentions as directed by the Holy Ghost.  These leaders knew the danger of discouragement by over burdening them with regulations. 

Matthew Henry explains, “Church-rulers should impose only necessary things, things which Christ has made our duty, which have a real tendency to the edification of the church, and, as here, to the uniting of good Christians. If they impose things only to show their own authority, and to try people's obedience, they forget that they have not authority to make new laws, but only to see that the laws of Christ be duly executed, and to enforce the observance of them.”

This got me thinking.  What things does the Bible deem as necessary?  Salvation, repentance, faithfulness, obedience?  These and more I am sure.  Let’s look at just a few.  We will drift away from the word necessary, but we will stay with words within that definition.

Luke 10:42 says, “but one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”  Needful – necessary.  It is necessary that we take time at the feet of Christ to hear and to learn.

Jude 1:3  “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith…”  Needful – necessary.  It was necessary to exhort the believers to contend for the faith.

Philippians 1:24  “Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you…”  The sacrifice Paul was willing to make in putting the needs of others over his own desires is an example for us all.  It is always easier to quit or to walk away.  But is it needful – necessary – for us to stay the course.

And, Psalm 27:4  “I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”  I know the words needful nor necessary are in this verse, but can you see the emphasis?  Belief is absolutely necessary to endurance.

Sometimes we can get distracted and laden down with laws and regulations in the Christian life and overlook the real depth of the necessary things that should be commanding our attention. If we were spending quality time with our Lord, busying ourselves with contending for the faith, putting others needs before our own and keeping our eyes on the Lord, most everything else would fall into place.

Are tick boxes and expectations sidetracking you?  Why not come back to the necessary things that bring you face to face with your God and leave the other stuff to find it’s own place?

“Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary…”  I Corinthians 12:22

It would seem totally ridiculous for us to think that any portion of our body was dispensable.  I know they say that we can do without our appendix and a few other bits, but honestly, does it excite you to think about having them removed?  Unless it is a wart or unsightly mark, we usually prefer to have our body left intact.

The passage in I Corinthians 12 is one of the lengthiest examples of the vital components of the church.  Hands, ears, eyes, feet are all deemed necessary and equal.  There is to be no schism in the body, but a genuine and mutual care for each part.  We would no doubt say, “Amen” to that.  However, our actions, words, and thoughts might not agree.

In our world of political correctness we are taught and even legislated to make accommodation for those whose needs are different than our own.  There is nothing wrong with that.  It is good for us to be gracious and accommodating wherever and whenever possible.  Yet, just because we put in wider doors, ramps and special toilet facilities does not mean that our inner thoughts are changed.  We can still be inwardly intolerant and impatient.

Sometimes we might even feel that some folks are dragging behind or in the way of progress.  Our frustration with challenges and hurdles is revealed by our words and actions that are coming from the idea that these individuals are just not necessary.  Or, that things would work more smoothly without them.

Yet God’s work says here that they are necessary.  It means that they have a purpose.  They are indispensable, something we cannot do without.  One person used the term “sandpaper people” to describe them.  Think of it this way.  To learn patience we need affliction.  God just may be using these people to hone your patience.  Or, to teach you humility.  Or, to reveal your pride and arrogance.  Or, to help you to look at life from another angle.  Sandpaper people rub us the wrong way.  They force us to see our own lack of longsuffering, compassion and kindness and bring conviction to our lives.  All the while God just may be using them to make you a bit smoother, a bit more even, to whittle away at your rough spots and create something more useful and beautiful for His glory.

Are you losing patience with the sandpaper people in our life?  Why not stop and thank God for them?  Why not yield and let God do a necessary work in your life?

“Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.”  Acts 13:46 

It was necessary that the Jews be given the opportunity to receive the Gospel message.  With both Christ and the Apostle Paul we see their example of going first to the house of Israel or the synagogue with the message of salvation and of the truth of the Messiah.  Theirs was the opportunity, but they rejected it.  They preferred to cling to the law and not receive grace.  In so doing the Gospel was then opened to the entire world.  Boldly, Paul and Barnabas proclaimed this truth and moved forward.

Have you ever faced a similar situation?  You know, or at least you think you know, that the person to whom God is leading you to witness will most likely reject the Gospel message.  Yet, it is necessary for them to hear it once again.  Oh, Christian, be that bold.  Be that obedient.  Tell them again.

And then there is the time when one must have the boldness of a lion and the wisdom of a serpent and the harmlessness of a dove.  It is not time for being timid.  We must “in meekness instruct” in hope of repentance and acknowledging of the truth and to warn them of the consequences of their decision in hope of recovery. (II Timothy 2:25)  Yet, the decision is always theirs.  We cannot make people come to Christ.  We cannot make them repent.

Oh, that one could.  Oh, that every lost loved one could be persuaded.  But that is the work of the Holy Spirit.  Ours is to obey in what is necessary – they must hear the Word of God.  Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.”  Romans 10:17  So, let us be about our necessary work – the giving of God’s Word.