Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Week Thirty-Three - Rebellion

 “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry…”  I Samuel 15:23    
This is probably the most widely known verse using the word rebellion.  And, it means simply – to rebel - to stubbornly strive to thwart authority in favour of self-will.
God is a God of obedience.  Obedience is his calling to his children.  Humble and sincere obedience to the will of God is more pleasing and acceptable to him than all our sacrifices.  And, nothing is so provoking to God as disobedience, setting up our will against his.  It is said to be as bad as witchcraft and idolatry.  And in deed, it is idolatry.  The rebellious heart is claiming the throne.  It demands to be obeyed and appeased with no regard for God’s Word or authority.  It is self-will. 
Rebellion, however, is more than a simple act.  It is a matter of the heart – a matter of a mindset.  A rebellious person believes their way is best.  They have little to no respect for instruction from others and especially from God.  They will take Scripture and twist it to suit their ideas in order to excuse their sin and to keep others from discovering the real heart issue.
Rebellion can be seen in teenagers as they try to find their way into adulthood.  It can be seen in spouses as they refuse to yield to the needs or requests of the other.  It can be seen in the workplace as a worker refuses to yield to rules of the office.  Rebellion can also be seen as we drive over the speed limit, go against the arrows on the car park (parking lot) or cross the road where there is no pedestrian crossing.  We rebel in some fashion almost daily.
Rebellion is sourced in pride. It is the sin that brought the fall of Lucifer and one third of the angels of heaven.  Let’s never forget, as we study rebellion, that it is never excused.  It is always sinful.

“Woe to the rebellious children, saith the Lord, that take counsel, but not of me; and that cover with a covering, but not of my spirit, that they may add sin to sin.”
 Isaiah 30:1
The definition used here has the idea of being unmanageable and stubborn.  Of course it is referring to the children of Israel who were constantly seeking alliances with the nations around them instead of trusting and obeying the God of their fathers.  They wound up in league with Egypt.  Thinking that the “shadow of Egypt” (vs. 2) would be enough to cover them and that the security of Egypt would protect them.  They were finally disappointed.  Egypt became their shame and reproach leaving them in confusion.
Sad to say, but so many who call themselves Christians live in a similar rebellious manner. They are always looking somewhere else but to God for truth and direction.  The see the philosophy of the world as more comforting and appeasing than God’s standard.  They create a “form of godliness, but deny the power thereof”. All the while they are adding sin to sin as they continue to hold onto and follow the world’s advice.
When confronted, they have just enough Christian language to create a covering and a sound of spirituality so as not to be humanly detected.  But God knows the hearts.  Their alliance with the world will eventually crumble and their sin will be exposed.  Like Israel, they will be left without covering, facing judgment and in confusion.  God calls them “unmanageable and stubborn”.  They are bent on having their own way.  Notice that he pronounces a woe upon them. 
As you read the remainder of Isaiah 30 you see that God offers them quietness and confidence, but they refuse. (vs 15) So, the Lord decides to wait until they are finished being rebellious so that he can be gracious to them. (vs. 18)
It reminds me that the Lord is gracious – even when I am “in a mood.”  The Lord is waiting to give me the peace and confidence I desire if I will only come into line with His Word.  Remaining unmanageable and stubborn will not yield a happy life.  I will not be able to cover my rebellion. It is better to listen and obey.

 “…until ye came unto this place, ye have been rebellious against the LORD.”  Deuteronomy 9:7
Rebellion can become a pattern of life.  Here in Deuteronomy 9 Moses is rehearsing the rebellions of Israel. Theirs is a history of rebellion, and now, as they come to the place where Moses is going to leave them and they are about to enter the Promised Land, they are reminded of the pattern of their disobedience and charged to make a change.
The definition is exact.  It means to be disobedient, to be contentious or to rebel against. Lest we condemn the children of Israel, we are best to take a bit more time to look at rebellion.
Rebellion has consequences.  So how does God deal with rebellious children?  We have only to look at Jonah or Saul, for example. Sometimes we see that, as in the case of Jonah, he uses “shock treatment” to bring about obedience.  With Saul, he removed privileges.  But one of the most instructive methods is how God worked with Job.  Job 38:2 and 40:2  “Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge…gird up your loins…and answer me…Shall he that contendeth with the Almighty instruct him?  He that reproveth God, let him answer it.”
You might say, “But Job was not rebellious.”  Ah, but when we look at God’s estimation of Job’s surmising we see something different.  To contend or reprove God is to rebel.  Job might not have been outwardly acting rebellious, but in his heart he was questioning and struggling with God’s authority.  That is rebellion.
God stopped Job’s mouth.  He called on him to repent and submit.  The only proper response for Job is exactly what is recorded in Job 40:4 and 42:6.  Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee?  I will lay mine hand upon my mouth…Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
This teaches us that rebellion is not just a matter of action, but of the heart.  A lifestyle or a worldview that thwarts God’s authority is one of rebellion.  It has its root in pride and must be pulled up by the roots.
Is your life characterized by always questioning God?  Does bitterness and anger rise in your heart when you are commanded to obey God’s Word?  Are you meek and submissive on the outside, but burning with resentment on the inside?  Rebellion might just be the pattern of your life.  Follow Job’s example.

 “….to a rebellious nation that hath rebelled against me…impudent children and stiffhearted…for they are a rebellious house…”  Ezekiel 2:3-5
A fantastic word appeared during this study that I wanted to share – contumacious.  It means stubbornly or willfully disobedient to authority. Great word!  “His contumacious attitude brought him much grief.”  “A contumacious lifestyle creates its own havoc.”  Fun!
We need to also look at the words impudent and stiffhearted.  Impudent means difficult, obstinate or severe.  Stiffhearted means hardened.  When we put this together we see a definition of a purposeful and obstinate choice to willfully disobey.  If we read a bit more into the words we can also see the body language that goes with the heart attitude.  A severe look, a hardness of the face, a rigid stance, these along with verbal clues are characteristic of a rebellious heart.
God declares that Israel is such – rebellious.  They have willfully and stubbornly chosen to disobey God.  As you read through the book of Lamentations you learn of the results of their rebellion.  Lamentations 1:20  states, “…for I am in distress: my bowels are troubled; mine heart is turned within me...abroad the sword bereaveth, at home there is a death.”  3:42 states that there is no pardon for their rebellion and transgression.  God is executing rightful justice upon them.
To be sure God will execute the same upon all who are rebellious.  Why?
Because man is not autonomous.  He was created as a dependent being - dependent upon his Creator.  The Adamic rebellion points to this truth and clearly shows that man, left to himself, is destructive.  Yet, man has a free will.  He can make choices.  There are two choices on the table – follow divine counsel or devilish counsel.  When man chooses devilish counsel, he is in direct rebellion against divine counsel.  Hence, there are always consequences to man’s choices.
I don’t know about you, but I am chicken when it comes to standing up against the Lord.  I don’t want the word “contumacious” to be a part of my testimony.  Nor, do I want to suffer the consequences of such a choice.

 “An evil man seeketh only rebellion: therefore a cruel messenger shall be sent against him.”  Proverbs 17:11   

My grandfather used to say that some people are “hell-bent” upon their own destruction.  Over the years I have come to agree with him.  Though I would like to think that these folks would learn from their mistakes and turn their hearts toward the Lord, they seem to only get more bitter and rebellious as the years go by.  We see this to be truth in the history of Israel, and also as we read about the end times and how though God gives place for repentance, man refuses to submit. 
The word “evil”, used to describe man, means bad or disagreeable.  One who seeks his own desires.  His purpose is to have his own way and he refuses to submit to any authority except where it fits his purpose.  He has decided that his way is best and there is no one to convince him any differently.  We might call him hard-headed.
It reminds me of the verse in Psalm 94:7  “Yet they say, The LORD will not see, neither shall the God of Jacob regard it.”  The evil man is convinced that nothing will happen to him.  He is a free agent.  So he goes about his life laughing at God, making a mock of sin, and ridiculing those who try to warn him. “Fools make a mock at sin…” Proverbs 14:9   His end will be that a “cruel messenger will be sent”.  God will deal with him by some catastrophe. All sin will be punished.
Now, lest we say that we have seen people like this go through their entire lives without any catastrophe or apparent judgment, we must remind ourselves of David’s conclusion as he pondered this question.  Psalm 73:17  Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.” 
For the rebellious there is only one outcome – judgment – whether it is now or later.  So, if an attitude of rebellion is characteristic to your life it is time to repent, seek God’s pardon and learn submission.
Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” Isaiah 55:7

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Week Thirty-Two - Prosperity

“I spake unto thee in thy prosperity; but thou saidst, I will not hear.  This hath been thy manner from thy youth, that thou obeyedst not my voice.”  Jeremiah 22:21
The definition of prosperity is not wealth.  It is to do with ease –“I speak to those who are at ease.” It so reminds me of the teenager slouched on the sofa.  Everything is provided for him.  He has technology around him for entertainment and socialization.  Mom does his laundry and cooks his food.  Dad brings in the finances to provide him a comfortable room and clothing. The only thing required of him is to obey the rules of the house.  But what is the normal response when asked to simply take out the rubbish or wash up some dishes? 
The bad habit of seeking ease over effort nearly always results in an attitude of disobedience and disrespect.  It breeds ungratefulness and selfishness.  It accommodates self-focus and rebellion.
Now, lest we condemn the teenager, we must look at ourselves as well.  Most of us prefer an easy life without hitches and difficulties.  We will do all we can to keep life simple and uncomplicated.  Most of us avoid things that make us get off the couch!
The danger is that we get self-focused, disobedience and ungrateful.  Matthew Henry says,  “It is common for those that live at ease to live in contempt of the word of God.”
What is the manner of your life?  Is disobedience and ungratefulness your pattern?  Are you like the teen – everything provided for you?  Do you resist obeying the Lord’s command?  Is your first response to difficulty a complaint?

“For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them”  Proverbs 1:32
Again, the definition has little to do with wealth; it has the meaning of much ease.  Much ease is not healthy. Over the years man’s life has gotten much easier in the Western world.  We have a shorter workweek, more conveniences and appliances to take the real work out of life.  We have more free time and can afford more holidays.  But the real question is:  Is that making us happier, more contented and more productive?  Or, is it making us fat, lazy, and discontent?  You only have to take a look around you to answer that question.
Let’s look at this verse in three ways.
First, when God was dividing the land among the Israelites, the people were asking for the lush valleys and grassy plains.  Caleb asked for a mountain.  Blackaby says, “if you always choose the easy way, asking for the peaceful valleys, you will never see God’s power displayed to enable you to take a mountain.”   Seeking ease does not produce strength within us or demonstrate our faith.
Matthew Henry says, “…by puffing them up with pride, gluing their hearts to the world, furnishing them with fuel for their lusts, and hardening their hearts in their evil ways,…the more dreadful and certain will be their destruction.”
Prosperity, ease, is destructive for our hearts and is characterized by a decline of morals and standards.  It does not produce healthy, vibrant Christians.
Barnes goes even more to the heart of the matter when he says, “...Not outward prosperity, but the temper which it (ease) too often produces, the easy-going indifference to higher truths, is that which destroys.  For the word prosperity, read – carelessness.”  The carelessness of the fool destroys him.
It is certain destruction to follow the path of the fool who only lives for ease.  It is unhealthy in our day-to-day lives, and it is considerably unhealthy in our spiritual lives.  Lazy Christians can be certain to miss the higher truths that give life depth and richness.  Ease has its place, but it should not be the paramount feature of our lives.  Challenges to our faith, hard work, and considered productivity are the really valuable things. 
What about you?  Is your attitude one of always seeking the easy way through life?  Do you compromise the challenges of God in order to make your Christian life “easier” or “simpler”.  Would you be up for the challenge of taking a mountain, or, would you prefer to lay by the stream?

 “And in my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved.”  Psalm 30:6
One of the dangers of ease is that we get complacent and satisfied with the status quo.  We actually become vulnerable to the devices of Satan because we are not being watchful. Matthew Henry says the Psalmist is saying that when he was in health of body and God had given him rest from all his enemies he thought his prosperity was fixed like a mountain.  He was secure.
Barnes says that when we take on this type of attitude we run the danger of becoming self-confident.  We forget our dependence on God.  In our own minds we trace our success to our own efforts, tact, and skill, rather than to God.  We become worldly-minded, and it is necessary for God to teach us how easily he can sweep all this away in order to bring us back to a right view of the uncertainty of all earthly things.  God will show us that our dependence is to be upon him and that permanent and certain happiness and security are to be found in Him alone.
To forget that this life is temporal, destructible and uncertain is to entertain the idea that our lives are about what we have on this earth.  Attaching ourselves too tightly to our homes, jobs, social standing or successes is to place those things above God.  All of those things can be wiped away by a single stroke.  One tornado, one bad medical prognosis, one lost job and our whole world can come tumbling down.  How much better for us to place our value in things not temporal?
It reminds me of Colossians 3:1-3  “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.  Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.  For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.”
The way of the child of God is to not make the things of this world the place where his heart rests, but rather, to always be considering that he is but a traveller through this life.  Our home is above.  It is eternal.  Our affections should lie there.
Are you too attached to this world?  Do you believe that what you have and what you attain are the most important things?  What if God removed it all today?  Would you curse Him, or accept it by faith?

 “In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: God also hath set the one over against the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him.”  Ecclesiastes 7:14
While the previous definitions meant ease, this definition means good, pleasant, agreeable.  God has given us times of both pleasantness and times of adversity.  As Solomon was writing Ecclesiastes he was comparing all things, and when he came to these two aspects of life he recognized the providence of God. 
Swindoll says, “It exhorts us to consider the work of God.  For as we do, we will realize that no one can straighten what He has bent.  The Lord is in control.  Therefore, we can replace resistance and frustration with submission and relief.  Indeed, trusting in God’s sovereignty frees us to really enjoy the prosperity He brings and to seriously consider the adversity He permits.  To this fact Solomon adds that the Lord is ultimately responsible for both the good times and the bad.  He also tells us that God works through both in such a way that man cannot discover anything that will be after him unless God reveals it to him.  In short, wisdom gives us a divine outlook that helps us rejoice in our bright days and persevere through our dark times.”
We need to be living in such a way that we are joyful and appreciative when things are good – and – accepting and understanding when things are not so good.  We ought to be ready for whatever circumstance the Lord chooses.
It reminds me of David’s comment in Psalm 27:13  “I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.”  David knew good times and bad, but he had discovered the secret to survival – acknowledging God in both time – creating hope.
None of us know what will be tomorrow.  None of us can determine the events of our lives.  Conversely, our times are in HIS HANDS!  Better for us to learn to yield and accept both the sweet and the sour with an attitude of submission and reverence to an Almighty God who has everything under control.
Have you learned the grace of submission in the face of hardship?  Or, do you complain and get annoyed when hard times come your way?  Do you really understand and accept the practical truth of the sovereignty and providence of God?

“Let them shout for joy, and be glad, that favour my righteous cause: yea, let them say continually, Let the LORD be magnified, which hath pleasure in the prosperity of his servant.”  Psalm 35:27
And now, for a final definition.  This one has very little to do with ease, and though akin to good, pleasant and agreeable, is more based in inner qualities.  It has to do with completeness, soundness, safety, tranquility, contentment and relationship.  God desires not our “prosperity” in the manner of ease, but in those things produce peace in our lives.
It is sometimes hard for us to understand that God is not really bothered by the difficulties we face.  He isn’t afraid of them.  Rather, he uses them to create prosperity in our lives.  The richness of those Christians who have faced persecution is a depth most of us will never know.  But it is a real thing.
I saw this one time we were in Seattle with a church that had a ministry among Russians.  These were folks who knew the Lord and had faced a regime bound on extinguishing their faith.  Standing together as a choir they began to sing the songs that had come from this persecution.  They sang in their native tongue, but the English translation was projected for us all to read.  The words revealed a solid and assured confidence in God’s providence, faithfulness and protection.  It was evident that they were prosperous in their faith.  They knew completeness, soundness and contentment in their relationship with the Lord based not only in the Word, but also confirmed by experience.
Such is the desire of the Lord for all of us.  He wants us to come into such a relationship – a confident and prosperous relationship.  It is the character of God to work among us to that end.  Instead of looking for the easy paths of life, let’s look for the prosperous paths, the paths that lead us to bring glory to God and to magnify His name whatever may be, for therein we will truly find prosperity.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Week Thirty One - Prepare

 “…for Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it…” Ezra 7:10  
“…prepare your hearts unto the LORD and serve him only…”  I Samuel 7:3 
The definition does not mean to get ready; it means to be already ready.  Ezra had prepared.  His heart was established, steadfast, firm and certain.  He had decided long ago that he was going to seek the law of the Lord and be obedient.  His heart was set just as the Psalmist who says his heart is fixed – set upon, prepared – to trust the Lord.  (Psalm 57:7, 108:1,112:7)
In I Samuel, the prophet is telling the nation of Israel that they, too, need to get their hearts in order, steadfast and certain, as they prepare to see God deliver them from the Philistines.  They need to let go of the idols of this world and settle themselves into the promise and certainty of the Lord.  They need to be ready.
Having a prepared heart is a decision.  When God placed his law in my heart and I saw the beauty and truth that was held therein, I decided that this was the path for me.  I determined that I would be obedient.  And that decision has not changed.  However, there are times when I can see the idols of this world – the cares, fears, and threats – pushing their way into my heart.  Fretting can take over.  Or, sometimes, it is the longing to be “normal”, to just give into the pressure of the world to ignore God and have my own way for a change.
Then, I hear the challenge from long ago, “choose you this day whom ye will serve.”  And I know that I must return to my initial decision.  I must serve Him only.  It is that prepared heart, that established and certain heart that will keep me in the love of God.  My fickleness or wavering will be only for a moment, because my heart is truly fixed.  It is anchored in Jesus, and though all around me and in me might be in turmoil, I can know that my hope is sure and steadfast.
What about you?  Is your heart fixed?  Do you see yourself wavering at times?  No fear.  God remembers your surrender to Him, and he will lovingly bring you back to obedience.  He is the anchor.

“…Prepare ye the way of the LORD make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” Isaiah 40:3  
No doubt this is a reference to John the Baptist – the voice crying in the wilderness to prepare the way of the Lord.  His job was to prepare the hearts of the people for the coming of the Messiah and the Gospel message.  Here in Isaiah the message is that the people of God must be prepared, by repentance and faith, to receive what God has designed for them.
The word means to turn to or to regard.  They are being called upon to take heed to their ways.  They need to turn from sin and order their lives so as to be ready.  God is about to bless Zion.  We can see this happening at other times in Israel’s history.  For example, when they were about to hear from God after the exodus from Egypt, strict instruction was given for them to prepare.  They were to sanctify themselves, wash their clothing and abstain from all sexual relationships. (Exodus 19:10-15)  It was important for them to show the due reverence and preparation before God could speak.
Our own preparation for the receiving of God’s blessing is also important.  We cannot wander aimlessly through our Christian lives and expect to see the richness of God’s blessing.  We need to take time to think about what truly is the way of the Lord.  Are we really taking heed?  Do our lives exemplify biblical mandates?  Are we making decisions based on God’s Word?  Are we holding God’s Word in reverence and high regard?
If God were ready to bless you today, would you be ready to receive it?  Is your life such that others can find their way to God?  Are you preparing the way for the Gospel message?
“Prepare thy work without, and make it fit for thyself in the field; and afterwards build thine house.”  Proverbs 24:27
This is a fascinating little proverb.  It literally means that when one is getting their farm or business set up, they should first see to the business – the thing that will make the income – before they building their dwelling.  The basic definition means to set up, establish or to stand aright.
I knew a man who took this verse to heart.  He purchased a large tract of land on the south side of my hometown and built a great barn.  People laughed that he had built the barn first and questioned him.  I remember him quoting this verse.  For a few short years that was all that was on the property, but eventually a beautiful home was erected.  No one was laughing then.  He had honoured God’s Word and direction, and God had blessed his business.
I think this can be applied in different situations as well.  I see young people who want to serve the Lord; they start following the call but get in too big of a hurry.  They have not prepared before they met the storms and temptations.  They haven’t made things ready before they moved into deeper commitment.  In their zeal to do a work for God, they forget that it is God that does the work.
The older I get the more wisdom I see in waiting.  To build a barn and let the community laugh doesn’t seem wise.  However, God does not work according to the schemes of man – he has a much higher design.  To spend three or four years in college and then five to ten in ministry preparation may seem like a waste of time, but the man who waits upon the Lord is the one who can run the longest – he is the one who will not faint.
Are you giving God time so your life is fully prepared?  Or, are you in a rush to get on to bigger things?  Remember God’s timing is not ours – his is much better!
“In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so I would have told you.  I go to prepare a place for you.” John 14:2    
“But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”  I Corinthians 2:9
 “Heaven is a wonderful place, filled with glory and grace.  I want to see my Saviour’s face, Heaven is a wonderful place.”  It is a place prepared for those that love him: a place of splendor, peace and true worship.
The word means to make ready or to provide.  God is preparing a place for us that is totally beyond description.  We can read in Revelation that it has streets of gold and the walls are of jasper and each of the twelve gates are a precious stone.  The foundations are solid and beautiful.  It is foursquare in shape and is hung in the heavens above the earth.  There is a throne there whereon sits God the Father with cherubs and music and praise.  There is no death, no tears, and no sadness. 
We are happy with what is revealed in Scripture, but God has even more prepared for us.  Sometimes I wonder what that could be.  I will have perfect peace of heart, no sin will trouble me, all of my co-dwellers will be of the same mind and heart, and I will be with my Saviour in a beautiful, safe place.  What more could I ask for?  I’m sure I don’t know.  But God does.  He knows there is more that we need.  And He is preparing it.
The only prerequisite for this place is to love God – to know Him through His Son.  Are you prepared?

Jonah 1:17 – “the Lord had prepared a great fish…”
Jonah 4:6 – “The Lord God prepared a gourd…”
Johan 4:7 – “God prepared a worm…”
Jonah 4:8 – “God prepared a vehement east wind…”
Poor old Jonah is the subject of many a sermon.  This prophet knew what God had instructed, but due to his own arrogance and personal prejudice he made a conscious decision to directly disobey.
So God prepared a great fish to swallow him up.  God already knew Jonah’s heart and stubbornness.  He knew that only a deep and stinky situation would break it down.
Jonah, though, was only half-convinced.  He went on to Nineveh, but his heart was not in it!  He preached, but only out of spite and anger.  He probably enjoyed spouting doom to the residents.  When it was all over God had a few more things prepared for Jonah.  A gourd to give him shelter which made Jonah happy.  Then, there came the worm, that smote the gourd and withered it.  Jonah was left without shelter.  And finally, God sent the vehement east wind to beat upon his head causing him to faith and wish for death.
All of these things were prepared to teach Jonah a lesson about his spiteful attitude and the mercy of God.
The word means appointed or assigned.  God assigned each of these, the fish, gourd, worm and the wind.  They were prepared to teach Jonah a lesson.  God uses a variety of things in our lives as well to teach us lessons.  A great fish might not swallow us up, but we can be swallowed up in debt, poor relationships, or fear.  We might not take comfort in a withered gourd, but we can find ourselves seeking comfort in some rather unusual places and wind up without comfort by misplaced expectations.  And a vehement wind might not be what we literally face, but we can face the proverbial winds of opposition and persecution.

What has God prepared to get your attention?  Are you yielding or stubbornly holding onto your own arrogance and personal prejudice?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Week Thirty - Pleasure

“The LORD taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy.  Psalm 147:11
“For the LORD taketh pleasure in his people: he will beautify the meek with salvation.  Psalm 149: 4
What makes God happy?  Amazingly, the answer is us!  When we are walking rightly, giving him respect and reverence, he is well pleased.
I love it when the Lord gives me a hug.  You know, those times when He speaks directly to your heart and assures you of his love.  When He lets you know that you are the “apple of his eye” and He is proud of you. It rejoices my heart as I am affirmed as His.  I want to sing so loud and my heart is just overflowing.   He is showing that he is taking pleasure – delighting in – his child. Such a special time!  It brings me to a great sense of thankfulness and humility.
When I see the places where I let Him down I marvel that He would even take time with me. So great is His love toward me.  I totally do not deserve it, but by His mercy and grace, this is mine.
I read once, “God’s favourite place is with you.”  And that is what I am saying.  God loves his children.  He desires them to be in a place where He can commune with them in a loving and nourishing manner.  That opportunity comes as we walk rightly with him.  He is pleased and He is responsive. 
Do you have this type of relationship with your Heavenly Father?  Are you living in such a way as to bring Him pleasure?  Why not make Him happy today! 

 “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”  Philippians 2:13

This is one of my most favourite and encouraging verses in the Bible.  The promise that God is actually working in me for a purpose is so strengthening.  It gives me hope that He will somehow make sense of my life and that I am not just wandering aimlessly.
The idea that He is working to do of “his good pleasure” defines things even more.  It means that He is working according to his design and choice with good will and kindly intent.  He delights in doing this work.  It has the idea of benevolence – well meaning and kindness.
It makes me think of an artist who loves to paint, or a musician who loves to play.  They are not discouraged when things get hard, they love to figure out how to make their creation better.  They take delight, pleasure and satisfaction in a job well done. 
We are His creation; the work of His hands, and He takes great delight, pleasure and satisfaction in creating His will within us. He does not get discouraged when rough patches appear.  He already knows they are there and He will polish them into a thing of great beauty.  Remember the clay in the potter’s hand?  That is closely related to this verse.  He is doing a work.  And that work is you.  It is me. 
The question is  - are we yielding to the potter’s hand?  Are we allowing Him freedom of expression?

 “Who is there even among you that would shut the doors for nought?  Neither do ye kindle fire on mine altar for nought.  I have no pleasure in you, saith the LORD of hosts, neither will I accept an offering at your hand.”  Malachi 1:10
What a sad comment – “I have no pleasure in you…”.  The children of Israel had finally exasperated God.  He was finished with their half-hearted sacrifices and double standards.  They were going through the motions to appease Him, but then going out to live lives against Him. 
It’s a sad thing when a relationship is broken in this manner.  When all of the joy and hope is gone and one party decides to simply walk away. I have known relationships like this.  Times when one party is finished with the actions of the other and there is no place for repentance or restoration.  The damage is irreversible.  There is no pleasure and no hope.  How much sadder when God Himself is finished. 
God is characterized by longsuffering and patience.  And, truly, He is.  However, God is also characterized by being just.  He alone knows what is in the heart of man.  He knows when enough is enough.  Now, lest we become guilty of condemning Israel and overlooking ourselves, maybe we should stop and ask, “Could God say the same of me?  Do I bring him no pleasure by my half-hearted service and double standards?  Do I just go through the motions of Christianity on Sunday and then live anti-Christian the remainder of the week?
What is your answer?  What would be God’s reply?

“For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee.”  Psalm 5:4
Billy Graham is accredited with saying that this generation is afraid of offending everyone, except God.  When we look at the world and society around us we see the increase of wickedness and the acceptance and tolerance of things considered entirely evil by generations before. Mankind is certainly going its own way and expecting God to just sit quietly.
The Psalmist knew the Almighty God took no pleasure in wickedness.  The definition means desiring or delighting in - God does not desire wickedness, nor does he delight in it.  As a matter of fact, the Psalmist goes on to say that evil does not even dwell with God.  He is Holy!
Now, that brings us to a sore point.  But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy, for I am holy”, says the Lord. (I Peter 1:15, 16)  If our God calls upon his children to come up to his standard in the matter of holiness, then what should be our outlook when considering wickedness and evil?  It leaves us rather certain that God expects his children to be of the same opinion as he – having no pleasure in wickedness.
Sometimes we struggle to call wickedness what it truly is because we believe that the word and idea are old or outdated.  We have “come so far” now that to deny ourselves a bit of “pleasure” is just too much to ask.  When asked to define wickedness we shudder, because the Bible lists can hit too close to home.  A peruse of Galatians 5 reveals things that too many of us have come to accept as just a necessary evil of our times.  We don’t like to use the term wicked.  It just isn’t politically correct.
Well, God isn’t politically correct.  He is holy.  And we, as his children, should take time to consider where we stand.
What about you?  Are you afraid of offending others and less concerned about offending God?  Is there wickedness in your life?  Does evil dwell in your home?  Have you come to believe that you must be politically correct and thereby have to accept a certain level of wickedness in your life?  Better be taking time to think about it!

 “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake, for when I am weak, then am I strong.”  II Corinthians 12:10
No one enjoys being ill, unless they are a hypochondriac!  Sometimes I find that this verse is only used in relation to illness, but there is so much more in the verse.  Infirmities can be physical, frailties of the body, weaknesses of health.  Or, of the soul, a want of spiritual strength, the dark night of the soul.  Reproaches are insults or mistreatment.  Necessities are hardships that must be faced.  Persecutions are difficulties that chase us, or, harassment.  Distresses are narrow places where there is anguish of heart.  Yet in all of these Paul states that he will take pleasure in them because they reveal the strength of the Lord.
So, what does pleasure mean in this verse?  It means to think good, to choose, determine and decide, to do willingly, to be ready to, to prefer, to be well pleased with, take pleasure in, to be favourably inclined toward.  Okay, so he is saying that he is willing to choose the difficulties of life, to actually prefer them to the alternative of a life void of struggle.
Most of us spend all our days avoiding hardship.  We groan and moan when we feel we are hard done by or mistreated.  We never choose to take the hard or narrow way unless it is strewn with joys and a sure reward.
Yet, if we think about it, to see a trial coming and to face it with the determined choice that God will be able to use it and ourselves for His glory and the promotion of the Gospel puts a totally different light on trials.  Actually, it is the healthiest and most rewarding way in which to face trials.  We have to see them for what they are – temporary.  And, their temporary inconvenience, faced with a godly outlook, works for us – a more eternal weight of glory. (II Corinthians 4:8)

Do you face difficulty with dread?  Do you moan and groan?  Or, can you see that trials have an eternal purpose and take pleasure in the fact that God is working in your life?