Draw Near To God

How are you at keeping promises? Have you broken the rule so many times you probably will never make a promise again? I know an evangelist who was asked to pray for someone. His reply was when God brings you to my remembrance, I will pray for you. He didn’t make a promise because he knew he could not pray for hundreds of individuals by name.

A promise is a promise to be honored. The book of James makes a challenging statement in 4:8; “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you” (CSB). Our God, who finds it impossible to lie (Titus 1:2, Hebrews 6:18, Numbers 23:19), gave believers a promise of commitment. When His children want a meaningful relationship, they must take the initiative.

Start getting closer to him. You might ask yourself, “How?” Two thoughts come to mind. First, ask Him. That’s prayer. Secondly, somewhere, or somehow, the Lord will tell you to start reading your Bible—start with the book of John, then read the little books of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd John. 

Next, in the Old Testament, read Psalms. This book reveals man’s heart in communicating with God. David, the author of many psalms, wrote of his trials and triumphs. Palms 139:23, 24 (CSB) reveals David’s openness with God by taking the initiative. “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way.” 

In Acts 13:22, God states, “I have found David the son of Jesse to be a man after my own heart, who will carry out all my will” (CSB). God didn’t end humanity and Godly character with David. He has used thousands of people who desire a close relationship with Him. Most of these are not in any book of records, but have lived as a burning torch of Godliness in their community. 

God is still seeking individuals who will step forward and be examples. People who propose to “Draw near to God” will ask the Lord to search their hearts. When they respond positively, God promises, “He will draw near to them.”

Born To Die

We are approaching a celebrated holiday season. Gifts of every sort are disappearing off the store shelves—the recipients, young or old, anxiously await their arrival. Every gift has a giver, usually a family member or friend. Our kind thoughts are behind each gift. Some gifts require a sacrifice. The greatest of our gifts is not in the amount we spend but a reflection of our thoughtfulness.

As much as we love special people, our words fall short compared to God’s affection for us. God’s love defies all attempts of expression on man’s part. Our thought process needs to be revised. Our actions are a dismal failure. Yet, God looks beyond our attempts of expression and looks at our hearts. 

Abel, of long ago, offered the first sacrificial lamb to God, and the Lord accepted his offering.

The Lord wanted Abraham to solidify his devotion to Him. He asked him to offer his “Only son Isaac” (Genesis 22:2) as a sacrifice to Him. While on their way, Isaac asked his dad, “Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” (22:7). The dad cautiously responded, “God will provide.” Abraham didn’t know how or what the Lord would do, but he knew God could provide the sacrifice.

John the Baptist was fulfilling his mission of preaching repentance. He knew he was preparing the way for the ministry of Jesus, the Messiah. When John saw Jesus approaching, he said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29 NKJV).” Little did John know the magnitude of those words, but God did.

As you think upon this joyous season, reflect upon its significant cost. It required the sacrificial death of the Son of God. He died so that we could have forgiveness of our sins and spend an eternity with Him. You see, Jesus was born to die so we might have eternal life with Him. 

It’s Never Too Late

Spiritual spectators often become players—game changers in the daily battles of life with a series of emerging skills. We experience successes but also failures, neither of which should be our final epitaph. But faithfulness to God should be on our tombstone as part of our life’s journey and complement. Faithfulness will last for eternity.

King Herod imprisoned Peter for being a Christian. While bound by two chains between soldiers, Peter saw an Angel open jail doors and an iron gate. 

After his release from prison, Peter arrived at John Mark’s mother’s house. Mark saw the results of miracle-working prayer firsthand. Miracles do happen, then and now. 

Later, Paul, previously known as Saul, Barnabas, and Mark (13:5), went on their first mission journey. They first preached on the island of Cyprus. Then, the three journeyed to Pamphylia, present-day Turkey. Here, Mark decided to return home to Jerusalem.

Sometime later, when Paul was about to start his second missionary journey, Barnabas wanted to take Mark along. Paul disagreed. In their disagreement, Paul and Barnabas went their separate ways. Paul chose Silas to go with him. Barnabas chose Mark to continue their ministry in Cyprus.

Disagreement among Christians is typical. There are times when disenchantments enhance the cause of Christ. In this case, two groups of missionaries impacted the world instead of one. Have you ever thought that Barnabas applying family loyalty to strengthen young Mark was of God? Looking at Mark’s later ministries, you will see two significant accomplishments. The first was a new relationship with Paul. When Paul was writing to Timothy, he asked him to bring Mark. Now, Mark would be helpful for Paul (2 Timothy 4:11). The second reason is that the Holy Spirit saw something in Mark that Paul didn’t see in young Mark. This once-deserter wrote part of the New Testament, the book of Mark.

So, whatever your past, there is an opportunity for God to use you in the future. It’s never too late. God allows U-turns in life. He did it for Mark, and he can do it for you.

God’s Little Secret

Most of us are nobodies in the eyes of the world. But all of us are here for such a time as this. There was or is no other time in history for you. This time is your time. Now, you are the shining gospel light in the eyes of one or even a few. No other light will do. Only your light can do what God intends for others to see.

Insignificant you are not. Maybe you have not discovered your moment to shine, but the faithful night surely will come when you are the only light that others will see. So, don’t despair; keep your eyes on the Lord; your time will come.

You’re not through, even if your glory time is past. The eyes of others are still watching to see if you genuinely trust God. He is the one who brought you into the light for others to see. The watchers need someone to prove that God is real and can use someone like you to intervene in their lives, too.

You may never know who was watching you or telling others about you. Your faithfulness or dependence upon God can be an encouraging story for a great-grandchild or a neighbor’s child whom you may never know. One thing is for sure, if you quit, someone down the line may never be encouraged to attempt to live a life pleasing to God. They may never tell of God’s amazing grace in your life and your effect upon others. 

So, if you are nobody in the eyes of the world, don’t worry. The world’s opinions don’t count. Only the God of heaven will remember your thoughts and deeds.  

You may never know what others see or think about God working in you. You do not need to know. Why? It could ruin your outreach and effectiveness. That may be God’s little secret about you for now. One day, in the not-too-distant future, Jesus will say something like this to you.

“Turn around and take a good look at the people in front of you. You will recognize faces; some are in heaven because of you. Aren’t you glad you were a nobody back in the day that didn’t quit?

The Only Way

If I knew you only by your reputation, would I recognize you? No pictures or videos, just words of description. How could you be identified?

Now, take your mindset backward 2,000 years. Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” (Matthew 16:13 NKJV). Jesus’s favorite description of himself, which he used over eighty times in the gospels, was the “Son of Man.”

The disciples answer Jesus by saying the people thought he was one of the previous giants of the faith: Elijah, John the Baptist, or Jeremiah. Elijah was one of the miracle workers of the Old Testament. Jeremiah remained faithful while announcing doom in Israel. John the Baptist of a miraculous birth (his parents were not of childbearing age) proclaims the message of repentance for conversion.

Scripture then records the second question Jesus asked the disciples. Jesus looked straight into their faces and asked, “Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15 NKJV). Like most of the time, it was Peter who spoke up. You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God (16:16).

The Lord questioned the Twelve, and it’s the same question that He will ask 21st-century believers. “Who am I to you?” Our reply is eternity revealing. Guess what? God revealed to you that Jesus redeems. Jesus gives eternal life to all who ask Him. You’ll spend eternity with God, walk more streets of gold, maybe sing in a heavenly choir, and walk by the river of life. Those are part of our divine benefits.

But, what are we going to do now to increase Heaven’s population? Has that thought ever rushed through your mind? How did you answer yourself? Every believer has the responsibility to tell others about Jesus. Not only that, but we are to back up our words with prayer. If we would take that endeavor seriously, our world would be a better place. And Heaven will be preparing a new place for new residents. Because we know Jesus is the only way to Heaven.

The Ex-Maniac

God is ready. Are you ready? Are you prepared for Jesus to use you?

The madman of the Gaderenes was an individual no one wanted to associate with (Mark 5:1-20). But when he came to Jesus, everything changed. His appearance changed from nakedness to fully dressed (Mark 5:15). Immediately, the regenerated man learned from the Lord’s teaching. In about an hour of conversation, his priorities changed. The new convert listened to Jesus when the townspeople came and requested the miracle working Lord to leave. Some even begged the Lord to do so.

Jesus, realizing the crowd didn’t want to hear the gospel, got up to leave. Only the redeemed man in the area wanted to go with Jesus across the Sea of Galilee. The scriptures record the words earnestly begged, indicating the man’s changed heart. The Lord gave the newly redeemed a mission. “Go home; tell them what the Lord has done for you.” The man of the Gaderenes began to talk about his new life to others.

Notice: make a note! The man was untrained. He never attended the school of theology nor any House of God. He obeyed Jesus’ instructions to go and tell. All who heard of his changed life were amazed. The audience noticed his change and boldness in speaking of the Lord’s goodness.

If an ex-maniac can proclaim the Lord’s goodness, why can’t we? There was no Bible in his hand, nor did he have diplomas on the cave wall. All he possessed was a changed heart. Mark 5:20 mentions the term Decapolis. That was a name designating ten cities in the area. One changed man ventured to tell his story of redemption to ten different cities. What could we do with his determination?

God’s Relocation Process

Never quit would be the Lord’s warning for you. Age is not an excuse. Moses was eighty when God spoke to him at the Burning Bush. Age didn’t matter in God’s eyes. But, Moses used the excuse that he lacked speaking ability. In his opinion, words didn’t flow out of his mouth smoothly or eloquently. Below is the list of Moses’ excuses. Can you identify with any?

Moses thought about what God was telling him and considered that he could not do this? Who am I that I should talk with Pharaoh (Exodus 3:11)? Pharaoh will ask, “Who sent me?” Then You want me to say, “I AM” sent me (3:14). Why should he believe me (4:1)? He doesn’t know You.

God said, okay, let’ give this stubborn ruler some proof. Now, Moses, throw your rod on the ground. I’ll turn it into a snake (4:3). Then, you can pick it up by its tail to restore it to a rod again. If Pharaoh is still unconvinced, put your hand inside your cloak. It will become diseased. Then, put it in again so that it will be healed (4:6,7). Now, Moses gives his favorite excuse—I’m not eloquent (4:10a) and I’m slow in speaking”(4:10b). God answers, “I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say (4:12 NKJV).

You may be bold and ask, “God, Who am I?” I don’t know what to say, just like Moses thousands of years ago. Remember, Jesus always returns with the same answer: I am “the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8 NKJV).”

Our Lord has a way of empowering all His children. Whatever God wants you to do, He can enable you. Remember this: He lives to use you for His glory. Moses realized God could and would fulfill all His instructions to the last detail. We should, too!

God still enables His believers today to speak up. Your excuses are just that, excuses. Reasons not to trust God. When you commit yourself to step out by faith and pursue the Lord’s will, you will find the Lord is with you all the way. An interesting point: God sent Aaron to assist Moses at the Burning Bush area. Then, God relocated Moses 200-plus miles to fulfill his mission of leading Israel out of Egypt.

God always supplies the needs to accomplish His instructions. Your mission may be next door, in another state, or even in another country. One thing is for sure, God will be with you, and God will see you through. All for His glory. Not yours!

Jesus Is Our Intercessor

We live in a changing world. Technological advances, machinery improvements, and communication methods are accelerating our lifestyle, but some things never change. The earth is still round. The sun radiates warmth. The oceans are still full of water. The God of creation made His wonders never to change.

Spiritually, believers are maturing with the potential of blossoming their entire lives. How is that possible? The short answer is Jesus. Three verses briefly describe one of His present-day roles. Psalm 110:4 declares, “You are a priest forever.” Romans 8:34 states, “Christ… who is even at the right hand of God, who makes intercession for us.” Finally, Hebrews 7:24, 25 reveals Jesus has “An unchangeable priesthood…since He always lives to make intercession for” today’s believers.

A plain and simple explanation, Jesus personally represents you before His Father every day and every minute. Let that statement sink in for a minute. You have a mediator, Jesus, the Great High Priest, our Savior, petitioning the Father of the universe, personally, presenting your petitions to the Almighty. No one is closer to God, the Father, than Jesus. No angel or heavenly saint can do what Jesus is doing for you. Our Savior is your attorney, representing your deepest desires before His heavenly Father. Your eternity-bound desires are coming before His ears at the throne of grace.

Jesus always lives. Jesus is “Ever living to intercede for” us. He is constantly forwarding your heartfelt desires to His heavenly Father. When you wonder if God hears your prayers or if your prayers are getting through, you can rest assured our heavenly Father receives the messages. Jesus personally guarantees its delivery. 

How does that change your outlook on prayer? Hopefully, it is an encouragement to pray for everything. 

Secret Prayers

Can you keep a secret? For some, it’s impossible. They can’t wait to share these little-known facts with others.

Many spiritual rewards start as secrets known only to you and God. Our all-knowing God encourages secrets, that is, secrets in prayer. God gives believers a few guidelines about secret requests and actions.

Your richest prayers are those when you pray alone, not just alone but with the door shut behind you (Matthew 6:6). When you follow that simple instruction, there’s a guarantee. Our heavenly Father is in your secret place!

Now that you know where to do your effective praying, for what should you pray? Chapter 6 of Matthew includes several things. The first on God’s list is your charitable giving. Your gifts are a private endeavor (6:4) that no one needs to know. If possible, your gift should remain unknown even to the recipient.

If you are fasting and praying, that should also be private (6:18). Fasting in this situation is to intensify your prayer without interruptions. By doing so, you can pray longer. Once again, God sees your commitment to prayer and promises a reward.

Scripture digresses for a moment to reassure the believer his prayer is viewed by God for eternity. In becoming a prayer warrior, you lay aside many of the earth’s pleasures to spend time with God. One of the rewards for your increasing devotion is to realize and understand God’s insight to see more opportunities to be more like Jesus in His prayer ministry.

The concluding part of prayer in this chapter is eliminating worry. Why? Because you can take all your concerns and burdens to the Lord in prayer. You can leave those in the hands of the Almighty.

The last paragraph in Matthew 6 points to life’s insignificant details: food, drink, and clothing. The Savior encourages His children to seek God’s Kingdom first and live righteously. By doing so, Jesus says, “God will take care of the situations in our lives.”

Our Father’s Love

Familiarity can rob believers of a reverent mindset.

Last week, I was reading a devotional book concerning John 3:16. It might have been the first scripture verse I memorized. It was for a Sunday school class at the age of eight.

If you’re like most believers who attended Sunday school when you were young, you also learned the verse. Probably you can still quote it today. The passage is rich in spiritual meaning with depths you can never fathom. As I was reading, a new thought came to me. Let me paraphrase it as it opened to me.

The Father loved me so much that He allowed His only Son to die in my place. The sinless One became the substitute for my sin. I didn’t pay the price for my sin, but Christ did. Why? Because Jesus loved me, too. My Savior said, “You trusted Me. Heaven will be your new home.” 

Though I have known Jesus for decades, the refreshing reality of my heavenly Father sending His Son was revitalizing. Also, that Jesus Himself was saying these words added more spiritual insight. 

Today, God, the Father, isn’t just sitting on the throne watching us. He is tenderly concerned about the minute details of every believer.

With that thought in mind, maybe you will pick up your Bible and reread John 3:16. This time read it slowly and methodically allowing the Father to show you some never-known thoughts about Him.

As a child of God, especially an older child, a trip down your spiritual memory lane will refresh your soul concerning our Father’s love for you.