To Obey is Better than to Sacrifice

Part 1

Monday, September 13, 2021

1 Samuel 15:22 “Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice…” 


A few years ago now we took a journey together in the Adult Midweek Service reading a book - a booklet of sorts - that we began affectionately calling, “The Little White Book.” It contained 54 journal writings of a missionary with the challenge to pray, to listen to what the Lord, though the Holy Spirit, may be telling you, then to write that down. But more than that, it challenged each of us to do what we hear (feel the Holy Spirit prompting us) as soon as we can, and then write that down as well. 

 

Friends, this OBEDIENCE thing, is huge! The verse at the top of this page reveals God’s heart regarding our obedience to Him. But I think it’s more than just simple obedience. I believe it’s more than God just saying to us, “I want you to obey Me and that’s all there is to it.” I believe God’s heart is to bless us, and the easiest path toward His blessings is through obedience to Him.  

Listen, the reality is that God’s call for our obedience works in our favor. The simple principle revealed in this verse is this: obedience goes before sin; sacrifice goes after sin. If we obey, we don’t sin; subsequently, there is no need for sacrifice. If we disobey, we sin, therefore we typically sacrifice something in an effort to restore our intimacy with the Lord. (I am not suggesting that every time we disobey we lose out with God or lose our salvation. I’m merely talking about the depth of our relationship with Him. I trust and pray that everyone has a longing to go deeper in his or her relationship with Jesus.)

This is a principle that applies to most of the areas of our life. This isn’t just a “relationship with God” issue. As many of us have found out, if we disobey healthy eating we ultimately experience negative results, which require some kind of sacrifice to remedy (like surgery or some kind of extreme dieting). If we spend our money on entertainment instead of our bills, at some point we will have to sacrifice entertainment in order to take care of the bills. But if our bills are our priority, we will ultimately be able to enjoy some form of entertainment without any guilt. It’s better to obey than sacrifice. Obedience always pays great dividends. (I urge you to read that last statement out-loud a few times before moving on.)

Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, “Only he who believes is obedient, and only he who is obedient believes.” That’s an interesting thought isn’t it? It takes belief in God to be obedient to Him and if you obey Him, it’s because you believe - which basically says if you call yourself a Christian, the fruit people will look for in order to prove your belief, will be your obedience to Him.

 

Continued tomorrow

 

To Obey is Better than to Sacrifice

Part 2

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

In just a few short months, we will celebrate the birth of Christ. Have you ever given much thought to the first few days or weeks following His birth? Not long ago, I was reading in Luke chapter 2 - I observed that we can learn a lot from Jesus’ earthly parents by their actions immediately following His birth. 

 

Luke 2:21-22 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the Child, He was Named Jesus, the Name the angel had given Him before He was conceived. 22 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord.”  First, they remembered and fulfilled God’s Word. They did not allow the fantastic happenings with the angels, shepherds, the travel, or the birth itself, to rob them of God’s original instructions. They saw obedience to God as their first priority. 

 

I’m very burdened for church kids today because it often seems that “obedience to God first” is a rare occurrence in today’s Christian parents. As a Christian society, we are losing more of our kids to the world once they get out of high school than we are keeping. Mary had just given birth to the Son of God and yet she and Joseph put the ordinances of God first. They could have easily justified not following the law to the letter by the fact that they needed to do whatever they could to protect Him - after all, King Herod was looking for the Child, desiring to kill Him. Yet they followed the customs that the law of God had established for them.    

It seems to me that today’s Christian parents all too often put their child’s immediate happiness before their own obedience to God. This is one of the most devastating things we can do for our children. If you don’t think your own obedience to God has that much effect on your children, then you must not consider your own children’s obedience to you as being critical to their well-being. Isn’t it ironic that in the name of blessing our children, we could actually be doing them great damage by not making our obedience to God the first priority of our lives? 

 

There are two primary things I see as a pastor that must be priorities if we are going to do all that we can to instill critical Christian values in our kids: faithfulness and consistency in our church attendance and faithfulness and obedience in our giving. Out of those two things comes our service to the Lord - because we most often get the most involved in whatever we have invested our time and money.   

Hebrew 10:24-25 “… and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” There is something the writer of Hebrews understood about the end times that we seem to be overlooking today. He tells us that we need to stimulate each other to love others and to do good deeds for them. Subsequently, we should not forsake our own assembling (going to church), because that is the primary place where we can stimulate each other to go out and do good. We come here (to the church building, or wherever you attend church) to worship corporately, we come here to hear the Bible preached, and we come here to pray, and be prayed for when needed.

The writer said that as you see the day of Christ’s return drawing near, you are going to need these things more and more, and yet tragically, the current trend is to go away from church attendance, and to go away from the fellowship that comes with it. I have to wonder: Have we allowed our own pleasures to supersede our obedience to God’s Word? There is a Russian proverb which says: “The church is near but the road is icy; the tavern is far but I will walk carefully.”   

 

Continued tomorrow

To Obey is Better than to Sacrifice

Part 3

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

There is a current trend in Christendom (over the last 5-6 years) called the “Dones.” The “Dones” are church people who claim they are simply done with church. 

  •  They are tired of the celebrity culture in our churches.
  •  They are fed up with the incessant entertainment and worldly amusements found in the churches.
  •  They feel they are not being fed from the Word of God.
  •  They are tired of just being benchwarmers, with no role to play.
  •  They are weary of the constant need to be “relevant” at the expense of biblical orthodoxy.
  •  They are looking for the real deal. They want an encounter with almighty God, not just a razzmatazz stage production.
  •  They desire genuine Holy Ghost revival, not just pep talks, self-help seminars, or a “me-centered” gospel.   

I’ll have to admit that this trend really concerns me, because a large portion of those who used to support the local church feel justified in no longer doing that. 

 

We could go back and forth about why this is happening and who is really at fault. Many of the Dones’ concerns are real and speak to the “me” culture the church has created over the past couple decades. The “me” culture is popular and looks good initially; however, once the church no longer caters to “me,” the “Dones” are out of there.  

I just find it interesting that this is happening when many in the church are in agreement that we are in the last days. And the Bible suggests that in the last days we should assemble even more than we currently do. But the reality is that we are assembling less and less. God knows something about what our needs are going to be during this time that I think we should heed. If you don’t believe church attendance should have a priority, then ask yourself why we are losing so many of our kids to the world and its pleasures.  

The other primary issue is our giving, the paying of our tithes and offerings. Eight days after the birth of Jesus His earthly mom and dad were fulfilling the law of God. Luke 2:24 “…and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: ‘a pair of doves or two young pigeons.’”  

Friends, I’ve discovered again and again that, our obedience is the source of our blessings. Just have a conversation with any of the regulars in our Wednesday night service and listen to their accounts of blessings that came because of their obedience. Obedience keeps the favor of God flowing in our lives. Jesus’ mom and dad had to purchase their sacrifice in order to keep with what is said in the Law of the Lord. It cost them money to be in full obedience to God.  

I typically shy away from talking about your giving, your tithes and offerings, because I don’t want you to think that the only thing the church is interested in is your money. I can honestly say that I am not only (just) interested in your money. If money was my only motive, I would have left the ministry years ago and done something more financially lucrative. There is something bigger than just your money, and that is the blessing of God on your life. That, in all honesty, is my greater concern. Yes, we need your offerings to pay operational expenses – heat, water, etc, and each of our staff members need to pay their bills – so we too need money to live, just like you do. But to think that a mention of giving is about us is to misunderstand the call of God on our lives.  

 

Continued tomorrow

 

To Obey is Better than to Sacrifice

PArt 4

Thursday, September 16, 2021

I want to share an excerpt from a story found in a book about giving.

 

Years ago, a man was building a house in rural New England. Needing water for his new home, he commissioned an expert to dig a well for him. The old well digger, scouted out the property, searching for the right spot to sink a shaft. He eventually found an underground river and put in a well.

Upon leaving he told the homeowner, ‘Every day you must pump some water from the well. If you don’t, you’ll be sorry.’ The homeowner thanked the man for the advice, and for weeks he followed the well digger’s counsel and pumped water every day. 

As time went on, the homeowner began to take the cool, sweet water for granted. One day he left on a trip and forgot to get someone to pump water for him each day while he was away. When he returned, the water at the bottom of the well was stagnant and almost gone. He tried pumping in fresh water, but nothing came. 

Later, he went to town and told the well digger his well had dried up. The old man said, ‘Did you remember to pump water from the well every day?’ The younger man confessed his neglect and asked why this mattered. The well digger replied, ‘The water in the well comes from an underground river that feeds the small tributaries of water which are connected to your well. Water must continue to flow through these tributaries so that the well can receive water. If you quit pumping that water, the ground will dry up and the underground river can’t find its way to your well. This cuts off the water supply.’

Then the old man concluded, ‘Remember, the source of the water is the river, not the well.’

God is our source and without regular and consistent obedience in the area of finances we cut off the supply of our finances – God. Recognizing the difference between source and means can be difficult. Our bank accounts, or abilities and talents, are not our source, they’re just the well. They are simply the means by which God provides.    

Tithing would equal pumping the well regularly – but our tithe is not our source. God is our source and giving is the action that keeps the source feeding the well. It would seem, when it comes to giving, the greater the gift; the greater the size of the tributary by which the blessings of God flow. If we want our wells to contain enough resources to function effectively, we must trust God and follow all of His teachings. God wants to bless our lives but the size of His blessing is determined by the size, or consistency, of our giving.  

If you want to make the balance of 2021 a banner year for you – then trust Him and begin to tithe, especially in this day of economic instability and watch the blessings of God flow into your life and family. The only thing stable in this world is Jesus. Put your trust in Him. Don’t try to do it your way. Do it God’s way.  

Luke 2:39-40 “When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the Child grew and became strong; He was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on Him.” Mary and Joseph allowed the Word of God to direct their lives; we should do no less. Too many Christian parents play with their own commitment to God while hoping that their children will mature spiritually and become strong in the things of God, filled with wisdom, and the grace of God. It doesn’t typically happen that way. Jesus grew in those areas primarily because of the dedication of His earthly parents.   

 

Continued tomorrow

To Obey is Better than to Sacrifice

Part 5

Friday, September 17, 2021

Luke 2:52 “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” That verse became one of two primary verses I prayed over my kids from the time they were a babies well into their teen years. I prayed for God to help them grow in wisdom. Do you know what the beginning of wisdom is? It’s the fear of God. So I prayed for them to fear God.  Jesus grew in stature. I prayed for their physical growth. I prayed for them to find favor with God and man. I prayed that they each would be a follower of God and a leader of people. 

 

To grow in favor with people relates to leading people. I’ve discovered that people follow those they like. I would imagine that every parent would rather have their children influence others, than to be influenced by them. I’m not talking about just mouthing a prayer for your kids once in a while. I’m talking about the reciprocal benefits of spending hours and hours of prayer for your kids, especially during their developing years.  

Let me also say here that all we can do is what we know we are supposed to do – the outcome can still vary from child to child. Adam and Eve raised Abel… and Cain. They both grew up in the same home with the same rules but in the end, Abel followed God’s law and Cain did not. The great prophet Samuel found that his boys did not follow God. And there are many other similar examples in the Bible. In other words, your obedience to God will not guarantee that your children will turn into seekers of God. What I am saying is that obedience to God is our best option. There are far more positive results of obedience than there are negative.

OK, that’s mom and dad’s message for today: get your kids in church every time the doors are open, pray for them, and give to God His financial due. Your kids want and need to see what you are investing your time and money into. If you invest more of your time and money into their entertainment, that is what will become a priority in their lives. Their perspective about the church will be that the church is not meeting my needs, so I’m done.  

Now I want to talk to the young people - because you too have a responsibility. This isn’t all about your parents. In fact, you cannot even get to heaven on your parents’ faith. When you stand before Jesus, you are not going to be able to say, “I didn’t serve You because my parents didn’t serve You.” Well, I guess you can say that – but it’s not going to get you anywhere.  

There was a time in Jesus’ life when He stayed in the temple. He was only 12 years old and His parents had been looking for Him. Isn’t it interesting that they found Him in church, and when they did, He acted surprised? He said, “Didn’t you know that I had to be in my Father’s house.” Following that event it says (in Luke 2:51): “Then He went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them.” Jesus was obedient to His parents. Obedience to your parents pays off.   

Has the Holy Spirit ever whispered something wonderful to you about your life? Has He ever given you a picture of how He’d like to use you, or what He’d like your life to become? If He did, don’t relegate that word to “excitement” or just some “crazy thought.” Hold on to it! If necessary, renew your commitment to Him and watch Him work miracles in your life. Walk in the light and hope that that Word gave you! It might just rock your world and change all our lives! 

 

Usually a Word or vision from God is not meant for us alone, but for everyone in our sphere of influence. We will never regret obedience to Him. This world wants to pull us in several different directions and yet the only direction we need, is found in His Word to us. It’s so much better to just obey. That way, we will not be brought to places of sacrifice. Obedience goes before sin, sacrifice goes after sin. As the old hymn says, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, than to trust and obey.”   END

Trust and Obey

Part 1

Monday, September 6, 2021

There is an old hymn of the church entitled, Trust and Obey - the same as this week’s devotional study. I’m not sure there will end up being any obvious connects to the hymn, but the principles of the hymn will be found throughout this week’s study. 

“Trust and Obey,

for there’s no other way

to be happy in Jesus,

but to trust and obey.”

 

I will be quick to tell you this is much, it is considerably easier to say and teach that than it is to do (it is an awful lot like the 10 Second Rule, doing the next thing you feel God is asking you to do as soon as possible, beginning to act or make moves to act within the next 10-seconds – in fact, without doing this we will never be able to follow/keep the 10 Second Rule).

Matthew 14:1-2 “At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the reports about Jesus, 2 and he said to his attendants, ‘This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead! That is why miraculous powers are at work in him.’” When Herod first heard about the miracles of Jesus, he assumed that John the Baptist has risen from the dead. He made this assumption because Herod well knew that John was dead: he himself had ordered for John’s head to be cut off. So, beginning in verse 3, we read of an account that had already taken place, then the next few verses go into great detail about the events surrounding his death.

Herod had arrested John because John had pointed out Herod’s sinful lifestyle. Herod wanted to kill John, but was afraid to do so because he was considered a prophet. But one night in during a drunken, seductive dance, his niece paraded herself before Herod, so pleasing Herod that he promised her anything – up to half of his kingdom. When the girl (at the advice of her mother), told Herod that she wanted the head of John the Baptist, her wish was granted.

 

When Jesus hears the news about what happened to His cousin, John, He is naturally very saddened by it. Matthew 14:13 “When Jesus heard what had happened, He withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.” Now we get into the heart of the chapter and some of what we are going to focus in on. “When Jesus heard what had happened to John He withdrew… to a solitary place.” I believe the gravity of the situation hit Him like a ton of bricks. It wouldn’t surprise me if Jesus said to Himself, “John is just the beginning of many who are going to lose their lives for me.” 

It would be one thing for me to give up my life in order to save my family, but I don’t know if I could handle the idea of my family giving up their lives for me. John the Baptist was really the first martyr in the New Testament; he died for Christ’s sake. I just wonder if, when Jesus got the news, He was deeply impacted with the reality of what He was on earth for. 

There is a real battle going on over the souls of people. Just this past week I got into a discussion about Jesus with someone who had sent me a “friend request” on facebook. (I don’t know how familiar you are with Facebook, but you can click on a person’s name and it will take you to their personal page.) I scrolled through the page and saw that she has a young, good-looking family. They seemed like upright citizens with many pictures of them at a zoo and family picnics, but her page also revealed that they were spiritually lost, with no sense of who Jesus is.

She was openly critical of “The Church” so I began to inquire about her concerns. At one point in the course of our conversation, I said, “Everyone will one day, will answer to Jesus.” She responded with, “nope.” The spiritual lost-ness of her comment so impacted me that I stopped and prayed for her soul. 

People are convinced that there will be no consequences for their ungodly actions. For more than a month a few summers ago, Kim Davis was in the news. She was/is the Kentucky County Clerk who refused to grant a marriage license to a gay couple and went to jail for it. Before they put her in jail, there was a scene where all the News people had gathered at her office; several people were cussing her out when she said, “One day you will be judged for your actions.” When she said that, one man piped up and said, “There are no consequences. There are no consequences.” Though the man is wrong, he’s also right. There are no consequences for those who are in Christ (emphasis on “those who are in Christ”).  

This is why Jesus came to earth. He came to atone for our sins so we could escape the consequences we all deserve. But His blood must be spiritually applied to our sin-soaked souls in order for that to happen. Without the blood of Jesus applied to one’s heart, he or she will face terrible consequences for their actions. 

 

People are lost and living in darkness and don’t even realize it because outwardly, everything looks good. They hopefully cling to an errant belief that “Life is good, the bills are paid, and there’s food on the table – so why worry?” 

 

Continued tomorrow

Trust and Obey

Part 2

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Perhaps when John the Baptist began his ministry he never fully realized just how steeped people were in their sin - and that they would actually kill to remain in their sin. John ended up giving his life, all because of his desire to help people find the truth.  

Once Jesus heard the news of John’s death, He withdrew to a solitary place. He went to pray. But just shortly after He started praying, the crowds found Him. Since Jesus was a man of compassion, He turned His attention to caring for them. 

 

Matthew 14:15 “As evening approached, the disciples came to Him and said, ‘This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.’” Jesus had been ministering to the people, healing many of them, when His disciples came to Him making what would seem to be a perfectly reasonable request. They knew Jesus was tired; they knew that the death of John the Baptist had impacted Him. Now it was getting late and so they made a simple suggestion, “Send the crowds away so they can get something to eat.” - Matthew 14:16

 

“Jesus replied, ‘They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.’” I am quite sure this is not the answer they were expecting. First of all, let me say this: it’s probably not a good idea to tell Jesus what He should do. Secondly, if you do, you’ll most likely become the answer to solving just about everything you complain about. I encourage any of you to take your complaints to Jesus. Give Him good advice as to what you would like Him to do – then see how He resolves the issue. Almost all ministries are born out of a frustration of how things are. 

So here is our first dilemma. What are we going to give them to eat? If Jesus tells us to minister to someone, what are we going to offer him or her? One of the challenges I face as a pastor is that of equipping the saints for the work of the ministry. The reason I call it a challenge is because most Christians believe that I (the pastor) should do the work of the ministry rather than them. 

 

Ephesians 4:12 teaches us that God has called some people to fulfill certain positions in the church so that they can prepare the saints for the work of the ministry. I am more than happy to pray for anyone who needs it – but I’m even happier when I hear of how God used you to pray for someone. I love it when I see you down around the altar ministering to someone, or when I hear about how God used you on the job, or in your homes, or how you have followed the 10 Second Rule. 

 

So what are we going to offer them when God calls on us to minister to them? Before we answer that, let’s go back to Jesus praying in a solitary place.
 

Feeding the 5000

Matthew 14:18-19 “Bring them here to me,’ Jesus said. 19 Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, He gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people.”

I want us to think about this event a little. How many people do you think were there? It says there were 5000 men who ate, plus there were women and children. Have you ever been to a church service where the men outnumbered the women? Unless it’s specifically a men’s event, rarely do the men outnumber the women and children. There could have easily been 20 thousand people there. If there were 5000 men, there was probably at least 5000 women and 10,000 kids (if there were families present – and there likely were).

 

Continued tomorrow

Trust and Obey

Part 3

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

What do you think happened? Do you think Jesus blessed the food and it multiplied instantly so that each disciple had a stack of several thousand fish and pieces of bread? How could they have carried that? 

Here is what I think happened - and I believe this to be a Biblical (Kingdom) principle. In this same account in the book of Luke it says that when they were done feeding the multitude, they picked up 12 baskets of left over bread and fish, one basket for each of the disciples. So obviously they had 12 baskets with them. As Jesus blessed the bread and broke it, He must have distributed some bread and some fish into each of the twelve baskets. As the disciples walked through the crowd, the food was multiplied as they gave it away. 

Here is the principle: Jesus multiplies what we use for Him. I don’t believe the disciples received enough to feed thousands of people each, but as they used what they had, as they gave it away, God gave an increase. In other words, when we give, there is always more to give. 

 

Look at how Jesus puts it, in Luke's Gospel. Luke 6:38 “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”  While this passage is talking specifically about judging and forgiving, the principal used is what I call a “Kingdom Principal,” meaning it applies to all of life. Here is the key: it will only multiply as you use it. After Jesus gave the food to them, they gave it away. As they gave it away, it multiplied so that there was more to give.   

Many years ago now, our Church Council, based on this principle, made the decision to make sure that not less than a tithe (10%) of our General Fund Income would be given to Missions each month. There have been a couple of years that when the end of the year approached, we discovered that, in order to make that 10%, we needed to give “special offerings” (beyond our monthly pledges) to Missions/missionaries (and did so). But at the end of most years, when the numbers have all been turned in, we find that we as a church have given 12-14% of our overall income to Missions. My prayer is that this will always be the case. 

We ask you to tithe based on this same principle of sowing and reaping and therefore we are taking the same step of faith. I am personally more excited about that than anything else I’m doing. It was fun a few years ago to send a note to a Missionary (one who had visited our church for a service but we were unable to add them to our list of monthly supported Missionaries), asking them if it was okay for us to send them several hundred dollars because we needed to get our percentage back up to 10%. It seemed that those dollars came at just the right time for this Missionary family, then serving in Mexico, as a few of their monthly supporters had ether dropped off completely or had missed a month or two of giving. Our “get caught up gift” ended up being a “get caught up” gift for them, and wound up covering almost exactly what their shortfall had been that month! It has been a fun and amazing thing to get to do this on these occasions, sowing into our missionaries’ lives and ministries the gifts with which God has entrusted us.  

Part of the reason we are involved in Church Planting here in MN, in Ukraine and in Panama is because we realize we have to give it away before God will multiply it. What are we giving away in the distance church planting? We’re investing our time energy, money to go and stay there for a week or two, and into the intentional prayer and fasting efforts that go into each of those new Church Plants. (I’m not sure if you have ever been involved with a church plant, but I will tell you from my experience that it takes considerable prayer, fasting, study, and work effort, just to get to the first service, and then it multiplies to keep the doors open.) Now, while we are not physically there all the time, it does not mean we are not there in spirit and spiritual effort. And I am discovering that that can be even more exhausting than actually being there and involved. Yet that is what the Lord has called us to do.   

 

Continued tomorrow

Trust and Obey

Part 4

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Over the years, our Missions teams have seen God multiply the finances we raised in order to help purchase (or in some cases fully purchase) church buildings and/or supplying the dollars for remodeling projects. In a few cases we gave a financial gift to the church planter; to us it was a few hundred dollars, but to them it was nearly a year’s wages. And the incredible piece of all this is that we used team funds – yet never once have we run short on money during a trip. We came home a couple times with less than a dollar left – when our original budget said we could get home with a couple hundred. What we have experienced is that God ALWAYS provided when we gave. He multiplied what we had, and it never ceases to amaze me how and when that happens.  

The disciples were not carrying baskets of bread and fish for the entire crowd - just like we don’t have the million dollars for our mortgage in the bank yet. But as the disciples gave what they had, God gave them more. You always reap way more than you sow.   
 

Walking on Water

Matthew 14:23 “After He had dismissed them, He went up on a mountainside by Himself to pray. When evening came, He was there alone.” After Jesus dismissed the huge crowd He had just fed, He went back to prayer. When the evening came, He was still there. 

 

In Jesus’ day, the evening began 6:00 pm. It doesn’t technically state that Jesus had prayed through the night, but the gravity of the situation could cause us to think that. John the Baptist had just been put to death because of the Word of the Lord. Jesus didn’t play with His commitment to His Father. I am pretty confident that He was still in prayer when the fourth watch began (3:00 am).

Matthew 14:25-29 “During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw Him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear. 27 But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’ 28 ‘Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’ 29 ‘Come,’ He said.” 

Most of us know the rest of the account. Peter gets out of the boat and actually walks on water for a short time. I admire Peter for doing that. I’m not sure I would have had the faith to do it. But then again, things are different when you actually see Jesus.  

I remember reading a while ago of a pastor in Africa who drowned by trying to walk on water. Pastor Franck Kabele, 35, told his congregation that he was capable of reenacting (had the faith to reenact) the very miracles of Jesus Christ. He decided to make it clear through way of demonstration on Gabon’s beach in the capital city of Libreville. Referencing Matthew 14:22-33, Kabele said that with enough faith he could achieve what Jesus was able to. According to an eyewitness, Kabele took his congregation out to the beach. He told them that he would cross the Kombo estuary by foot, which is normally a 20 minute boat ride. Sadly by the second step into the water Kabele found himself completely submerged. He never returned.)

 

This is not the first incident of this nature in Africa. At Ibadon zoo in south-west Nigeria, a self-proclaimed Prophet claimed to be able to do what the Daniel of the Bible did by walking into a den full of lions. Though warned numerous times by zoo keepers, the Prophet, with a crowd of people watching, put on a long red robe and proceeded to enter the cage full of lions. Within seconds of opening the door, the lions ripped the Prophet from flesh to bone. (Maybe the Bible should come with a warning label, “Don’t try this at home.”)

 

The difference between these two accounts and what Peter did has to do with what Peter said before getting out of the boat. He spoke to Jesus and said, “Tell me to come to you on the water.” Peter waited until the Lord called him. When the Lord said, “Come,” Peter stepped out in faith. These men in Africa never made mention of Jesus telling them to do what they did. I think they were putting God to foolish tests.

 

Faith comes as a result of hearing (Romans 10:17). We must hear God if we are to walk in faith. But faith then requires action. Faith without works is dead. Peter had to step out in faith as God spoke to him. It’s no different for any of us. If we are to give someone something, or if we are going to minister to someone we will have to step out in faith. There is no display of faith until the step is taken, and there is no faith until we see or hear God.   

 

Continued tomorrow

Trust and Obey

Part 5

Friday, September 10, 2021

The thing that encouraged Peter was the fact that Jesus was walking on the water. When we see Jesus, we can follow suit. The key is seeing or hearing Jesus first. Jesus had just come from a marathon of prayer; He was full of faith, and simply did what He knew He had to do.  


What do we have to give anyone except that which comes from our relationship with Jesus? If we are not spending adequate time in the presence of Jesus, seeking Him, praying to Him, praying in the Holy Spirit, we have very little to offer anyone. 

 

Why did Jesus choose His disciples to distribute the food? I believe it was because they had something from their relationship with Christ that they could offer to others. They may not have known it at that moment, but they stepped out in faith and obedience, based on the Word of the Lord. And as He always does, God honored that act of faith.

Give them something to eat. 

What if Jesus asks you to do something? Have you ever noticed that the people God uses continue to get used, while some of us sit back and wonder why He doesn’t use us?  

Pastor Ron Auch, who was here a few years ago leading a Jesus Sensitive Conference, once wrote the following:

 

I once taught a prayer conference in Manhattan, Kansas (the little apple). We saw some powerful things happen. One young lady, a student at the University, received the baptism of the Holy Spirit on Monday. She is from Eritrea, Africa. Eritrea is widely believed to have one of the worst human rights records in the world. Emigration from the country is occurring on a large scale due to poverty and violence from its authoritarian government. This particular lady had spent time in jail in her country for her Christian witness. When God came to her and baptized her with His Spirit, she had a very exceptional experience. Not only did she speak in tongues, but she could hardly handle His presence. She was weak-kneed and had a look of amazement on her face. She stayed around the altar just shaking and praying in tongues for a long time, basking in His presence. Makes you kind of wonder if God was just blessing her for the time she spent in jail for Him. There were also testimonies of healings.

Do you know what I have found in my life? The more I teach on prayer, the more I have within myself to teach on prayer. The more I see God move on the hearts of people, the more God moves on the hearts of people. The more you give of the life within you, the more life you have to give. 

 

When Jesus says, “You give them something to eat,” what are we going to give them? We can only give them what we have received, and if we are not diligent about our pursuit of Him, we have very little to offer others. On the other hand, when the Lord uses you to minister to someone’s need, there is nothing else like it. It’s one of the most fulfilling things we can do.

 

As you give, God will give back to you. And the more you have to give, the more you get in return… to give again. END