Posted in 1Peter, Acts, Galatians, John, Mark

God’s Timing

“It is not for you to know the times (chronos) or dates (kairos) which the Father has set by His own authority.” Acts 1:7

Two of the Greek words for time in the New Testament are “chronos” and “kairos.” Chronos is the word for sequential time which is how mankind usually thinks about time. There are twenty-four hours in a day, seven days in a week, and fifty two weeks in a year. We make plans and appointments in sequential time and live our lives trying to fulfill them.

Kairos is a word we don’t have one English word to describe. It is not sequential time, but rather, God’s time for something to happen. 

Vine’s Expository dictionary gives this distinction: “Chronos marks quantity (of time), kairos, marks quality.” (554) So how does recognizing God’s kairos time practically make a difference in our lives? Let me give a number of ways.

  1. Although we live in sequential time our priority should be kairos time. Jesus waited for God’s time to go to the feast while his unbelieving brothers had no such concern. “The right time (kairos) for Me has not yet come; for you any time is right.” (John 7:1-2) 
  2. We should not be frustrated by our present difficulties but can have confidence that if we keep doing what’s right, the time (kairos) will come when we will see God’s deliverance. “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God and in due time (kairos) He will exalt you.” (1Peter 5:6) “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time (kairos) we will reap a harvest if we don’t give up.” (Galatians 6:9)
  3. History has a purpose and a direction way bigger than us, so we should be able to put all of our minor irritations in perspective.  Jesus died at the “right time” (kairos) for us (Romans 5:6); and we can be assured that Jesus will come back in God’s “appointed time” (kairos – Mark 13:33).
  4. As we respond to God’s dealings with us with a spirit of repentance, He desires “times” (kairos) of refreshing to come to us from the presence of the Lord. (Acts 3:19)
Posted in 1Corinthians, Acts

To Speak or not to Speak?

“The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church.” 1Corinthians 14:34

Why would Paul, who insisted that we are free from the law in the New Covenant, reference the law as the reason why women should be silent in the church? The motivation of all his ministry is explained to us just a few chapters earlier: “To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those under the Law, … so that I might win those who are under the Law; … I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.” (1Corinthians 9:19-23)

The church in Corinth is reaching out to Jewish unbelievers. It is already difficult for unbelieving Jews to have women sitting alongside men in the same meeting; but to have them speaking would be so offensive to them they would have no chance to respond to Christ. Because Paul is concerned about reaching these people who are under the law, he puts the churches reaching them under the law, even though they aren’t under the law, so that they might win those under the law.

Acts 2 is about the freedom God has brought to both men and women through the gospel. (Acts 2:17-18)  1Corinthians 14 is a reminder that we live in culture and we need to honor culture so that we can win people to Christ. A few years ago one of my daughters went to Oman on a missions trip. While there, she always wore a dress in public with a head covering. Why? It wouldn’t have been illegal in that country to wear whatever she wanted, but her team was trying to reach unbelievers for Christ. Dishonoring the Muslim culture in Oman would have made it very difficult for the team to share Jesus. Once you offend someone, it’s hard for them to hear anything else you are saying.

Paul goes on to say in 1Corinthians 9 by saying, “to those without the law I become like those who do not have the law… so that I may win some.”  Do you think Paul would allow women to speak in church if he lived in 21st century America?

Posted in Ephesians, Matthew

Asking Prayer

“Ask and it will be given to you.” Matthew 7:7

In seeking prayer we seek God for who He is; in knocking prayer we persistently knock for the influence of the Holy Spirit on others; and in asking prayer we ask for our own needs. Jesus said we didn’t need to use many words in asking prayer because “your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” If He already knows, why ask? God wants us to get to know His generosity and love through answered prayer, and He strategically uses delays in answers to refine our character.

Believing is especially central to asking prayer. Jesus said, “And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.” (Matthew 21:22) Believing what? Believing that God will give it exactly when and how you want it? Or do we simply believe God is good; He hears our prayer and He will answer it in His own way and in His own time? Martin Luther believed it was the latter:

“We are to lay our need before God in prayer but not prescribe to God a measure, manner, time, or place. We must leave that to God, for He may wish to give it to us in another, perhaps better, way than we think is best. Frequently we do not know what to pray as St. Paul says in Romans 8, and we know that God’s ways are above all that we can ever understand as He says in Ephesians 3. Therefore, we should have no doubt that our prayer is acceptable and heard, and we must leave to God the measure, manner, time, and place, for God will surely do what is right.” (Devotional Classics; pg 117)

A couple of months ago I was praying about a frustrating situation and instructing God exactly when He needed to have this problem fixed by, and if not, I was going to have to do something drastic. After I was done with my little tirade, I heard a one word whisper in my mind that I believe was the Holy Spirit speaking: “Really?” I was instantly repentant of my attitude. I’m not going to take over; I’m going to wait for God’s timing and allow the process to refine my soul.

Ephesians 3:20 is a verse that gives God a lot of latitude in how He answers prayer: “God is able to do far above all you ask or think…” We don’t have to ask perfectly or even think of how God might do it; our part is to pray with childlike faith and trust that our God will take it from there. Ask and it will be given to you.

Posted in Luke

Knocking Prayer

“Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.’ Then the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.” I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man’s boldness (shameless persistence) he will get up and give him as much as he needs.” Luke 11:5-8

Years ago my daughter told me that she wanted to have an operation on her jaw. Her teeth didn’t line up right so she lived with constant pain and had difficulty chewing things. There were two possible solutions: One was affordable and would cut down the pain as well as slow the deterioration; the other was expensive but would actually make her better.

We didn’t have the money. I told the Lord in prayer that we didn’t have the money to do what really needed to be done. We were already making sacrifices to put her and her siblings through college and I just felt like all my resources were tapped. “Not all your resources,” was the whisper I heard in my spirit. Was there a bank account somewhere I had forgotten about? As I began to think about other resources, I thought of my relationship with my mom.

To do everything for my daughter didn’t just mean using money we had, it had to include me humbling myself before my mom and asking her if she would help. To say “no” to my daughter without at least asking my mom for help, would not be doing everything possible.  Because of my mom’s generosity, I rejoice to say that my daughter had that operation, and now, years later, has no trouble with her jaw.

Have you included your relationship with God when you think about your resources? You may not have what others need, but you know Someone who does.

Posted in 2Chronicles, Jeremiah, Matthew, Psalms

Seeking Prayer

“Seek, and you will find.” Matthew 7:7

Jesus describes three types of prayer that we will look at over the next three days. The first is seeking prayer which is a description of prayer that seeks after God for who He is. Jeremiah 29:13 gives the essence of this kind of prayer: “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”

Singing worship songs is considered part of seeking prayer because it is God focused instead of need centered. Jesus gave us an outline for prayer which starts with who God is: “Our Father who lives in heaven; hallowed by Your Name.” Seeking prayer is when we remember it’s not about us or our name (reputation), but about God and His Name.

The best selling book The Purpose Driven Life, starts with the words, “It’s not about you.” In seeking prayer we remember this truth and long to find our satisfaction and identity in God, instead of in ourselves.

“When you said, ‘Seek My face,’ my heart said to You, ‘Your face, O Lord, I shall seek.’” (Psalm 27:8) God invites us to come after Him and find a deeper faith based more and more on His character and less and less on our momentary feelings about Him.

People often start prayer by asking for God’s hand which is fine, but the real action comes when we prioritize seeking His face. Consider one of the greatest promises in the Bible: “If My people, who are called by My Name, will humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2Chronicles 7:14) Isn’t it interesting that this verse never mentions anyone asking God to heal the land? If you seek His face, you will see His hand move on your behalf without even having to ask!

I remember when my kids were young. A lot of their interaction with me was because they needed something, but once in a while they would bring a picture that they made “just for me.” It didn’t matter what was on that paper, it was a masterpiece that was going on the refrigerator because of their loving intent. I think that’s how God feels when we seek His face!

Posted in John, Matthew

The Value of Jesus

“Truly I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.” Matthew 26:13

When Mary of Bethany poured costly oil on Jesus’ head in a spontaneous act of worship, the disciples were “indignant” and said, “Why this waste? For this perfume might have been sold for a high price and then given to the poor.” (Matthew 26:8-9) Yet there was something in this act that captured the whole-hearted response the value of Jesus calls for, so our text says the gospel itself is to now include the retelling of this event.

Earlier Jesus had compared the kingdom of heaven to a “treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” (Matthew 13:44) In this act of devotion, Mary modeled this truth before everyone’s eyes. Mary had found treasure in her relationship with Jesus and could not contain her worship. To the others, even those closest to Him, it was as if the treasure was hidden. “Why this waste?” is what they said in the face of such an extravagant offering.

Today our costly oil is our time. Do you ever just “waste” time worshipping Jesus? Beware of a voice in your head that will speak to you whenever you want to spend time alone with the Lord: “Why this waste? You’ve got things to do, needs to meet, responsibilities to fulfill, calls to make, and items to check off of your list. You don’t have time for this.” Yet when we set a higher value on God than on all the things we have to do, we bring pleasure to Jesus, like Mary did.

“What about all the urgent other things?” you ask. Jesus replied, “you always have the poor with you.” (Matthew 26:11) In other words, the needs will still be there after you take time for devotion. The reality is you and I are much more equipped to handle all of the pressures around us after we have “wasted” time with Jesus because His presence, blessing, and wisdom will then flow more freely. Jesus said that the result of us drinking of Him would be “rivers of living water flowing out of our innermost being.” (John 7:37-39)

Posted in Job, John, Matthew

War Horses

“I am meek and lowly of heart, take My yoke upon you and learn from Me and you will find rest in your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:29-30

The Greek word “praus” is translated “meek” in our text, but it is difficult to find an exact English word to match what it means. Ancient Greeks used this word to describe a stallion that was broken and could be ridden. One commentator writes: “The horse was perfectly trained and ready, it would obey the master, the rider, no matter what was going on around it, so that it could be trusted in the heat of battle not to do something stupid or foolish; once the rider knew that he could trust the animal, and that it would obey him no matter what, he called it a meek horse even though it could have been a powerful, thoroughbred stallion, capable of killing enemies in battle.”

Jesus is saying that He’s like the war horse. He didn’t fear anything, whatever the Father showed Him, He did (John 5:19). If the Father told Him to go right into hell itself to cast out a demon, He would go there. He walked in perfect rest because He only had to pay attention to His Father and had no fear of anyone or anything else.

Why did God describe a meek horse to Job? (Job 39:19-25)  I think it’s because all that God had allowed in Job’s life was for the purpose of making him meek and fearless, like this horse. Job walked uprightly before God but he still had things that he was afraid of. “What I fear comes upon me, and what I dread befalls me.” (Job 3:25) After all of this trial was over, I am convinced, Job was unafraid of anything. The worst had happened and God had brought him through.

What if we face what we face because God is trying to destroy the power of fear in our lives? I believe God wants to make us war horses the Holy Spirit can lead into any battle, at any time, knowing that we won’t go by our emotions, our past experiences, or our opinions, but only by His prompting. The Father doesn’t want us hiding in fear until Jesus rescues us out of this wicked, scary world – He wants to lead us right into the midst of darkness to bring His kingdom on earth, as it is in heaven!

Posted in Galatians

Have You Gone Back to Performance?

“You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? Have you experienced so much in vain-if it really was in vain? So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? Galatians 3:1-5

The Galatian Christians started well, but at some point retreated from “grace through faith” living back to, “trying to be good enough for God,” living. Are you there as well? Here are some symptoms:

  1. You find you are no longer focused on what Jesus did for you on the cross. You punish yourself instead of accepting His forgiveness easily, and find it hard to forgive others who have hurt you.
  2. Your focus is more on your discipline than on the Spirit’s power. You are more conscious of what you’re doing for Him than what He is doing in and through you.
  3. The miracles and the sense of the supernatural are gone. There is no awe, no wonder, and no surprise any more. Jesus said there should be rivers flowing from our inmost being, but you feel like you are plugged up, and anything spiritual is hard.
  4. You struggle to believe God loves you; Jesus died for you; and that God wants you to be with Him more than anything else.

If you see yourself in this list let me give you a few practical things to do. First, repent, and ask God to forgive you for going back into performance based religion. Take time to thank Him again for His love, for the cross and for the grace He wants to lavish upon you. Then ask for a fresh filling of the Holy Spirit in simple faith and tell Him you want to be near Jesus. Wait quietly in His presence, stilling every other distraction, and let Him fill you to overflowing. Repeat as necessary.

Posted in 1Timothy, 2Timothy, Hebrews, John

Keeping the Treasure Safe

“I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day…Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.” 2Timothy 1:12, 14

Paul writes about two things: something we entrust to God that He guards; and something that He entrusts to us which we guard. Let’s look a little closer at both of these.

First, Paul recounts to Timothy the suffering he has had to go through and is going through for the sake of the gospel. He is not having an easy or comfortable life, and in fact, is currently in prison for his faith. He assures Timothy that it will be worth it. God has seen every sacrifice; He has witnessed every accusation and every injustice. God knows that Paul has persevered and continued to turn away from self-pity or bitterness and has tried to be faithful to his calling. Paul believes he will be generously rewarded for his attitudes and actions on the judgment day, and that God Himself is guarding over his reward.

After telling us about something valuable God guards for us, Paul writes about a treasure God expects us to guard. The treasure includes our “sincere faith” (1Timothy 1:5); our ministry “gift” that needs to be continually stirred up (1Timothy 1:6); and the salvation that God has given us “not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus.” (1Timothy 1:9) How do we keep this treasure safe?

  1. Value that which you have in Christ above everything else. If you don’t recognize the treasure you have it becomes vulnerable to the enemy who Jesus called a thief. (John 10:10)
  2. Stir up your faith by reading, praying, and obeying every day.
  3. Don’t become offended with God when you go through trials, confusion, or persecution. Remember Jesus didn’t promise a lack of trouble, but peace within it. (See John 16:33) My favorite bumper sticker: “Life is hard, but God is good.”
  4. Plan to persevere. “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” (Hebrews 10:35-36)
  5. Ask for help. One of the things the Holy Spirit does for us, according to the text above, is to help us guard the treasure.
Posted in Malachi

Setting Your Heart

“‘…if you do not set your heart to honor My name, ‘ says the Lord Almighty, “I will send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not set your heart to honor Me.” Malachi 2:2

It needs to be about Him. In Malachi’s day the priests who made sacrifices and represented God to the people were living in a place where God couldn’t bless them. They were sacrificing their lame and blind animals to God, and saving the good ones for themselves. Their lives were very religious, but it was all self centered instead of God honoring.

God loves us and wants to bless us, but our lives won’t work right if they are about us. Jesus taught us to pray first, “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed (honored) be Thy Name,” and then to pray “give us this day our daily bread.” When we set our hearts to honor God and re-orient our lives around this theme, a huge weight comes off of us.

It no longer matters how we appear to others but only how He appears through us. We no longer have a mortgage or a car payment, everything belongs to Him, so we trust Him to help us fulfill obligations we have made. If we do our best and fail, it’s fine, because it’s about His success which often looks very different than ours.

We were created to be second, not first. Our sin nature is such that we easily put ourselves first without even thinking about it, which is why we often need to reset our hearts to honor Him. We do it by sincere prayer: “Father, honor Your Name through Me. May Your kingdom advance (not mine), may Your will be done (not mine), for Yours (not mine) is the kingdom, power, and glory forever.”

You may think that you lose all sense of yourself by setting your heart to honor God, but the opposite is true. Jesus said that whoever loses their life for His sake, will end up finding it. We were made to honor God so when we aim to do it, everything feels right.