EXPOSING OUR SECRET LIVES

We are badly mistaken when we think our “secret” lives are “secret.” God sees everything and assures us in Luke 12:3 that what we say in the dark will be heard in the daylight and what we’ve whispered in the inner rooms will be shouted from the rooftops. We know that some men and women whom we respect and admire are what Jesus in Matthew 23:27 called “white-washed tombs” with pristine exteriors hiding decay within. Being forewarned, we should avoid tripping over those snares. Proverbs 27:12 tells us that prudent people see danger ahead and take precautions, but “simpleton[s]” press “blindly on” and suffer the consequences.

Romans 2:16 (NLT): And this is the message I proclaim — that the day is coming when God, through Christ Jesus, will judge everyone’s secret life.

Luke 12:3 (ESV): Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.

Proverbs 4:23 (NCV): Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life.

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GOD KNOWS OUR SECRET THOUGHTS

EVEN OUR MOST PRIVATE THOUGHTS will be made  public!

65.Hidden_ThoughtsHow comforting it is to let our minds roam the extremes, darting past the boundaries of respectability and decorum, venturing into forbidden territory, flirting with danger … because no one knows and, therefore, there’s no harm!

Right? Wrong.

Yes, the God we serve knows everything about us. He knows what we do, what we say … even what we think.

While we may believe our thoughts are hidden, and that we can maintain a good facade simply by watching what we do or say, God tells us that even our thoughts are important.

MISTAKEN ASSUMPTIONS ARE COSTLY

YEARS AGO, BEFORE becoming a Christian, I assumed that what we thought lodged safely within our heads, with no impact on our  lives or those around us unless we acted — or spoke — in response.

Therefore, I reasoned, our minds were free to explore the darkest corners of dreams and ideas, with no repercussions.God's Glory Fills the Hills

As a parent of two children, I allowed them to watch whatever television programs they wanted, even when the children’s programs flirted with filth. One day, my younger of two daughters pushed me out of their TV room with these words: “Daddy, you have to leave the room. They’re talking about sex.”

Stunned, I stumbled into the kitchen, blurting out to their mother, “Do you know what they’re watching?”

She said, “Yes, it’s on all the time.”

That was 30 years ago. All that’s changed since then is the situation has gotten worse.

OUR SINFUL THOUGHTS HARM US

SIN IS BORN in our thoughts.

When those thoughts, or desires, become strong enough, they lead us to act contrary to God’s will (James 1:14-15), and that leads to death because death is the payment for sin (Romans 6:23).

In the days before my conversion, I didn’t realize that the thoughts that populated our minds — mine or, in this case, my children’s — would, or even could, find their way out through our speech or future actions.

Without the Bible’s teaching, I was content to follow my own desires for my purposes and would find a way, if I could, to neutralize any opposition, from whatever source — wife, employer, neighbor. It didn’t matter. I was the “captain” of my destiny, and I took great pride in getting my way.

As the *natural man* (1 Cor. 2:14), I was unable to see a higher purpose in which I could be called to serve others (Mark 10:45) or not think of myself more highly than I ought (Rom. 12:3) or to bear another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2).

I also paid a heavy price for my insolence, although I did not immediately attribute any failings to my conduct or mindset.

GOD’S GRACE SAVES US

GOD’s GRACE is so amazing.

He not only wants to forgive us for what we do, but He wants to forgive us for every intemperate word and errant thought! (Romans  5:20)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

More than that, He wants to redeem us and teach us so that we won’t continue along the path that leads to destruction. (Matt. 7:13) We learn through His Word that our paths, our desires, may seem right to us, but we take them at our peril. (Prov. 16:25)

Once we receive the Holy Spirit, He goes to work to remake us in His image. (2 Cor. 5:17; Phil. 2:13)

Then, we see more clearly the strong connection between our errant thoughts and our behavior, and we strive to change our thinking, with His help and under His grace, to thoughts honoring our Savior. (2 Cor. 10:5; Phil. 4:8)

POSTSCRIPT

WHEN I LOOK BACK at those days before conversion, I shudder to see how selfish I was, how prideful, how ungodly.

Then I read that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us, the Godly for the ungodly (Rom. 5:8), that we might have fellowship again with our Creator, the way He designed us before our Fall from Grace (Genesis 3).

That, my friends, is love.

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PRAYER 

Dear Heavenly Father, You know us better than we know ourselves. You know what is in lone_crossour hearts, what  motivates us, what consumes our passions and energy. You are not fooled. We confess to You our selfishness, our envy, our judgment of others. Please forgive us and cast our sins away, as far as the east is from the west, and remember them no more. Lord, Your Word was given to instruct us, to rebuke and correct us, and to train us so that, as children of the Most High God, we will be adequate for every good work. We pray, O Lord, that You will soften our hearts to make us more obedient to Your will. In Jesus’ holy and matchless name we pray. AMEN

OBEYING THE LORD’S COMMANDS

The Lord has created us with a perfect plan to glorify Him and to enjoy fellowship with Him and each other. His rules for our lives are designed to help us, not to harm us or destroy our enjoyment. Instead, He promises His prescriptions will give us life and that in abundance. We disobey Him at our loss.

1 Kings 2:3 (CEV):Do what the Lord your God commands and follow his teachings.”

John 14:15a (TLB):If you love me, obey me.”

Luke 2:52 (CSB): “Jesus increased in wisdom and  stature, and in favor with God and with people.”

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LEARNING TO BE OBEDIENT

WHEN WE WERE children, our mother would tell us to “go to the bathroom” before we went anywhere in the car.

Of course, that would mean leaving our toys and other play things, so naturally we would respond, “I don’t have to go.”Boys_Playing_Blocks

After she told us another time or two, with each time our refusing to budge, our father would bellow, “Obey your mother!”

Suddenly, we had to use the bathroom and would race one another to get there first.

In many ways, that is how many Christians treat the Lord’s commands.

We know that He loves us and that He’ll forgive us, so we’re lax when it comes to obeying Him.

What too many Christians are prone to forget is that He also judges us and is not pleased when we disobey Him.

LEARNING GOD’S COMMANDS

WHAT ARE SOME of the commandments the Lord requires us to obey?

The first and primary commandment, as Jesus described it, is to love the Lord your God with your entire body, mind, and soul. The second commandment, He said, is to love our neighbor as ourself. (Matt. 22:37-40)

god-is-sovereignHe also commanded us to obey the Ten Commandments or Law of Moses. The first four commandments are to love God first, to worship only God, do not take His name in vain, and to honor the Sabbath Day, a requirement for ancient Israel that was replaced after Jesus’ resurrection with honoring the Lord’s Day.

The next six commandments regulated our interaction with our neighbors and were based entirely on mutual love and respect for others created in God’s image.

We readily recognize those “love” commandments as mandates from God, but there are others that we must acknowledge and obey:

        • You must be born again
        • Let people see your good works
        • Abide in Him
        • Forgive your enemies and pray for those who persecute you
        • Tell others about Him and baptize them in His name
        • Get rid of anything that causes you to sin
        • Store up your treasures in Heaven
        • Observe communion in remembrance of Him
        • Be humble, not proud
        • Do not lust after women (or men)
        • Be merciful.

OBEYING GOD’S COMMANDS

NOW, THE BIG QUESTION:

WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH THAT LIST?

How many of them are you missing? Are you obeying each of them?

A few of them are one-time only, like being born again, but most of the list is ongoing, a way of life. If we are dedicated and consistent, we will live God-honoring lives that will make for a powerful testimony to the Lord’s saving grace.image-2

When we realize that we cannot fulfill the list under our own  power, we can lay claim to one of the more compelling commandments in the list, to “abide” in Jesus.

When we do that, He promises to “abide” in us and assures that, without Him, we can do nothing. (John 15:1-5)

POSTSCRIPT

GOD’S COMMANDMENTS are requirements, not requests or suggestions. He wants us to obey Him because His commandments are good for us.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)

Those plans conform to God’s design for our lives. We not only are wise if we obey them, but we will be much happier and peaceful. (Proverbs 1:7; John 10:10)

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PRAYER

OUR GRACIOUS AND LOVING Heavenly Father, we  confess to You so often we have lone_crossfailed to obey Your design for our lives, substituting our own desires for Your commands. We have treated Your commands as worthy suggestions, but often ignore them for what they are: directives. Forgive us, Lord, and encourage us through the Holy Spirit to live our lives as a living testament to Your power and Your goodness. In Jesus’ redeeming name we pray. AMEN

 

GIDEON: OUR MIGHTY WARRIOR

God knows that each one of us is weak, yet He has chosen to work through us to reach broken humanity. We cannot do it on our own, but He does not expect us to. Instead, He will empower us through the Holy Spirit. In His Bible, He shows us how He can take a simple man like Gideon and turn him into a mighty warrior.

Judges 6:12 (NIV): “When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, ‘The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.’”

2 Corinthians 12:9 (ESV): “But [God] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’”

James 4:10 (CSB): “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.”

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GOD WORKS WITH THE HUMBLE

GIDEON — yes, that Gideon of the Bible —  was not anyone’s idea of a gifted leader. Yet, we read that an angel of the LORD appeared to him one day and called him “mighty warrior.”62. Gideon_And_Angel

When Gideon heard this word of affirmation, he replied with that famous battle cry: “Pardon me, my lord.”

Hmm.

Not too commanding, was he?

“Pardon me, my lord” was the ancient world’s equivalent of our “Say what? You talkin’ to me?”

WATCHING GIDEON VACILLATE

LET’S GO BACK to the scene.

Our hero, Gideon, is busy with the post-harvest chore of separating the wheat from the chaff.

The best way the ancient world had for doing this was labor-intensive: the farmer stuck a pitchfork into the bale and threw it into the air, where the wind current would blow the lighter chaff away, thus separating it from the heavier wheat, which would fall into a heap.

Normally, this was done in a location where the wind currents were felt.

But Gideon was found in a winepress, which is a depression out of sight of those on the ground. The wind currents were not very strong there, but it afforded him sight protection from the enemy Midianites, who were prowling about.

Gideon no doubt feared if they saw him, they would run him through with a sword and take the wheat.

“I AM” IS SENDING YOU

HERE’S GIDEON HIDING from the Midianites, when an angel of the LORD comes down and sits under an oak tree. His greeting? “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.”

i-am“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?”

At this point, Gideon chides the angel, reminding him that if the LORD were watching over Israel, if the LORD were doing His job the way Gideon thought He should, then why were the Israelites afraid for their lives. Heck, why was Gideon threshing wheat in a winepress?

Here’s the angel’s response: “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of the Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”

Hold onto that question for a moment: “Am I not sending you?”

Where have we heard that one before?

Was it not Moses at the burning bush asking the LORD who should he say was sending him to free the Israelites from Egypt, and the LORD replied, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” (Ex. 3:14)

GOD’S COMMANDS AND GRACE

GOD’S COMMANDS to us are accompanied by His grace.

He never sends us out without promising to be with us.

The LORD requires us to speak, think, and act according to His will. Our job, according to the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), is to teach others that God has come into the world to save us from our rebellion, our hardness of heart, our human pride.62. Redemption

Then, we are to take the message of redemption and forgiveness to a broken world.

All the while, He promises this: “Remember that I am always with you until the end of time.” (v. 20 GW)

Often we fail. Some of us, quite often. Even when we do the right thing(s), our hearts might be looking for our glory, not His. So we repent, He forgives, He toughens us up, and we grow. Next time around, we do better. We’re stronger … until, again, we fail. The process repeats itself until we’re in glory with our LORD.

How comforting to hear our LORD’s promise to sustain us. He will not forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6) nor leave us as orphans (John 14:18). He tells us not to be afraid because He will hold us up (Isaiah 41:13). When He has commanded us to do something, He says He will be with us while we do it (Joshua 1:9).

Our faith is essential to this process (Hebrews 11:1) for without faith, we cannot please Him (Hebrews 11:6).

TRANSFORMING A WEAK MAN

GOD CAN TAKE a weak man like Gideon and turn him into a mighty warrior, a warrior mighty in battle (Psalm 24:8). God’s will will prevail. His word goes out and accomplishes all that He has tasked it with. It will not return to Him void (Isaiah 55:11).

Now, it becomes our turn to go, to be obedient, to share the Word of the LORD, to encourage others—in the name of Jesus Christ with the power of the Holy Spirit. When the LORD asks whom shall He send, let us be like the prophet Isaiah, “Here I am! Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8 ESV).

Well, Gideon was no Isaiah, so he didn’t quite say, “Okay, I’m your man.” Instead, he said, “How can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh [one of 12 Israeli tribes], and I am the least in my family.”

That is where many of us stay. We know there’s Kingdom work to be done, but too often we feel we’re just not qualified to do it. The Lord certainly knows our limitations.

Most of us, if pressed, could readily point to someone else to take our place, someone else whom we think is much better equipped to handle the task the LORD has laid on our shoulders. In fact, we’re very eager to supply names, e-mail addresses, and mobile phone numbers—just to help out. We can be very helpful that way.

STUDYING THE BIBLE’S LEADERS

WHEN WE LOOK to the Bible’s list of great leaders— Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David, Nehemiah, Daniel, Peter, John, James, Paul—we find that each one of them was prepared by the LORD to handle the task he was given before the task was assigned.

It’s not our position or title in a group that makes us a leader — not any more than expensive sneakers makes us an NBA star or nifty skates takes us to the Stanley Cup.

image-19What makes a leader is character, and character is developed over time, usually starting with a vision, then denting that vision with adversity, then wrapping the result around perseverance. (Romans 5:3-5) (James 1:2-4)

Other examples of “leaders” were of lesser stuff. We think immediately of Barak, who would lead Israel into battle only if the female judge Deborah accompanied him.

Then, of course, there’s Gideon.

PREPARING GIDEON FOR BATTLE

THE BIBLE’S ACCOUNT of Gideon’s transformation is an interesting story.

First, Gideon places God’s messenger under a variety of tests or “proofs” that he is, indeed, sent from God. Of course, the angel passes every test with ease.

Then the LORD tells Gideon to assemble an army. He adds a caveat that if Gideon wants further proof that he was anointed by God, he could sneak up on the Midianites’ compound. When Gideon does — with a companion, of course — he hears the Midianites proclaiming their fear of Gideon and his army!

Yes, there’s also the winnowing down of Gideon’s troops from 30,000 to 300 because God said He wanted Gideon and the Israelites to know that it was He, the God of the Israelites, that delivered the enemy over, not the might of the Israelite army. (Judges 7:2)

First, God let every man afraid to go into battle to leave — that dropped the total by two-thirds — then He wanted only the men who lapped water by scooping it up in their hands instead of sticking their faces in the drink — that whittled most of the rest of them.

With 300 men, Gideon was fodder for a slaughter … except that the LORD’s mighty sword was raised on behalf of His people. They “won” the skirmish without fighting. The Midianites slaughtered one another.

After the battle, the Israelites wanted to crown Gideon their king, but he would have none of it. Not only would he not rule over them, he said, but neither would his son. “The Lord will rule over you,” he said. (Judges 8:23 NIV)

That often happens, too, with leadership.

Once you take the reins for a time or two, the job is yours forever. People are quite content to let someone else handle the chores.

WE CAN ALL BE LEADERS

EACH ONE OF US can be a leader. To do that, we need to take ownership of our jobs. Of who we are and what we can do.

So, what is leadership?

Leadership is character. It is not about being the boss or having one’s way. Sometimes, leadership is nothing more than looking around and seeing what needs to be done … and then offering to do it.60. Faith

A leader — or one who aspires to be a leader — must dig into areas of character, priorities, attitude, and vision.

A leader has to discipline himself not only to set the agenda but sometimes to set the table for others to succeed.

Leadership is not just about our own enhancement or our position or our glory. It is not about attaining our will. It’s about sacrificial service.

Remember our LORD at the Last Supper when he got up from the table, wrapped his cloak around his waist, filled the wash basin, and kneeled down to wash the feet of His disciples — including, we presume, the feet of the man who, within hours, would betray Him.

THE LORD’S CALL FOR US

WHAT IS THE CALL IN OUR LIVES?

Has the LORD been laying on your heart a task you think is too big for you, has He given you a word of encouragement that you’ve been hesitant to deliver, has He prepared you for a role in your life that He’s starting to unveil to you?

What does it take for you, for us, to take that first step of  obedience?

62. Bible_LeadersJohn C. Maxwell, author of the book, Developing the Leader Within You 2.0, tells us this:

1. There are never enough leaders.

2. Every leader needs development.

  • Moses spent 40 years being educated in Pharaoh’s house, plus 40 years of tending sheep in the desert;
  • Joseph spent years in servitude to the Egyptian hierarchy and many years in prison;
  • Nehemiah was a cupbearer to the Babylonian king;
  • Paul was trained as a Pharisee before he was knocked to the ground by a bolt of light; and
  • Jesus was … well, He had spent forever in the Trinity and then 40 days and nights being tempted by Satan.

Every leader needs encouragement, training, prayer, support. Are we giving each other that kind of encouragement? Are we coming alongside each of our brothers in prayer?

If we heed these lessons well, no one will end 2020 asking:

  • “Where have all the good leaders gone?”

Instead, they’ll ask:

  • “Where have all these good leaders come from,” and
  • “How can I become one of them?”
POSTSCRIPT

APPLICATION:

  1. When the LORD calls on us, He will provide the margin of victory;
  2. We may well face opposition;
  3. We are called to leadership, even if it’s just ownership of ourselves;
  4. We need to have faith that it is the LORD calling. The test is:
      • whether the request is biblical as to goal;
      • whether the request is biblical as to means.

PRAYER

Cross Over BibleLORD, ALMIGHTY GOD, Creator of heaven and earth and all creation, we give You all the honor and praise; O LORD, we take joy in worshipping You. Forgive us weaknesses, Father God; forgive us our hesitation to spread the Gospel of redemption; forgive us when we fail to honor You with our words and our deeds … knowing, O Father God, that at the root of this is our failure to honor You in our hearts. Equip us, O LORD, to be mighty warriors for the Kingdom, knowing that You’ll part the waters for us, that You’ll give us the words to say, and that You’ll hold our hands through every task, every abuse, every questions, every prayer request, every plea for understanding and help. LORD, love on us so mightily that we will love on those you place in our way. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen