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I Have Decided to Seek Him

I Have Decided to Seek Him

So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. – Luke 2: 15-16

Several shepherds were minding their own sheep and their own business when they were suddenly visited by the Angel of the Lord. You can understand why the first words out of the Angel’s mouth were: “Fear not.” Most of us would have had a heart attack!

Anyway, the Angel proceeded to announce to these lowly and unsuspecting shepherds that Jesus had been born in Bethlehem. Did you ever pay attention to the fact that the Angel simply told the shepherds about Jesus and how to identify Jesus? He never ordered them to go see Jesus. Still, these shepherds left their flock and sought Jesus. They did so because…

1). They had a right to see Him. These men were not members of the upper class. Nor, were they members of some royal clan. Yet, they sought Jesus because they had a right to see Him and be in His presence. The Angels said: “Unto you is born…”

2). They had a desire to seek Him. There was no need for any further encouragement or enticement. Based on what they heard alone, the shepherds said to themselves: “We have got to go see Him for ourselves.” The external announcement of the angel triggered an internal desire to know more about Jesus.

3). They had the determination to find Him. You can imagine that it must have been difficult to find Jesus given the scant information they were given. They knew He was a baby, in Bethlehem, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. This is really not much to go on. Nevertheless, they found Him because they were determined to do so.

The next time we celebrate during the Christmas season, let us not fail to seek and see Jesus Christ in it. Even though we may have talked with angels, we have never experienced Christmas until we have personally spent time with Him.

I Have Decided to Take Possession

I Have Decided to Take Possession

Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people, saying, “Pass through the camp and command the people, saying, ‘Prepare provisions for yourselves, for within three days you will cross over this Jordan, to go in to possess the land which the Lord your God is giving you to possess.’” – Joshua 1: 10-11

The Lord led Israel around the land of the Philistines because that land was not the land of Promise. There was no reason why they should fight and die for a land that had not been promised to them. However, now under the leadership of Joshua, after Israel had spent 40 years in the wilderness, she was poised to cross the Jordan River into the Promised Land. The only problem was that the land which had been promised to them was already occupied. Therefore, in order to live in that land, they would have to fight to take possession of it.

This reminds us that not everything worth having will be handed to us. Some things, indeed, the best things, will have to be worked for and fought for. God fought with them as they fought, but the fact is, they too had to fight to possess the land.

Furthermore, it is also true that possessing often requires dispossessing. That is, in order for us to move into our place of promise, something else which is already there may have to be driven out. It might be a spirit in the place. It might be an attitude within the inhabitants of the place. It might be junk left in the place. It might be people who control the place. We may be able to move in, but we will never be able to stay in until the ungodly things there are removed. And, by the way, they will not be moved without a fight.

This history of Israel also reveals that it takes a certain breed of people to possess the land. The crowd which left Egypt with Moses wandered and died in the wilderness. Of them, only Joshua and Caleb entered into the Promised Land. This new generation did not carry the baggage of slavery nor the self-doubt which went along with it. Although they had been conceived in the desert, they were convinced that they could possess the land, and they did. The conclusion is that: “It is not enough to have the promises of God. There comes a point when we must be willing to take possession of them.”

I Have Decided to Go Around

I Have Decided to Go Around

Then it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, “Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.” – Exodus 13: 17 (KJV)

The Lord brought the children of Israel out of Egyptian bondage with a mighty hand. They were fresh from the waters of the Red Sea and on their way to the Promised Land. According to the map, the shortest route to that place of promise was through the land occupied by a group of people called the Philistines. After four hundred years in slavery, you would think that would be the way to go – the shortest route. Yet, the text clearly states that God did not lead them that way even though it was near. He led them around the Philistines. Why would God do such a thing and delay the promise of full freedom even more?

1). The shortest route is not always the quickest route. The shortest route may be across a raging river. The shortest route may be over a mammoth mountain. The shortest route may be through a fiery forest. Ironically, the trials and troubles of traveling the shortest way frequently take more time and cause more pain. The old adage is still right: “Sometimes, the longest way around is the quickest way home.”

2). Many people are ready for freedom, but not ready for war. The Israelites were eager to settle down in a land of their own. They couldn’t wait to drink its milk and eat its honey. However, they were not a warring people. They were excellent slaves, but horrible soldiers. You could tell by their response to the approach of Pharaoh’s army at the Red Sea that they were not the fighting type. They were free because God brought them out not because they fought their way out. The last thing this mixed and murmuring multitude needed was a run in with the world famous fighting Philistines.

3). Even though you may be destined for the Promised Land, you have to use some wisdom on the way. In other words, there are times when you must understand that arriving at your destination is more important than proving a point with unnecessary confrontation. True enough, according to pride, confrontation seems like the only path. However, it’s one thing to be right and another thing to be dead right.

4). God did not lead the Israelites around the Philistines because He was against them fighting. It was only that He thought they were too vulnerable to go that way at that particular time. They would live to fight and win over the Philistines another day. They did. Remember the giant Goliath was a Philistine, and David slew him.

On our way to the fulfillment of the promises God has made to us, let us ask God to lead us around unnecessary temptations, wars and conflict. Then, when He leads us that way, let us exercise wisdom and follow.

I Have Decided to Step out of the Boat

I Have Decided to Step out of the Boat

And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. – Matthew 14: 28-29

The Lord’s disciples were in a boat on the Galilean sea when they saw what appeared to be a person walking towards them on the water. Of course, they questioned whether it was Jesus because they had just left Him on the land. Then, they doubted whether it could even be a real person (as opposed to a ghost) because this figure was walking towards them literally on the water.

Jesus sensed their fears and shouted across the waves to identify Himself as the person they saw. Still, half frightened and half fascinated, Peter (always the first to speak) cried out: “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” Jesus gave him a one word reply: “Come!” Immediately after this we read: “And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus.”

Those of us familiar with this incident know what happened to Peter next. He doubted, began to sink and would have drowned if the Lord had not saved him from the sea. Let’s save the discussion about that for some other time. Can we now just focus on the fact that Peter decided to step out of the boat and, at least for a moment, he walked on water? Here are some of the reasons why he was able to do this:

1). He heard the voice of Jesus. At first, he thought the figure walking to him was a ghost. But, when he heard the voice of Jesus, he recognized that voice and was comforted. It pays to know the voice of the Lord, especially in the middle of a crisis when all your other senses seem to be lying to you.

2). He responded to the command of Jesus. Peter had the nerve to ask Jesus to command him to come onto the water. Jesus had the confidence to bid him: “Come!” Peter did not step out of the boat recklessly. He only stepped out at the command of Christ. Peter did not step out of the boat because of arrogance. He did it out of obedience. Walking on water may seem like a lot of fun, but you dare not try it unless you are following the direct command of Christ.

3). He kept his eyes on Jesus. The key to Peter’s gravity defying feat was not him watching where he walked. On the contrary, it was watching the One to whom he was walking. This is proved by the fact that as long as he kept his eyes on the Lord, he was able to walk on the water. The moment he took his eyes off of Jesus, he began to sink. Looking to Christ and depending upon Christ is the one thing that keeps our heads above water.

4). He believed he could do the impossible like Jesus. Peter stepped out of that boat because he believed that, as a disciple of Jesus, he too could do what Jesus did. Indeed, Jesus told His disciples that they would do even greater things than He had done. As followers of Christ, we must not and need not fear leaving our comfort zone in response to the Lord’s command. This is what He is calling us to do. And, by the way, if we fall along the way and cry out to him, He will catch us and bring us to safety.

I Have Decided to Get Up

I Have Decided to Get Up

And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,  And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. And he arose, and came to his father. – Luke 15: 17-20 (KJV)

The parable of the prodigal son is one of the most famous and touching passages in scripture. It tells of a young and restless man who demanded his inheritance and left his father’s home. In due time, he squandered that inheritance with riotous living and ended up feeding another man’s pigs.

This story of a young man who had it all, took it all and, then, lost it all makes a major turn with the words highlighted in our text: “I will arise!” These three words are by no means the whole soliloquy which he uttered in the pig pen that day. Nevertheless, they are the core and cause of his great comeback. With mud on his face, stink on his clothes and pork chops on his breath, he decided to get up.

He did so because:

1). He realized that he had not been born to live and associate with pigs. Yes, it was his fault that he landed there. And yes, at least, he had a job. Yet, he knew that he had been used to better and made for better. That’s why he decided to get up.

2). He replaced his former thinking with a different attitude. Had he kept the same mindset that brought him to the pigs, his getting up would have only been temporary. Instead, he changed the way he looked at himself, the way he looked at his father and the way he looked at God. With that new attitude, he could no longer stay with the pigs and would never again leave the ways of his father and his God.

3). He regarded the pig pen as a pit stop. The place where he happened to be was an intermediate destination on the way to his ultimate destiny. It was a necessary place for him because otherwise, he may have never come to himself. However, while it was a necessary stop, it was not his last stop.

4). He remembered he had a father. When he remembered he had a father, he knew that he was not alone. He was not out of options. He was not desperate. He was not hopeless. He was not doomed or done. He had a father. He believed that he would be far better off as a servant in his father’s house than as a supervisor over some farmer’s pig pen. When he arrived back home, to his surprise, he found a forgiving and loving father who then treated him like a king. He never would have known such generosity had he not decided to get up.

When you are down and hit rock bottom, just remember, it ain’t over because no matter what, you still have a Father.

I Have Decided to Forgive

I Have Decided to Forgive

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen. For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. – Matthew 6: 12-15

Forgiveness is tough. It is tough because of the offense which forces its need. It is tough because of an offender who is casual and callous about what he or she has done. It is tough because the one offended cannot easily let go of the pain and hurt which they have suffered. These are some of the very reasons why grudges, feuds and conflicts can literally continue for generations.

What many people fail to acknowledge, though, is that the refusal to forgive not only withholds something from the one who has wronged them. It also withholds something from them. Notice these things about forgiveness:

1). Forgiveness releases both the offender and the offended. When a person decides to forgive another, they release that person from the anger and hatred aimed towards them. At the same time, they release themselves from the psychological stress and energy tied up in holding those negative feelings against the other. In a strange way, forgiveness does not condone what a person has done, nor does it let the other person off of the hook. If you forgive, it lets you off the hook and allows you to go on with your life. 2). Forgiveness does not have to be two way. Since forgiveness brings benefit to the one who does the forgiving, you do not have to wait until the one who has offended you forgives you or even accepts your forgiveness. The one who has committed the wrong may still be upset and unforgiving, but once you extend your sincere forgiveness to them, it is up to them to accept that forgiveness and, if necessary, offer theirs in return. Either way, you can break the chain and cycle single handedly. 3). Forgiveness has eternal consequences. According to this model prayer of the Master quoted above, we are forgiven by God to the degree that we forgive others. If, therefore, we are not willing to forgive others who wrong us, how can we dare to ask God to forgive us when we wrong and disobey Him?

As we said at the beginning, forgiveness is tough. Still, decide to forgive today, if not for the offender’s sake, for your sake and for Christ’s sake.

I Have Decided to Receive

I Have Decided to Receive

I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” – Acts 20: 35

“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Paul attributes the words of this famous phrase to Jesus. There’s little debate. It sounds like Jesus. We would not be surprised that Jesus encouraged people to give. Nor, would it raise any eyebrows to hear Jesus say that more blessings are associated with giving than receiving.

What is often overlooked, though, is the question of what happens if everyone seeks the greater blessing of giving and no one receives? In other words, someone has to receive in order for the giver to get the greater blessing!

As we celebrate the end of this season of giving, let us not forget that receiving is also a gift. Frequently, we are so set on giving that we do not even allow others to give to us. Now, we are not talking about taking.

There is a difference between taking and receiving. Taking is when you deprive someone of something they don’t want you to have. Receiving is accepting something another person wants you to have, even if, for some reason, you are not eager to receive it.

This year, don’t be too proud, too busy or too afraid to receive. Be open to receive: praise, love, forgiveness, apologies, compliments, presents, help, service and even advice from others. Look at it this way, when you receive, you get a double blessing. You get the gift and you help the person who gave it get the blessing which comes along with giving.

I Have Decided to Get Busy

I Have Decided to Get Busy

And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them. – Luke 2: 49-50

Mary and Joseph went on their annual journey to worship in Jerusalem which the law required them to do. As unusual, they took their twelve year old son Jesus along with them. This time, however, when they left the city, they had gone three whole days before they realized that He was not with them. When they doubled back to the city, they found Him in the temple asking and answering questions in the midst of the temple leaders.

Mary and Joseph lost sight of Jesus, but we must not lose sight of what Jesus said when they demanded to know what had happened to Him. He said: “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” Such a remark coming from the lips of a young child today might be considered a smart mouth which could land a kid in serious trouble. Instead, what sounded like a smart remark was really a wise remark.

Note that . . .

1). Even as a child, Jesus knew He had work to do for God. Youth cannot be used as an excuse for not serving the Lord. 2). He knew that the work He had to do was not His business, but his Father’s business. “I must be about My Father’s business.” 3). He meant no disrespect, but He was aware of the difference between His heavenly Father and His earthly father. He had already begun to learn the carpenter’s trade from Joseph. Still, it was His heavenly Father who was calling Him at it was His heavenly Father who he ultimately obeyed. 4). He understood that it was time to get busy and get started doing God’s business. Why would He wait until he was older when there was work to be done right then? 5). At the risk of not being understood by the people who loved Him the most, He still pursued the work God had assigned to Him. “They did not understand the statement which He spoke to them.”

We can learn a major lesson from Jesus. It is not enough to know that your Father has business. Now is the time to decide to get busy and be about it.

I Have Decided to Surrender

I Have Decided to Surrender

As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” – Acts 9: 3-6

The Christians in Jerusalem and Damascus were terrified of Saul. Rightly so. He was a big man in terms of his personal power and political connections with the Jewish leaders. He was a bad man as it related to the threats he made against the church and the hurt he caused the members of the early church. He was a bold man as he fearlessly attacked the church.

One day, however, he left Jerusalem with papers to persecute and a desire to destroy the church in Damascus. That was the day that this big, bad and bold man became a broken man once he decided to surrender to Christ. It was obviously not his intention to surrender to the Christ he was warring against. Yet, it did happen because . . .

1). He saw a light. As he traveled to Damascus along with his entourage, Saul saw a light from heaven. It frequently takes a light from heaven shining upon our deeds on earth to help us see ourselves from a divine perspective.

2). He heard a voice. Up to now, the only voices he had heard and heeded were the voices of Jewish officials bent on stamping out the church. It was on this road that he heard the voice of the Lord of the church. This was the first time that he had ever personally met the Lord. He refused to surrender when he met the members of the church, but he immediately surrendered when he encountered the Lord of the church.

3). He was convicted of his sin. It was not so much the light and the voice that changed Saul. It was what he saw in the light and what he heard from the voice. In essence, he was told that he was not only fighting against saints, but against the Savior of the world. Furthermore, he was informed in so many words that this fight was futile since he was “kicking against the pricks” and bucking against God.

4). He called Jesus Lord. After realizing what he was doing, who he was doing it to and the futility of it all, Saul surrendered to Christ and began to call Him Lord. No one has fully surrendered until Jesus does, in fact, become their Lord, their leader and the center of his or her life. Saul demonstrates that once we surrender and stop kicking, Christ is able to save, put into service and support anyone. Bottom line? Don’t fight Him, surrender!

I Have Decided to Lead

I Have Decided to Lead

Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?” So he said to Him, “O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” And the Lord said to him, “Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat the Midianites as one man.”– Judges 6: 14-16

Have you ever noticed that the vast majority of people who God selected to lead in the Bible were quite reluctant to do so? Moses complained that he was slow of speech. Jeremiah protested that he was too young. Esther explained that it was not her turn to see the king. Isaiah confessed that he was a man of unclean lips. Jonah just ran the other way. One of the few exceptions to this might have been David who probably could have been given a pass because he was too young to know or care just how big Goliath was when he volunteered to fight him.

The point is that Gideon stood in a long line of would be leaders who didn’t want to be. Nevertheless, he decided to lead. The telling of his story begins in Judges 6 where it is explained that Israel had been under the oppressive thumb of the Midianites for several years. Ultimately, God heard the cries of His people for relief and sent an Angel to inform Gideon that he had been chosen to lead Israel in throwing off this unbearable yoke.

When the Angel appeared to Gideon, he was threshing wheat in a cave, hiding so that the Midianites could not steal his increase. Gideon was shocked to learn that he had been chosen by the Lord and yet, he decided to lead anyhow because…

He was considered. The angel met Gideon for the first time and addressed him as a mighty man of valor. Gideon thought he was talking to and about someone else. That is because he did not see himself as such. However, the key is that even if he did not see himself that way, the Lord considered him to be a mighty man of valor. God often sees things in us we don’t see in ourselves and that’s why He considers us.

He was called. Gideon was not only considered by God. He was called by God to lead. This was not some inner urge to be in front. He was not acting out a drum major instinct. He heard a voice from God calling him and charging him to lead. Leaders who lead without a deep sense of divine calling, usually don’t lead for long.

He was convinced. Even after his calling, Gideon put the Lord to the test. He laid a lamb’s fleece on the ground and asked the Angel to make the ground dry and the fleece wet overnight. When the Lord did this, Gideon put the Angel to the test again and asked that this time the fleece would be dry and the ground wet overnight. When the Lord passed the second test, Gideon was convinced that it was the Lord calling him to lead. Leaders cannot afford to wait until they get in the heat of battle to be convinced that they should lead. This is something they should know before the battle begins.

He was courageous. Gideon had to be courageous because his army of three hundred was outnumbered one hundred to one. He accepted the Lord’s call. He was convinced of his victory. He led his men into triumph over their enemy. That day and many years hence, Israel lived in peace because one man decided to lead. How many of God’s people are still under oppression today because no one has decided to lead?