read my mind

October 21, 2017

If you could read my mind love

What a tale my thoughts could tell

Just like an old time movie

About a ghost from a wishing well

In a castle dark or a fortress strong

With chains upon my feet

You know that ghost is me

And I will never be set free

As long as I’m a ghost you can see

If I could read your mind love

What a tale your thoughts could tell

Just like a paperback novel

The kind the drugstore sells

Gordon Lightfoot.

first thoughts.

Number one; God can read your thoughts

Number two, the devil cannot read your thoughts.

Number three your spouse can’t read your thoughts

Number four, all tv mind readers, spirit guides, palm readers, horoscopes, mediums, they are all fake and or demonic.

Number five we are commanded to know the mind of God.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Neither are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8-9).

We are also told to “be of the same mind toward one another” which means essentially that we must develop and maintain the mind of Christ or God’s thoughts. We are to “stand firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Rom. 12:16; Phil. 2:5; 1:27). But if my thoughts are contrary to God’s, then I must exchange my thinking with God’s and for that process, He has given us His inspired, inerrant, and authoritative Word. So what is our need? We are to study the Scripture, but for that to be effective, we also need to develop the art of biblical meditation.

Joshua 1:8 This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.

Psalm 1:2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night.

Psalm 4:4 Tremble, and do not sin; Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still.

The bible has quite a bit to say about our minds, thoughts, intents, feelings. More than we may think (pardon the pun).

Possibly the third most asked question; “how can I be a better Christian?”

Here’s the short answer;

Psalm 63:6 When I remember Thee on my bed, I meditate on Thee in the night watches,

Psalm 77:11 I shall remember the deeds of the LORD; Surely I will remember Thy wonders of old.

Psalm 78:42 They did not remember His power, The day when He redeemed them from the adversary,

Psalm 143:5 I remember the days of old; I meditate on all Thy doings; I muse on the work of Thy hands.

Spend more time thinking about God and less about yourself.

One thing that amazes me about social media is how often people take pictures of themselves. Get over yourself.

He (God) must increase, I must decrease. Pretty simple.

Well I promised myself this would be a short devotion.

Think about God.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

RED MEAT

October 19, 2017

three basic questions arise when discussing the divine election of the saints by God:

Is God fair?

Doesn’t this make us robots?

Why should I evangelize?

All three questions are answered in Romans 9-11, (hopefully this makes you curious enough to read past chapter 8, where so many people seem to stop.)the great passage in the Bible which deals with this doctrine. Romans 9 answers the question of our choice, Rom 10 answers the question of the need for evangelism, and Rom 11 answers the question of God’s fairness. It should be noted as well that Paul’s theology here is not in a vacuum; he begins (vv 1-3) by almost wishing that he could go to hell if it would mean that just one of his Jewish brothers would get saved!

Many folks want to seek a balance between God’s sovereignty and human free will. A balance needs to be sought, but this is not the place. Nowhere do we read in the Bible that God is not sovereign over our wills. Further, we have the explicit testimony of Romans 9 to the opposite effect. As well, there is an inherent imbalance between a creature’s will and the Creator’s will. What right do we have to claim that these two are equal?

The real balance comes between the two broad categories of God’s attributes. God has moral attributes (goodness, love, mercy, justice, etc.) and amoral attributes (he is infinite, eternal, omniscient, omnipresent, etc.). In short, the balance is between his sovereignty and his goodness. If God only had amoral attributes, he may well be a tyrant. If he only had moral attributes, he would be incapable of effecting change in the world; he would be impotent.

Putting all this together we see the majesty and mystery of God. God’s attributes cannot be compartmentalized. That is, he is good in his sovereignty, infinite in his mercy, loving in his omnipotence. However, we as mere finite creatures cannot comprehend the grandeur of his plan. Isaiah 55:8-9 says: “My ways are not your ways, and my thoughts are not your thoughts; but just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” There is no contradiction in God, but there is finite understanding in us.

The mystery of election is that God can choose unconditionally, yet our wills are not coerced. We are persuaded by the Holy Spirit to believe. Further, we have the sense of free will in the process.

the biblical doctrine of election is that it is unconditional, irresistible, and irrevocable. All this to the glory of God–without in any way diminishing the dignity or responsibility of man. To put this another way: A large part of maturing in the faith is this: we each need to make the progressively Copernican discovery encapsuled in the words, “I am not the center of the universe.” Or, as John the Baptist put it, “That he might increase and I might decrease.

God bless scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

rest in peace

October 18, 2017

  “I, the Lord, search the heart” (Jeremiah 17:10).

Feeling convicted by the Holy Spirit is good news, it means your heart is still soft and the painful piercing of your heart means you are still capable of repentance and genuine Godly sorrow.

We are afraid to face up to the sinful nature within, not fully realizing that it was dealt with in condemnation to God’s full satisfaction at Calvary. When we come to see that all the old nature was taken down into the death of the Cross, and in Christ Jesus we are completely clear of its penalty and power, then it is that we begin to welcome the work of the Cross upon all that of which the Holy Spirit convicts us. Just as we trust God for Salvation, it is by faith we accept regeneration, sanctification and the new being in Christ.

The next time you are tempted tell that temptation there is no one to work on in you, as you are crucified in Christ, buried and resurrected. You will find it is easier to deal a death blow to that temptation than wrestling with it.

The natural man cannot bear the thought of being searched by God; he cannot stand to think of being found out in his true condition and character. But to the truly hungry believer it is a positive comfort to be assured that God knows everything about us; He knows the very worst that can be discovered. He has searched out all that we are, and in spite of all He has thoughts of blessing concerning us. There is, therefore, no fear of anything coming to light that might cause Him to change or reverse His thought of blessing and acceptance.

Our acceptance with God in Christ is perfect, and therefore unimprovable. It never alters; never varies. And it is very important for us not to mix the acceptance itself with our enjoyment of it. Our acceptance is ‘in Christ,’ and therefore eternal; the enjoyment is ‘by the Spirit,’ and therefore (because of the working of the flesh) often hindered.

The sense of His goodness removes the guile of heart that seeks to conceal its sin.

  “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end” (Jeremiah 29:11).

Think victoriously, and accept your total forgiveness, past, present and future.

Truly rest in peace.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Pray for Walter L, throat cancer

Pray for Betty C, 84 years old today, widowed for 15 years, today is bitter sweet as her husband Charles died on her birthday.

Pray for Ronald D, he can’t leave the house anymore because of phobias.

 

A SECRET AFFAIR

October 14, 2017

Here are three ways men are called to serve their wives:

  1. Sacrifice unto death—The most important way a husband can love his wife like Christ loved the church is to sacrifice himself for her sake. Consider the (negative) example of Abraham. When he moved into the region of the Negev, he feared that some man might kill him to take his wife, so he claimed Sarah was his sister (see Ge 20:2). This was the second time Abraham tried to pull this ruse (see Ge 12:10–13), putting his own safety ahead of his wife’s. Abraham had it backward; as Sarah’s husband, he should have been willing to die for his bride—just as Jesus died for his.

  1. Be Christ to her—Because of a misunderstanding of Biblical authority, many wives cringe at the idea of having to “submit” to their husbands. But as the husband is Christ to the wife (who represents the church), submission becomes a two-way street. “Jesus himself teaches that, at least for Christians, authority must manifest itself not in the exercise of power but in service that finds its ultimate expression in sacrifice.”

  1. Lead her into holiness—God’s intention for our lives is that we be made holy. One way he does that is by having a husband model and channel the love of Christ. A husband should therefore forgive, pray for and encourage his wife to engage in disciplines that lead to her sanctification (see Eph 5:25–27).

There are many things I fail at, but the one thing I’m really good at is being married and a good husband. We have a marriage and a friendship that is stellar. I can’t tell you how many times in restaurants people have come up and asked if we just got married. My wife is always pleased that we are romantic in public. Women have followed my wife into the restroom and asked if we were having an affair (which I find deeply disturbing on so many levels).

Our marriage seminars have great alumni, that keep coming back to make sure they are still kindling a fire.

I think we are particularly fortunate in that we were high school sweethearts, we dated almost 2 and half years. We spent every weekend with each other’s parents (or in our case grandparents, we were both raised by our grandparents, which gave us a little older value system). Completely different in temperaments but the same religious values and both wanted great marriages as we both saw our birth parents fail miserably.

As a marriage counselor and pastor let me tell you two danger signals I see in a marriage, and I’m not joking, separate bank accounts and separate vacations. I would have to check my records to be sure, but after 40 years in ministry and 43 years married, I see that being a path way to disaster.

One other thing, shortly after being married (3 months) we moved 1500 hundred miles away (military) we had nothing but each other and everything we owned fit into a 1962 Chevy impala, and I mean everything we owned.

Good marriages are from attention to detail. Appreciation and expression. I make sure I hug or kiss her at least 10 times a day. (probably a lot higher). We are strange in that we don’t watch TV so we talk a lot, we share books, so I guess we are really a cult with just two people in it.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Pray for Roberta, hip surgery,

Remember Jennifer, oct 31 cataract surgery.

Pray of Bill O, he fell on a cruise and hurt himself pretty bad, one broke rib, and 3-4 ribs cracked.

 

chasing our tails

October 13, 2017

Psalm 42:1-2 As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for Thee, O God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; When shall I come and appear before God?

Matthew 5: 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

John 4:13-14 Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water shall thirst again; 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”

Revelation 7:16-17 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; neither shall the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; 17 for the Lamb in the center of the throne shall be their shepherd, and shall guide them to springs of the water of life; and God shall wipe every tear from their eyes.

A word loaded with figurative meaning is the word, “thirst.” In the Bible, “thirst” is a translation of the Hebrew sama, and the Greek dipsos. We have an English word that is derived from dipsos, the word dipsomania used of extreme thirstiness, but especially of the insatiable craving for alcoholic beverages. Thirst refers to the sensation of dryness in the mouth and throat caused by the lack of fluids which results in a desire to drink. From this sensation it seems that people of almost any language use the word thirst as a synonym for a strong desire or craving for whatever the object, like a thirst for knowledge, or a thirst for wealth.

Have you ever really been truly thirsty? To some degree we all know the sensation of thirst and the longing for a drink especially when expending a lot of energy. In the heat of summer when our bodies do a lot of perspiring they cry out for more fluids. But very few of us have ever been in the desert without water to the point of serious life-threatening dehydration and known the real pain of thirst or a craving for water like Hagar and her son in the wilderness of Beersheba (Gen. 21:14).

But I would ask you this, what will it take for you and me to stop chasing our tails. Or in the more common vernacular ‘three steps forward, two steps back” and that’s being wildly optimistic.

Why do we keep screwing up?

Why do we have pornographic thoughts in the middle of our prayers? Or have you ever thought of all the money you’ve spent on things you don’t really need? Oh, that’s right we call it a collection.

Or how about the time the offering plate is going by and you’re going to put in a twenty and see you have a five and grab that instead. The plate goes by and there’s a twinge of guilt and you do what you always do, ‘next time’.

How many ‘next times’ will there be.

The broken promises to God.

Oh, God it was an accident I never was planning on having sex when I left the house.

The cursing you promised you’d quit and the quick not really meaning it “I won’t do it again God” prayer. And since you don’t really plan on stopping, there isn’t even an apology to God anymore.

When did God become a habit or just a religious routine?

And if you are a person without any accountability, you are actually shocked at how far you’ve drifted.

Well someday there has to be a reckoning. You can either do it now, with real intent or just let the carnal cocoon keep spinning its soft web around you, hey there’s always tomorrow.

And    BAM, YOUR DEAD, WHOOPS TO LATE.

Oh well I hope I’ve at least given you indigestion.

Blessings from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

rabble?

October 10, 2017

Numbers 11:4-35

One would expect that God’s response to Israel’s grumbling (fire from heaven) in verses 1-3 would have silenced any future protest, but this was hardly the case. The “mixed multitude” (some translations say “rabble”) who accompanied the Israelites when they left Egypt (Exodus 12:38) began to complain. Was it due to some very unpleasant or dangerous circumstance? Hardly. These folks complained that their food wasn’t as good as the food they had eaten in Egypt:

4 Now the mixed multitude who were among them craved more desirable foods, and so the Israelites wept again, and said, “If only we had meat to eat! 5 We remember the fish we used to eat freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. 6 But now we are dried up, and there is nothing at all before us except the manna.” 7 Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its color like the color of bdellium. 8 And the people went about, and gathered it, and ground it with mills, or pounded it in mortars; they baked it in pans, and made cakes of it. Its taste was like the taste of fresh olive oil. 9 And when the dew came down on the camp in the night, the manna fell with it (Numbers 11:4-9).

Isn’t it amazing that the mixed multitude grumbled because they could not eat the very things that the doctor tells some folks to avoid – things that make you burp! I must confess that I’m a bit of an expert on grumbling about food. When I was a student in college, one of the items the cafeteria served for breakfast was “oatmeal.” As I recall, that “oatmeal” tasted about like I think manna did. Well, anyway, one day as I was waiting in line, I wrote in a “g” in front of the “oatmeal” sign: = “goatmeal.” When I was teaching in a medium security prison, we ate in the prison cafeteria, and it was better (more expensive) food that my wife and I ate at home. I can still remember going to class after lunch and hearing one of the inmates complain about how his steak was cooked. We’re all grumblers when it comes to food.

It must have been the mixed multitude who grumbled because I find it difficult to imagine that the Israelite slaves ate as the grumblers claimed to have eaten in Egypt. Nevertheless, the complaining that began with the mixed multitude spread to the rest (11:10-14). If this is not bad enough, the grumbling of the Israelites prompted Moses to grumble as well:

10 And Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, everyone at the door of his tent; and when the anger of the Lord was kindled greatly, Moses was also displeased. 11 And Moses said to the Lord, “Why have you afflicted your servant? Why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me? 12 Did I conceive all this people? Did I produce them, that you should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a foster father bears a nursing child,’ to the land which you swore to their fathers? 13 From where shall I get meat to give to all this people, for they cry to me, ‘Give us meat, that we may eat!’ 14 I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me! 15 But if you are going to deal with me like this, then kill me immediately. If I have found favor in your sight then do not let me see my trouble” (11:10-15).

If you read this text in NASB (New American Standard Bible) it distinctly says the grumblers were the ‘mixed multitude’ and not the Israelites (not at first).

Who were these rabble as the NASB says? They were foreigners, who decided to follow Israel into the desert, why, because they saw the wealth given them in Egypt and wanted to exploit it. Two, they didn’t want a ruler (or rules) like Pharaoh, and three they were curious about this “new” God. Neither had they loyalty, nor faith and only personal motives as they followed Israel into the desert.

It reminds me of our nation today, the divisiveness we see in our country today. You have the Christian and the Patriot, who our media says we are to hate. Then the men and women that work every day and earn a living. Then the Front Line people, Police, Firemen, Soldiers. The left is saying the NRA is racist. The hate for our President is unprecedented in all of American history.

And then you have the rabble, bickering, snapping and churlish, rude, ungrateful.

So I said this is question week, draw your own conclusions, this is not a political rant, I’m just saying look at the parallel to the this part of the Bible and how in just 3 days of not having their own way ‘the rabble’ stop the forward progression of Israel.

Something to think about.

We have to stop the hate.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

think on this

October 8, 2017

Ok, before reading this devotion, remember, I’m not trying to be cruel or a misogynistic Neanderthal. I’m just asking you to think about a topic not ventured on from the pulpit.

There is the mistaken notion that having children will strengthen weak marriages, or that having children will keep a marriage from falling apart. Within this paradigm are individuals who believe that by having children, they themselves will be made complete individuals. The Scripture does teach that children are a blessing from God (Ps 127:3); it does not, however, guarantee that those children will be the resolution to all or any of the personal problems of their parents.

 Having children is not absolutely essential to a happy marriage or relationship to the Lord. Our ultimate joy is in the Lord, not in our children. This needs to be shouted from the rooftops, because many of us have prioritized our children over our spouse and over our God. We may not want to admit this, but deep down we know it’s true. Many married couples determine to stay together for their children. Now don’t get me wrong, that’s very admirable. What’s not so admirable is failing to devote time to your spouse to build a healthy marriage.

I want to bring up a very sensitive topic here, just something for you to think about.

The bible mentions “closing the womb” that it is God who ‘opens’ or ‘closes’ the womb.

The apostle Paul mentions that he would that more adults were like him and unmarried, so they could do more for the Lord.

So here’s the deal; don’t have children because it’s expected, or a tradition or you are being pressured by parents to have grandchildren.

If you are medically unable to have children, consider if this is the Lord’s will and he will bless you in other ways. Don’t torture yourself with drugs and fertility clinics, prayerfully consider what is happening. Your identity is not defined by children.

Before having children make it a matter of prayer to God of if, and when and how many. Scandalous thought right, natural, rhythm, birth control, vasectomies, wow not a hot bible topic. Does ‘be fruitful and multiply’ is it still valid?

Second marriages and previous kids, one word, if the father (non bio) isn’t allowed to be the father and discipline, don’t even bother having a marriage. Find another woman. (I know, stone me) this type of marriage never works and the children end up being intolerable little momma’ boys that don’t respect authority and the girls end up marrying father figures because they never had a good one.

So women, it’s your womb, is it? Or is it God’s.

See I’m devoting this whole week to devotions with no answer by me, you’re going to have to pray about it and figure it out, with God’s guidance.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

ABIDING

October 7, 2017

  “The God of peace . . . working in you that which is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ” (Heb. 13:20, 21).

  Abiding involves a dual choice. We can abide in the old nature and thereby become the victims of the internal civil war as depicted in Romans Seven. Or, we can abide (rest) in the risen Lord Jesus, the Source of our new nature, and thereby become the glad recipients of His life and liberty, as depicted in Romans Eight. “The Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:2).

  “How do we abide? ‘Of God are ye in Christ Jesus’ (1 Cor. 1:30). It is all the work of God to place you there, and He has done it. Now stay there! Do not be moved back onto the ground of the old nature. Never look at yourself as though you were not in the risen Lord Jesus Christ. Look at Him and see yourself a new creation in Him. Look at Him as the very source of your Christian life. Abide in Him. Rest in the fact that God has placed you in eternal union with His Son, and let the Holy Spirit take care of His work in you. It is for Him to make good the glorious promise that sin shall not have dominion over you’ (Rom. 6:14).”

  “We should be spared years of struggle and failure if we learned at once—as the converts did in the days of Paul—that we ourselves were taken through the death of the Lord Jesus. The past blotted out, the pardoned sinner accounted crucified with the crucified Lord, henceforth joined as a new creation to the risen Lord and now sharing His life (Rom. 5:10).”

  “The Lord Jesus is all that we need for all that we are.”

  “Your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3).

This last bible verse, has yielded to me 32 sermons, study this verse Col 3.3 every day, every moment, let it not drift far from your thoughts and you will see great victory come into your life. Rest. Peace. Victory. Yours.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Pray for Kevin D, 15 years old, broke up with his first girlfriend, you’ve all been there.

Pray for Jennifer N, new born baby (literally today) a host of complications.

 

On things above

October 6, 2017

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” What a relief. God never labels me a Loser. He never dismisses me. Writes me off. Withdraws from relationship. But it is one of the Holy Spirit’s jobs to convict us all of sin. And we’ve all felt his sharp elbows in our guilty little ribs. So what is the difference here? How can we live the difference between conviction that brings a proper response to the grave reality of our sin without getting sucked out to sea in an undertow of self-condemnation and regret?

Understand the difference between condemnation and conviction.

What is condemnation? To condemn is to pass sentence, to declare to be reprehensible, wrong, or evil. (John 3:18 Whoever believes in [Jesus] is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.)

What is conviction? To convict is the act of convincing a person of error or wrongdoing or compelling the admission of a truth.

It is Nathan, David’s prophet, telling him a story about a rich man who takes his neighbor’s beloved lamb. “You are the man.” It is the Holy Spirit using the story to penetrate the hardness of David’s rationalization of his adultery with Bathsheba. “I am the man.”

Condemnation brings a sentence. You are guilty. You are damned. It is a sea of regret. Endless replays of failure and disappointment in ourselves. It is worldly grief. Satan says your whole life is worthless.

Conviction brings repentance. A fresh start. New life. Joy in the morning. Restored intimacy. The Holy Spirit says that moment, or event was sinful.

A lifetime condemned or a moment convicted, always keep that in mind.

2 Corinthians 7:10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

When I try and fail, it can be a golden opportunity for God to expose the pride that hides. I had placed more confidence than I realized in myself and my abilities.

When we focus on our brokenness and indulge our grief, when we want to hide because we are focused on our shame, or we fear rejection, when we cannot forgive ourselves because we have fallen so short of our longing and vision of who we want to be, we can become just as consumed with ourselves as when we are bent on rising.

John Piper wrote, “Self-pity is the voice of pride in the heart of the weak…. The need self-pity feels does not come from a sense of unworthiness, but from a sense of unrecognized worthiness. It is the response of unapplauded pride.”

Faith admits the need for help. Pride won’t. Faith depends on God to give help. Pride won’t.

The only way I have found to quiet the dark voices that results in self-pity and anxiety is to let Christ heal the wounds of my heart, Read the simple truths of Scripture into the depths of my soul. “He forgives your sins every one.” “There is therefore now no condemnation” from God. “Why are you condemning yourself?” It helps to imagine the battle. I see that it is the enemy who is hurling the accusations of failure and worthlessness.  I turn my thoughts to Christ on the cross—his passion for me, his intense desire to forgive me and his promise never to leave me. Christ on the throne always, my salvation a sure thing. I just need to set my mind on heavenly things not just my feelings or thoughts of hurt or feeling wounded.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Pray for our nation, pray for the haters that are dividing us, pray for revival.

 

hhhhhhhhhhmmmmmmmmmmmm,

October 5, 2017

PROMPTED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT, ARE YOU SURE?

 

OPPORTUNITIES COME TO THOSE WHO ARE ALREADY SERVING, NOT TO THOSE WHO ARE DOING NOTHING.

Sometimes people don’t serve the Lord because they’ve never experienced a dramatic “call” to ministry. You can turn the steering wheel of your car all day long, but if the car isn’t moving, you won’t get anywhere. You can sit around and pray for God’s direction for service, but you won’t get it if you’re not already serving Him. Start doing something to serve Jesus Christ, and He will redirect you if He needs to.

GOD SOMETIMES LEADS US TO THE RIGHT OPPORTUNITIES BY HINDERING US FROM THE WRONG ONES.

We read (Acts 16:6) that these men were “forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia” (a province in western Turkey). Next, they tried to go north into Bithynia (near the Black Sea), but “the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them” (Acts 16:7). What’s going on here? Didn’t the Lord want those in Asia or Bithynia to hear the gospel? Yes, later He did (Acts 18:19-21, 24-19:41; 1 Pet. 1:1), but not now. All we know is that the Holy Spirit is sovereign over His work, and that He stopped these faithful men from going into these two regions and redirected them into Europe at this time. He did not do it because of anything that He saw in the Europeans that was more worthy than what He saw in the Asians or Bithynians. The gospel does not come to people based on their merit, but rather based on God’s sovereign, unmerited grace.

I’m going to raise a couple of questions that I cannot answer, but you can chew on them with me. First, how did the Holy Spirit forbid these men from going into these areas? It could have been through an audible voice. It may have been through circumstances that blocked the way. It may have been a lack of inner peace. It may have been physical illness on Paul’s part, which was why he linked up with Luke at this point. The bottom line is, we don’t know how the Spirit communicated these prohibitions, since the text does not say. But He uses many different ways of hindering us from heading in the wrong direction. We’re not talking here about doing something that is against God’s Word, but rather about doing good things that simply are not His will for us at this time.

GOD’S LEADING US TO THE RIGHT OPPORTUNITIES IS USUALLY A PROGRESSIVE MATTER, NOT AN INSTANT REVELATION OF THE BIG PICTURE.

Paul was feeling his way along at this point. After these two hindrances, if you had asked him what his plans were, he probably would have said, “I honestly don’t have a clue!”

Usually, knowing God’s will is like driving in the fog. God just gives us enough light to see the next few feet. As we follow, He gives us the light we need to keep moving ahead.

The second question is, how did these men know that the hindrances were from the Holy Spirit and thus to be obeyed; and not from some other source and thus to be overcome? In 1 Thessalonians 2:18, Paul says that Satan had hindered him from visiting the Thessalonians. But here, it was the Spirit of God who hindered them. How did he know the difference? Sometimes God wants us by faith to keep knocking until closed doors are opened. At other times, the closed doors are His way of saying no. All I can say is, we need His wisdom and discernment to know the difference. I don’t have any formulas for figuring it out!

WHEN GOD REVEALS HIS WILL TO US, WE MUST MAKE SURE THAT IT IS FROM THE LORD, AND THEN BE QUICK TO OBEY.

The word “concluding” (16:10) indicates that the missionary team discussed the meaning of Paul’s vision before taking action. The word means to join or knit together, or unite. As they talked, it all came together. As soon as they were sure of what God was saying, immediately they sought to go into Macedonia. They didn’t form a committee and deliberate for months. They figured out what God wanted and went down to the harbor to buy tickets.

Does God direct us through visions in our day? The answer is, He can, but be careful! There are all sorts of crazy visions that people have that are not from the Lord. Benny Hinn (a total nut job) told an audience on the Trinity Broadcasting Network (10/19/99) that the Lord had revealed to him that thousands of people from all over the world would be raised from the dead when people put their caskets in front of their TV sets tuned to that station. I don’t know of any funeral homes that have been lacking for business yet!

On the other hand, Bill Bright tells of how late one night as he was studying with a friend for a Greek exam in seminary, he suddenly sensed God’s presence in a way that he had never known before. He had the overwhelming impression that the Lord had unfolded a scroll of instructions of what he was to do with his life. Specifically, he knew that he was to devote his life to help fulfill the Great Commission by winning and discipling the students of the world for Christ. When he shared it with his Bible professor, Dr. Wilbur Smith, he paced back and forth in his office, saying, “This is of God. This is of God. I want to help you. Let me think and pray about it.” The next day, Dr. Smith handed Bill a piece of paper on which he had scribbled, “CCC.” He explained that God had provided the name for Bill’s vision, Campus Crusade for Christ

The balance we need is on the one hand not to quench the Spirit, but on the other hand to examine everything carefully and hold fast to that which is good (1 Thess. 5:19-21). An obstinate apostle Paul could have plowed ahead into Asia or Bithynia against God’s promptings not to do so. But the obedient apostle obeyed God’s promptings and waited until the Spirit showed him where to go. Then he went immediately. The world has never been the same.

OFTEN, WHEN WE OBEY, THE REALITY DOES NOT MATCH THE VISION.

Paul saw a man of Macedonia calling for help. He got there and found a small group of women gathered by the river, and one of these became the first convert. The second convert was a demon-possessed slave girl. Her conversion landed Paul and Silas in prison with their backs shredded by whips. It wasn’t a glorious beginning, to say the least! But it’s how the gospel began to take root in Europe, and we now know that the history of Europe has been forever different. Often when we obey God’s leading and launch out into His work, the reality doesn’t match the vision. But we must continue to obey what we know He called us to do.

6) THE GREATEST HELP THAT WE CAN GIVE TO PEOPLE IS TO PROCLAIM THE GOSPEL TO THEM.

“Come over to Macedonia and help us” (Acts 16:10). Paul went and gave them the best help in the world: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved” (16:31). That is the most helpful message that we can give to anyone. It is the most helpful thing that we can do for anyone.

If you were walking down the street and heard someone cry, “Help me! Help me!” you would be stirred to action. If you could not provide help yourself, you would at least make sure that the proper help got to this needy person. Ask God to burden your heart with the cry of the lost: “Come over and help me!” If you cannot go yourself, at least you will give and pray for missionaries to go. That’s the best help we can give to a desperately lost world.

Do you have a burden for lost souls, if not you need to do some real soul searching (pardon the pun). The Gospel is good news only if we share it.