Seeking God (2)

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‘They saw the young Child…and worshipped Him.’ Matthew 2:11 NKJV

Notice two more things about the wise men: 

(1) How God guided them‘The star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was…And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshipped Him.’ (Matthew 2:9–11 NKJV) Never limit God. And don’t lock Him into a personal experience you had in the past where He guided you in a certain way. If God can move a star, He can rearrange any circumstance in your favour. How did the wise men know about the birth of Christ? Maybe because of an alignment of the planets, or because they were students of Old Testament prophecy. We don’t know. But one thing is certain: they were seeking God—and that’s the point at which we must all begin. 

(2) How God protected themHerod wasn’t happy about the news these men brought. Indeed, he was downright enraged. Think: if he was willing to kill every Jewish baby boy under the age of two in order to get at Jesus, what were the chances that these men would get out of town alive? Not great—until God stepped in! ‘Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.’ (Matthew 2:12 NKJV) The devil is real, but you don’t have to be afraid, because Jesus has already defeated him. The main thing is: when your heart is set on seeking God, He will guide you, protect you and reward you.

Seeking God (1)

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‘Wise men…came…saying, “Where is He…?”‘ Matthew 2:1-2 NKJV

Notice two things about the wise men: 

(1) Who they were. Astrologers. Jews considered astrology to be a counterfeit to true prophecy. Be careful; there are people whose lifestyles you may disapprove of, who are honestly seeking God. So be gracious in your dealings with them. The Greek philosophers on Mars Hill had a pantheon of gods. Was Paul shocked or put off? No. He commended them for being willing to search for God, adding, ‘He is not far from each one of us.’ (Acts 17:27 NKJV) Don’t jump to conclusions and write people off. In God’s eyes every weed is a potential rose and every loser is a potential winner. And you should be glad about that! 

(2) How far they travelled. They left their families and the comforts of home to travel thousands of kilometres in order to find God. Their round–trip journey took two years, taking them through a Jewish village where they didn’t fit in. Meanwhile, leaders who had access to the prophecies of Christ’s birth wouldn’t expend the time and effort to check them out. We often quote Jeremiah 29:11, ‘“The plans I have for you,” says the Lord… “are plans for good…to give you a future and a hope.”’ But don’t stop there, read on: ‘When you pray, I will listen. If you look for Me wholeheartedly, you will find Me.’ (Jeremiah 29:12–13 NLT) Poet Julie Carro wrote, ‘Now wise men still seek His face as they did in days of old; to give the Lord their hearts, more precious than silver and gold.’ How far are you prepared to go in your search for God?

Brokenness

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‘Not My will, but Yours be done.’ Luke 22:42 NIV 

If your goal is to be used by God, don’t be surprised when He permits seasons of adversity and brokenness. Jesus experienced it, and He said, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ (John 15:20 NKJV) Jon Walker points out: ‘God’s intent isn’t to hurt us, but to expand our capacity to carry His love to a world in need of compassion… Sorrow clarifies our thinking. In the school of Christ, brokenness is a good thing. It’s impossible to become intimate with God unless we’re broken of independence, pride and our insistence that our way is better than God’s. Brokenness is the last stop before we finally confess, “I can’t; God can.” It’s Paul confessing, “What a wretched man I am. Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24 NIV) It’s the Prodigal fighting with the pigs over food (Luke 15:11–32). It’s Joseph, still in prison, forgotten by the cupbearer (Genesis 40:23). It’s Jonah in the whale’s belly confessing the consequences of running from God (Jonah 2:1–9). It’s Peter weeping bitterly outside Jesus’ trial (Luke 22:62). It’s Jesus abandoning everything to God, praying, “Father…not My will, but Yours be done.” (Luke 22:42 NIV) …God in His ruthless, loving pursuit will break us of pride, sin, folly and independence (Matthew 21:44). Like Jesus serving bread at the Last Supper, God takes us, breaks us, blesses us and uses us.’ Are you going through a season of brokenness? Be encouraged; in God’s Kingdom brokenness is the path to blessing. It has also been put this way: ‘To have God do His own work through us, even once, is better than a lifetime of human striving.’

Stop Fighting in Your Own Strength

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‘We do not wage war as the world does.’ 2 Corinthians 10:3 NIV

During World War II, Allied bombers carried machine guns in the nose, under the belly, on top, and in the rear. B–17s, better known as ‘flying fortresses’, carried thirteen .50 calibre machine guns. At one point scientists suggested the planes might actually be safer without them. Without the extra weight needed to operate the guns, they could fly faster and higher, increasing their odds of survival. The pilots, however, thought differently. They wouldn’t even consider embarking on a mission without guns to shoot back and defend themselves. With that thought in mind, Jon Walker says: ‘We make the same choice when it comes to fighting our own battles.’ God says we don’t need the guns… we can soar higher and faster with Him. ‘For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.’ The weapons He gives ‘have divine power to demolish strongholds’; we don’t need the ‘weapons of the world.’ (2 Corinthians 10:3–4 NIV) But we say ‘No thanks’; we have to shoot back and defend ourselves with arsenals of angry words, demanding attitudes, manipulative manoeuvres, excessive excuses, and bombs of blame. It takes courage to stop using weapons of the flesh, ‘take up the shield of faith’, and arm ourselves with the weapons of God (Ephesians 6:16 NIV). It’s the kind of faith David showed when he [told] Goliath, ‘You come against me with sword and spear…but I come against you in the name of the Lord.’ (1 Samuel 17:45 NIV) Stop fighting in your own strength and let God’s spiritual arsenal defend you; ‘He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.’ (Proverbs 30:5 NIV)

Words or Actions?

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‘Let us not love with words…but…actions.’ 1 John 3:18 NIV

We must care about people’s spiritual and practical needs. It’s hard for someone to grasp the concept of God’s love when they don’t know where their next meal is coming from, or where they’ll sleep tonight. Food banks worldwide are seeing a dramatic upsurge in emergency requests. Volunteer Cindy Crosby writes: ‘Each client is as different as the patterns in a kaleidoscope: the retired, the mentally ill, single mothers, young men fallen on hard times… And not everyone is grateful. Some are angry… some refuse eye contact… some leave without saying more than a few words… If you volunteer just to feel good about yourself, you’ll give up. Lofty ideals shatter like stained glass pelted by rocks… It’s the success stories that stick… The refugee mother whose son went on to Harvard on a scholarship… the woman who thanked me more times than I could count… the mother of six who showed palpable relief because that month she could feed her family… I remember Jesus’ words, “I was hungry…you gave Me something to eat…I was a stranger…you invited Me in.” (Matthew 25:35 NIV) Now when I think of hunger, I see faces. And that has made all the difference.’ It’s easier to love in theory than reality, especially when it comes to people who are difficult or different. But genuine love isn’t defined by what feels good or bad; God’s already set the standard. ‘If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?…Let us not love with words…but…actions.’ (1 John 3:17–18 NIV)

Mind Management (4)

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‘Don’t cherish exaggerated ideas of yourself.’ Romans 12:3 PHPS

Here are two more examples of mind management. A thought knocks on the door of your mind and says, ‘You’re so wonderful, the world is lucky to have you.’ Typically it’s the kind of thought you’d welcome, but you don’t do things the typical way. You submit it to the authority of Christ, and as you unsheathe the Sword of the Spirit, His Word, you learn that pride doesn’t please God. ‘Don’t cherish exaggerated ideas of yourself.’ As much as you’d like to embrace an exalted image of yourself, you can’t. You only allow what Christ allows. Here’s another example: this time it’s temptation. If you’re a male, the thought comes in a low–cut red dress. If you’re a female, it comes in the form of the hunk you’ve always admired. Temptation whispers, ‘It’s all right, you’re both consenting adults.’ If you aren’t under Christ’s authority you throw open the door but, if you are, you say, ‘Not so fast.’ Then you take this steamy thought before Jesus and ask, ‘Yes or no?’ And nowhere does He answer more clearly than 1 Corinthians: ‘You cannot say that our physical body was made for sexual promiscuity; it was made for God, and God is the answer to our deepest longings… let every man have his own wife and every woman her own husband.’ (1 Corinthians 6:137:1–2 PHPS) Now, armed with the opinion of Christ and the Sword of the Spirit, what do you do? Unless the tempter or temptress is your spouse—you slam the door shut. End of story!

Mind Management (3)

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‘For we are God’s handiwork.’ Ephesians 2:10 NIV 

Your mind is the doorway to your heart, and when a questionable thought arises, you always have a choice. You can throw the door open and let it in, or do what the Bible says: ‘Fight to capture every thought until it acknowledges the authority of Christ.’ (2 Corinthians 10:5 PHPS) In other words, capture the thought before it captures you. Let’s say a thought regarding your self–worth arises and says, ‘You’ve been a loser all your life. You’ve failed in relationships and jobs and ambitions. You might as well write “loser” on your CV, for that’s what you are.’ The average person would say to that thought, ‘You’re right; come on in.’ But you’re not the average person! You’re a new creation in Christ, led by His Spirit. So rather than let the thought in, take it captive, present it to the Lord and say, ‘Jesus, this thought says I’m a loser and I’ll never amount to anything. What do You think?’ See what you’re doing? You’re submitting that thought to the authority of Jesus. If He agrees with it, then let it in. If not, kick it to the kerb! How do you know if He agrees or disagrees? Open your Bible and find out what God says about you. ‘We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.’ (Ephesians 2:10 NIV) What about this one? ‘Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.’ (Romans 8:1 NIV) Any thought that doesn’t line up with God’s Word doesn’t pass the test—and doesn’t gain entrance. That’s how you manage your mind! 

Mind Management (2)

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‘Fight to capture every thought until it acknowledges the authority of Christ.’ 2 Corinthians 10:5 PHPS 

Be careful what you allow into your mind, because your thoughts run your life. You say, ‘But thoughts come at me every day from all directions: at home, at work, through the media, in my relationships and in my private world. How can I manage my mind successfully?’ The answer’s surprisingly simple. You can be transformed by making this one decision: I will submit my thoughts to the authority of Jesus. It’s easy to overlook the significance of Christ’s claim: ‘All authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to Me.’ (Matthew 28:18 NIV) Jesus controls everything in Heaven and on earth. That means He has the final say on everything—including your thoughts. He has more authority, for example, than your parents. Your parents may have told you you’re worthless, but Jesus says you’re valuable, and He has authority over your parents. He even has more authority over you than you do. You may tell yourself you’re too bad to be forgiven, but Jesus has a different opinion. And when you repent and submit to His authority over your life, those old condemning thoughts are no longer allowed. Jesus also has authority over your ideas. Suppose, for example, you get an idea about robbing a grocery store. Jesus has already made it clear that stealing is wrong, and if you’ve submitted to His authority over your mind then the idea of stealing can’t linger in your mind. To manage your mind successfully, all you have to do is submit your thoughts to the authority of Christ. Will it happen overnight? No, but with practice and commitment you’ll get better at it.

Mind Management (1)

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‘Above all else, guard your heart.’ Proverbs 4:23 NIV

We hear a lot these days about time management, financial management and weight management—but what about mind management? Shouldn’t we be more concerned about managing our minds than managing anything else? Jesus was. He guarded the gateway of His heart by refusing to concede in three areas: 

(1) The agenda of people who wanted to use Him for their own purposes. Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make Him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by Himself.’ (John 6:15 NIV) Most of us would delight in the idea of becoming ‘king’. Even if we refused the crown, we’d enjoy considering the invitation! Not Jesus. 

(2) The naïveté of those who wanted to spare Him.When Jesus announced His death on the cross to the disciples, Peter objected. And when he failed to see the necessity of the cross, Jesus issued one of His harshest rebukes: ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.’ (Matthew 16:23 NIV

(3) The scorn of those who didn’t know Him or believe in Him.Before raising a girl from the dead, Jesus said to the people in the house, ‘She is only sleeping.’ (Luke 8:52 GNT) And what was their response? They laughed at Him. Like all of us, Jesus had to face scorn. But unlike most of us, He refused to accept it. Note His response: ‘He put them all outside.’ (Mark 5:40RSV) Doubt, criticism and scorn weren’t allowed in the girl’s house—or in the mind of Christ. How about your mind?

Hooked Together!

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‘All of you together are the temple.’ 1 Corinthians 3:16 NLT

little boy was playing outside when a neighbour asked him where his brother was. ‘In the house,’ he replied. ‘We were playing a duet on the piano—but I finished first!’ That wasn’t what God intended when He called us to work together! It’s not a competition. In Bible days Roman soldiers’ shields were designed so they could literally be hooked together. Each man fought for his entire line. Paul lists the people he was hooked to; he called them his ‘fellow workers.’ (Romans 16:3 NKJV) Speaking to the church, he wrote, ‘All of you together are the temple of God…Everything belongs to you, and you belong to Christ.’ (1 Corinthians 3:16–23 NLT) Notice: (1) Only together do we have everything we need. (2) It’s about whom we belong to, not what belongs to us. Experts say we need to hear something at least seven times before it registers. And this is particularly true when it comes to acknowledging our character defects or flaws in our plans. Dr John Maxwell writes: ‘After a period of frustration, I humbled myself and asked for advice. They told me things I didn’t want to hear. But I needed to learn to listen. And I learned to pay attention to things that struck a sensitive chord within me; it was often a signal that it was something I needed to improve. The things that upset me most, or that I resisted most, were usually what I needed to work on most. And if I gave myself time to reflect on what I was told and seek improvement, I usually improved dramatically.’ Don’t be defensive; learn from the people you’re hooked to!