The apostle Paul's epistle to the Thessalonians contains clear and powerful exhortations concerning the will of God for believers. These exhortations express the specific will of God in relationships with others, with ourselves, and with the Lord. Packed into these short verses are patterns of life and behavior which receive His blessing in all these relationships.
As I continue this series of devotionals on "understanding the will of God", I'd like to talk about a story which is told in all the synoptic gospels, except that Luke's account gives a significant nuance. (Many skeptical Bible "critics" point out differences in the gospels to argue that they can't be reliable — yet it's actually the differences which support the validity of these accounts because they reveal that the events recorded were simply experienced and told from slightly different viewpoints, a very common circumstance when people are telling a story.)
Writing daily devotions throughout the years I've often been asked the question, "How do I find the will of God?" There are probably many good scriptural approaches to answering this question; but I want to offer something very basic as you think about understanding the will of God. That is, simply, that you'll know His will when you come to know the heart of God.
When Paul wrote to the Philippian church he spoke of pressing forward for the prize of the high calling. Though he was physically content whether rich or poor, [Philippians 4:11] the apostle was not content with his spiritual condition, but constantly seeking a deeper, more intimate and fruitful walk with the Lord…
In Israel, it's amazing how many trees are being planted all the time. In fact, the green line that you hear about so much in the news isn't an actual drawn borderline, but it is a visible line you can only see from the air. It's where Israelis stopped planting trees.
As Joshua is about to enter the promised land, God reassures him and affirms the promise that was given to Moses, saying, "Wherever you place your feet – it shall be given to you!" God reveals His will, makes an amazing promise, then gives His servant a practical principle for working the promise out and claiming it, telling Joshua to literally step into His will. This is true for every believer. Our mandate is to know, understand and step out into the will of God. How can we know God's will?"
As some of you may know, a bomb exploded in a bus within blocks of our Jerusalem apartment when we first moved to Israel. That morning, my wife and I, along with our newborn baby, were heading to the city center to run a few errands when suddenly we heard the explosion. Within minutes, the sirens were screaming from every part of the city as officials quickly made their way to the scene. Later that month, the bus I was supposed to be on drove away as I watched it carry away the 50 or so people who would be critically injured and the 8 who would be dead seconds later, when that bus exploded before my very eyes. So, to put it mildly, we have seen firsthand how terrorism works and how it affects people.
So Jonah goes and begins to preach in this pagan city. His message is very simple. "Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown"(v. 4). That's it. That was his whole message. It's eight words in English; only 4 words in Hebrew.
Jonah now acknowledges that God put him where he is, and he accepts His discipline. "Sheol" is the "grave", the "pit" or the "abode of the dead". Did Jonah die, or was he only nearly dead from three days of fish stomach acid, and little or no air? The text doesn't say; only that if he didn't actually leave his body, he came as close as a man can get to it; three days worth. In this nebulous and miserable place Jonah cried out, probably from the deepest depths of his agonized soul…he cried out to the Lord.
For the next week or so we'll be looking closely at the life of Jonah the prophet. Jonah was told to "preach against the city of Nineveh", that was in the ancient kingdom of Assyria. Nineveh was a major city on the banks of the Tigris River about 500 miles north and east of where Jonah was; located on a contemporary map in modern Iraq, about 300 miles north of Baghdad. Archaeologists have found the ruins of ancient Nineveh right outside the Iraqi city of Mosul. Yes, the same Mosul that was taken last week by jihadists!
There were times that Yeshua (Jesus) separated himself from the multitudes — and there are times when we need to separate ourselves from our lives and ministry, and spend some time with our Lord.
Most people reading this passage tend to focus in on the fruit that is produced. Okay…But a closer look will reveal that the Lord is really focusing on the tree. The fruit merely demonstrates the quality of the tree. We have all encountered this: there are trees whose fruit is healthy and delicious, and there are trees whose fruit is scarcely edible, or even useless.
The word "midst", in the Greek, is 'meros' which literally means "the middle". In the 'meros' of the throne in heaven is the Lamb of God. The very focus of heaven — the center of attention — is the Lamb of God!
I just came across this story through a friend and thought it significantly appropriate for us today. Maybe it is for you too?
An African king had a long time friend who always looked at everything positively, always saying "This is good!" even in the face of the most difficult situations. Hunting one day, he was preparing the king’s guns. When the king took his first shot, his thumb was blown off. Though the friend realized that it was his grave mistake for not properly setting the gun, and even in the face of this furious, bleeding king, he looked at him and said, "This is good!" The king was LIVID, and ordered that his friend be thrown in jail immediately.
Truly we are living in remarkable times! Today is probably one of the most significant days of our lifetime, as Americans go to the polls and decide the future of the United States. Of course, voting is important, but let's be sure we know what we're voting for!
These past few days, writing about the will of God, has reminded me of the prophet Jeremiah, and how the Lord knew him – even before he was in his mother's womb, and he was sanctified by God as a prophet to the nations. A similar foreknowledge and ordination of God belongs to us who are under the New Covenant. God's foreknowledge of His people is clearly stated in scripture. We were chosen in Him before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless, and created in Messiah Yeshua (Christ Jesus) unto good works which He foreordained that we walk in them. It is clear that a life of holiness and good works is an integral part of our destiny in salvation, a fundamental aspect of His original plan for each one of us.
Over the past few days, I've been discussing the will of God and how to walk out His will daily in our lives. The Lord's general will involves the development of our character and the ways in which we relate to Him and to our fellow man. Much of this is the same for every believer. But each of us is unique, and each has a potential life vision unlike any other. God has an individual will for every soul that belongs to Him, an individually shaped destiny which varies according to our gifting and calling and purpose in His Body.
Jonah the prophet ran from what he considered a difficult and abhorrent assignment from God, thinking he could escape to a place where he couldn't be found. He refused to obey the Lord and he boarded a ship headed in the opposite direction. But YHVH's irrevocable gifts and callings were faithfully resting upon His servant Jonah, and He provided the drama needed to bring his man around. He sent a great storm which rocked Jonah's boat and then a large fish which ate him! These persuasions changed Jonah's attitude.
As I write, it seems the prevailing concern among people everywhere is -– what's going on with the economy? Europe is on the verge of an economic collapse. Even the kings of wall street are suffering huge losses with JP Morgan reporting losing over $2 billion yesterday. People are watching their wealth dissipating and dwindling away. Reflecting on these material losses reminds me of a story about a lady who perished in Pompeii in the first century.
Many people ask us "How do I know what is God's will for my life?" Well, here's your answer above — right here in Romans! When I was reading the passage this morning, it was as the words just jumped off the page.