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Outreach 7 July 2015 Luke 4:18 "....To preach the gospel to the poor;..."
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Outreach 7 July 2015 Luke 4:18 ".....To set at liberty those who are oppressed"

Faithful Stewards

What Do You Think?

We’ve talked about the importance of taking action in the previous message.  We now want to look at another important subject in our quest to make God first in our lives.  The subject is how to control and focus our thoughts on God such that He becomes the constant subject and focus of our thoughts most of the time.

 

You will agree with me that this perhaps is one of if not the most difficult thing to do in one’s life.  Our thought patterns are influenced by our interests, our fears and anxieties, our environment that includes things that we see or hear around us.  Things we see and hear will also include the things where we have a choice and control to see and listen to like what we see on TV or read in books and so on.  The other side of this is the things we do not necessarily have a choice or control over like accidents or perhaps natural disasters that happen where we may be. 

 

Our thoughts determine our actions.  These actions, when repeated over time, become habits and once habits are formed they become part of or influence our character.  As we all know, character is what we will take to heaven or better still is what will determine whether we are fit to be in heaven or not.  This then means it is very difficult for us to change our habits or our character if our thoughts do not change in the first instance.  Therefore we have to change the way we think in order to have good habits and behaviour and ultimately character.

 

When we think good thoughts, our actions and our words also tend to go in that direction.  However, these good thoughts don’t just come all by themselves.  We have to cultivate them.  That is why it is crucial to have the Word of God in us because then that become the controlling force behind our thoughts.  When we have internalised the Word of God, it becomes a lamp that guides our thoughts as to what is right and not.  We become, so to speak, programed by the Word such that anything that is contrary to that Word is rejected as soon as it comes in.  Only that which conforms to the Word is accepted.  When that happens, we find ourselves having no interest in that which is contrary to the Word and eventually abhorring sin altogether.

 

When we have internalised the Word of God, it also means except for issues of choice, issues over which we do not have control over will also not influence our actions as the Word of God in us will direct our actions.  Let me illustrate this in this way.  When one is running a computer program that should perform a certain action to get a certain result, for instance give you an identification of a certain person, you will need to feed the right information into the computer for that to happen.  As soon as you give the wrong information, either the computer will reject such information or the computer will just not perform the required action.

 

When that happens, then we will have reached a stage that is described in the Bible that no one will teach the other to know the Lord for everyone will know the Lord since His Word is written in their hearts.  Their thoughts are directed by His Word.

We will stop here for now, but have a productive and blessed day further.

Take Action!

In the previous message, we learned about the importance of building a relationship with God and how to do it.  This relationship is crucial if we are to trust God.  We can’t trust God in the absence of this relationship.

 

In today’s lesson, we will touch on practical things that we need to do to effectively start building this relationship with God.  Please take note of the word, “effectively” here.  To try and explain a little on my choice and usage of the word “effectively”, I would say something is effective if it is working and achieving its desired and intended purpose. 

 

To begin with, the purpose of our building a relationship with God is primarily to know Him better, to understand Him so that we can trust Him.  When we trust Him, it makes it easier for us to obey Him, to do His will and to let Him be God in our lives.  That way we will be willing and able to surrender control of our lives to Him.  Therefore it is important to have a target or a goal that we want to reach as we start relationship building exercise.  There are so many ways of doing that, for instance we may decide we want to be thematic and study everything about the love of God, or the power of God.  We may decide that we want to look at all the promises of God, etc.  Alternatively, we may decide that we want to study Bible book after another and read the Bible through in two years, just as an example. 

 

As we go through our studies, we should determine that by the end of each Bible study we are able to answer the following questions:

—  What does this verse of scripture mean?

—  What is God telling me?

—  Exactly how does this apply to my life?

—  What changes do I need to make in my life in order to do what God is telling me to do?

—  What am I going to do differently today, this week, this month, during the next year?

By doing this, we should be able to start knowing God more and moving closer to doing His will.  We know in worldly life that the more you have commonalities with someone, the more compatible you are with that person.  When you are compatible with someone, the easier it becomes to build a relationship with such a person.  Using the same logic then it means when we have reached this stage in our lives, it becomes easier to build a relationship with God for we are now ready to listen and obey Him.

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Testimony

As my wife and I started putting some of the lessons we learned through this series into practice, we noticed something unusual.  We used to fuel the vehicle that I am using for driving around town and it would only run for a week on that fuel and then we had to refuel again.  But after going through this series of lessons and deciding to seriously put them into practice, for example increasing our giving in our offerings, we noticed something unusual.  We noticed that I drove on the same amount of fuel for almost two weeks but with increased usage even.  Therefore, we accomplished more with the same amount of fuel we used before, resulting in a saving for us.

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It is also important to emphasise here that taking action on what we learn or have learned is key in successfully and effectively building a relationship with God.  As we take action, each step we take in this process will lead to growth in this relationship that we want to build with God.  We will have to start with small steps and continue incrementally until we begin to take bigger steps.  If we fail to take steps, it does not matter how small they may be, we will not grow and we run the risk of being just hearers of the word and not doers.  When we are just hearers of the Word, then we become what the Bible in 2 Timothy 3:4 refer to as “… having a form of godliness but denying its power…”  In other words, we will just be like some of us are at the moment, Christians by name with nothing to offer.  I certainly don’t want to be like that.  What about you?

 

We will stop here for now, but have a productive and blessed day further.

Build a Relationship

In the last email message I sent, we learned that it is important for us to build a relationship with God so that everything that we do for God is as a consequence of that relationship.  If we do not do it that way, then there is basically no difference between us in giving our tithes and offerings to God and a country’s citizens who pay taxes to their government.  There are very few people who actually enjoy paying taxes to the government but we all have to pay the taxes as we do not have much of a choice in the matter anyway.

 

God owns the whole world and everything in it according to Psalm 24.  He is not short of resources such that He will force us to give Him so that He accomplishes His purposes, no.  He wants us to give because we love Him and it pleases us to be in a relationship with Him and therefore we give as a result.    We are dwelling on this issue of building a relationship with God a little more because it is crucial and if we miss it, it will be difficult to understand everything else that follows.  It will also make it difficult for us to understand and know God for us to begin to trust Him.

 

That then brings us to the question, but how do we build a relationship with God?  Allow me again to use an illustration to try and explain this important matter.  For those of us who are parents, we know that when your children always want to communicate with you as their parent, they let you know how they are doing in their lives, how they feel, they tell you their challenges, in other words, they are constantly in touch, then you will be happy that there is a family relationship there.  Even in cases of just family or friendship you will be happy if you stay in touch with one another.  When there is an exchange of gifts in such kind of relationships then it becomes even more evident that there is a relationship as tokens thereof are there for display, so to speak, to anyone who may need to see them.

 

Similarly, even with our God, we cannot claim to have a relationship if we do not even talk to Him at all.  Therefore in the morning when we wake up, perhaps the first thing we should do is go and talk to Him in prayer, to thank Him for His care and protection over us during the night and also to commit ourselves in His watch care for the day ahead of us.  Then we should also allow Him time to talk to us through His Word by Bible study and meditation.  We will explore and learn a little bit on how to do Bible study and meditation in another message, but for now, let us just emphasize the point that this is crucial in our efforts to build a relationship with God.

 

The purpose of our Bible study and meditation is for us to hear from God’s Word how He wants us to conduct our lives, His promises to us on how He can provide and meet our needs.  As we read about how He dealt with others in the past, it gives us confidence that He is also able to deal with our circumstances and challenges.  This confidence should lead us to start trusting Him with our needs and challenges. 

 

Since the inception of sin, the environment here has changed to follow in the pattern of its ruler and his forces and agents.  This way of doing things is different from the heavenly and God’s way of doing things.  Therefore, when we decide to build a relationship with God, we are essentially declaring that we want to change our way of understanding and doing things.  We want to move from the worldly way of doing things to the heavenly way of doing things.  However, we have to understand and accept the fact that we know and are used to the worldly way of doing things and we are not going to just automatically adjust ourselves to start doing things the heavenly way.  It doesn’t happen like that. 

 

In the first instance, we do not even know how the heavenly way of doing things is like.  Secondly, we don’t even understand the heavenly way for us to follow it.  Therefore we need God who knows the way to show it to us.  We also need God to give us the understanding of that way for us to follow it even in instances that we do not understand exactly what is happening so that we are willing to follow it.

 

As an illustration, let me use a satellite navigational system device called the Global Positioning System (GPS).  Most travellers have developed a faith and trust in the GPS that few of them these days ask for directions to their destinations from strangers.  As a traveller, when you key in the information of where you want to go to, you just follow its directions and if you do that diligently you should arrive at your destination safely.  However, if you disregard its directions perhaps because of doubts about its reliability, you may have difficulties in reaching your destination either safely or on time.  There are times when the GPS may lead you through a longer route to your destinations, but if you follow its directions still, you will arrive at your destination.  The issue of trust in this device becomes crucial because you can easily ignore or disregard it and risk getting lost.

 

In the same way, it is important to have this relationship with God where we trust Him to lead us.  When things don’t seem to make sense, we will simply follow and that way we will make it to the other side.  In the absence of such a relationship with Him, the probability of disregarding His directions is very high as more often than not His directions will not make sense to us who are used to think the worldly way as opposed to the heavenly way.

 

We will stop here for now, but have a productive and blessed day further.

God Will Provide

Welcome to this series of - Making God First - in our lives.

 

To begin with, the Word of God assures us that God will always provide for our needs.  There are so many promises in the Bible that teach us so.  However, have you reached a point of wondering whether what God's Word promises is exactly what it means?  Have you found yourself praying and asking God for blessings according to your perceived needs and you waited and waited for answers to your prayers and got nothing.  Have you gone to God to look for answers to your problems and you came back empty handed.  Do you find yourself with a lot of questions after reading in the Bible about how others in their time prayed to God and received answers, positive answers that is, like Hannah the mother of the prophet Samuel, and you wonder why it is not happening in the similar way to you?

Perhaps you have even heard in your lifetime how others around you are testifying on how God has answered their prayers and you keep on wondering when will your turn come to also testify in the same way? 

 

It could even have happened that when you heard about how others who crossed over to other denominations, or went and consulted with "mediums" obtained solutions to their problems.  And maybe, just maybe, it even crossed your mind that perhaps you should also help God by doing the same, as it is commonly said that God helps those who help themselves!  And maybe you are wondering as to what is wrong with you that you are not receiving expected answers from God?  Does this "ask and you shall receive" thing really work, for you?

 

God in the book of Malachi 3 challenges us to test him.  We would like to take Him on his Word and "test or prove" Him.  We want to see if indeed what He says He will do for us is true, He will indeed do so even for us. 

 

So, to start, we should understand the fact that we were created for a relationship.  It is crucial and very important to understand this.  If we misunderstand this, we will always go about this the wrong way.  While it is important to give to God, while it is important to return tithes and offerings to God, we should always bear in mind that this should come after and as a result of our love relationship with God.  That is why it is very important to understand that what starts or the beginning point in this case, is a relationship with God before we go to anything else.  If we miss this step, we will have difficulties in understanding our relationship with God in the first instance.  If I may use an illustration in this case, it is like someone who wants to climb a tree by using the branches of such a tree instead of using the tree trunk to do so.  We all know that climbing a tree from the trunk is logical and relatively much easier.  The same applies in this case.

 

However, we cannot build a relationship with someone we do not know.  That is why we need to take time in Bible Study and prayer and meditation in order to begin to know this God that we want to build a relationship with.  We need to know His likes and dislikes, what is acceptable and not acceptable to Him.  We need to know how to conduct ourselves in this relationship with Him for such a relationship to continue and last.  We also need to know that we are not the only ones having a relationship with Him, there are others as well, our brothers and sisters, that we need to know how to treat and conduct our relationships with due to the relationship we have with God.

 

We should understand the fact that God does not want us to appease or bribe Him with gifts in order to gain His favour.  We should never, ever, try to give God gifts as a way of buying His favours or just to fulfil a command or an obligation on our part.  Our giving should be as a result of our love relationship with Him.  Let me try to illustrate this point this way, when we give to our loved ones, we do so because we, in most cases, have this inner urge and desire just to give them because of our love for them.  Therefore most of the times we just give them what we would like to give them even before they ask as that shows that we love them and most of the times we are thinking about them.  This may not be a perfect illustration, but at least it shows in some little way how this love relationship with our God should be like.  It should be pulling us toward Him and as a result the giving should follow as a natural consequence thereof.

 

We will stop here for now, but have a productive and blessed day further.