# 26 of 30 – The Working of the Word

This is # 26 of 30 ways that God’s Word, the Bible, works in the lives of His people.

God’s Word equips the believer for spiritual proficiency and ability in serving God and living for Him. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work …  (2 Timothy 3:16-17).


Secrets of Your Heart

Flying above the deserts of Baja, Mexico

I’ve done a bit of traveling in my lifetime. I’ve flown over the snow-capped Canadian Rockies, the ice shelves of Greenland, and barren African deserts. I’ve traveled across the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. I’ve eaten dates in Dubai, biscuits in Britain, ice cream in Israel, and mole in Mexico.

From 30,ooo feet in the air, rivers are mere lines drawn on the ground and mountains appear flat and unimpressive. Even the deep slit of the Grand Canyon is nothing but a wrinkle. Cars appear to barely move along the great highways of America as I fought back the impulse to wave or shout as if the people in the tiny specks of a thousand different colors and shapes of metal could ever see or hear me.

When God described the promised land to the Israelites, it had unending streams with fruit trees and grain in such abundance that there was no lack of anything (Deut 8:7-10). Years later, from the slopes of Mount Carmel, all the prophet Elijah could see was withered grass, shriveled shrubs, and dried up riverbeds. For three and a-half years not a drop of rain had fallen.

King and prophet stood side-by-side as the people purged the land of Baal’s false prophets. Finally Elijah told King Ahab to Go up, eat and drink; for there is the sound of abundance of rain.  So Ahab went up to eat and drink.  And Elijah went up to pray (1 Ki 18:41-42).

Every crisis of life reveals the secrets of your heart. Some spend their days feasting and playing, even though the world is headed down the proverbial highway to Hell; others steal away to a high place of prayer and remain hidden there until they are assured their prayers haven’t just reached the throne of God but been heard and answered.

What makes the difference? The perspective from where we stand. We stand either on the feeble footing of an ever changing Earth’s landscape, or we fly above it in heavenly realms with the perspective of the God of the universe.

The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six month. And he praised again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit (James 5:16-18).

What Is Repentance?

You can have many reasons for being sorry. You may be ashamed because you’ve been caught doing something forbidden. Maybe there’s fear of what others will say, think, or do when they find out what you’ve done. You could be sorry for the hurt or embarrassment you’ve caused others. But repentance isn’t the same as being sorry.

Repentance isn’t admitting you’re a sinner, repeating a prayer of forgiveness, or crying. Repentance is hating your sin because its rebellion against God. False repentance dreads the consequences of sin; true repentance dreads sin itself.

Repentance is a change of purpose, heart, and mind about sin that results in turning to godliness. It is a complete change in direction from doing what you like to doing what pleases God.

Repenting doesn’t make anyone saved. Salvation is only by grace through faith in Christ Jesus. Repentance is a fruit of salvation, not the root of it.

How do you know if repentance is genuine? Your life permanently changes as you live a life in obedience to the Word of God. You hate your sin and love righteousness. You increasingly become like Jesus.

… how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God (1 Thessalonians 1:9)


I Am the Lord who Heals You

I am the Lord who heals you (Exodus 15:26).

I grew up in a religious movement that used these words from the Bible as evidence that God still performs physical healings today and we should expect Him to do so. What they never did was read the whole statement.

And there the Lord tested them, and said, “If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the Lord who heals you” (Exodus 15:25-27).

If you follow the story of Exodus, the Israelites crossed the Red Sea and three days later faced the need for drinking water. They complained to Moses, but Moses prayed to the Lord who supernaturally provided for them.

There He tested them, and said …. if you as a nation obey everything I’m going to command you, I won’t bring the plagues of judgment on you like I did on the Egyptians. If the Jewish people were stubborn and rebellious like the Egyptians were, God would treat them exactly like He treated the Egyptians with diseases and plagues. God was no respecter of persons.

What did God promise to heal the nation of Israel from? His judgments upon them for sinning! Keep reading and you’ll learn that all but two of the Israelite adults who fled Egypt died wandering in the wilderness (Num 26:64-65; Heb 3:16-19)! It’s a story of Israel’s failure to trust and obey God. They failed God’s very first test!

God’s declaration of being Israel’s healer was a national promise, not an individual promise. While He was Israel’s national healer, His promise was founded on complete and total obedience to the Law of Moses He was going to give them. His healing wasn’t for the toothache, the broken bone, or gout, but from His judgment when they disobeyed.

God has lovingly gifted the world with doctors and given our bodies a natural healing process. So can the Christian today pray for God’s healing in his physical body? Of course! And you should! God answers our prayers, but always according to His will (Mt 26:39, 42; Lk 22:42; 1 Jn 5:14-15). If He chooses to heal in answer to prayer, it is only according to His grace.


God May Not Want You to Preach to Someone

The Apostle Paul was a missionary to the Roman world. After his encounter with Jesus, Paul set out to share the Good News he’d heard with everyone God would allow. He was going to do exactly what Jesus said in Mark 16:15: Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 

Now here’s a crazy question: Could God’s will be different from your own when it comes to sharing the gospel?

Paul had preached all over the area we know today as southern Turkey. He’d established local churches and was ready to go eastward into Russia, Iran, and India, but things didn’t go according to plan. We’re not told what happened except that the Holy Spirit twice forbid him to preach the word in Asia (Acts 16:6).

Did you catch that? The Holy Spirit forbid Paul to preach to certain people. He was not permitted to take the Good News to certain people and places.

After some time, Paul had a dream of a man from Macedonia (Greece), pleading with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us” (Acts 16:9).

What did Paul do? Did he keep pressing for what he thought God wanted or what was in his own heart? Nope! After he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them (Acts 16:10). Paul took the gospel to Europe instead.

Obstacles may be God’s providential way of saying you’re headed in the wrong direction! Don’t go where He hasn’t called you, and don’t force the gospel on those God hasn’t called you speak with.


What Can Be Whiter than Snow?

Near my home in Helvetia, Oregon.

Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow (Psalm 51:7).

Weeks ago we awoke to our first hard freeze of Winter. I slid across the iced-over front deck of the house. The car doors and windows were frozen shut and I spent a few minutes scraping the white ice from them. Soon, thick blankets of wet, cold snow will cover everything.

After the exodus from Egypt, God led the children of Israel to the banks of the Red Sea where they sang and danced at the defeat of the Egyptian army. Now, three days later, they complained of thirst in the desert (Ex 15:22-25). There was water, but it was undrinkable. God was testing the people – not because He didn’t know their hearts – but because He wanted to reveal their hearts to them and to us (Rom 15:4; 1 Cor 10:6, 11).

God ignored the murmuring people, but answered the prayer of Moses. He had Moses toss a tree into the pond and the poisoned desert water became pure. It wasn’t a magic tree, but a symbol of God’s sin-cleansing power through faith.

That place was named Marah, which means bitter. Not only was the water bitter, but so were the hearts of the Jewish people. The ones who days before praised the Lord, now grumbled because of where He’d led them. The faith of their hearts was more than flawed, it was failed.

We think we know our own hearts. We’re convinced we know what we’re capable of doing. We say we know the deepest recesses of our minds and emotions. God says otherwise. Our own hearts deceive us about what we think we know. God alone knows what is in your heart, and He says it is deceitful and rotten to the core.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings (Jeremiah 17:9, 10).

Through faith in Jesus, your deceitful and desperately wicked heart can be cleansed from all sin. What can be whiter than snow? The heart of the one whom God forgives.

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace (Ephesians 1:7).



What Your Enemies Reveal About You

Your enemies, not your friends, reveal who are you. What you stand for, and against, determines the enemies you have. Jesus warned, Woe when all men speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets (Lk 6:26).

My congregation meets on Sunday mornings in a dance studio in the most liberal neighborhood in our city. A few years ago the area was the second most popular in the US for lesbian couples to live. The owner of the dance studio, Rhonda, is a very charming lady who speaks freely about “god” but never of Jesus; He’s offensive. She tries very hard to be accepting of everyone and everything. Her one caveat in renting to us was that we not say or do anything offensive to anyone.

A few weeks ago I gave Rhonda a copy of our Sunday morning bulletin to take home and read. On our drive home that afternoon I asked my wife, There wasn’t anything in the bulletin that I should have been concerned about, was there? 

Kim answered: Just what you said about the sin of lesbianism; but now Rhonda knows exactly where you stand. 

Most Christians are timid about their faith, fearful of letting others know where God requires us to stand. Jesus said that the gospel brings division, even in the closest of family relationships (Lk 12:51-53). We don’t seek to create offense, but when the Word of God is wholeheartedly believed and taught, there will be conflict.

Ancient Greeks and Romans cherished the freedom of speech. Like modern Americans, they had the legal right to speak their minds freely and openly without fear of reprisal from the government. The early Church took advantage of this by boldly proclaiming the Good News everywhere they went. But speaking plainly like Jesus (Mk 8:32; Jn 18:19-23) created conflict. Acts 16 and 17 tell how Paul was beaten, arrested, and thrown in jail because the gospel filled the unsaved with violent hatred (1 Thess 2:1-2).

We avoid speaking plainly because of fear, but early Christians knew the truth and were so convinced of it that they didn’t fear what their enemies might say or think or do. Their confidence was in Jesus and His gospel.

Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your Word (Acts 4:29).


Like a Blowing Wind

The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit (John 3:8).

My wife is the daughter of an Episcopal priest and though she went to church all her life, she wasn’t a Christian. Christianity isn’t about going to church or holding a Bible, it’s about a life definitely transformed by Christ Jesus.

As an adult, Kim read Isaiah 53 and a change took place in her thinking. For the first time, she understood she was a sinner and that Jesus died specifically for her sins. She realized that what was happening in her wasn’t because of anything she did or could have done. Suddenly and completely, all things became new. This is what Jesus called the new birth.

Late one evening Jesus was answering questions from a Jewish religious leader. Nicodemus had heard Jesus preach and wondered how he could get to Heaven.  Christ’s answer confused the learned Nicodemus: You must be born again (Jn 3:7).

Salvation isn’t the result of saying a prayer, joining a church, or doing a religious thing. It is a work of the Holy Spirit you can’t predict, control, or even assist. The new birth is like a blowing wind.

Jesus didn’t say that the Holy Spirit is like the wind, but those who are born of the Spirit are like the wind. You nor I can predict when or how the wind will blow. We can’t control it or help it blow harder or in a certain direction. God creates and controls the wind (Ps 135:7), the best we can do is observe when it blows.

Human efforts always result in human effects, but when God does the work, the results are always divine. There is no formula I can walk you through to be saved. There are no 3 easy steps to salvation. Like the blowing wind, salvation is beyond the ability of anyone but God; all anyone can do is present the gospel. However, when God works faith in the heart of a sinner, the blowing of the wind is noticed by everyone.

As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name: where were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:12-13).


Acts and Evangelism

Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37).

The Book of Acts is an historical record of the spread of early Christianity throughout the Roman world. It’s a record of sermons and prayers, miracles and disappointments, angels and demons, arguments and love, murder and intrigue.

As Christians lived out their daily lives, God made opportunities for these believers to share their faith. Sometimes those opportunities were to hostile crowds, to a lone man headed home from a business trip, travelers in a shipwreck, or even to a judge during a court trial. None of these events were planned but came in the ordinary course of daily living.

In each of the instances of sharing the gospel of Jesus in the Book of Acts, not one person ever gave an “invitation” to be saved. No Christian ever asked, “Do you want to be saved?” In every case the person hearing the gospel asked what he needed to do to be saved. The Holy Spirit prompted the need to know within the unsaved person.

Churches are filled with un-saved converts. These are people who accept a man-made invitation apart from the work of the Holy Spirit. Man-centered evangelism forces the listener to make a decision and act in some way; in Biblical evangelism, the Spirit of God prompts the sinner to ask what he must do to be saved.

Be careful not to take over the Holy Spirit’s ministry and create false believers. If someone is to be saved, the Spirit will have already been at work revealing his sin to him and he’s just waiting for the gospel solution to be proclaimed.


Strength to Resist

How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your Word (Psalm 119:9).

The daily struggle of the Christian against sin isn’t easy. The Bible prescribes a simple way of resisting temptation and sin.

In His temptation, Jesus didn’t curse the Devil, bind spirits, or beg for deliverance in prayer. In fact, Jesus didn’t pray at all. Instead He turned to the Word of God for the strength to resist (Lk 4:1-13).

Your Word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You (Psalm 119:11).