There are many factors in road safety: outside factors such as road and weather conditions, the driver remaining alert to hazards, and the driver being focused on the course. This is true for highway travels, and also true in the road of life. In the book of Proverbs, we find a short and distinct charge for road safety. “The way of the LORD is strength to the upright: but destruction shall be to the workers of iniquity” (Proverbs 10:29). The word “way” in this verse literally means road or course of life. There is strength (safety) when you heed God’s warning signs and stay on the road God has designed and designated.
In Reformers Unanimous, there are ten Bible-based principles which represent “the way of the Lord”. The RU Ten Principles are boundaries that we must stay within for safe travels in our course of life. If our God-ordained boundaries are violated, In the navigation of life, we are headed for a crash! Violating God’s boundaries is a warning sign of certain and impending destruction. God Desires Us To Heed These Warning Signs
In Psalm 78, God provides some warning signs for the nation of Israel in hopes they will avoid the pitfalls of earlier generations. For the brevity of this article, I will use partial verses and sentences to illustrate this. I would encourage you to put a further study into this chapter to see the complete revelation. The words of caution begin in Psalm 78:1-7. Psalms 78:6 says, “That the generation to come might know them”. God desires future generations to heed these warning signs. God desires you and me to heed these same warning signs.
“a stubborn and rebellious generation…” -Psalms 78:8,
In addition, if someone is stubborn, which means to turn away, and they are disobedient it is a warning sign they are headed for disaster. RU Principle #5 says “Small compromises lead to great disasters (or little sins lead to big sins)”. It is important to recognize warning sign #1 at the early, correctable stage before a crash occurs. Many times it starts with being disobedient in small things. If not corrected, it will result in a great disaster.
“a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not stedfast with God…” –Psalms 78:8,
Since the heart is our decision maker. The heart will make wrong and destructive decisions if it is not right. RU Principle #2 says, “Every sin has its origin in the heart”. It is so very important to keep right meditations in the heart. Jesus taught this: “A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things” (Matthew 12:35). Treasures are things stored up for future use. A sure warning sign is if wrong treasures (bad music, wicked talk, etc..) are being placed in the heart (meditator) and good treasures(God’s Word, preaching, etc..) are left out. Warning! Danger ahead!
“They kept not the covenant of God…” -Psalms 78:10,
Furthermore, a covenant is a mutual agreement. The generation that failed turned from their mutual agreement with God to be holy and follow Him. Instead, they decided to pursue their own desires. RU Principle # 4 says “It is not possible to fight a fleshly appetite by indulging in it”. As a person turns from God to their own desires, the appetite to fulfill their own desires will only grow. It will be fed more often and it will need to be fed with greater intensity. Warning – what appetite are you feeding? Righteous appetites should be fed (Bible study, church attendance, etc…). Unrighteous appetites should be starved.
“refused to walk in his law…” -Psalms 78:10,
Therefore walking is repeated steps is represented in the decisions we make. Galatians 5:16 says, “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” Taking repeated steps (walking) under the influence of the Spirit of God will prevent us from doing wrong (flesh). RU Principle # 1 says “If God’s against it, so are we”. Warning – keep walking; don’t stand still; keep following God! Victory is a course of life, not a destination.
“forgat his works, and his wonders that he had shewed them.” -Psalms 78:11,
Another warning sign is forgetting or being oblivious to the things that God has done and is doing in your life. RU Principle # 3 says, “It is easier to keep the heart clean than it is to clean it after it has been defiled”. I used this principle because so often sin makes us stupid! We forget the goodness and greatness of God. The RU founder, Steve Curington, often challenged students to “keep short accounts with God” – that meant to keep the heart clean. Maintain that closeness with God and you will not forget His works!
Since the children of Israel violated God-ordained principles. Their bad behavior intensified (Psalms 78:17, “And they sinned yet more against him by provoking the most High in the wilderness.”) This led to a declining relationship with God (Psalms 78:22, “Because they believed not in God, and trusted not in his salvation.”)
If we ignore the warning signs that God has placed before us, the consequences can be very, very severe as they were with Israel. (Psalms 78:31, “The wrath of God came upon them, and slew the fattest of them, and smote down the chosen men of Israel.”) Trying to control the consequences of your sin is much like trying to control the severity of an automobile accident – you have no control. RU Principle #9 says this, “We lose our freedom of choice after we have chosen our actions. The consequences of our choices are inevitable, incalculable, and up to God”.
In conclusion, the most prudent action is to heed God’s warning signs and stand within the boundaries He has given to us. If the warning signs are ignored, the consequences cannot be controlled. If we do make a mistake, remember RU Principle #10 – “God balances guilt with blame. When we accept the blame for our actions, God, by our repentance and confession, will eliminate the guilt”.
Choices to follow sin will take us far away from the life God would desire for us. Sin will rob us from things most precious to us and steal the things necessary for life.
Despite our sins and our failures, God still loves us and is interested in bringing us back into a right relationship with Him. God said “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:7).
Through God’s mercy we can experience forgiveness. Through God’s grace we can experience restoration of things lost. Not only is God interested in a restored relationship with Him, but He will also restore things lost.
God is interested in restoring the hopeless.
Sin had placed the nation of Israel into slavery. The people became slaves under the bondage of their enemies. The life of a slave was one of no hope, subject to the master’s every command or whim. Israel, God’s chosen people, was now reduced to a hopeless life of slavery.
Sin has the same affect on our lives today. This happens when you yield to sin and thus become servants to it. “…To whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” (Romans 6:16). When you become a servant to sin, the bondage of sin is a hopeless feeling. Satan would like you to believe there is no way out. The devil is wrong. God is merciful and kind. God is interested in restoring the hopeless.
Every Friday night, in hundreds of chapters across the country, there are thousands of people who “talk to God” in praise during Talk #1 of their Reformers Unanimous class. They are praising God for His work in their lives, freeing them from the bondage of sin and addiction. They were once hopeless, but are now experiencing the hope and restoration that comes from God’s mercy.
The people of Israel were in great affliction (Nehemiah 1:3). The definition of affliction is destitute of hope; having no expectation that is desirable. When you realize that your bad choices have placed you in a situation where you have no expectation that is desirable – that is a hopeless condition.
Because of God’s mercy there is hope and that hope can surface in the most unlikely places. In the book of Ezra God gave hope by stirring the heart of a pagan king. In Nehemiah God sends hope to the desolated city from the royal city.
Joe was a meth addict, homeless, separated from his beautiful family, in bondage, and hopeless. All of Joe’s possessions fit into a cardboard box. One day, inexplicably, he found an RU tract in his box. He was 40 miles from the closest Reformers Unanimous chapter and had no idea how that tract got there. The tract was a message of hope. Joe experienced God’s mercy at the RU class. He is no longer a hopeless meth addict. He is a husband, father, and faithful servant of the Lord. God is in the restoration business!
The book of Ezra in the Bible tells the story about the enslaved nation of Israel rebuilding their temple. In the process of rebuilding the temple they faced minor adversity and opposition that caused them to stop building.
Why would they stop building because of these threats? The root cause was that the adversity caused fear. “And they set the altar upon his bases; for fear was upon them because of the people of those countries: and they offered burnt offerings thereon unto the LORD, even burnt offerings morning and evening” (Ezra 3:3).
Yielding to the emotion of fear can render one feeling helpless. Fear will paralyze you. “The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe” (Proverbs 29:25). Fear is a failure to trust God and, instead, evaluating the situation in your own power and ability. This is a helpless feeling.
Once again, God demonstrated His desire to bring restoration. God sent the prophet Haggai to proclaim truth to the people of Israel. God does not quit even when we do. God sends help to the helpless.
God is interested in restoring the hurting.
I have been blessed to witness many people experience freedom from their addiction in Reformers Unanimous. However, sometimes they are still hurting. Hurts can come from any number of sources: lost custody of children, family not trusting them, unemployment, marital problems, or missing essential elements of life (home, car, etc.).
The Jews that returned to Jerusalem were in the same situation. When the temple was completed in Ezra 6:14, a sign of their relationship with God was restored. However, they were still hurting. “…The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach…” (Nehemiah 1:3). Affliction means a cause of continued pain.
Further, we read in Nehemiah 2:17, “… Ye see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire….” To be in distress means to suffer extreme pain or sorrow or hurt.
When we turn to God and experience God’s mercy and kindness, life is always better. However, that does not mean life is perfect. There still could be some significant issues remaining from a sinful past. You may still be required to reap a portion of the sinful seeds that were sown. But it is comforting to remember that God longs to restore lives and heal the problems which are causing you pain and sorrow.
God demonstrated this to Israel by sending Nehemiah to help. Nehemiah had a burden for his people. Nehemiah acted upon that burden. He prayed and fasted. This resulted in a God-given boldness to approach the king about helping those who were hurting.
God will not leave you in a state of hurting. All that you have lost may not be returned to you immediately, but God can use that time to continue your development and rebuilding process. God did not immediately restore everything to Israel. The book of Nehemiah tells the story of how the Jewish people endured adversity while repairing and building up the walls of Jerusalem. God used that undertaking to rebuild and restore the spirit and purpose of the people.
It is heartbreaking to see people living in victory over their addiction, but still hurting due to sins of the past. However, if they will continue to focus on their relationship with God, God can and God will restore.
Whatever your adversity or obstacle; no matter how hopeless it seems; no matter how helpless you feel; no matter how much you are hurting — don’t quit. God is in the restoration business.
peaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the LORD’S house should be built. Then came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying, Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house lie waste? Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways (Haggai 1:2-5).
In the book of Ezra, it is recorded that God worked in the heart of King Cyrus to allow the Jews to rebuild His temple. Unfortunately, the Jews became so preoccupied with building their own homes that they neglected the rebuilding of God’s house. The misplaced priorities of the Jews caused the work on the temple to stop completely (Ezra 4:24). When God’s work is not number one in your life, it will eventually cease. These verses from Haggai were a message from God’s prophet to “Consider your ways”. That is to carefully examine what you are doing.
[quote]When God’s work is not number one in your life, it will eventually cease.[/quote]
This is an applicable message to each of us. We should carefully examine if we are doing exactly what God desires us to do. Not just at a ministry level, but even at a task level. Many times between life and ministry, the task list can become overwhelming. If we are not careful, we begin to do what is most important to us and lose sight of what is most important to God. That is exactly what happened to the Jews as recorded in the book of Ezra as they focused more on building their own house than God’s house.
“Prayer is a declaration of dependence upon God.” [/quote]
– Dr. Paul Kingsbury
One might think that building your own house so your family has a place to live in safety should be a priority. It is, after all, meeting a basic necessity of life. The problem is this priority had resulted in losing focus on what is most important to God. What is most important to us is not always the most important thing to God. That’s why God has given us verses like: “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).
Working on their own priorities resulted in fruitless efforts. “Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes. Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways” (Haggai 1:6-7).
God said you are trying really hard, but you aren’t getting ahead; you are unable to meet your own basic needs. How does this thought of priorities and needs tie in with our theme of prayer? I recall Pastor Kingsbury stating in a blog last year that “Prayer is a declaration of dependence upon God”. That is a great truth that we should meditate on daily. We could conclude that when we fail to pray, we are telling God that we are self-sufficient.
Spending time with God in prayer will direct our heart to His priorities. When we focus on God’s priorities, we receive God’s blessings, power, and strength. The book of Ezra shows the people stumbling through 16 years of building before they finally quit. With a renewed focus that employed God’s blessings, they finished the rebuilding in less than four years. In Nehemiah, as the people built the walls, they remained focused on the work of God and God restored their unmet needs. They had right priorities.
Haggai 1:6-7 remind us that our self-efforts to get ahead will never be fruitful. Working harder is not always the answer. Working righteously is always the answer. When we are willing to spend time with God in prayer discussing our tasks and seeking his priorities our progress will be powered by God’s infinite abilities. We will get more done than we could ever imagine.
Go ahead and make up your to-do list, but be sure to ask God to number the priorities. If you are like me, a full schedule of work tasks and ministry responsibilities leaves things on the to-do list at the end of each day that humanly could not be accomplished. Being a very task-oriented person, that would bring guilt and a sense that I did not accomplish what I needed to accomplish. When I pray for my priorities, I accomplish what God wants me to accomplish. Even though that is not necessarily what I want to accomplish, I always get more accomplished than I expected. I leave the items on my to-do list without guilt or regret.
“The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way” (Psalms 37:23). If you want your steps (advancement) to be ordered (erected and established) by God and you want your way (course of life) to delight (please) God, then pray for your priorities. Ask God, “What would you have me to work on next?” After completion, thank God for His help and guidance in completing that task and then ask Him, “What’s next?”
Praying for priorities reveals a dependence upon God in everything we do…and that is exactly the way God designed it!
The new calendar year engages feelings of a fresh start. You get to hit the reset button on things that did not go well last year. You get to erase the chalk board and start fresh. For family, for ministry, and for work, it is a time to look ahead and to set goals for this fresh start.
When asked to write an article for our “New Beginnings” theme, God had already been working in my heart personally on this very subject. I do not feel that 2012 was my best year as an RU Director, which is where I serve in our local church. It is my desire to look back at my service to God, my Pastor, and my local church at the end of 2013 and have no regrets.
God directed me to the book of Joshua. When Moses died, Joshua took over as the leader for the nation of Israel. There are some great reminders for leaders in the book of Joshua. I will share a few that were helpful to me:
God’s Plan Hasn’t Changed
We might be in a new calendar year and feel like we are experiencing a new start, but God’s plan remains the same. God reminded Joshua that the plan had not changed – his job was to take the people to the Promised Land and possess the land. “Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses” (Joshua 1:2-3.)
God’s plan for us in 2013 has not changed. I should have the same plan to “possess the land” as the first day I surrendered to be an RU Director. I need to spend some time reflecting on the day I knelt at the altar and told God I would direct an RU chapter and reach my community. I clearly remember the message from Pastor Kingsbury at First Baptist Church in Bridgeport in February of 2004 during an RU Regional Training conference. He preached from Luke 14 about reaching the poor, the maimed, the halt, and the blind; about going into the highways and hedges looking for those the world has turned away.
Do you remember your call? The plan hasn’t changed. We have to keep going into the highways and hedges. For 2013, my focus should be – get back to His plan!
God’s Presence is Sure
God reminded Joshua in Joshua 1:5 “There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” There are always dry times or valleys in the ministry. Don’t stay in the valley and do not dwell on the draught. For if you dwell on those times your flame will dim and your light will become dull.
This was a great reminder for me that God is still God. God is still with me just like He was before – He said “I will be with thee”. If I haven’t felt His presence, I need to return to where He is and I need to get back to the things He is doing. God will not fail us, nor will He abandon us. (Thank you, God, for this reminder!)
God’s Purpose is Still People
“Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them” (Joshua 1:6.) The work God was asking Joshua to do was not for Joshua’s benefit, but was “unto this people”. God’s purpose is still for the benefit of the people: reaching the lost with Christ and recovering those in the snare of the devil.
2013 needs to be about God’s purpose – reaching people. God encourages Joshua several times to “be strong and of a good courage”. Joshua is the leader. The leader can’t quit or falter. It is not optional. A leader must endure not only his personal tribulations, but also the adversity of those to whom he is ministering. Don’t allow the dents in your shield to cause you to shy from the battle. Carry out God’s purpose. It won’t always be easy. It’s not about you – it’s about the people. They need your leadership.
God’s prosperity is still in the Word
“Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest. This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success” (Joshua 1:7-8.)
When God’s Word becomes part of every thought and action, then we can expect to experience results like never seen before. I have the opportunity to teach or preach 3 or 4 times every week, which means I have the opportunity to study God’s Word many hours throughout the week. A recent challenge by Ben Burks to carry a daily med card has reminded me of the prosperity and the power that is in God’s Word.
Because the daily med card is in the back of your “It’s Personal Daily Journal”, it could easily be overlooked. But it should never be overlooked. To be prosperous (push forward or to break out), you need the power that comes with meditating on God’s Word. Meditate day and night: meditate at work and at home. Meditate for success in personal, professional, and ministry decisions. God’s Word is essential for a prosperous New Year.
Sometimes a fresh start simply means remembering and implementing what we already know. Push the reset button; the chalkboard is clean and ready to be used! It’s time for a fresh start!