Luke 2:49 indicates Jesus had unusual spiritual sensitivity. Does it mean He knew then He was the Messiah? Maybe and maybe not. But it does mean He understood that God had a specific, personal claim on his life to one degree or another. And what did He do about it? He went home and correctly played his proper role as a family member (Luke 2:51-52). He continued to do so for the next eighteen years (John 2:3-10). My first and greatest opportunity to behave in a Christ-like manner is at home with my family. If I don't follow his example there I won't follow it anywhere. Genesis 4:26 states the people began to "call on the name of the LORD". Do I call on his name in surrender as often as I do in request? Do I call on his name asking that He change me as often as I ask him to change others? In my efforts to please my Father I need to emphasize relationships more than rules. I must not allow myself to settle for reasonable success in the "Thou shalt not" category of Christian living, while ignoring the "cup of cold water" part. Joshua 24:15 says "Choose you this day whom you will serve". I think we are also asked each day to decide who we will "worship." This will be determined and demonstrated by which TV shows we watch, what internet images we download, which magazines we read, how we spend our money, which gossip we listen to, what attitudes we reinforce, which priorities we develop and what parts of our culture we embrace.
A standard practice among coaches is to view a film of the previous game with the players. During that viewing the staff points out each player’s mistakes and good plays. A dedicated player will accept the criticisms and resolve to improve. Such an athlete feels gratitude for the compliments and determines to repeat that behavior the next game.
Their won-lost record at the end of the season hinges largely on the success of such sessions.
If I am serious about playing well for my Heavenly Coach I will eagerly take part in the periodic reviews He makes of my life. At times I will sense Him saying “Bob, you missed an opportunity to be a witness there” or “Bob, that was cruel” or “Bob, that was a selfish attitude.”
Then my reaction should be “You’re right, Lord. I’m sorry. I see now that it was sinful. I confess each of these to you and I will try my best not to repeat them. Please help me. Thank you for forgiving me.”
At other times Coach will say “Bob, you controlled your temper pretty well back there” or “You were extra kind and thoughtful with your family today” or “Your attitude of gratitude was strong last week.”
And my reaction should be “Thank you, Lord. All that is the work of your Spirit. I’m going to work harder to make sure I keep developing the fruit of your Spirit.”
At the burning bush Moses asked God to identify Himself. God replied, “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14) In that same verse he directed Moses to tell the Hebrew people the “I AM” sent him. Our assignment as God’s children and servants is to tell people HE IS!
HE IS the truth. HE IS the one who forgives sin. HE IS the only path to eternal life in heaven. HE IS the wisdom we need to succeed in this life. HE IS the final victor in the battle between good and evil. HE IS the creator and sustainer of the universe. HE IS the one who gives us joy and peace. HE IS our protector from temptation. HE IS our refuge. HE IS and it is our privilege to tell everyone we meet!
The woman at the well said to Jesus “Sir, please give me a drink…” (John 4:15). She asked Jesus to fill her physical cup with physical water to meet a physical need. She admitted she needed something and she hoped Jesus would give it to her.
We must go to Jesus in the same way, recognizing and admitting our physical needs and asking Jesus to meet them.
But the importance of our spiritual needs is far greater than the importance of our physical needs. And for these needs we extend to him the empty cup of ourselves–a life that is empty because we are trying to meet these needs in our own power out of the resources of the world.
The woman at the well needed water. In the quiet honesty of Spirit-led introspection, what do we most need from Jesus? He has already offered us joy, peace, confidence, health, prosperity, protection and a person relationship with himself. We are invited to request as much of each of these as it takes to fill our lives.
So why are we still empty?
The answer may be slightly different for each of us, but basically we remain empty because we do not have enough faith in Jesus to fully believe two of his promises. Jesus said “If you are tired from carrying heavy burdens, come to me and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28) And in Luke 12:29, 31 He said “Don’t keep worrying about having something to eat or drink. But put God’s work first, and these things will be yours as well.”
He has offered, but He will not fill our cup without our permission.
Prayer and love tend to unite people. Perhaps we need to do more of both at church on Sunday. Prayer should be a never-ending two-way conversation. Perhaps my most frequent prayer request should be "Lord, teach me to pray properly and what to pray for." Maybe knowing exactly what to pray for is what James had in mind when he said we should pray for wisdom. (James 1:5) What does God do when I pray and ask for something that is against His will? Nothing! He simply ignores such requests and gives me what is spiritually and eternally best for me. But if my prayers always include a sincere request to learn to pray better, He will grant that request and I will not offer as many ill-conceived petitions. In order for a prayer to be effective, the attitude must be correct before the words are spoken. To "say" a prayer without having the proper attitude is simply "word uttering" and is worthless. Passionless people pray powerless prayers. My prayers must not be so much an attempt to get God's attention, but rather a response to the fact that He has already gained my attention. He knows me completely before I pray, but I need to clearly identify and express my wants and needs so He can show me the difference between them.
Regular faith allows us to look back at past unpleasant times and say "God, I see now that you were teaching me and growing me. I understand now at least part of what you were doing. Thank you." Great faith allows us to look at current unpleasant times and say "God, I guess you are teaching me and growing me. Keep it up until I have learned all I need to learn. Thank you!" Somewhere I read "Faith and obedience will remove mountains of evil. But they must go hand in hand." I like this thought, but is faith without obedience really faith? The primary purpose of strong faith in God is not so that He can do more work through me, but so that He can do more work in me. My lack of faith hinders my effectiveness as his servant and it also blocks my becoming like him. I do not need to develop a plan for my life...month...week...day...hour. Instead I need to discover God's plan, which has been in existence for thousands of years. I need the faith to believe his plan is better than mine and the courage to put it into practice. Faith says to God "If it is your will I will attempt the impossible and accept the uncomfortable."
My growth as a Christian will not be complete until I love every person in my life all the time. My growth as a Christian will not be complete until I want to help every person I love. My growth as a Christian will not be complete until I learn how to express my love to people as individuals, not just as a group. None of this growth will take place until I yield to the influence and power of the Holy Spirit.
God sends us into the world with a trunk full of love to give to others. We are to dip into that trunk and scatter love to everyone we meet. That love takes the form of listening, sharing, teaching, patience and forgiving. (That short list is not exhaustive.) That trunk has compartments that contain all the forms of love. He also gives us the wisdom to use the most effective form of love with each individual we meet. When I find myself running low on the motivational drive to be a "love scatterer" I must remember how empty my trunk was before He filled it, how small my qualification was to be a receiver of that love, and how much better my life is now because of that love.
The best, most effective, most accurate way I can glorify God is to let the Holy Spirit make me like Jesus. "God...decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son." (Romans 8:29, The Message Bible) The Holy Spirit will do the shaping of the way I am. My role is to allow such changes to happen and then behave in ways that exhibit my new shape. Do we Christians spend more time, money and energy trying to change our physical "shape" into the way the world says it should be than we do allowing the Spirit to alter our spiritual shape into the way God wants it to be?
To fully benefit from having God as my Father, I must admit that I need him as provider, protector, counselor, guide, comforter and savior. I must admit "I can't," acknowledge "He can," and believe "He will." Only then can I know the full value of having been adopted into his family and having the privilege of calling him "Abba Daddy." John 5:1-18 tells the story of a crippled man. When Jesus asked him "Do you want to get well" he replied that he had no one to help him get into the healing pool. He knew of only one way to get healed. Sometimes I limit God the same way. I say "Lord, I can't be happy unless ____." Then I get discouraged and disgruntled if my specific request is not granted. I need to be willing to say "Lord, do whatever you think is best in my life and I'll be happy no matter what you provide." Should I view Jehovah as a god of joy (and praise him) or a god of responsibility (and serve him?) Of course the answer is "both," since worship is defined as "recognizing and properly responding to God." Service is part of that proper response. Too much emphasis on the joy part can cause a turn inward, always looking for the next bit of spiritual excitement. Too much emphasis on the responsibility portion can result in guilt and lifeless attempts to minister. Our challenge is to find and retain the joy that comes from fulfilling responsibilities.
Loving other people is dangerous. Loving other people can cost us time and money. Loving other people can cause us to travel to frightening places and spend time with frightening people. Loving other people can result in us being with “others” when we would rather be with “our own.”
For children of God, is loving other people a command or an option? Mark 12:31 answers that question for us. And that love for others is to be demonstrated by doing and sharing, not just talking and preaching. It expects us to love individuals, as well as groups.
Such love is impossible for us to achieve and maintain unless we are Spirit-filled and Spirit-led. The “filling” will provide us with the desire to love and the “led” will show us how to love. When we feel we are unable to do either of these we need to emulate the love of Jesus and daily choose the life-style described in I Corinthians 13:4-7.
If, for some reason, we want to measure the extent of our love, we need to go to that passage and substitute our own name for the word “love.” (Go ahead and try it. I’ll wait.) Isn’t it wonderful to know that even though we don’t yet love like Jesus does, He loves us anyway and the Holy Spirit will continue to teach us.
It is the king's right to command and the servant's duty to obey. Why was Jesus born a king? Because His father owned the kingdom. Obedience must be attitude as well as actions. I must be as willing to serve God as I am to worship Him. Partial obedience to God is disobedience to God. If I become more like God I will behave more like Jesus. I am not a great servant of God, but I am the servant of a great God. Obedience to God, without a close relationship to God, produces Pharisees. God's future blessings to me depend largely on how much I have shared His past blessings. It is more important that we talk to God than about God.