I remember some years ago reading or hearing a story about a missing cat. The cat’s owner looked for weeks for their beloved cat. They had lost hope when one day while doing some yardwork, they heard a faint meow coming from the crawl space vent openings under the house. The couple rushed to the door access to see if this was their missing cat making a plea for help. Sure enough, their beloved cat had somehow been trapped underneath the house this entire time. They could only think their precious little kitty had wandered underneath the house when the HVAC man came to do his annual inspection and maintenance several weeks back. Their cat must have been locked in behind him.
The cat was thin and boney. How it survived for over 4 weeks under the house is a miracle. The couple was filled with remorse for not thinking to look underneath the house as they rushed the cat into the cool indoors. They immediately put down fresh water and a huge bowl of food. The cat however, would not eat. Instead, the cat was frantically rubbing up against them for affection and love… which it was receiving. In fact, it continued to want to just be close to its owners and would not eat or drink. The precious little kitty just wanted to be with its owners and be loved. After almost an hour of this, the cat finally stopped to eat and drink, but only if the owners remained in the room.
This almost starved and dehydrated cat was more concerned about basking in the presence of the two people it loved, more than it desired food and water. It was satisfied being in their presence.
I wonder if we have experienced that kind of relationship with God Almighty. A relationship where our greatest desire is to just be in the presence of the Lord through private prayer. The kind of quiet and secret prayer time with God that leaves you longing for more and more of it. Or maybe, it is in your Bible reading when His Word literally grabs hold of you and you experience God revelation. The kind of God revelation that gives you a greater understanding of God and His purposes.
But the sad truth, too often we are too busy asking God to do something for us and or give us something. Unlike the cat, who longed to bask in the presence of its owners not concerned with food or water; we can be the complete opposite focusing more on the gift than the giver.
Listen to the results of being in the presence of the Lord found in the Bible. And let me be clear, not in the emotional sense, but in the life changing intimate sense.
You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalms 16:11)
Oh, how great is Your goodness, Which You have laid up for those who fear You, Which You have prepared for those who trust in You In the presence of the sons of men! 20 You shall hide them in the secret place of Your presence from the plots of man; You shall keep them secretly in a pavilion From the strife of tongues. (Psalms 31:19-20 NKJV)
The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart and saves such as have a contrite spirit. 19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the LORD delivers him out of them all. (Psalms 34:18-19 NKJV)
God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. (Psalms 46:1 NKJV)
Serve the LORD with gladness; Come before His presence with singing. 3 Know that the LORD, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. 4 Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him and bless His name. 5 For the LORD is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations. (Psalms 100:2-5 NKJV)
Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? 9 If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. (Psalms 139:7-8 NKJV)
And He said, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” (Exodus 33:14 NKJV)
The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. 19 He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He also will hear their cry and save them. (Psalms 145:18-19 NKJV)
Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the LORD, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon. (Isaiah 55:6-7 NKJV)
The eyes of the LORD are in every place, Keeping watch on the evil and the good. (Proverbs 15:3 NKJV)
There is a peace that cannot be described in the presence of the Lord Almighty. There is a security that surpasses circumstance found in the Lord Almighty. There is a rest that strengthens the soul in the Lord Almighty. There is everlasting joy found in the presence of the Lord Almighty. If you have not discovered this truth for life, will you pray this prayer with me. Father God, will You come into my life today as I pray and seek You. You have promised in Your Word, “When you seek Me and seek Me with all your heart, I will be found by you,” declares the Lord (Jeremiah 29:13). Let me come into Your presence and experience the life change, peace, security and everlasting joy that is found in knowing You and being in Your presence. Let me make studying Your Word part of my daily task and not for habit or tradition, but to know You and understand Your ways more. Forgive me for neglecting the importance of my relationship to the You the God of the Universe. Forgive me of wrong, trespass and sin in my life and let me know that in this moment as I discover the Joy of knowing You. Amen
I find myself guilty of this mentality more often than not. It is so easy to get focused and stay on task (often the wrong task), that I lose sight of the big picture; that is, my time with God… my relationship with God. The most important part of my life is the time I spend with a holy God in the secret place of prayer and devotion to His word. It brings me the greatest solace in a world of chaos. To sit and basked in the Lord’s presence and find security that brings my heart and mind calm.
In Haggai, chapter 1, the message speaks to me about the temple I am to be to God who longs to live in me through His Holy Spirit. That may seem strange to some, but the God of the universe wants such connection with you; He desires to live within your heart. Jesus stated He must leave for the promised Counselor to come (John 15:5-15). What an appropriate description for the Holy Spirit. When we invite Jesus into our lives, He sends the Holy Spirit to lead and guide our lives in every aspect. To help us to navigate through live in a way that reveals to those witnessing, Christ in us and to bring God the Father glory.
Think of this passage as it refers to you specifically as the temple of the Lord (your relationship and walk with the Lord).
Here are the words of the Lord through the prophet Haggai in Chapter 1:2-11:
2 This is what the lord Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come for the Lord’s house to be built.’”
3 Then the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai:
4 Is it time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?”
5 Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways.
6 You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”
7 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways.
8Go up into the mountain and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the Lord.
9 You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the Lord Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house.
10 Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops.
11 I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the oil and whatever the ground produces, on men and cattle, and on the labor of your hands.”
We get so caught up in the busyness of living a temporary life, we give no mind to forever. We focus our lives on making a life in the physical, we seldom look at the spiritual. It is easy when you can attain what can be seen, but the unseen is eternal. Procrastination is human nature. “Tomorrow” or “One day I will” are everyday phrases for us. But the Lord Almighty is saying “Today is the day!”
Haggai 1 reveals why we are so unfulfilled, that while we have much we are still found longing. We have focused on the wrong things. “Give careful though to your ways,” (Haggai 1:5). Our physical lives may look good from the outside, but our spiritual person is a ruin (“You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declare the Lord Almighty. “Because of my house which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house,” Haggai1:9).
Look inside. Examine your temple. What condition is it in? Is God pleased with your effort? It is easy to be like the world. To fit in and go along with the flow of this life. It takes intentionality and devotion to walk with the Lord daily. The Lord is looking for a house His Holy Spirit can come into and fix up. Make today the day you begin a whole-hearted devotion to the Lord. Make today the day you find fulfillment for this life and the next in and through the Lord.
“Acknowledge the God of your father, and serve Him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches the heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake him, He will reject you forever. Consider now, for the Lord has chosen you to build a temple as a sanctuary. Be strong and do the work.” 1 Chronicles 28:9-10
Every single one of us is looking for comfort. We are all looking for security in this life. A place of solace. We work hard to make homes with walls. We then work to fill those homes with things that soothe us and project to those who might see, who we are and what we’re all about. Or maybe, we look for that balance in our work. Maybe… we’re making a difference. Or maybe we are looking for that peace in busyness. Never stopping to feel the pain or see the truth coming. And the truth is… it’s all a security blanket. It is a false sense of hope that only last for the moment you’re in.
Spending time in God’s Word this morning in the Book of Psalm I stumbled upon a familiar passage that spoke loudly into the ear of my heart.
We all want more… and the fact of the matter is, many of us don’t know why the big empty of our lives is never filled with the accumulation of things. We’re still looking… looking for happiness… for the spark… for that something that makes us whole and brings us peace.
Verse 4 expresses a peace and satisfaction I know I long for that this world… possessions… achievement… fame… all that is temporary can never provide me. I think many of you may feel the exact same way. It is very much like the U2 song, “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.” We feel the terror of life without hope. We hold fear of the unknown in our hearts.
The God of the Bible provides not only a way back to His presence through the life, death and resurrection of His One and Only Son. He also provides a satisfaction, a peace and a delight in His presence that cannot be expressed by words.
The Lord is my light and salvation – whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?
When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh,
When my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall.
Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear;
Though war break out against me, even then will I be confident.
One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
To gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple.
For in the day of trouble He will keep me save in His dwelling;
He will hide me in the shelter of His tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.
Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me;
At His tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord.
Hear my voice when I call, O Lord; be merciful to me and answer me.
My heart says of you, “Seek His face!”
Your face, Lord, I will seek.
Do not hide Your face from me, do not turn Your servant away in anger; You have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, O God my Savior.
Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.
Teach me your way, O Lord; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors.
Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me,
Breathing out violence.
I am still confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.
My Prayer: Lord, I pray for a longing for nothing else but to know your presence in my life this day and every day that follows. Let my hearts cry be to seek Your face and to know you more, so that I would find my hope, my satisfaction, my peace, my desire, my all and all in You and You alone. Amen.
There is so much turmoil brewing in this country. There is a lot of turmoil in the world. And no this is not some gloom and doom column. Just hang out with me for a short read. I don’t know about you, but I almost don’t want to turn on the news anymore. It really isn’t news anymore, well good news. In fact, recent polls show at least 90% of all news reported is negative. It is no wonder our world view is such a negative one.
The world around us is creating an environment of fear. Don’t think me naïve to believe there are no threats in our lives, because there are many threats out there. However, if all that we consume is negative and depressed information; what can we expect to come from our lives? If all I put into my head is negative and destructive thinking, I can expect my life actions to echo what I am putting into my mind.
What you believe in your heart and mind will be lived out by your life actions. What you put in is what comes out. So, if you are still hanging out with me in this short read, I want to challenge you to make up your mind and change your thinking. Stop putting negative thoughts into your mind! Stop letting your life be led by fear and instead let your life be led by hope.
Now a better hope has been given to us. That hope brings us near to God. Hebrews 7:19
One thing I know which has been perverted is the gospel. The gospel is good news. The gospel is positive and wonderful news. And I know you’re thinking, “here it is,” someone is trying to sell me this Jesus stuff! And your right! But, I am not trying to get you to change your behavior. I am trying to get you to change your belief.
I want you to believe in something that is good. I want you to believe in something that is pleasing. I want you to believe in something that is perfect. Something that will change your life forever! Something that gives you hope and not just hope for today, but a hope that will last! This hope is not from a government, or from an institution or from anything that’s short-lived in this world. Instead this hope is from a source your life can depend on.
The beauty of the gospel for too long has been distorted leaving many without a hope. Why? Because it has been distorted with judgement and legalism. As a result, a religion has been created that many have turned from and others don’t want. That is not God! God wants to offer you mercy and grace over His judgement.
Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:13
We need to change the way we think and look to the God of the Universe as the hope of the world.
The challenge for you and I is not to buy into the lies of this world or fall in-line with what is happening around us. When we do we lose hope, and buy into a temporary outlook. We are then forced to respond from a reactionary and threatenedpoint of view, which takes us further down a hopeless path. Instead, look at the beauty of the good news God has provided. The beauty of the gospel is that a new Hope has been given to us and that Hope brings us nearer to God.
Don’t live the way this world lives. Let your way of thinking be completely changed. Then you will be able to test what God wants for you. And you will agree that what He wants is right. His plan is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2
So, if you are still hanging with me, why not join me in making up your minds to have a new way of thinking? A new thinking that is filled with hope and belief in God. He is the only hope in this world that is worth going after because He is the only hope rooted in perfect love.
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. John 4:7-8
You are not going to find your hope in the news, the government, a cause or anything in this world that is lasting. You will find an eternal hope in the God of the Universe Who has provided you a new Hope which brings you nearer to him. So, why not try God!
The words of the Bible ring clear in the mist of the culture of the world today. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things” (Romans 1:18-23).
“And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them” (Romans 1:28-32).
There are two points I want to make. When morality is based on what we think, rather than on what a righteous God has decreed; the result in reality is immorality. There is an open and even deliberate rejection of God and anything holy. Somehow, we think we know what is best for us. We know better than our creator Who in His great wisdom and understanding left for us a book which is the prescription for life. This prescription for life, the Bible we reject. And maybe not directly, but when we don’t spend time reading and learning from it on a regular basis, rejection is what we do by omission! The Bible provides for us the moral will of God. His moral will is clearly laid out in this Book of wisdom. There is no real morality unless it is taken from a Biblical standard.
Those of us who follow Christ also share blame for the condition of the world around us. We have conformed our thinking to the world’s. We have failed to confront sin. In fact, we have failed to even call sin sin. We have participated in the downward spiral by living lives that resemble Christ’s in the smallest ways. We are not salty and very little is being preserved. We are to be light in the world, but our light is dim or hidden.
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:13-16).
God’s Spirit resides in the heart of the people that are called the body of Christ… the Church. So, when the church remains silent, there is no restraint. When there is no restraint, anything goes! Anything can go as normal or whatever culture deems as normal. “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).
I believe it is time for us to live out the words of 2 Chronicles 7:14: “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
Today, will you examine the level of salt and light in your life? Does your life save and preserve? Are you a light in dark places? Does your life impact those around you for godly purposes? It is only by the help of God we can be these things. He is the God of morality! He is the God of good! He is the God of the world! May we turn back to God and thereby find our hope.
I recall when I was young and trying to find my way. I would end each day staring into the emptiness of a purposeless life. It was haunting and so very vague. I grew up in a Christian home… well, a home of Christian tradition. What I found as I grew older was a not so fulfilling religion. It was hollow and filled with behaviors of goodness, but lacked genuine life change. I must admit it left me jaded. Like so many wanderers looking for answers, mine were not answered through Sunday school, church going or Hell Fire Preaching. I wanted a foundation.
It was my Senior year in High School. We were entering the final days of the school year. After blowing my knee out playing Basketball, I finally gave my leg the attention it needed with surgery and rest. Unfortunately, in the process, I became addicted to prescription pain killers and was popping pills like they were candy. It was May 6thand the last thing I remember was taking some pain killers at the water fountain outside my AP Humanities Class. The next moment I recall, was seeing stars as people surrounded me with tears and panic.
My thoughts were many. “What’s happening?” “Why am I laying in a field by the side of the road?” “Why are these faces looking at me with so much concern?” Then everything goes black… I awoke in the back of an ambulance. The ride was jarring. It almost felt as if I were broken in pieces. I could feel every bump and every turn. It was painful. And why couldn’t I breathe? It was such a struggle to breathe. I felt panic coming again and as it did the lights began to fade into blackness once more.
The next time I wake up, I am on a very cold table. The lights are so bright. “What is happening?”I hear a fury of voices, but my body is numb. I must be in the hospital. Some hours later, I was ina darker room surrounded by machines and beeping. The pain was overwhelming. I just wanted to die. But, in that moment I remembered the game I had been playing with my life. Remembering my church upbringing, the thought of hell literally scared me more than dying. So, while in a fog of pain meds; I asked God to forgive me of the fence riding I had been doing. I came clean and admitted I didn’t know what I was doing and or what life was about, but I wanted God to just forgive me and let me die. Strange, in a moment like that some would say, “if you’re praying to God, why not ask Him to heal you?” I recognized I didn’t deserve grace. I realized I was a punk kid who lived for the moment and himself forgetting about the consequences. Well, that is… until it counted. And I was more concerned with facing a judging God, than I was concerned about asking for healing.
However, what I found was a merciful God. Several days later I woke up and with very different perspective. I was told I shouldn’t have made it through the first night due to extensive internal injuries I received in a very serious car accident. Apparently, I was sent flying from my car through the rear hatch and some 40 feet in the air into a telephone pole. The doctors told me it was miracle I was alive.
I now had a different perspective… “I am here for a purpose, let’s find out why!” In a dark hospital room with me wanting to die, God reached down to where I was and provided an answer for my request. LIFE and even PURPOSE! We live aimless lives trapped from awareness because we don’t seek the God who made it all. It was clear to me right there when it counted I would meet my creator. I didn’t want to meet Him having wasted this short life on myself. He created us with purpose and for His joy. I came to find as I hope you do, I could not find my purpose apart from the one who created me. My purpose and your purpose are always tied to the One Who made all things. Don’t get detoured in life because of ignorance. I did, but by His grace I woke up.
Colossians 1:16 For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him.
Acts 17:28 For in him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.'
In the Exodus story of the Hebrew people exiting Egypt and leaving a life of slavery, time and time again they allowed fear to cause them to forget God’s involvement with them. When they came to a roadblock in their journey, they forgot how God had demonstrated His power and glory in setting them free. How God had led them Himself through the desert by a column of smoke by day and a column of fire by night. How God had parted the Red Sea, so they could escape their captors on dry land. They forgot how God provided life-giving water when the only water they found in the desert was stagnate. They forgot how God came through repeatedly. I think a lot it has to do with how they prayed.
In Exodus chapter 33, there is this moment of prayer. Moses starts his prayer in verse 12 with a thankfulness of what God has done for the Hebrew people and himself. He then asks God to show Moses His ways. God responds to Moses by simply saying, “My presence shall go with you and I will give you rest”(Exodus 33:14).
I think a lot of us can relate with this. We pray to God for a specific answer and God answers us like He answers Moses in Exodus 33:14. It’s not the answer Moses wants.
So, Moses makes another request in verse 15 and 16. “If Your presence does not go [with me], do not lead us up from here. 16 For how then can it be known that Your people and I have found favor in Your sight? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we are distinguished, Your people and I, from all the [other] people on the face of the earth?”
And God responds again to Moses with an answer in verse 17 Moses doesn’t want and maybe doesn’t understand. God’s response is, “I will also do this thing that you have asked; for you have found favor in My sight and I have known you personally by name.”
Moses, like us, is asking for something from God. God responds with something entirely different. I think it is important we understand when we pray to God, we pray from our perspective. We are looking for answers or something from God through our eyes. But what God has in mind is so much bigger, in fact, what He desires is holy, righteous and ultimately for our good.
In that second request, Moses wants confirmation from God, he and the people have found favor in God’s eyes. It boils down to being a security thing. We do that with God too! We try to pull the “If, then” thing with God. Moses tried it and now he decides He is going to change the direction of his prayer to God. In verse 18, Moses now asks God, “Please show me Your glory!”God grants this request and things change. God allows Moses to see His goodness and proclaims the Name of the Lord before Him. However, He protects Moses by not allowing him to see His face because no one can see the face of God and live.
In the next chapter, we see how things change and turnaround. In Exodus 34, starting at verse 6, an exchange takes place between God and Moses. But this time, God speaks first.
God reveals His goodness and declares the following in verses 6 and 7: “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; 7 keeping mercy and lovingkindness for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin; but He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, avenging the iniquity (sin, guilt) of the fathers….”
Moses responds with humility in verse 8 and 9. “Moses bowed to the earth immediately and worshiped [the Lord]. 9 And he said, “If now I have found favor and lovingkindness in Your sight, O Lord, let the Lord, please, go in our midst, though it is a stiff-necked (stubborn, rebellious) people, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us as Your possession.”
The difference this time and the important thing for us to gather from this exchange is now Moses’ prayer is shaped by what God has said. The object of Moses’ prayer changed from being an answer, a specific want or specific need; to being focused on God Himself. It is important we understand our prayers should be shaped around God Himself and or what God has said. It will change your life! Try praying for God in your life, not stuff and things and see how your life will change for the good.
There are moments in life when there is no hope and you are left with feelings of helplessness and despair. We’ve all faced those moments. Just a couple of weeks ago, my family and I were caught in a rip current as we were enjoying a late afternoon swim in the ocean as we so often do. About 45 minutes into our time, my cousin joined us in the water. We were standing in waist to chest high water, so there was no reason for concern. It was quite enjoyable, but then I heard my daughter who was about 10 feet from me loudly exclaim she could no longer stand and was struggling. Being just a few feet away and not being able to touch bottom, I realized she was probably in a rip current. I called out to my cousin for help and went for her. As soon as I stepped where she was, it was as if a rope had been tied to my leg pulling me under and out. I could see why she was struggling.
I have been in rip currents before, but today posed a different scenario… my kids were with me. As I reached out to my daughter, I made a quick move to toss her to my cousin. At which point, I lost my grip with the sandy bottom and was pulled out. I watched with anxiety as the distance between my daughter and I grew quickly. I could see my cousin begin to struggle as well and he began calling out for help. Thankfully, my son made it to my daughter as she was beginning to panic.
I tried with all I had to get back to them, but it was useless. I knew what I had to do, but my kids were in trouble. My cousin was in trouble. There is nothing to describe the feeling of helplessness as I watched from a growing distance my kids struggle. I realized I could either fight to get to them and drown from fatigue or I could do what I knew to do, float, rest and wait it out. If I choose the latter, I could at least talk to them, remind them what do to. So, that’s what I did. I repeatedly yelled to them, “Don’t fight it, just float, rest and let it carry you until it pushes you out and back in. I was ok with it until I didn’t hear them anymore.
The distance grew too great. I couldn’t see or hear my kids. It was at that moment, fear gripped me. “Did my kids go under and drown? Where are they? I don’t see them! Oh God, where are my kids? Did they drown?”
As I floated on my back and looked up to the sky, a calm came over me as I remembered the passage for my sermon the next day found in Exodus 3 verses 7-8.
The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heardthem crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them…
I began to pray aloud. “God save my kids. God save my kids. I know You see us in trouble, I know You hear my prayers… Please save my kids Lord!”
I didn’t know what was happening or where my kids were, so I continued to repeat that prayer again and again. I knew my God in heaven could see our troubles, I knew He could hear my cries for help, I knew He was concerned for us and I knew He could come down and rescue us.
It was a trying ordeal for sure, but God saw us through. After a real scare and test of faith, we all were safe back on the beach. I have reflected many times on that day. It breaks my heart to know that in moments like that, many do not have the hope of Christ our family has. To find calm in a moment of prayer to a God that listens and we know is ready and willing to rescue as Scripture states, provides such peace. When things got hairy and we did not know what was going to happen, we all apart from each other began to pray to God Who is our hope.
I pray for all to find the Hope of Christ. In times of your need, God is there and willing. He wants to rescue His creation if only we would trust Him enough to cry out to Him. Today, I encourage you to make Christ the hope for your life.
Why Jesus? Why did He come from heaven to earth a long time ago? Why did He come and live among us and die in our place? When we consider most of the world is moving away from the God of the universe because of religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, many others and simply no religion; it begs the question, “why would the all-knowing God come to earth in the person of Jesus Christ?”
John 3:16 and Matthew 5:17 paint a picture of what God is doing through His Son:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 ESV
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Matthew 5:17 ESV
These passages set up the fact God not only wants to sacrifice His Son to meet a requirement we never could, but also give us the reward of His meeting that requirement. Then why not just give us the reward? Why go through all the trouble of being born, living a hard life, dying a terrible death and then being resurrected?
There are many passages that speak of a glorious inheritance God has prepared. Ephesians 1:18 (ESV) quotes, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance…”
Let’s say you have an uncle and he is a very rich man. He has decided to include you in his will and leave you a monetary trust as an inheritance. Your uncle has chosen to do this because you are in good standing with him. You met a requirement he had for you as a nephew or niece. Maybe you were obedient and genuinely loved your uncle. This love for your uncle was easily seen in your actions and words toward him. As a result, you will receive an inheritance, but only after your uncle has passed away. At the time of his death his will, will be executed and sometime thereafter you will receive the inheritance he has promised to you.
With God, no one has met the requirement He had established. Romans 3:23 (ESV) states, “All of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.” So, God in His wisdom and never failing grace had a plan. He would step out of heaven, come to us, live with us, hurt with us, suffer with us and ultimately die for us. Jesus would be the fulfilment of the requirement that was necessary to gain the inheritance of God.
The crazy thing is… He lived a perfect life: no mistakes, no screw ups, no bad words, no drugs, no hypocrisy, no lies, NO SIN! He did this and could have taken the reward for himself, but instead he died a criminal’s death for you. He did the work and we get the reward.
You see, for there to be an inheritance; someone had to earn it and someone had to die. That was God’s plan executed through the life, death and resurrection of His Son.
So, here we are with the questions: Why did He come from heaven to earth a long time ago? Why did He come and live among us and die in our place?
The simple answer is You! He came for you! He came for me! He came for us! As a result, Jesus can make the statement He makes in John 14:6 (ESV) when He says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
Jesus is the only One who came for us!
This Easter, instead of asking how Jesus can be the only way, we should be joyful someone loves us enough that He came to where we are and sacrificed Himself for us. He loves us enough to pass on an inheritance we did not earn and we don’t deserve. This love of God is so true, He even has given us the freedom to choose Him or not.
We live in such a divisive world. We see politics and religion play such a significant role in many of our lives, causing a divide like not seen before. We see this in homes, workplaces, social spaces and even in church. Ultimately no one wins. We are a broken people, a broken nation. There are so many groups, so many divisions, so many parties and so many causes. These factions have their own agenda and most causing disunity. We’ve made it about issues and what must be and what must not, according to a lower standard… ours!
We fight amongst ourselves. Friends turn against friends and family against family. And truly, when it is all said and done and we move into forever; will it have mattered? Would it have been worth all the heartache and pain caused to each other? Do these issues and earthly concerns matter from an eternal point of view? Don’t misunderstand this outlook for one of disregard for our current concerns or situations, that we should do nothing nor participate. No, one must simply weigh the causes we participate in and decisions we make from a more eternal perspective and then act accordingly.
When Jesus stepped out of heaven a long time ago and left His throne to be born in a humble manger; something very significant happened that is so overlooked. God in the person of Jesus Christ, stepped over to the other side. He could have stayed in heaven and just took on an attitude much like we do today when we don’t agree with someone. We tend to become indignant towards others and their point of view. We don’t engage constructively to listen, but instead we shout louder and tune each other out.
Unlike us, God came to where we were. He stepped over to the other side to engage. He humbled Himself to reach out to us. In our broken condition, He came to hear our hearts, to offer a message of hope, to offer healing, to offer a relationship like never before between God and His creation… to offer reconciliation we didn’t deserve.
In the Bible, 2nd Corinthians Chapter 5 tells us in verse 14 Christ’s love compels us. It goes on in verse 16 to tell us because of Christ’s love we should not think of anyone like everyone else, instead we should look at everyone from God’s point of view. What does that mean to us? The God of the World, who wants for nothing and can conjure anything just by speaking, desires relationship with you. He proved it by leaving heaven to come to our side. By doing so, God knocked the wall down and bridged the gap we created through our rebellion and hard hearts to make room, an opportunity for reconciliation through forgiveness He did not have to give. He looked at us with compassion and love. We should do the same for each other.
My hope is we can begin to follow the example God has given us through the life of His Son. Maybe we can take on that attitude and be the first to bridge the gap in someone’s life, to offer hope and an opportunity for healing. If we can just stop and think from a forever perspective, our outlook just might change and we might have the opportunity to impact others in positive way with the same love God demonstrates towards us.
Jesus brought that message of hope with Him when He left heaven to come over to our side a long time ago. That message of hope is still available for us today. It still changes people! This Easter, follow the example of Jesus and change your perspective and make a difference in your life and in the lives of others.
14 For Christ’s love compels us…. 16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin[b] for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2nd Corinthians 14,16, 17, 18-21
The chaos of today's politics is the maturing of what began when man rejected God and chose a king over God. The Scriptures explain that with the coronation of a king in the place of God, man would lose a portion of the fruit of his labor and his liberties (1 Samuel 8:10-18). Do you realize how much richer and better off we would be if God were king? How much more free we would be?
Instead the nation of Israel begin a tradition that has evolved into what has become politics today for the world. When we let God rule our lives, we are in the best hands. The Creator of the Universe has designed things to work a specific way. When we go against that design, chaos ensues. Hence, the condition of the world today!!! Now that things are maturing, we are seeing things degrade quickly. This coming election is not just about who is President of the United States, it is more about who is king of your life.
In Isaiah, we see a pattern when kings of God's people leaned on other countries for protection and alliances, rather than on God. Each time they chose man, they paid dearly. And not because God was punishing them, but because they had to deal with the consequences of their choice. The very, very few times they chose to rely on God, they saw miracles accomplished that only could be done by the Hand of God. When we trust God and His promises, He is faithful! Unlike us...
Ultimately, the nation of Israel chose man and lost their freedom and their country. They were held in captivity for 70 years. Finally, when they were released; the people and the country of Israel would never be the same.
Through history, we see man repeat the same mistakes over and over again. Choosing wrong and paying the price. Today, we continue to choose wrong and if we continue to choose wrong, we will continue to lose our freedoms and ultimately our country... repeating the pattern of history.
This is not a push for any candidate, as neither meet the standard when it comes to the requirements of Holiness... in fact, none of us meet God's requirements of Holiness. Each and all of us have fallen short. And that is why God sent His Son into this world. This is a push for God! Again, this coming election is not just about who is President of the United States, it is more about who is king of your life. Who to your trust? Who will be faithful to you? With that, we need to consider the condition of our nation and how it got there... without God! With that, consider how we can change that... with God. What we need is God as King!!!
What matters more than who has been in the White House the last 8 years and who will be in the White House for the next 4 years is who is on the throne of your heart!
1 Samuel 8:10-18 10 Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. 12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers.14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 16 Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”
I was asked the other day, "What is your church doing for Pastor Appreciation Month?" My answer, "Nothing!" Perplexed, another question came regarding another tradition of the recent church, "What about Homecoming, when is that planned?" My replied, "Never!" Even more perplexed, I now had the attention of the person asking because their response to my answers was, "I don't think I would like your church."
Obviously that response saddens my heart and for those of you reading this, let me give some explanation to why I am not wrapped up in doing those things. First of all, being a pastor/minister is not my job; there is calling on my life to be in this role and while I ran from it for some time, I have embraced the position God has put me in. I don't do it for appreciation or adoration. Yes, I need to be able to support my family and yes I am paid a salary. I am extremely thankful for God's provision because there was a time I was not paid or if I were, it was very little. My point regarding this matter is this; our attention, our adoration, and appreciation should be directed to our Lord. I don't want to be a distraction to that because I want an envelope of money, a vacation cruise get-away or even the adoration and praise of my congregation. Moreover, I don't want to be elevated to a position above that of my Lord. I am merely the steward of the flock, God is the owner. Therefore, I had better take care of this task His way because I will have to give an account.
Now for the matter of Homecoming and all other traditions we have in the church. There was a time I was caught up in the fanfare of the things we do in church and I did look forward to them. I recalled all the effort and time that went into planning these events, that sometimes would be scheduled months in advance. I remember the focus and money that would go into making it a "Big" to do. Committees were formed whose sole purpose was planning and organization of these events. These are all find things and I don't want to sound like I am offended by it all... but I am. As I grow older and seek to know God more intimately and strive to do want He wants ("not my will, by yours" attitude), I am offended by anything that would distract me or anyone who claims the name of Christ from the one thing that He commanded of all of His followers. "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you"( Matthew 28:19-20).
Maybe we get so caught up in the traditions we have created because it make us feel better about doing church, instead of doing the Gospel. Maybe disobedience to the Great Commission is easier when we feel we are doing busy work for the kingdom God never asked us to do. Yes, it is true these things may be appealing to a lot of people, but I am not in it for what people like, I am in it for what God wants. I don't want to be part of the distortion or the distraction that prevents the Gospel from going forward. Now before you think I am speaking high and mighty, let me throw this out; I have not always got it right when it comes to the Gospel. I have been caught up in many things we do in church that have nothing to do with the Gospel. I now test everything against God's Word. If it lines up keep it up, if it doesn't...bye, bye! There are so many things happening inside of our gatherings that have absolutely nothing to do with the Gospel. Don't get me wrong, I don't want to sound legalistic; but the truth is, the things we do so often keep the very people we are trying to reach from being reached. Church can look more like a club than a place for the broken and hurting.
Another point we need to be careful of, is the complete opposite of tradition. We now see a growing trend of new more modern, contemporary churches appealing to the masses with a cool and relevant model. These new "contemporary" churches seem to be going against the grain of traditionalism and that's not necessarily a bad thing as want to reach as many people with the Gospel as possible. However, both seem to have their own set of traditions. The more I see what the church has been and is becoming, the more I realize both models are filled with idolatry. We do things in church services and outside that we can't live without. The only thing we should not be able to live without is God, not a particular model of how we think we should things in our gatherings.
So, what are we teaching those watching, particularly our children. Are we raising the next generation of complacency or a generation that will stand for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and go share it? Test everything and see how it lines up with God's Word. Then ask whether or not it furthers the purpose of the Gospel. Ask if it fulfills the Great Commission? Whatever you settle on, make sure it the Gospel that Jesus died for you to have, and the Gospel He commanded you to share.
I get a lot of push back on the subject and I am sure this post may cause a few waves, but that okay if it creates a healthy discussion on the topic. We are currently in a series on God's Spirit (Holy Spirit). This series has created some good discussion as we gain a better understanding of the most often neglected and/or mis-represented part of the Holy Trinity. One discussion has been on worship and what does real worship look like? This is an excellent questions, but before we start looking at potential answers; let's start by asking some other questions.
Have you ever been frustrated when on a Sunday morning the best "so called" worshipers leave church and live a very un-Christian life the remainder of the week? What does singing a song have to do with worship? And if we have a good worship time at church, does it impact every other part of our lives?
Please do not misunderstand me, I am not diminishing the importance of this part of our service or even downplaying it. However, when we have a better understanding of what we are and are not doing, it helps us to move into a deeper place with God.
This part of a service to me is a celebration as we praise God for all that He is, what is doing and what He will be doing in our lives. God deserves our praise and adoration. He is God and has provided His Son Jesus as an atonement for our sins. That alone and nothing else deserve our praise. In Luke 19:40, Jesus makes this statement..."if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out." So, praise to our God is a very important part of what we do. Worship holds an even more important part.
One of my favorite Scriptures is Romans 12:1-2. This Scripture gives a very true interpretation of what worship to God should look like. "Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God--this is your true and proper worship."
Your life... Ahhhh... That's how we worship God, through our lives. Our lives are to be a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God... This is YOUR TRUE AND PROPER WORSHIP. My take on that Scripture goes like this, "Because Jesus intentionally died for me, I will intentionally live for Him." And that doesn't just mean when it is easy or convenient to be a Christian, but every moment of my life. In all honesty, I wish I could say I get it right a 100% of the time. The truth is... all have sinned and all have fallen short of the glory of God. That includes me. So, by no means am I placing myself on a pedestal, but thank God for His grace.
When we put so much focus on something that we call worship on Sunday and downplay what we are supposed to do the rest of week, it is no wonder we stumble. When there is more emphasis on a small part of our worship experience like singing songs and less on living for Christ, we find ourselves in trouble. Real Worship is how you live your daily life. Sunday is a celebration of God we do corporately, but it does not take the place of sacrificial living for God. That happens moment by moment. On a side note, I believe when we examine our life actions and decisions on moment by moment basis; we do a better job of living a life that is holy and pleasing to God.
So what would worship service look like on Sunday's if there were no music? Hmmmm... Let's celebrate and praise our God together... corporately... and let's let our lives be the worship He deserves. A life lived in the reflection of His glory, mirroring Jesus Christ!
We are living in a world that has lost something so important. It is obvious when you look around at the depravity taking place, we have lost something. We have lost something very important, something that is needed to keep us from driving over the edge. We have lost our identity.
Looking at the news recently and the hype around a certain person and the change they have made to themselves is very concerning. While media and advocates shout aloud about self identity and letting people be who they were meant to be... we overlook the fact, they have actually lost themselves.
What you see happening in the world around us is simply what happens when people reject the image they were created in... "Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” Genesis 1:26.
We are created in God's image. When we reject that image and look to other places to satisfy that lose, we are lost ourselves. Nothing, absolutely nothing can fill that void except for Christ. When we reject the image of Christ in our lives, what replaces it can be scary, fake, temporary, ingenues, etc., and the result is a want for something more because we are never satisfied. And further we fall into decay and a reprobate mind as we look to all the wrong sources for our wholeness and completion ("Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done..." Romans 1:28).
Only one thing can satisfy... His name is Jesus the Christ. "For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring." Acts 17:28
So without him how do we live? How do we have our being? We can't! We are meant to be His... "For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him." Colossian 1:16
If you reject the image you were created in... you lose your identity!
Paul is a Christ Follower. He has been married to his beautiful wife Rebecca for twenty-four years. They have two beautiful children, a dog, two cats and a turtle. They love being together as a family and doing the adventure that is ministry. They love the outdoors and enjoying God's creation.