Tuesday, November 24, 2015

In Everything, Give Thanks...

"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”  Colossians 3:16-17 ESV

A couple of years ago, I went on a missions trip to Haiti with several people from Northwood Community Bible Church, as well as people from other churches in different parts of the country.  Many of us were making the trip for the first time, while others were on their second or third return visit to the island.  Across the entire group, there was a sense of excitement and anticipation. 

As we arrived in Port au Prince and made our way out of the airport into the bustling streets, the sights, sounds, smells, and warmth of the tropical environment hit us in stark contrast to the cold winter snows we left behind.  Haiti is at once a place of great beauty and devastation.  The survivors of the major earthquake that struck the island several years ago have found ways to live and make the best of it, though they live amongst peril and deprivation.  In many cases, the adaptations they have employed are simple, pragmatic ingenuity.

In the market place, I saw women who were selling food graters made from repurposed license plates.  I saw necklaces made from plastic bottles that were cut into strips, rolled up and melted over a fire to form beads.  Another man worked with long boards that he was milling with a hand saw.  Everywhere people were using what they had available to them to make the best of a difficult situation.  

And that’s when it hit me.  I thought about the many resources around me that might otherwise be considered junk, but now seemed to take on a new perspective.  I was filled with an appreciation for things that I had previously overlooked.  I know that God has blessed me in so many ways, and I am thankful for that, but when I consider how even the things we throw away would be considered treasure by so much of the world, it blows me away.  I think it is this kind of realization that makes Colossians 3:17 a realistic instruction, “…do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”  

This Thanksgiving, you will have an opportunity to sit back and take a look at all of the blessings God has given to you, and give Him a sincere offering of gratitude.  Instead of looking at the blessings of others, or giving in to the temptation to grumble about the things you lack, make it your goal to give thanks to the God who has given you every blessing you currently enjoy.  

“...whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things”… and give thanks.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Whatsoever is True...

…whatsoever is true…” Philippians 4:8

“What is truth?”  Do you remember which famous Bible character asked this question?  Here is a clue, his question arose while he was interrogating the most famous man in history.  If you guessed Pontius Pilate, you were right.  Pilate shot off this question in an almost sarcastic manner, after Jesus made a peculiar claim.

When Pilate asked Jesus if He was really a king, Jesus responded by saying that He was indeed a king, and He went on to describe the essence of His purpose in coming to earth.  He said, "You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”  Pilate seems to dodge this claim by doubting the very definition of truth, but his dodge is not successful.  Jesus’ assertion that He is truth, and that everyone of the truth hears Him, remains strong to this day.

Truth seems hard to come by these days.  Between advertising and political campaigns, false information and conspiracy theories, it is a great challenge to get our hands on something that we can rest assured is true.  This is no more prevalent in today’s American society than in the area of morality.  More and more, people seem to seek to define for themselves what is moral, and what is not.  Ultimately, these moral systems only work when they are in line with God’s declared morality, and when they oppose God they utterly fail.  

Christian author and apologist, Ravi Zacharias, speaks on the matter of understanding truth in a culture that has exchanged its value for propositional statements (truth claims) for a new priority on images and icons.  That is to say, we have moved from believing in over-arching truth, and replaced it with entertaining images.  He quotes poet William Blake, saying, "This life's dim windows of the soul distorts the heavens from pole to pole, and leads you to believe a lie when you see with, not through, the eye.” [emphasis added].

What a powerful statement!  You and I are souls that look through the windows of the eyes, not merely eyes with no soul! In Philippians 4:8, the apostle Paul’s first admonition to us is to find "whatsoever things are true”, and when we find them, think on these things.  God has been very gracious in showing us His truth in His word, the Bible, and He has been supremely gracious in showing us what truth looks like by taking on human flesh and dying on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins.  And that, my friends, is a grand truth to think about.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Your Dwelling Place

Where do you dwell?  I know you probably have an apartment or a house or some other accommodations where you sleep and spend time on the weekends, but the question is, "where do you dwell?”.  That is to say, where do you spend the majority of your time during the day (or night)?  Do you work in an office, a classroom, behind the counter in a bank or in the cab of a truck or tractor?  Where do you spend your time?  Wherever it is, you most likely have made your mark on that corner of the world, making it your own.  

We outfit our homes with furnishings and decor, our offices with pictures of friends and family, the truck cab might even have an air freshener and favorite set of radio stations.  Wherever we dwell, we tend to invest ourselves and make that space our own, giving it that touch that reflects our individuality.  We allow ourselves to interact with our surroundings in a personal way.  In the same way, the Bible tells us to be careful of the “spaces” in which we allow our minds to dwell.  

Philippians 4:8 says, "Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things.”  It is important to be mindful not only of the things we allow our mind to think about, but where we dwell mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  Can you imagine what it would be like to allow yourself to dwell on the opposites of this list?  Try it on for size- just for a moment:

whatever is false, whatever is undignified, whatever is wrong, whatever is defiled, whatever is grotesque, whatever is repulsive, if anything is poor quality or worthy of derision, think about such things…

Wow!  What a list, and what a thought life that would be!  The unfortunate reality is that there are many who do exactly that, at least in part.  They spend their time with their heads filled with things that are not real, not lovely, not pure, not admirable.  Media, advertising, 24-hour news stations and popular culture tend to be overrun with these qualities.  Social media, and idle conversation promote and further these qualities until they seem to overshadow the existence of truth and beauty.

Just think about how dwelling in such places must interact with our deepest selves at the most intimate levels.  How much needless grief and trouble do we bring on ourselves by not keeping a hand on the reins of our thought life?  An old hymn expresses this thought in this way,  “O, what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer”.  

God’s call is to rein in the mind by filtering our thoughts through constraints that reflect His character.  God is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and worthy of praise!  The God that created us and daily provides every good thing for us, calls us to acknowledge Him, even in the way we manage our thought life.  So, what is beautiful about your life today?  Do you dwell on that beauty, or do you lean toward the brokenness of life?  Is God beautiful to you, and are you directing your thoughts toward Him?  Perhaps your first try at it could be a prayer to ask God to help you “think on these things”.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Taking the Reigns of our Minds

“Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things.”  Philippians 4:8

This familiar passage from the apostle Paul’s letter to the Christian church in Philippi hold within its few words a volume of profound and practical instruction regarding the way we manage our minds.  Living out these instructions will revolutionize the way we look at the world, our families, our churches and our town.  For the next couple of weeks, I would like to take a look at this passage and what it means for our daily lives.

First, the big picture.  The city of Philippi was a busy place with tradesmen and merchants selling their wares, women washing clothes by the riverside, side-show spectacles being performed in the public square.  In the rush of everyday excitement, and out of a pagan culture, God began to call out a group of people for his own.  The apostle Paul came to preach the gospel, and many heard and responded to his message in belief and surrender.  They were touched to hear that a holy God would so love them that He would come to offer them forgiveness and grace.  Their hearts warmed to the call of Jesus to come out from the darkness of their pagan practices and the hustle and bustle of secular life, and they began a new experience following the ways of Jesus.

As you can imagine, this must have been quite a challenging experience.  Their priorities, their list of friends, acceptable behaviors and attitudes…all of it began to change as God graciously showed them how to live in a way that was pleasing to Him.  Sometimes, outward behaviors can be easier to change for the better.  They are easier to recognize when they are wrong, and easier to see when they have been corrected.  More challenging, however, are internal struggles and attitudes that plague our minds and hearts.  So it was with these Philippian believers.  The transformation of their hearts and minds would require self-discipline.  

The first half of Philippians chapter 4 is devoted to Paul’s coaching about how we manage our thought life.  He speaks of “rejoicing in the Lord”, giving thanks, about bringing our concerns to the Lord, and more.  Then in verse eight he lays it on the line.  Paul instructs us to park our minds on things that will bring life to our existence.  Not only are are true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable things nice to think about, they are necessary to keep a healthy perspective on the challenges of life.  More about this in the weeks to come.

For now, here is what we need to know.  Our thought lives are NOT outside of our control.  God has granted us an ability and opportunity to assertively take the reigns of our thoughts and cause them to run on a positive path.  We do this not just for our benefit or to bless those around us, we do it to honor the creator God who gave us creative and intuitive minds- minds that are capable of great beauty, great ingenuity, great care and love.  Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Hope in a Storm

The gospel of Matthew, chapter 14 records the familiar story of Jesus walking on water.  Jesus and His disciples had spent a long and strenuous day ministering to large groups of people who had come from the neighboring towns and countryside to hear Him teach.  At the end of the day Jesus and His disciples were tired and in need of rest.

Scripture records that Jesus sent His disciples away on a boat to go across a large lake known as the Sea of Galilee.  He, in the meantime, would go up into the hillside to pray.  There is no record of an explanation for how they would meet up again, only an expectation of obedience to His command.  The weary disciples rowed, and  the night grew dark.  A storm rose and rocked the boat with high winds and waves.  Jesus, seeing their plight, moved in.  

As Jesus walked across the water toward the boat, His disciples cried out in alarm fearing they were seeing a ghost.  But Peter called out to Jesus and said, “Lord if it is really you, command me to come to you on the water,” to which Jesus replied, “Come”.  If you are familiar with the story, you know that Peter took a step of faith, got out of the boat and walked on water, but out of fear began to sink into the depths.  

Answering Peter’s cry for help, Jesus came to him, extended a hand, and lifted Peter to safety by His side.  Here was a picture of hope in the middle of a storm.  It wasn’t pretty or well-packaged with a soaring film score in the background, it was raw and it was real.  The men on the boat feared for their lives, but one of them stepped out.  Say what you will about his fear and lack of faith, for which he was reprimanded, out of all the disciples, Peter stepped out of the boat.  He bet his life on a hunch that he was really seeing Jesus, and that Jesus could help their situation.

The story is really not about Peter or his lack of faith, nor about the quivering disciples in the boat, but rather it is about Jesus.  Peter was right to trust in Jesus.  He was literally their only hope amidst a time of storm.  Many of you readers have had times of storm in your own lives, whether physical, financial, familial, or otherwise, and your hearts have yearned for that kind of help.  Jesus extends a hand of help, but it comes at the cost of faith.  For some reason continually placing our faith in Jesus is difficult to do, but it gets a little easier every time we do it.  

I am thankful for Peter, even as a faulty example.  I know he looks a lot like me when I doubt in times of storm.  And above all I am thankful to Jesus for always being there, calling me out onto the waters of faith and holding out a hand of rescue when I need it most.

The Faithfulness of God

Romans 1:19-20
“... what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 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…"

Scriptures demonstrate that God desires to reveal Himself to His creation, and in many creative and unique ways He does so.  He shows the magnitude of His power in mighty displays across the galaxy, He shows His creativity in the staggering variety of plants and animals in all their beautiful and intricate design.  Reflections of God’s character can be seen in those virtues we depend on in society- love, joy, self-sacrifice, generosity, community, cooperation, truth, and many more.  It is as though God chooses to reveal some of His inner character by instilling pieces of it in us.

The faithfulness of God is one of His great endearing qualities, and knowingly or unknowingly, we depend on His faithfulness every day.  The very breath we breathe every day is a gift from God (Job 33:4).  His mercies are new every morning, and His loving kindness lasts forever.  A classic hymn titled, “Great is Thy Faithfulness” says it so eloquently:

Great is Thy faithfulness,” O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

That God is faithful is precious to us indeed.  We depend upon His faithfulness in all things every day, and without it we would falter.  What makes this so profound is that God’s faithfulness is made beautiful in contrast to the frailty and brokeness that surround us every day.  God stands faithful in contrast to friends who betray, governments who would deceive, systems that fail, institutions that exploit, and movements that mislead.  God's faithful provision of everyday necessities is precious to us because it is set against the threat of famine and loss without His loving care.  If God were not faithful, we would surely be lost.

God’s faithfulness not only sees to the basic provisions we need for our physical life, but He also has provided for our spiritual sustenance as well.  The hymn writer continues in the final verse:

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

God faithfully executed a plan for our salvation which He devised “before the foundations of the earth”.   His Son dying on the cross paid the death penalty that you and I owe for our sins, and because that debt is paid, we can turn to Him for salvation, the forgiveness of sins, and peace with God that cannot be taken away.  This forgiveness brings clarity to our past, understanding for the present, and hope for the future.  God’s faithfulness brings with it all we need for life and godliness as we enjoy the many gifts He has given to us.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Spiritual Fruit

This week at Northwood Community Bible Church, we are hosting a Vacation Bible School for children ages 5-12.  Our theme this year is “The Fruit of the Spirit” and it comes from the New Testament book of Galatians.  In chapter 5 the Bible contrasts the life-fruit of the sinful nature of mankind with the fruit of the Spirit of God as seen in the life of one who has been forgiven and given new life in Christ.  What becomes immediately visible is God’s answer to all of the destructive effects of sin in our world.  

You may already be familiar with the list of virtues found in Galatians 5:22,  “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…” and it is a good guess that you may see a list like that and think to yourself, “I should try to be more like that…”.  Please notice the very first phrase says that these are the fruit of the Spirit.  These are the qualities and virtues that follow a life that is made alive by the Spirit of the Living God.  Let’s look at these fruit and have a feast for our souls:

Love: Love is the Greek word agape'.  Agape’ is a unique form of love in that it begins at God, who is eternal and holy, and as such His love is also pure, never-ending.  All other forms of love are essentially horizontal in nature in that they are expressed between one person or group and another.  They are also temporary and conditional in nature, but is vertical in nature.  God pours His love into our hearts until it overflows us, cleanses us, and splashes out from us onto the lives of others around us.  This is what makes it possible for us to obey Jesus when He tells us to love even our enemies.  (1 Corinthians 13)

Joy:  Joy is more than an attitude, it is a state of being for one who knows that God is in control and his or her sins have been forgiven.  Joy is a mindset that God has our best and His glory in mind as He leads us through daily life.  Even in the most difficult times, joy can be in our hearts and lead us to peace. (Psalm 132:9)

Peace:  There is a peace of mind and heart that God gives as He fills our hearts with His love and joy.  It is a peace that is hard to understand or explain, but it carries us through times of anxiety, confusion, pain and loss. (John 14:27)

Patience:  If there is one thing to be careful about praying for, it’s patience!  Patience is in one sense the ability to keep things in perspective, and give emphasis to those things that actually matter in life.  It is the act of filtering which issues will rule your thinking and behavior.  (2 Peter 3:9)

Kindness:  We love kindness when it is shown to us.  To some people it comes naturally to reach out to others with a loving and kind heart to encourage, strengthen, and help make another’s day bright.  God’s Spirit moves in us to teach us how we might be a blessing to others.  (Matt. 5:16)

Goodness:  Doing good for others is a beautiful and necessary thing.  It brings a sweetness to daily life when we either act out of the goodness of God’s heart or we receive such an action from another whom God sends to lift our load and bless us with His love.  It should be noted that good works save us from our sins, but God, who saves us, also leads us into good works which He has planned in advance for us to do.  (Ephesians 2:8-10)

Faithfulness:  Faithfulness is the willingness to trust and obey God no matter what.  (Psalm 36:5)

Gentleness:  Gentleness is the ability to speak and act truthfully without doing so harshly.  Gentleness is seen the the love of a mother for her baby, in the warm hug of a father, and in the gracious way that God speaks to our hearts, calling us to follow Him.  (Colossians 3:12-13)

Self-control:  without self-control love becomes permissiveness, joy becomes complacency, peace becomes apathy, faithfulness becomes blind adherence.  Even self-control becomes legalism without grace.  (2 Timothy 1:7-8)

This multi-faceted fruit grows in the life of one who is filled with God’s Spirit and responds in willing obedience to be made more like Jesus every day.  May you have a life that is blessed with an increasing harvest of the fruit of the Holy Spirit!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

At The End Of The Rainbow

We see a lot of rainbows these days, on banners, t-shirts, bumper stickers, posters, photographs - they are all over the place!  There is something beautiful and almost mysterious about rainbows.  When you see one in real life, whether you are young or old, there is a sense of mystery and wonder at how such a beautiful thing could come to hang in mid-air, like an illusion of brilliant color that is here for a moment and then gone.

The Bible gives us colorful detail about the very first rainbow and why it is so significant in Genesis 9:13-16.  In that passage, God says:

"I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”

God gave Noah a beautiful gift, a sign that would remain with mankind for the rest of history, a brilliant bow of colorful light.  He said it would remind Him of His promise never to destroy the earth by water again.  Consider the message of the rainbow to its many viewers:  to the artist, it is a perfect blending of each of the primary and secondary colors; to the scientist it is the fracturing of mixed frequencies of light into their various ordered quanta;  to the musician it is an emblem of lyrical inspiration;  to the child it is a spectacle of wonder and delight, and to the theologian it is a reminder that such beauty was a token of God’s promise to Man.

The beauty of the rainbow contrasts with the terrifying reason it was brought about by God.  In the above passage, God says that it will remind Him of His promise never to destroy the earth again by water.  God is referring to the event recorded in scripture as Noah’s flood.  In this record of events, God saw that the wickedness of mankind had become so overwhelming, so pervasive, and so destructive, that it actually caused Him grief!  He wished that He had never made man in the first place, and so He chose Noah and his family to continue the human race, and He brought the destructive calamity of a world-wide flood to wipe the slate clean and begin again.  To this very day, you can see evidence of this great catastrophe in places like the Grand Canyon and even the Badlands of North Dakota, as billions and billions of dead things are laid down by water in rock layers all over the earth.  And you can see the rainbow sign of God’s promise to never do so again.

The Bible does talk about a future time of great difficulty in which God will finally vanquish His enemies and bring to right all the effects of sin and destruction.  In the book of 2 Peter 3:10-13, it says:
"But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed."

Can you even envision that event?  I don’t even think Hollywood could get close to that one!  Listen to the question that follows in the next verse...

"Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! "

But wait!  There’s HOPE!  2 Peter 3:13 says:

"But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”

God will not ultimately abandon His children to destruction.  A new heaven and a new earth are in store for those who believe in the saving power of Jesus’ name!  This will be a new place to live in the presence of God Himself, where there will be no crying, no sickness, no sin and no more death!  In the end God will be seen for the glorious, powerful, holy and awesome God that He is.  And His people will dwell with Him forever!

The next time you see a rainbow, celebrate the gracious promises we have from God, and look forward to a beautiful new heaven and earth!

Thursday, May 7, 2015


There is a saying that goes something like this, “Yesterday is just a memory, tomorrow is only a wish.  All we really have is today.  It is a gift, and that is why we call it the present’.”  It is a cute little saying, and true to life.  The reality of every day life is that we often times find ourselves wondering and worrying about the future.  If we are wise, we make plans for the future, but if we are realists, we know that the future is uncertain and unseen.  

For some people this gives a sense of adventure to everyday life.  The future becomes a canvas upon which they can paint the story of the desires of their heart.  For others, the hidden dangers of things not yet seen can themselves become a dark cloud of doubt and anxiety.  Fear, worry, doubt- all troubles of the heart, rob us of the joy we are intended to experience.  We do not need to continue in fear and worry.  Jesus has given us the keys we need to rise above anxiety and enjoy His abundant life.

I would like to share with you six lessons that Jesus teaches in Matthew 6:25-34 about a right response to anxiety:

  1.  “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? (Matt. 6:25).  First of all, Jesus commands us not to be anxious.  Specifically, he tells us not to worry about food or clothing, which is typically not the main concern here in America.  As an affluent nation, our concerns are usually for other things, but even if we lived in an impoverished third-world nation the command remains- do not be anxious.  Jesus then follows with solid reasons we can rest quietly and wait for Him.
  2. "Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?" (Matt. 6:26)  God provides for the animals of the earth.  He gives them food, water, and various shelters.  If he cares for them, will He not also care for us who were fashioned as the crowning peak of His creation, made in His image?
  3. "And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (Matt. 6:27).  Here Jesus points out the utter futility of anxiety and worry.  Concern for the future may be beneficial if that concern becomes action to make diligent provision for the future, but when we just sit and allow worries to overwhelm our thinking, we effectively rob ourselves of the very joy we long for.  
  4. "And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Matt. 6:28-30).  Much of our culture in America has moved away from the enjoyment of the simple and profound beauty of natural things.  Being content with simple beauty removes us from the endless pursuit of things that only have temporary value.
  5. "Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt. 6:31-33).  God knows what we need.  We tend to focus on what we want.  God tells us to seek Him, and He will take care of what we need.
  6. "Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matt. 6:34).  We have enough to do each day to be diligent, work well, be at peace with our neighbors, and enjoy the gift of life.  There is no need to borrow trouble from tomorrow.  
I would like to invite you, if you don’t already have a church home, to visit with us some Sunday at Northwood Community Bible Church.  You can find out more about us at www.cbcnorthwood.org.  Have a great summer!

Still I Will Trust You

Still I will trust You.  Still I will follow.  Still I will listen to Your every calling.
While the storm rages on, and I cant find my way, still I will trust You Lord.  
When in my dark hour You restored my weary soul You led me to that resting place and made me whole 
Now I cannot question, though stormy billows roll 
My faith is secure, safe is my trust in You alone.

These words, penned by songwriter Vonnie Lopez, are a declaration of trust and reliance upon God that echo the heart of millions of Christians over the 2000 history of the church.  They are an anthem declaring the worthiness of God to receive our honor and allegiance, despite the circumstances we may be going through.  I would like to take a moment to share what makes God worthy of our trust, through good times and bad.

The psalmist, David, writes in Psalm 40, "I waited patiently for the LORD, he inclined to me and heard my cry.  He drew me up from the pit of destruction out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD”  These brief verses are a song of praise from a man who had been pursued by enemies who hungered for his death.  He acknowledges the desperation of his life and the extent to which God pursued him.  He felt as though God had followed him even to the bottom of a destructive pit, so that He could save him.  

Notice the words in that psalm, “…you drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of a miry (muddy) bog, and set my feet upon a rock”.  There is something unsettled and unstable in David’s imagery of the pit he was in.  This picture of a muddy hole in the ground where he awaits his doom is desperate and exhausting all at once.  One can almost feel the panic from not being able to escape and the exhaustion of trying to even stand on miry, unstable ground while calling out for help.  However, not only does God pull him out to help him, He sets David on a “solid rock” to stand.  

Spiritually speaking, there are a lot of people who find themselves in a deep pit of unstable ground.  Their self-styled spirituality doesn’t stand up to the demands of real and difficult life situations.  Their attempts to gain ground with God only end up digging them in further, they call out for help, but no one is able to save them.  But God shows His mercy to us, even when we were still enemies with Him, He died to save us from our sins, and it doesn’t end there.  

As this psalm shows, God not only pulls us from the pit, He sets our feet on solid rock.  No more are we treading on the shifting sands of spiritual uncertainty, without any hope to lean on.  If we are “in Christ” we have a confident and joyful expectation of God’s presence in our lives.  Jesus is that solid rock.  In Christ, we can have assurance of salvation, confidence in uncertain days, hope amidst trial, and joy amidst grief.  

Psalm 40 continues, "But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation say continually, “Great is the LORD!”  As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me.  You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God!”  We have every reason to find our hope in God, every reason in the world to obey Him and trust Him regardless of our circumstance.  Still I will trust you, still I will follow, still I will listen to Your every calling.  While the storm rages on, and I cant find my way, still I will trust You Lord.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A Crown for a King

based on “Jesus, We Crown You with Praise” by Lanny Wolfe

During the celebration of Easter, we saw the passion of Jesus Christ as told in the story of His journey to the cross.  We saw His trials, His torture, His crucifixion and His resurrection.  If you listen closely you can still hear Jesus being referred to as “the king”.  If Jesus really is king, I wonder what kind of crown He might have.

Born as a lowly baby to a poor, working-class mother and father, the King of Glory slipped into humanity like a hand slips into a glove- He became flesh and lived among us.  His life and work, His miracles and teachings are recorded for us in scripture, but His earthly life drew to a close amongst some of the most humiliating treatment humanity could invent.  You probably know the story well, how the soldiers who tortured Him, brought mockery to Jesus being called a king.

The soldiers prepared a crown of thorns for His head, and a purple robe for His shoulders, and mockingly bowed to His Majesty.  This was the best that humanity could do for the king of glory.  It was as though the people of Jesus time showed the true colors of all mankind as they praised Him at the triumphant entry, and brought Him to humiliation and crucifixion a few short days later.  What a crown for a king!

Lanny Wolfe wrote a song entitled, “Jesus, We Crown You With Praise”, and in it he makes reference to the first time Jesus came to this earth.  
The first time You came they crowned You with thorns
As on an old rugged cross You were laid
But the next time You come it won’t be as before, 
for this time we’ll crown You with praise!

The miracle of Jesus resurrection brought correction to the mockery of the soldiers who doubted and degraded Jesus’ majesty and glory.  He showed once and for all that His kingdom far surpassed their own, and that His authority outweighed that of any king or emperor of this earth.  If Jesus had stopped there, with that brilliant display of His power and authority over death, it would have been enough.  Jesus, however, was not nearly finished with His reign.

He continues to be the first and last over all creation, the mighty and eternally existing God.  He is King over all kings, and Lord over all lords.  And one of the most impressive of all His claims to His disciples was that He would one day return to bring His followers into His kingdom in heaven.  John 14:2-3 says, "In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”  Again, from Lanny Wolfe’s song, these lyrics:

Jesus we crown You with praise
Jesus we corwn You with praise
We love and adore You
Bow down before You
Jesus we crown You with praise!

It is time to see Jesus as king.  Whether on this earth, or when we stand before Him at the end of days, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!

Order My Steps

Order My Steps- Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir

Order my steps in Your word dear Lord,
lead me, guide me everyday,
send Your anointing, Father I pray;
order my steps in Your word,
please, order my steps in Your word.

Humbly, I ask Thee to teach me Your will,
while You are working, help me be still,
Satan is busy, God is real;
order my steps in Your word,
please, order my steps in Your word.

Bridle my tongue let my words edify,
let the words of my mouth be exceptable in Thy sight,
take charge of my thoughts both day and night;
order my steps in Your word,
please order my steps in Your word.

I want to walk worthy,
my calling to fulfill.
Please order my steps Lord,
and I'll do Your blessed will.
The world is ever changing,
but You are still the same;
if You order my steps, I'll praise Your name.

Many people these days have learned to make use of navigational systems like GPS, smartphones, and other devices.  It is one of the easiest ways to find your way around new territory, go hiking, take a road trip, and learn more about your current location.  Before these navigation systems we had to refer to maps and charts.  Are you old enough to remember Mom or Dad unfolding a gigantic state map, trying to find a destination or intersection, and trying to re-fold the map….while driving?  Ahh, the “good old days”!

Spiritually speaking, our world has always been a difficult place to navigate.  Some would say it is more challenging today than it has ever been before.  So, how can we navigate the greater and lesser paths that life presents to us?  How do we pursue excellence and avoid self-destructive behaviors?  How can we live in a way that is pleasing to the God that created us?  

Consider the words of Psalm 119:133, “Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me.”  Another way of saying this would be, “Order my steps according to your word, and do not let me become overwhelmed in sin”.  In this Psalm, the writer is making an important request of God, one that will affect the rest of his life and direction.

First, the psalmist must assume a position of humility.  It takes humility to ask for direction, and a greater dose of humility to then follow those directions.  Secondly, the psalmist is asking to be given a firm path to walk upon.  All other ground is shifting and unstable.  He requests that his path be built upon the word of God.  Elsewhere in scripture, the Bible says, “The grass withers and the flowers may fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8).   This request resonates with the glorious declaration of the hymn writer who said, “On Christ the solid rock I stand.  All other ground is sinking sand.”  In our day, we need a solid path of proven principle and Godly wisdom to inform our decisions, teach us right from wrong, and show us the right way to go.

Seeking God’s guidance is not only a wise thing to do, it is necessary.  God’s perspective on the past present and future, on right and wrong, on daily life, is just like the perspective of the satellite we access with our navigational devices.  We use a GPS or smartphone to look at a map and get step by step directions toward our destination.  When we take a wrong turn, the system “re-calculates” and tells us how to get back on track.  When there is construction or heavy traffic ahead, our navigation systems warn us of trouble ahead.  God’s word speaks to us from the perspective of eternity, and it tells us of the dangers and joys on the road ahead of us.  It teaches us what God thinks about our every-day questions.  It shows us the way to go.

Our biggest challenge to applying this truth is humility.  In a culture that is built on the sovereignty of the individual, it takes a great deal of humility to submit to God’s word and say ‘God’s way is right, and I must follow Him’.  In a song by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir called “Order My Steps”, the writer cries out to God, "Humbly, I ask Thee to teach me Your will, while You are working, help me be still…”  What a tremendous challenge, to be still while God works His perfect will.  

Finally, the purpose the psalmist expresses for seeking after Godly guidance and wisdom is that he would not be overtaken by sin.  There is no kingdom darker and more pervasive than the destruction and devastation that comes from sin overwhelming your life.  You can be free from bondage to sin through Jesus Christ when you turn to Him in faith for forgiveness and a new start.  

Can I just encourage you today to ask yourself where you get your life-direction from?  Instead of wandering around blind in a morally and ethically questionable world, ask God, the Creator of life itself, ‘what is the way to go’.  Read His word, seek Him.  He will not disappoint.

When Calvary Comes Through

When Calvary Comes Through

The Easter season has come, and I pray it has left you with a sense of worshipful remembrance of the Love of God, expressed through the sacrifice of His Son on the cross, and the power of His resurrection.  Easter is a great time to celebrate the wonderful things that God has done in history, and the great promise of His presence even today.

The cross of Jesus Christ did not happen by chance.  That event happened at just the right time, when centuries-old prophecies were coming to pass, when the political climate was brewing, when a nearly universal language could be readily used to spread the gospel, and when people who were looking for a delivering messiah would be introduced to Jesus of Nazareth, who would indeed deliver them from the bondage of their sins.  Romans chapter five verse six says that when we were at our very worst, God gave us His very best when Jesus died for the ungodly.  Humanity had not cleaned up enough for God to finally love us, He loved us when the world was still pulling away from Him in sin.  He didn’t come because we somehow deserved to be saved, He came because He loved us and desired to show the awesomeness of His mercy and grace to us by paying the price for our sins.  

The cost of saving humanity was no less than the death of God the Son, Himself.  Jesus, in His last breath cried out in a loud voice, “It is FINISHED!”.  The debt of sin was paid in full, the victory over death and hell had been won, the captives were declared free, and peace with God the Father had finally been made available through the death and resurrection of God the Son.  The cross of calvary had come through!

The cross of Jesus Christ is not merely a page from humanity’s past.  The cross of Jesus Christ, its saving and delivering power, and it’s God-ward pull are still in force today.  Read these words from Romans 5:10-11 (NLT)… 

"For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son.  So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.”

Calvary comes through, even today!  Is there sin in your life?- Calvary is the place where your forgiveness was purchased by Jesus.  Is there need for strength in every day life or in significant times of upheaval and difficulty?- Calvary is the place where God brought life and immortality to light by the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Is there concern and question and confusion?- Calvary is the place where God reached out His hands to show you how deep and how wide was His love for you.  Consider the words of the song, “Calvary Came Through” by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir:

Through days of hurt and pain my heart cried "all is vain”.  I'd lost all my will to live
Too many times I tried, too many ties I failed and it only brought tears and shame
Then I saw that old cross where I won through His loss
And I knew one more time there His strength became mine

That's when Calvary came through once again when I lost all my courage to win
Just when I thought I'd been defeated, the cross was all I needed
That's when Calvary came through once again.

From the stable to the grave my Savior gave and He gave His life as a final price
Now I cherish that tree where I found victory
Conquering Hell and our foes, praise His name, He arose!

There is not a greater victory found in human history than that of Jesus’ victory over death and hell on the cross of Calvary.  The cross remains the singular place of salvation for anyone who turns to Jesus in repentance and faith!  Come to the cross and find forgiveness, find grace, find strength, find peace with God!