Find Wisdom in Worship

Psalm 37:4 (ESV)

4Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

 

Judges 7:15–16 (ESV)

15As soon as Gideon heard the telling of the dream and its interpretation, he worshiped. And he returned to the camp of Israel and said, “Arise, for the Lordhas given the host of Midian into your hand.”

16And he divided the 300 men into three companies and put trumpets into the hands of all of them and empty jars, with torches inside the jars.

 

Everyone who believes God exists wants to know what He knows and what He wants. This does not mean everyone will do what God wants done, but everyone would like to at least know what God would do so they can make there own decision. This is where the process of understanding God’s will breaks down.

 

Psalm 37:4 tells us God will give us the desires of our heart when we delight in Him. This verse does not promise to give us our heart’s desire when we are far from God. The prerequisite is that we delight in the Lord. Said more simply, when we delight in the Lord, when we worship Him, His desires become our desires. When we are worshipers, we know what to do.

 

Gideon is an example of this. He worships when he hears that God has already gone before him to place fear in the hearts of the Midianites through a dream. This worship is immediately followed by Gideon’s crazy plan for his 300 man attack on the 100,000+ army of Midian. It’s only when Gideon worships that he knows how to join God in His activity of defeating the oppressive Midianites.

 

Until we come to the place of worship, of loving God with our entire beings, we cannot know He wants us to do. Many who claim to follow Jesus are trying to fight a huge army of oppression with no thought of how God wants them to go about it. They are losing the battle because they fail to worship Jesus.

 

Withholding worship is a losing proposition for believers. When worship is withheld we become disoriented to God and His wisdom, His plan of attack. If you are struggling to know what to do against overwhelming odds, start with worship. Are you able to worship with a grateful heart for all that God has done? Or, are you hesitant to worship? Are you reluctant to praise Him? Is there dissatisfaction with God?

 

Worship recognizes the greatness of God in every situation. There are still battles left to fight. The world is still unsafe. But God is going before us and He invites us to join Him. Worship Him today in every activity and let His desires become yours.

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Don’t let evil win. Be in church on Sunday.

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Isaiah 53:5 (ESV)

5But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.

 

Where do we find peace? How do we heal? Our world produces broken people. Our world is a dangerous place. How do we live in such a place? Isaiah 53:5 is a message of hope. It is a message of opportunity.

 

Nearly everyone who is troubled reaches out for peace. Nearly everyone suffering from a debilitating disease reaches out for treatment that could heal. Yet most miss the peace and healing available in Jesus. But how do we access this peace and healing?

 

Access begins with making the most difficult human admission of all. We have to reckon with the fact that the sacrifice of Jesus was necessary. We must come to grips with the truth of our collective and individual need for His payment. While few would say they are perfect, most have a hard time accepting their life’s work is so bad it required that Jesus give His life for them. This idea is repulsive to the human self-image.

 

Our need for His death is so repulsive that we, individually and collectively, do everything we can to avoid it, deny it, and even replace it. We use every method available to keep from living in the space of this embarrassing guilt. But this repulsion from accepting our state as in need of Jesus robs us of peace and healing.

 

Last Sunday, an evil man killed and wounded dozens in a church, a place designed to bring healing. But even this heinous act of evil cannot separate us from the healer. It is just an example of how badly evil wants to keep people from experiencing peace and healing.

 

Don’t let evil win. Be in church this Sunday. Embrace your embarrassing need for the sacrifice of Jesus. Experience peace and healing.

What Can We Do?

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It’s been a rough 2 months in America. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria have brought destruction of property, loss of life, and a sense of disruption and difficulty to the lives of millions. And now an unprecedented attack has rained down bullets on thousands killing dozens and wounding hundred in Las Vegas. What are people supposed to think? How are we to process these events? How should they change our worldview? Most importantly, what can we do?

We first must understand the times from a biblical perspective. Consider this:

Matthew 24:7–8 (HCSB)

7For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8All these events are the beginning of birth pains.

Matthew 24:10–12 (HCSB)

10Then many will take offense, betray one another and hate one another. 11Many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. 12Because lawlessness will multiply, the love of many will grow cold.

The world will not get better. Wars and natural disasters are a growing part of our future. Hatred and acts of sheer evil will increase. When we see this happening as we do this week we must understand that this is what Jesus told us to be ready for.

Here’s His encouragement for these times:

Matthew 24:13–14 (HCSB)

13But the one who endures to the end will be delivered. 14This good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed in all the world as a testimony to all nations. And then the end will come.

When evil and chaos dominate our world the goods news of Jesus will be proclaimed. Followers of Jesus get to be a part of this. But are we ready?

Confusion can reign in God’s people during disastrous times. Those who believe their safe and secure life is a result of following Jesus must adjust to His call to be a voice of hope in the midst of despair. We should expect these tragedies but we should not be passively silent in them. The message must be clear. There is rescue from this world. Evil will be defeated. In fact, evil cannot stand against God’s people. Sadly, for many this message is unfamiliar.

So what are we to do? There are two things that every follower of Jesus must do. First, we must abandon evil and repent of embracing it in all of its forms. God’s people must be a humble and holy people. We cannot fight evil and embrace evil at the same time. Second, we must be conduits of the life-giving message of Jesus in every way possible. Leading people to be followers of Jesus who help others become followers of Jesus must be our chief passion.

There are many stories coming out of the recent disasters of ordinary people making extraordinary sacrifices to extend the lives of people they did not even know. These incredible acts of mercy preserve life but only for a while. When you sacrifice to lead someone to eternal safety and help that person learn to lead others, you extend life into eternity. Could there be a more urgent need in our world today?

Reject evil in your own life. Respond to disasters with immediate compassion and the good news of the Jesus. Time is short.

Dodging a Bullet

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Irma mostly missed us in Palm Beach County. Does this move us to draw closer to Jesus as we more deeply recognize our need for Him? Or does this give us license to move farther away from Him because we feel bulletproof?

The storm is a reminder of the power of creation and the power of the creator. God has acted throughout history to draw humans to himself. His warnings and reminders grow more and more intense as history marches towards its conclusion. Will we heed His merciful warnings or will we choose to live as though God is not serious about what He has said throughout history?

Dodging a bullet is an opportunity to recognize who God is and to respond to His amazing offer of healing for our past, a fulfilling life for our present, and the provision of an incredible life for our future. But the entrance is through the door of Jesus, the door of humiliation. Few are willing to enter through this door. But those that do discover what they have always been looking for, what they were made to be and do. Will you benefit from the bullet that grazed you?

You may have a point…

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It is a very human trait to justify our actions. We are really good at it. This springs from our desire to feel good about ourselves. We cannot bear to feel guilt. Guilt must be dealt with. I must be eliminated at all costs. Therefore, our actions must be exonerated. We can leave no possibility that we are guilty.

 

This effort to self justify needs to have some standards and some rights that we can call on and refer to when making decisions about our behavior. We can find all sorts of commandments and rules and laws to tell us what not to do. But when we consider what we actually do we look more to what we feel we have a right or obligation to do. We may even consider what we deserve to do.

 

This is where it gets tricky. What we deserve to do or what we have a right to do may not bear any likeness to what we should do. For followers of Jesus we have to take a long look at what motivated Him to do what He did.

 

Philippians 2:5–8 (ESV)

5Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,

6who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,

7but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

 

If Jesus had done what He had every right to do there would be no payment for the sins of people like you and me. The mindset of Jesus was not to do what He deserved to do. His mindset was to forego His rights and privileges to do what no else could do.

 

When we justify our actions that hold onto what we have every right to hold onto, we may have a point but we don’t have the mind of Christ. When we fail to show mercy on someone who is getting the punishment they deserve, we may have a point but we don’t have the mind of Christ.

 

Having the mind of Christ means loosing our grip, emptying ourselves, and humbling ourselves. To do this we, must want the mind of Christ. To not do this, is to shut out the activity of God in our lives.

 

Would you rather have a point or the mind of Christ?

I Am Grateful for You

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Philippians 1:3–7 (ESV)

3I thank my God in all my remembrance of you,

4always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy,

5because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.

6And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

7It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.

 

Thanksgiving is a time when by definition we are supposed to be thankful. We know we should be thankful, but when someone asks us about our thankfulness, we often fumble around and say something vague about being grateful for our family or for having a roof over our head. To do anything less would be perceived as ungrateful. Yet, a lack gratitude is what we must admit is our normal state of mind.

 

You may question such an assertion. But before you stop reading, ask yourself when was the last time you were truly grateful for anything? When was the last time you said, “thank you” when it was not perfunctory? When was the last time you expressed appreciation without being prompted by some overt act or gift?

 

Why is gratitude not a stream that continually overflows from our hearts into the lives of those around us? The answer that is often given revolves around the current state of our circumstances. Things are not so good. We are suffering in some way. We are limited in what we are able to do. Life is currently in some way disappointing. The question is, can a follower of Jesus honestly believe these things are true?

 

I love the Apostle Paul’s gratefulness in Philippians. He is grateful while being held in prison! He not only has Roman opponents, he also has opponents who claim to follow Jesus. In addition, he is nearing the end of his life. Even in the midst of these difficulties, he writes a letter of joyful gratitude. How can he do this when we struggle to come up with an authentic word of gratitude around the Thanksgiving table?

 

Paul’s gratitude flows from what he sees happening in the lives of those he has influenced. He does not express gratitude for their health or their success or even their friendship. He expresses gratitude for their partnership in the gospel. He is grateful for the participation in the cause of Christ, the very cause that has him in prison.

 

It’s interesting that Paul’s gratitude does not stop with the progress of the Philippians to date. He is focused on not only where they are spiritually but on where God is taking them. He is confident that the work God has begun in them will be completed by Him. So often we withhold our gratitude until God completes His work as though it would be presumptuous to be grateful too soon. It’s like we are watching a movie we hope has a happy ending so we delay our happiness until the stars ride off into the sunset. Paul has the faith to be grateful for what He sees God is doing knowing that God always finishes what He starts.

 

It is my great joy to pastor God’s people. Paul is grateful in life limiting circumstances for incomplete activity in imperfect people. This is his heart because he knows God well enough to recognize His work in humans. I am grateful for you who are walking with me on this journey. I am grateful most of all for the stories of God’s redemptive work in your lives. It is these stories that picture the glorious work of Jesus. While these stories are still in progress, God’s activity is unmistakable.

 

This Thanksgiving, let us celebrate what God is doing in the lives we get to influence. Let’s celebrate the healing relationships. Let’s celebrate the spiritual growth. Let’s celebrate new life. Let’s celebrate even though circumstances may be difficult and the stories may be incomplete. Let’s celebrate because of what we see Jesus doing in those around us.

 

Election Revelation

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Election Revelation

1 Peter 1:14–16 (ESV)

14As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance,15but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,16since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

 

The 2016 Presidential Election is revealing a lot. It is telling us more about the candidates than, in some cases, than we really want to know. It is telling us a lot about our nation, and what matters to her people. But most importantly, it is telling us each a great deal about ourselves and the things we value.

 

Perhaps you have noticed in you a spirit, a desire to compare evils and to determine that one evil is not as bad as another. This should be alarming to followers of Jesus. This is a big step down the path of moral relativism that ends where the ends justify the means. Is this really who you wish to be? Do you really want to be that person who justifies his or her behavior based on the fact that it is not as bad as someone else’s behavior?

 

I fear that this election cycle reveals exactly that. We have largely abandoned holiness in order to do what we have been coerced into believing we must do. This coercion is built on the premise that God is not active in the events of the nations. However, every believer in Jesus Christ knows that He refused to do what He was being coerced to do. He refused to take down an evil, oppressive empire to save His people. Instead, He made a holy sacrifice to save His people.

 

What is your position on holiness? How will it impact your vote? I urge you to consider what a holy sacrifice would look like for you. Will you wear the holiness of Jesus? Or will you set His holiness, His character, aside as you enter the voting booth? The world desperately needs to see a holy people.

Aftermath: Following Jesus is Your Shelter

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As we awoke this morning, we looked around and for the most part discovered that things were pretty much the way they were before the storm. Hurricane Matthew has passed us without wreaking havoc on us. How do we respond to that? How do we think about our lives after dodging a bullet?

 

I encourage you to consider how you should live now that the storm has passed. Its passing is a reminder of what could happen and of God’s grace toward us. We did not deserve for Matthew to pass us. Those who have and who will experience the storms full impact are not more deserving of destruction than us. Every day we live is a result of the grace of God. We all deserve death.

 

Thankfully, Jesus paid a price for His followers.

 

1 Corinthians 6:19–20 (NKJV)

19Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?

20For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.

 

We must live as not as those who are free to do whatever we want because the storm has passed. We must live as those who belong to Jesus whose Spirit lives in us. To resist is rebellion and calls into question our status as followers of Jesus.

 

We must live as those preparing for a devastating storm, a storm that cannot be steered away by changes in the atmosphere. We prepare by serving the one who lives within, the one who bought us. When you feel resistant to prepare Jesus, think of how it would feel to face a category 5 hurricane on a tiny island in a small tent. Following Jesus is your shelter.

 

See ya Sunday,

 

Steve

Storms

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The Storm Effect

 

What is God going to do in the midst of this approaching storm? Be confident that He is doing something important. One of the most extraordinary things Jesus did was in the midst of the storm.

 

Matthew 8:25–27 (NKJV)

25Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!”

26But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.

27So the men marveled, saying, “Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?”

 

As you experience the strength of the storm, be prayerful about what God wants to show you during the storm and in its aftermath. Knowing God is treasure. Storms are opportunity to collect more of the treasure of knowing God.

 

Prepare. Be safe. Minister to your neighbors. Know God. Let us know if you are need of help.

 

See ya Sunday.

Cup Integrity

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Luke 11:39 (ESV)

39And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.

 

Is a cup clean if it is clean on the outside only? Most of us would not drink from a cup based solely on its outward cleanliness. However, in practice we are often served coffee in cups that are filled before we have the opportunity to examine them. We assume they are clean because we trust the integrity of the coffee shop. We see a cup that’s clean on the outside and assume the inside is the same. But until we drink deeply we cannot be sure.

 

As people we do the same thing. We see a clean or what we would call a good lifes on the outside and we trust in the integrity of the community in which that life is presented. We assume the inside is just like the outside. But until we get to see deeply into that life we cannot be sure. As long as the view is from the surface, the state of the inside of the cup is never truly known by outsiders.

 

One of two things must happen for the true state of the cup to be known. Either someone must examine the cup before it is filled or someone must drink enough of the coffee to expose the cup. The server normally works hard to avoid both. We keep people away from our raw, uncovered hearts and we only let people drink so much of our lives. This allows us to continue living with a lack of integrity. No one knows that the inside doesn’t match the outside.

 

But at some point we get caught. The interior of our life gets exposed. Someone gets a look before we were ready. Someone drinks the whole cup. They are repulsed. Maybe they even get sick. We start to wonder why we didn’t spend more time on the inside of our cups. Was it worth it to hide the dirt inside? Wouldn’t it have been easier to just make the outside and inside both clean so that the cups would have integrity?

 

Have you gotten caught recently? Has someone found out that your outside and inside do not match? Or maybe, you’ve just gotten a little sick of what’s on the inside. What if for the next 7 days you asked Jesus to clean you up on the inside? What if you didn’t even worry about the outside and instead got the inside straightened out? Wouldn’t it be great to be confident that the deeper people looked into your life the more they would see that the inside looks like the outside? Wouldn’t it be even better to know that you are who you claim to be?