Monday, September 19, 2011

I Change Not

A missionary spoke at our church on Sunday and it was such an incredible blessing. He was just overflowing with the love and compassion of Christ. The encouragement he offered us was exactly what I needed to hear. We looked at the beginning of Hebrews 12. I had never really focused on verse 3 before, but it was such great refreshment for a weary soul.
For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
One of the purposes of Christ's suffering was so that we would not lose heart in following Him when we encounter trials. He knew when He was suffering that we would grow weary and be tempted to lose heart and so He suffered as an example to us to endure... to persevere.

I read a little bit in the Word this morning and got to work a few minutes early and really felt like I needed more of the Word, so I kind of did the "flip and point method"... not quite, but I just told the Lord that I really needed to hear from Him and asked Hm to guide me to something. He guided me to Psalm 77. It's a beautiful passage that shows us exactly what we need to do in those times where we are growing weary. Take a look at these words of weariness in verses 1-10.
My voice rises to God, and I will cry aloud; My voice rises to God, and He will hear me. In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; In the night my hand was stretched out without weariness; My soul refused to be comforted. When I remember God, then I am disturbed; When I sigh, then my spirit grows faint. Selah. You have held my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak. I have considered the days of old, The years of long ago. I will remember my song in the night; I will meditate with my heart, And my spirit ponders: Will the Lord reject forever? And will He never be favorable again? Has His lovingkindness ceased forever? Has His promise come to an end forever? Has God forgotten to be gracious, Or has He in anger withdrawn His compassion? Selah. Then I said, “It is my grief, That the right hand of the Most High has changed.”
We know from Malachi 3:6 that God says, "I change not." Yet like this Psalm describes, we can be blinded by sin or weariness or the lies of Satan. The Lord so often takes His Word and shows me just how well off I am through passages like this... my problems are so small in comparison to some that are described here and yet there are similarities. The words following this in verses 11-20 is cool water for the weary soul.
I shall remember the deeds of the Lord; Surely I will remember Your wonders of old. I will meditate on all Your work And muse on Your deeds. Your way, O God, is holy; What god is great like our God? You are the God who works wonders; You have made known Your strength among the peoples. You have by Your power redeemed Your people, The sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah. The waters saw You, O God; The waters saw You, they were in anguish; The deeps also trembled. The clouds poured out water; The skies gave forth a sound; Your arrows flashed here and there. The sound of Your thunder was in the whirlwind; The lightnings lit up the world; The earth trembled and shook. Your way was in the sea And Your paths in the mighty waters, And Your footprints may not be known. You led Your people like a flock By the hand of Moses and Aaron.
In order to defeat the weariness of the soul regardless of the cause, the first step is to simply remember the deeds of the Lord. Remember what He has done in the past. Just sit down for ten minutes and just ponder the greatness of God. Remember how He spoke the world into existence. Remember how He delivered the people of Israel through Joseph being sold into slavery. Remember how God delivered His people from Egypt and parted the Red Sea. Remember how He gave Joshua and Caleb courage. Remember how God chose David and protected him from his enemies. Remember God's faithfulness to Job. Remember God strengthening Daniel so as to not defile himself. Remember how God changed Saul into Paul... turning a persecutor of the church into one of the most influential proclaimers of the gospel. Remember how God sustained Paul through all kinds of trials. Remember how God loosed the chains of Peter right before he was to be beheaded. Remember Christ who conquered sin and death. Remember that Jesus said that it is to our advantage that He go away and send His Spirit to us. Remember that God has never once broken a promise. Remember that Christ promised that He is coming again! Remember. Remember. Remember. Meditate on His deeds! Oh, how can we not be overwhelmed with love for Christ when we just take a moment to muse on His deeds? He redeems us. He leads us by still waters. There is mystery and excitement with God. Verse 19 says that His footprints may not be known... oh, but we have seen the goodness of God. We may not see His every footstep, but we know His ways are holy and just. We know He is good. We know Christ is the very definition of love. He is our God who will lead us until death. When He says, "I change not.", I believe it!

Saturday, September 17, 2011


Our church helped in putting on a 3-on-3 basketball tournament today for an organization called National Hoops. The basic idea is that they go out to public school and parks and invite people to come play in this tournament and the church provides lunch and help with setting everything up. They present the gospel during the lunch period--the whole point of this basketball ministry. God worked in the hearts of many young men today in drawing them to Himself. I had the privilege of praying with a couple of these young men. It was such an incredible joy and blessing being used by the Lord to help these young men understand the gospel. It was the Holy Spirit that opened their eyes to understand it and caused them to respond to the message by placing their faith in Christ. It was neat hearing them talking afterwards when they were talking amongst each other and wondering why their other friend hadn't turned to faith in Christ. Perhaps the Lord will use these young men to draw many more to Himself.

While it was an incredible joy to witness these young men coming to Christ, I was very much convicted by my lack of boldness in sharing the gospel. God brought about half of these unsaved young men to Himself through someone simply having the boldness to share the gospel with them in a clear manner. I may not have the gift of evangelism, but that has nothing to do with whether to not the call to make disciples of all nations applies to me. It does.

I am reminded of Paul's encouragement and prayer request at the end of Ephesians:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
Paul asks them to pray that God would give him boldness to make the gospel known. I need the very same thing. The stakes of eternal life or death are infinitely high in comparison to my comfort. I need boldness. I know I must speak as the Spirit leads, but I fear that I have been suppressing His lead in the area of sharing the gospel far too much. God, give me boldness for Your glory.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Proven Character Brings Hope

I was reading this evening in Romans 5 and the first several verses jumped out to me:
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.
This is such a beautiful description of the Christian life. We are introduced to the grace by which we stand found only in Christ. We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God being revealed both presently in His work here on earth and also when He comes again and reveals Himself completely in all His glory. Because of THAT hope, we can take joy in the difficult times of life because we know that perseverance honors the Lord. When we persevere, we and proving the character that Christ has formed in us through the power of the Holy Spirit. It is not character that is natural, it is completely the Holy Spirit's active work of sanctification. It is this proven character that brings hope--the hope of being completely sanctified when we see God face to face. I love how Paul then takes us back to the beginning. We were absolutely helpless without Christ. Yet, He loved us while we were sinners and enemies of God. His love is something that I will probably never be able to fully grasp. One thing is clear: we cannot take any credit for our salvation.

I have been listening to a song that Cal Baptist University Choir & Orchestra sings called, "Christ Has Conquered All". These truths have been so fresh on my mind. I am so undeserving of any kind of grace and yet He took the fullness of God's wrath that was on me and in exchange, gave me His righteousness. Meditate on these truths. Let them fill your soul with joy in what Christ has done.
Heavy laden weary soul,
Bearing up a heart of stone;
His Spirit comes to dwell in you,
And Christ, the weight of sin, assume.
All my guilt is cast on Christ
And his righteousness is mine.
What guilt should weigh upon my head?
For Christ has cleared it all!

The sum of all my sacrifice,
Though joyful, fails to justify;
I cannot pay for grace that’s free
Nor add to work that is complete.
Jesus paid it all for me;
This my ransom and my plea.
What debt I labor to repay?
For Christ has paid it all!

Through the law comes sin and death,
But faith is counted righteousness;
So I will trust in Christ alone,
My debt to pay, my sin atone.
And I’ll stand in confidence,
Covered by his righteousness;
What shall become of boasting tongues?
For Christ has done it all!

Where, O death, is now thy sting?
Swallowed up in victory!
The Lord of glory reigns on high,
Sov’reign over earth and sky.
Yes, he triumphed o’er the grave
And he comes again one day.
What lesser name shall draw our praise?
For Christ has conquered all!
For Christ has conquered all!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Humbling Experiences

The Lord really has been blessing at work in incredible ways... really far beyond I could ask or think. I think perhaps He decided that today was a good day to fix any potential "big head" issues. I gave a presentation today which I was told was going to be "short". I was planning for 25 or 30 minutes maybe, but found out that I was to give the entire presentation when I got there. It ended up lasting about 2.5 hrs once all questions were answered and all. They had all kinds of expectations that we were not prepared to meet because they hadn't communicated those to us... etc. All in all, it was a fairly humbling experience.

To add to that, I texted a friend while driving on the way home. The traffic was moving literally at like 5 to 10 mph and I gave into the temptation to text while driving. I shouldn't have done it... and the Lord was gracious in the form of my friend calling me out on it. Of course, I am trying to be a good example of submissiveness to the Lord first and foremost but also to the authorities that He has put over me. I was doing neither at the time. That was yet another humbling experience. I had to ask for forgiveness both to the Lord for my sin and to my friend for being a bad example. Not fun.

Days like today make me really look forward to that promise that His mercies are new every morning. Looking back on the day, I am very thankful for those experiences knowing that James 4:6 says that God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble. I am desperately in need of grace... and desperately in need of God's help and favor. It is the grace of God that He humbled me today. The last thing I want is to be living in such a way that God is opposed to me. He must get all glory from this heart.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Washing of the Word

We had men's meeting this morning and Pastor Tim was sharing about how little lame quotes in his log book for running have served as help in fighting the battle of the mind while he is running... to not quit, to press on. He then took us to several passages that he goes to when he needs that same help in winning the battle of the mind when it comes to spiritual living. I honestly didn't know that other people did that as well. One thing I do when I am feeling very spiritually needy and overwhelmed with the burdens of life is to go back to some of my favorite passages and just let the truths of them penetrate my heart once again. Those truths need to change my heart again. This is part of the reason that I try to press forward in reading passages that I am not as familiar with (all of it is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, instruction in righteousness) and also try to read something that is more familiar that I already know will minister to my heart where I need it.

Just like we use the same soap every day... the same shampoo... the same toothpaste... and each day it still cleanses us on the outside, God uses His Word to transform our minds into Christ-likeness. There is nothing wrong with pouring over the same 5 verses every day for a couple weeks. Yes, I think we ought to grow in the knowledge of Christ through reading more scripture, but God uses those same familiar passages to cleanse our hearts and minds through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Word is living and active. May its washing be more a priority than physical washing. Oh, how I wish that the lack of spiritual washing would show on the outside as much as a lack of physical washing does... would it not drive me to be completely washed by the Word?

Well, guess what... it does show up on the outside. It shows in my attitude toward others. What would my day look like if I was my heart was transformed so that I would consider others as more important than myself today? What would my day look like if I was to work as unto the Lord and not unto men? What would my possessions look like if I did all things decently and in an orderly fashion? How would my brother grow spiritually today if I were to fellowship with him rather than live in the same house with him? How might my parents be encouaged today if I were to honor them as I am commanded to? What if I was truly washed by the Word today? The Word never enters the heart without bearing fruit. The question is whether or not it is truly entering my heart and changing my heart from the inside out.

God, I confess that I have read Your Word far too often without letting it change me. Knowledge of Christ is important, but unless it changes me into His image, it is pointless. I ask that You would implant Your Word deeply into my heart, that I would know You and that I would be changed into Your image by the power of Your Spirit. Forgive me for my hardness of heart. Break me. Mold me. Make me more like Your Son.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

A Sign?

I don't know about you, but I often wonder why God gives clear signs in some instances and not in others. I know ultimately why He gives signs, but sometimes I want one just to remind me that He is with me and leading me. My desire for it is often out of a lack of faith. It's not that He hasn't given me enough to know that He is with me and leading me, but just that I want to feel the firm fatherly grasp of His hand around my shoulder as He shows me the way. I love this story in Exodus 4 because it reveals some of God's heart about showing us signs.
Then Moses said, “What if they will not believe me or listen to what I say? For they may say, ‘The Lord has not appeared to you.’” The Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?” And he said, “A staff.” Then He said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it. But the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand and grasp it by its tail”—so he stretched out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand— “that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.” The Lord furthermore said to him, “Now put your hand into your bosom.” So he put his hand into his bosom, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous like snow. Then He said, “Put your hand into your bosom again.” So he put his hand into his bosom again, and when he took it out of his bosom, behold, it was restored like the rest of his flesh. “If they will not believe you or heed the witness of the first sign, they may believe the witness of the last sign. But if they will not believe even these two signs or heed what you say, then you shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground; and the water which you take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground.” Then Moses said to the Lord, “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” The Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now then go, and I, even I, will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say.” But he said, “Please, Lord, now send the message by whomever You will.” Then the anger of the Lord burned against Moses, and He said, “Is there not your brother Aaron the Levite? I know that he speaks fluently. And moreover, behold, he is coming out to meet you; when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. You are to speak to him and put the words in his mouth; and I, even I, will be with your mouth and his mouth, and I will teach you what you are to do. Moreover, he shall speak for you to the people; and he will be as a mouth for you and you will be as God to him. You shall take in your hand this staff, with which you shall perform the signs.” Then Moses and Aaron went and assembled all the elders of the sons of Israel; and Aaron spoke all the words which the Lord had spoken to Moses. He then performed the signs in the sight of the people. So the people believed; and when they heard that the Lord was concerned about the sons of Israel and that He had seen their affliction, then they bowed low and worshiped.
I find it sobering that God's anger burned against Moses when he complained about not being able to speak well. I'm not one that likes to think about "what if" scenarios too often, but I do wonder if the Lord would have graciously provided Aaron as his spokesman even if Moses hadn't complained about not being able to speak well. Regardless, we know that God made it clear to Moses that He is more than able to fix any kind of problem that he might have in the area of being able to communicate. God will never fail us when we are speaking His truth to others. Paul asked that people pray that God would give him boldness to preach the gospel. If Paul, the man that was beaten, stoned, imprisoned, shipwrecked, etc. asked that God would give Him boldness, I need it so much more! I don't know even the slightest bit about boldness. The extent of my boldness is fear of rejection.

Something that really stood out to me about this passage is that God gave these signs to Moses to perform before the people on His behalf for two main reasons: so that they would believe and so that they would worship. There are many areas in which God has given me clear direction and a "sign" of some sort and looking back on each of those times, God used it to cause me to believe Him and worship Him. When Christ chose not to perform signs for the pharisees, he basically told them that He had already given them the prophets and if they didn't believe them, they wouldn't believe Him. To perform a sign for them would be against His character of doing it for the purpose of belief and worship. May God give us the grace to believe Him more fully and bow low in humility before Him and worship Him in spirit and in truth.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Fearing God

It's been a while since I have read the book of Exodus, so I thought I'd go through it again.  I really like Exodus because it is God communicating His character to the people of Israel.  I need these very same reminders of God and who He is so that I am worshiping the one and only true God rather than a God of my own creation.  I love the simplicity of the coorelation between fearing God and God's blessing.  Please note that God's blessing doesn't necessarily mean that life will be easy and all will go as we desire, but His blessing is always best.  While what God does is infinitely complex, He has also made our lives quite simple: fear God and keep His commandments.  This is a pretty neat practical application of fearing God:
Then the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other was named Puah; and he said, “When you are helping the Hebrew women to give birth and see them upon the birthstool, if it is a son, then you shall put him to death; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live.” But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them, but let the boys live... So God was good to the midwives, and the people multiplied, and became very mighty. Because the midwives feared God, He established households for them.
God specifically recorded that He was good to the midwives because they feared the Lord and obeyed Him rather than men. I firmly believe that He recorded this so that we can learn from their good example and commit to obeying Him. May He give us this kind of boldness and courage knowing that fearing the Lord and obeying Him will always be best--no exceptions!

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Growing in Responsibility

The Lord has given me several opportunities lately that have stretched me outside my comfort zone in the area of leadership. This is something I have been praying for and yet I have to be honest and say that I am not always as earnest about growing in this area when I have to actually do something about it. I am very thankful that God does not go based on what is easiest but rather what is best. I have the privilege of leading worship tomorrow and really look forward to it. However, I feel like I have to fit the way I lead worship into this box of the expected. It is not that I think "my way" is better, but it is different. I'm finding that much of leadership is being able to lead within the boundaries given us by God (sometimes set by others in authority that God is using). I am also finding that with more leadership opportunities comes much more responsibility. It is one thing to be responsible for keeping my own heart focused on worshiping the Lord, but to have the responsibility of leading this group of God's children in worshiping Him is such a huge responsibility. It makes me so thankful for the Holy Spirit being present and at work in the hearts of each child of His just like He is working in my heart.

There is such freedom knowing that ultimately it doesn't matter if I make mistakes... that is purely selfish pride, what matters is that God is glorified. Yes, He can be glorified much more easily when my pride is stripped away. I feel such a burden to lead wisely and yet He is the shepherd of His people. God doesn't need me, but He has chosen me. He has chosen me to lead His people in singing praises to Him tomorrow. That makes it important.

God, I am weak, but You are strong. I cannot lead Your people to worship You... it is only by Your Spirit that they can worship You. Yet, You have chosen human instruments to proclaim Your truth and shepherd Your people even in the leading of singing praises to You. I ask that You would be my ever present help in time of need so that I would lead them as You would have me lead them. Speak through me. Speak in spite of me. Make me small so that You are glorified.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

A Sobering Reminder

Work has been incredibly busy these last several weeks. It is such a blessing to be able to come home and not have any of that work to worry about and then to go in the next morning refreshed and ready to get back on it. I have been enjoying it greatly and the Lord has been blessing. There are always challenges of some sort, but I am continually amazed by how God gets me through each of them and teaches me more about waht it means to trust Him. I ought not go into specifics, but I had been praying regarding a difficult circumstance and was just floored by how God did what I truly didn't feel was possible in order to resolve it. He didn't need to do that. He could have let me continue to battle... but He completely took care of it. I can't thank Him enough. It is pathetic that I doubt Him so much. I have so far to go. He is so good!

I was thinking about this situation and reading in Jude this evening and verse 5 stuck out to me:
Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe.
This isn't your normal verse for encouagement, but I feel that I need to hear words like these just like I need to be encouraged by His goodness to pursue Christ. There is so much focus on eternal security, God's grace, God's love, God's mercy, God's compassion, etc. that I sense in my own heart that I don't reverence Him how I ought to. I don't have the godly fear that I ought to have for God. I need to see Him as holy and just. If God destroyed so many of His chosen people when they didn't believe, who am I to think that God is just so gracious now that I don't need to worry about it? God is gracious--very very gracious. I am not trying to make light of all those things that I mentioned above... those truths about God are absolutely vital to our understanding of Him. At the same time, I need that reminder that He is perfectly holy and perfectly just in order to have a true perspective on who God is. Without His holiness and justice, I would have no reason to be so thankful for His unending grace. It is the reality of my sin in light of His holiness and the guilty sentence placed on me by His perfect justice that points me to my need of Christ.

This reality brings so much joy to the end of Jude:
Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

God, make me to know all of You so that I love and obey You as I ought to. Make me to know my end! I am no more than dust. I cannot stand on my own. It is only by Your grace that I can do anything but stumble. I long for the day when I stand before You blameleess and with great joy because of Christ. Thank You for dying in my place.