Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Luke 21: 25-28 - "And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near."

This has been quite the summer. As the fall season begins and we have one last patriotic celebration ahead of us, what will the rest of the year hold in store? We pray that God's hand is on this country, but what if all we are seeing and hearing are the beginning of birth pains the Bible tells us to expect before things go from bad to worse? Could this be part of God's plan? 

I watched in wonder last weekend the 8/28 Restoring Honor rally held by Glenn Beck. Amazing. How the media loves to distort the truth, even when pictures don't lie about the size of this rally. How I wish I could have been there. I'll bet there were hundreds of thousands more who wished they could have been there. What does this tell us about what so great a number feel about our country? We've had it so good...we should never have grown lax and comfortable. 

I recall something Beck said that really stood out. I'm paraphrasing: People think I'm just a fear mongerer. Do you think when the captain of the Titanic said, "It's an iceberg" that he was a fear mongerer? No, he was warning them. He was telling the truth. That's all he's trying to do. He's digging for truth and he's passing it on to us...with the admonition to check it out for ourselves so we will see for ourselves it's the truth. Hey, Jesus only told the truth and has asked us to seek it as well. Beck believes, as I'm sure most Christians do, that God needs to be restored to this country. Without God as our leader we are nothing. Just as without Jesus as center of our individual lives, we are nothing.

Beck told us we must know what we believe in order to have a firm reliance on it. He suggested that goes for God (Jesus) as well. We must seek the truth...in life and spiritually. Do you rely on man or God when the storms of life hit? God is the ultimate protection, through a relationship with Jesus Christ. Without that there is no hope. Glenn also said this: If you find out who God truly is, I warn you, it will be the greatest blessing of your life, but it will also be the biggest curse because on some things you will no longer have a choice because you know what is true, you know who you serve and you must stand there because you have no other choice. Know who He is and know who you are. This is true! Christ changes your views, your thoughts, your life. Change...something some people don't want to do. 

We have long been a Christian nation. But we see churches crumbling and falling for the enemy's lies and slowly taking on worldview in order to not offend. Our nation does not help this situation with it's call for diversity and tolerance. It's the old double standard when it comes to Christianity. Christians need not be tolerated; God need not be tolerated. But other religious beliefs are. Perhaps it's not just the government's fault. The Church may have lost its foothold, it has distorted the truth and people have fallen for it. Morality has taken a nose dive. Another thing Beck said stands out for me: He does not see a political candidate yet that has the right morals to be a leader of this nation. I think there are hints of candidates, but how would they fare? Truth, morals and honesty don't seem to be something people want. 

There's an underlying feeling by some that something is going on that we can't quite put our fingers on. It's an unsettled feeling. I've said it before in regard to myself, it's like waiting for the other shoe to drop. It almost goes unspoken because we don't know exactly what it is. It's time for Christians to rise up and begin warning others. It's time for the Church to stand up as well and stand for the truth.

There is a spiritual realm we do not see, but can sense, if we are aware of it. I know there are many who think all this "spiritual" stuff is nonsense. The idea that God is up to something behind the scenes may seem preposterous. But like the scripture above, there will be a day like this...when the powers of heaven will be shaken. This is not a doom and gloom scenario but the truth. Peter told us, as well, that there would be a day such as this: "...scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, 'Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.'" (2Peter 2:3-4) 
Of course a person first needs to believe that the Bible is the inerrant, truthful, God-breathed Word. It all starts there. I shudder to think of the day when things begin to happen in this world that absolutely cannot be explained away, except that God's hand is in it. Some scoffers will change their minds. Some's hearts will fail them. 

Those who understand what could very well be happening will still undergo tribulation. It will not be an easy time; however, there is a hope that we (yes, I'm included here) cling to. That hope is Jesus Christ. It is part of His plan to draw all men unto Him. Things have to get to a point where we have no place else to look but up. That's why He first tries on a more personal level to get a person's heart to change before it gets worse (for me April 18, 1999). When God chooses to move, no man will be able to stop Him. No man in even the greatest authority in the world will be able to overthrow God. Don't forget, He humbles the proud...any way He has to.

A friend and I were talking one day and we both agreed we would much rather be on the side we are on than to be counted among the scoffers. Yes we are looked at a bit oddly for our beliefs. But, again, as the Bible says, "we are a peculiar people" (1Peter 2:9) because of those beliefs. I'll tell you, I would really like to be wrong. 

I'm not trying to paint a gloomy picture, either, just a realistic one. Something is happening in the atmosphere around us. There is an enemy who wishes to turn people's hearts away from God. He wants to drag those who are willing to be sucked into his beliefs down with him because he knows the beginning from the end as God does...and he knows he doesn't win. He just doesn't want to go down alone. He's being quite successful...

Anyone can have peace if they choose to look to Christ. What more can I say? It's my story, and I'm sticking to it. Just like history cannot be changed, HisStory will not change either. His story makes a lot of sense if you take the time to search it out. All throughout the Bible Jesus and peace go together: Jesus is called the Prince of Peace. It is in Christ that we can have the peace that passes all understanding.  He Himself is our peace...  He will also be the only peace in this world when all will begin to feel the unsettling changes take place. In Christ we can overcome the difficulties of this world.

Romans 5:1 - Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance...

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Best is Yet to Come

Habakkuk 2:3 - For the vision is yet for an appointed time; but at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry. 

The words in this title have been the words for our church for about 20 years. Each year we feel like we're getting a little closer to this becoming a reality. God is in control and His timing is perfect. He's never too early, never too late. Sometimes we seek to do our own will rather than God's attempting to do what we think He would want. That's when He has to intervene and sift and shake. Acting on our own may not be the right season. How many people in the Old Testament have shown this to be true!? Acts 1:7 confirms this: And He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.

However, we are seeing one time and season closing and another beginning. We "passed the baton" to our new pastor yesterday morning. It was a bittersweet moment as we said goodbye, for a time anyway, to our interim pastor, Paul Hanson, and his delightful wife, Monica. For the very short eight months he graced us with his presence, teachings and sermons, he has been a blessing. He fit into our congregation immediately, as our associate pastor described. Despite the fact he's retired there were many who would have loved having him join our congregation as lead pastor. But that is not God's plan.

Not a thing has happened in our church that wasn't leading us in this direction. Nothing. There may be some who might grumble and complain for years to come about some of the difficult times we have seen as a church body, one that has decreased in size monumentally in just a few years. There has been a reason for all this and I will not be one to question why God allowed this to happen. I only look forward with anticipation to what the Lord has up His sleeve.

Pastor Rory Grooters "knew" years ago God would use him somewhere. He'd prayed about it and the Lord showed him glimpses, had impressed upon his spirit a church in pain, but the time was not quite right. Now we know, by the conviction and emotion in Pastor Rory's words, that somewhere is Victory International Fellowship. We don't know how or when the change will happen, but it will. Yes, we're fired up because new days are here and as the pastor well before my time some 20 years ago suggested: the best is yet to come. 

Pastor Paul reminisced about his short time with us. It didn't take him long at all to fit in with us and become part of the family instantaneously. He said he no sooner was here than he and his wife felt the love from our church! A new family emerged. He encouraged Pastor Rory saying it won't take him long either. Pastor Paul is sad to go, but knows we will be in good hands.

Pastor Rory said that while he was interviewing with us, he injured one of his legs very badly and was wearing a large bandage on the open wound. He described how without that bandage the wound would never have stopped bleeding. He suggested that Pastor Paul was like that bandage to our church. We'd been wounded and someone had to come in to stop the bleeding so we could begin to heal. And that fit the very personage of Pastor Paul. 

We have a God who has gotten us to where we are for an unknown, specific reason. Though we've felt discouragement, we are encouraged. We've been bruised, yet we are in the midst of healing. We desire a pastor who hears directly from God, who only wants what God wants for us, who follows the very heart of God and directs us to seek God in the same way. It's only this way, in this direction, that we might attain those best days.

How can we as a congregation best represent Jesus and show Him to others, be a reflection of His wonderful character and nature? This is what it's all about. It's not so much about what we will get, but how we can give. Maybe we've been wounded too long and in the search for healing missed that point. Perhaps we've been looking for something for ourselves rather than sharing what we know. We need to show a world there is more to life than what they have. 

I pray that we will all become an influence through God, our Creator, the words of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit. That we would know where our strengths lie, where our help comes from, where there is fullness of life. That we would be emboldened to do things we have not yet even imagined we could. That we would see those best days filled with service to our Lord.

The best isn't just for our church, though. It's for those whose lives are touched by a loving Father. It's for those whose hope is in the Lord. The Best comes to all who seek Him. His timing is perfect and if there is a wound in your life that needs healing, He can do that. You can put that season to rest and begin anew. He is taking all you have experienced in this life and developing a plan. No matter what time of life you are in, He knows what you need and what He can do for you. He is there for all, to fulfill the plan He has. Receive Jesus, receive the Best.

We are seeing first hand what Romans 8:28 tells us: And we know that all things work together for good, for them that love God and are called according to his purpose. We wish Pastor Paul and Monica the best as they continue in obeying God in His specific all upon their lives. And let me end with a prayer for our church: 

1Thessalonians 3:12-13 - And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all...so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Obedience Greater Than Sacrifice?

1Samuel 15:22 - And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.

I awoke at 1:49 this morning with this question on my mind. For some reason I needed to think on this...now. So at 1:52 I was up. Hmmm, I wondered, What is God asking in this scripture? Isn't obedience a form of sacrifice?

Saul was king over Israel. He was sent by God to destroy their enemy, the Amalekites. The LORD expressly told him through Samuel, the priest, to not spare anyone or anything, man, woman nor beast. Saul went out and attacked them but did not heed God's word. They spared the king and took the best of all their animals to use as a sacrifice to God. It says "they were unwilling to utterly destroy them" (vs 9). Saul disobeyed. 


This could be a very hard word for us too. Imagine the disappointment when we choose not to obey His Word. Let me see if I can wrap my head around this somehow. The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. The Word is Jesus....and we are to come to Him, we are to listen to Him, we are to be obedient to the Word.

The priests and people made literal sacrifices to God. It was their way of being atoned for various sins. So here they thought they were doing a good thing by taking the best of the animals that they might sacrifice them...that weren't even theirs in the first place. True they captured them from their enemy but God didn't want them... He was more interested in obedience. In his own mind Saul thought he had done right. God was upset and called his act evil. 

I was talking with a woman the other night. I can't remember how we got to this subject but she said this: I think believing in God and being a good person is what it's (whatever it is) all about. I sensed a bit of unsurety in her as she said this, almost as if she wondered if that was true. It was too late to get into a deeper discussion and I said we should pick this up again when time permitted.

I'm reminded of the words that tell us that we cannot work to receive our salvation. It's so we cannot boast over an accomplishment (Ephesians 2:9). If the Word tells us that there is none righteous (Romans 3:10), I believe that's a good argument against this "good person" thing. We are only good through Jesus's work for us, His sacrifice, not ours, our obedience to receive His work.

Hosea 6:6 tells us: For I desire goodness and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. There you have it! The knowledge of Jesus is way more important. This is that personal relationship issue. We cannot work to receive it; we accept it as a free gift. It is an inward form of worship (from the heart) rather than the outward (from our works). Oh, we still do good deeds, but now they come from a heart that has first chosen to know Jesus, to be in relationship with Him. God doesn't want our works, He wants us. He wants our hearts. He needs nothing from us except that relationship.

We are all called to obey the voice of Jesus. He is the Shepherd who calls us into relationship with Him. ...the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out (John 10:3). We hear the words and we obey. That's the most important thing. Jesus became the final sacrifice (Hebrews 7:27). And it's He that we are to know first and foremost. We show Him He is our heart's desire...and then the sacrifice comes in our devotion to Him. Psalm 40:6-8 tells us Sacrifice and offering You did not desire; my ears You have opened. Burnt offering and sin offering You did not require. Then I said, "Behold, I come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me. I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is within my heart."

Does this make sense? He wants our thankful praises for His work of salvation for us. We are to come with a broken spirit and a contrite heart. These God will not despise (Psalm 51:17). To come to Him with our works is boastful. To think He will recognize those good deeds before knowing Him personally will not work. 

This concluding scripture shows us that "by Him" the sacrifice was made. We no longer need to make a "works" sacrifice. He is our sacrifice. We receive Him, we give thanks for His sacrifice. That is obedience.

Hebrews 13:15 - Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Do Not Worry, Part ???

Matthew 6:25 - Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life...

I don't often just open the Bible and read what's on that particular page, but I did this morning. What a delightful word, again. A word I needed to hear. That's God, all right. He knows what we need when we need it and although this may seem a coincidence to some, He knew it was a word for me today.

Deep in my spirit there is a knowing that all things will be according to God's plan and I'm so thankful for that. There are times though I want to see things happen now. The waiting period has been long and I must cling to the very personal promises God has revealed to me in the Spirit. That is hard when the days since those promises have been many. But then to the Lord a day can be as a thousand years or a thousand years as a day. God has no time schedule. But living in this 24-hour-a-day rigid world we have makes my patience a thing to be worked on.

Psalm 126:5 - Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting. My mind has been racing again, filled with tidbits of seemingly disjointed ideas. I sense they are all connected and one cannot be removed from another. Yet to make sense of them altogether makes me nuts! It's like one of those crazy dreams we all have where you know what you dreamed but you can't put any of it into words except to say, "I had this weird dream last night." I'm not saying I'm crying over this, but there are times when the burden is heavy and yet you know that when it's done there will be rejoicing...and you might even think, "Oh, for Pete's sake, why did I fret so?"

I think it's more a frustration. I need a word from the Lord. And He says not to worry about anything. He tells me to just give it all to Him and He will handle everything in His perfect way and in His perfect timing. That's such a comfort until I think, "but when is that perfect timing?" And then I can hear God saying, "Oh, for Pete's sake!"

I'm reminded in Matthew 6 that I am of more value than the birds of the air which God feeds. Feeding...he feeds me with His Word. His Words are soothing in the midst of these times. Oh, the peace that comes when you just sit back and thank God for His understanding of your situation, when you choose this day to again lay that burden, or burdens, at the foot of the cross...and determine not to pick them up again...today!

I know that little by little those things racing through my head will one by one be taken care of. I might not even recognize it until one day later. Or God might suddenly put it out before me and show me what I must do now! A word might need to be spoken or an action taken. Lord, just let my eyes and ears be open to see this and respond accordingly.

We are to be flexible to the will of God. We cannot say, not today, Lord. We are to be ready at any time, in season or out. That's called obedience. And as someone once said, patience is a virtue. Wait and obey, wait and obey. Ah, Jesus!

Jesus goes on to say in Matthew Chapter 6 that my Heavenly Father knows what I have need of. But we are to seek Him first. That's the most important thing in the lives of all people. To seek Him first. That first thought in the morning. Do you do that? Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night thinking of Jesus? Do songs of praise lilt through your head as you sleep and you awake praising God? You're missing out if that doesn't happen. Seriously, you are.

I'm so far from being perfect it isn't funny. But my heart is stayed on Jesus. He sees my imperfections through eyes of love since I received Him 12 years ago. Oh, how did I live without Him before? That was easy...it was my "non-knowledge" of God that got me through. Amazing how blind we can be until the Truth comes into our hearts and lives and awakens within us a whole new spirituality based on Jesus. And the work begins, the work of patience, not worrying and obedience, not always in that order.

There is only one way to the Father. When we find that Way we no longer need to fear...we might forget on occasion and become humanly impatient, but despite that there is at the end of that long string of racing thoughts a knot of peace that is tied so tightly just for you. That knot is Jesus if you have reached out in a moment of despair and grabbed hold of Him.

I'm thankful in a way for the disruption in my spirit sometimes (note I said sometimes). It helps me to realize I'm still alive! I'm still under God's wing, under His watchful eye. I know that when things come at us there will be a day when the Lord will shine when His plan has been set forth in whatever way. It won't be me who accomplished thus and so but His work through me. I'm thankful it's by His strength, whether it be a world problem or a personal one, that we come through. This happens so we cannot boast of our own accomplishments. That's why He's God and we aren't. God is who He says He is, He can do what He says He can do. We just need that mustard seed of faith, recall we have that when we grow weary. Let go of those things that we cannot do anything about and just let Him be who He is best at being...the one true God.

After writing all this I checked in on Oswald Chambers. He talked about friendship with Jesus through our own sacrifice and surrender to Him. He writes: We never know the joy of self-sacrifice until we abandon in every particular. Self-surrender is the most difficult thing - I will if . . . ! ... As soon as we do abandon, the Holy Ghost gives us an intimation of the joy of Jesus...and the thought of sacrifice never touches us because sacrifice is the love passion of the Holy Ghost...when the sacrifice is made with the eyes on Him, slowly and surely the moulding influence begins to tell. We sacrifice to and for Jesus. Giving up our burdens is a form of self-sacrifice, a form of love for Jesus, knowing He can do a better job in any circumstance.
Let me end with this. It is partly a work (renewing) left to do in me and partly a wonderful promise (the eternal rewards are greater). We may weep today, but we will rejoice tomorrow:

2Corinthians 4:16-18 - Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

He Who Has an Ear, Let Him Hear...

Revelation 2:7 - "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God."

In my last blog I mentioned words that are hard to hear...especially God's words about certain things. I have spent nearly a week pondering what thoughts were racing through my head. I thought of seven churches that God spoke to the Apostle John about. Each church describes those we have today. Some of the churches overlap in their type of unfaithfulness toward God. The words to six of these churches were difficult ones. 

There was one church that lost their first love. It was a backslidden church. Today it is a hard-working church, persevering in doing good deeds in the name of the Lord. They do not tolerate wicked men, false prophets or those who have committed distainful practices, yet they left their first love, Jesus. They have forgotten where they came from, perhaps have become a bit proud in their "religious" accomplishments. They no longer give God the credit.

The persecuted church is one which we might see in the mission field. They are financially poor but rich in the Lord. However, they have become somewhat weak and fearful because of their suffering.

The third church I believe is becoming a prominent one today...the church of compromise. They are true to the name of Jesus and the faith; however, they are allowing world view to enter in: idolatry, sexual immorality, a worldly type of doctrine. I see a watered down version of the Gospel in this church in order to bring in and hold on to people in their congregation.

Then there's another version of a worldly church. It is a church of love, faith and service to God. They persevere in their work, even more than before, but they have allowed a Jezebel spirit to enter into their church. They believe a false doctrine. Jezebel worshiped the false god, Baal, who was the god of prosperity and harvests as well as fertility and sex. They have in some ways turned from truth to lies. This church would teach a prosperity gospel, one that says we should not let anything get in the way of what we want. This is a false doctrine.

The dead church has stopped "doing" for God. The spirit is gone. There are no longer any redeeming qualities. They have worked for their own fame and fortune and have not given God the credit for what He has done all along.

The lukewarm church has no strengths at all to speak of. Societal attitudes have infiltrated the church. The worldly influence has caused them to become blinded because of their wealth...and they have become spiritually poor and blind, with materialism at the forefront.

The only church with redeeming qualities was the church of brotherly love. This church keeps God's word and never denies Him. They do not compromise the truth. All trials are endured. Because of their love for God they are strong.

The Church is beginning to take on the characteristics of most of these churches, although there will continue to be a remnant, which I choose to believe I am part of, that will not receive these ideas. That remnant will stand up against what is called the emerging church, which is mainly a liberal view of God, one that says that all religions lead to the same god/God, relaxing God's standards, changing His Words to suit the lifestyles of congregants or being seeker friendly for the sake of larger numbers. Some say there is no heaven and hell, that tolerance and political correctness is what should be the practice in this world. They are allowing the ideas of the world enter into a holy place only to try to destroy what God has built up. Thankfully, we have a God who is stronger than any of these things and although He may allow it to happen, it will be to show Himself as victor in the end.

We were told these days would come. They are here. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables, 2Timothy 3:3-4 tells us. We've also been told there will be scoffers in these last days. God is watching and He will judge.

Sometimes the truth is a hard word. It may be one reason why people are turning from God or not wanting to go there...because God has told us something we don't want to hear and to some it seems offensive. It goes against their thinking that if God is a loving God, how could He tell us difficult things or allow us to go through trials. God set up certain commandments a very long time ago and had they not been broken we would not be faced with these problems in our society. 

Even in Acts 17 we are shown the criticism that Paul went through when he said, "This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ." (vs 3). Some believed him, some chose to stir things up (the Jews). Paul and his followers were there, according to these opposers, to "turn the world upside down." Why? Because it went against their thinking. These were hard words others did not want to hear. Paul was saying there was another king...Jesus (vs. 7). There are many today who want to believe what they want to believe. 

John MacArthur, a seventh generation preacher, states: "We can't change the message; that message isn't ours--it belongs to God." The Bible states in Deuteronomy 4:2 that we should not add to or take away from the word that God has commanded us. And some of those commands will be hard to hear. Jesus was was not politically correct. He only spoke the truth, the words that God, His Father, had Him speak. This includes hard subjects such as abortion, homosexuality, idol worship, lying, stealing, cheating, adultery. All hard words for some and even identified in 1Timothy 1:10: immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching.

I want a church that follows only God's direction. Will some good churches allow bits and pieces of the world enter in? Is that why we are told to seek God ourselves, so that we might know Him in our own hearts... Isn't this whole relationship with God a personal journey after all? It starts within each of us. Then we are called to gather with like-minded individuals. I'll tell you, there is quite a struggle going on within my spirit. Only God can provide the guidance here. If He has taken me to a place of discomfort, He will continue to move me until I absolutely recognize what truth is...and demand, if necessary, that wrongs be made right.

2Timothy 1:13 - Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Selective Hearing

Luke 18:22 - So when Jesus heard these things, He said to him [rich young ruler], "You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me."

We all know what selective hearing is. We've all done it. If we don't agree with someone on a certain point we shut our minds off, especially when we might know that it's the truth, and sometimes truth is hard to hear.

Oswald Chambers tells us in his August 17 My Utmost for His Highest devotion "Jesus Christ says a great deal that we listen to, but do not hear; when we do hear, His words are amazingly hard." The world has painted a picture that tells us having things is good. Having more things is satisfying. The more you have the happier you are. Now having things is okay, but when we are taking in more than we really need, we are seeking some "thing" to satisfy. Things don't do that and never will. We just don't always realize that letting go of something can be freeing. 

Jesus would say give those things up and follow Him because He has the water that will cause one to never thirst again. He is the living Bread. He has everything we could ever want if we choose Him over those things that rust and perish.

Jesus encountered people who listened but would not hear. People today do that same. He spoke the truth all the time. He had no choice, He was Truth. He is God and God does not lie. There were those who gladly gave up all they had to follow Jesus. Perhaps some had little to begin with and what Jesus offered was far greater than their expectations. Some definitely followed because Jesus healed them in some way and that secured their devotion to Him.

But what about those who had all the things they thought they needed in their lives, like this rich young ruler in the scripture above? It was hard to let go of his wealth. He sought the way to eternal life, but was reluctant to give up the things he loved. It tells us that after Jesus made the comment above, this man became sorrowful and discouraged. Is this why so many people don't want to put their entire lives in His hands? Are the words just too hard to bear that we might have to change our lifestyles? That we will have to set ourselves apart from others, including family and friends? We will have to look, act, think differently? Well, "having to" is not quite right; it comes with the territory and isn't that difficult to bear!

I should add here that God doesn't always take away all we have. He isn't asking us to give up our jobs, sell all our possessions or give everything to the poor and become destitute. He's trying to show us how to be thankful for just what we need and no more. 

If someone has nowhere else to look for comfort or healing and they earnestly reach out to God, they will find Him. It is then they choose to hear Jesus speak. So often it's in a weak moment we are willing to hear. Other things, other people have failed so what's left? Hmmm, maybe this Jesus thing will work, we might think. Maybe I've been too harsh in my thinking. Maybe I should listen, or try it and find out. Could it be in our weakest moments when we really do need an answer we have finally turned off our selective hearing and are finally open to listening and hearing?

Again, I bring up the country and world situation. I'm convinced that, like Glenn Beck says, we need to get God back into our lives. Our country has always been known for its wealth. How's that working today? Are those things we hold so dear going to keep us from recession? What happens if it does? I'm certain that if things continue as they are, we will get to a place where more people will be looking to God for their provision. Ears will hear. Without God we will falter; I'm convinced of that. 

I know believing that Jesus is the only answer is one of those very hard words that will be ignored. Jesus has told us I am the Way, the Truth and the Life... In Christ there is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11). In Christ I am no longer condemned (Romans 8:1). In Christ I am redeemed (Romans 3:24). In Christ I am no longer separated from the love of God (Romans 8:39). In Christ I have eternal life (Romans 6:23). There are many other examples of who we can be in Christ. The words of Christ go against the thinking of this world. That's why His words are hard to hear.

I have recently begun to think about things I could give up if I had to. Yes, it would probably feel like they were being pulled out of my life but once gone I'd move on just fine. I think God does this for me so when it happens, it's not a surprise! I praise Him for that! Nothing we can physically hold on to lasts forever. Ask those who have had a house burn down or lost a loved one. It hurts but they move on. In the case of giving up all for Jesus, however, the more you lose the more you gain. Philippians 1:21 says For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Trusting in Christ is life and when you die to yourself and the things you think you must have, you live...in Christ.

Do I want to live my life with all the things the world can offer and miss out on the One who has everything of importance to give? No. Do I want what rust and moth can destroy and lose out on an eternal life that is secure in the Lord? No. I pray I will heed the hard words that Jesus speaks in His Word as well as what He whispers in my ear.

The Word of God is filled with hard words. They are there for us to learn from. We must be willing to first pick up that Book and read it. Then we must be willing to hear what the words are that are spoken. From the Old Testament through the New we are shown how we are to live and what is important in this world...no, Who is important. Do we want to miss that because it's a hard word? 

Hebrews 2:1-3 - Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Picture Jesus

Genesis 1:27 - So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

It was Sunday morning. The sun was coming up over the hills, the air was cool after steamy days. Trees were heavy with moisture from a night time rain. Mist rose from the ground. Birds were up and about and rabbits skittered away at my approach.

"I just took the shower to beat all showers!" young William offered with a big smile on his adorable face as I sat on the rocker outside the main Lodge. "The water was cold," he continued. Not a complaint, just a comment to my "good morning." Then he ran off back to where his family was camping.

I was absolutely amazed with the children last weekend at a church family camping weekend. We were a group of 56 and had the whole site to ourselves. The "tons" of kids were about as well behaved as you could wish. Yes, they ran and played, and were boisterous, but it was a good kind of boisterous.  

These kids showed respect for one another and all adults. Despite the largeness of the campground there was a feeling of safety, like God was hovering over it in protection. It was, after all, a Christian campground. Everyone looked out for one another...especially for the kids. Teenage boys gladly draped the younger kids around their necks as they went from here to there. There was no separation between young and old. It was like a very tight-knit family. That happens when Jesus is center.

Picture Jesus. Not physically but His nature. He held himself high without the pride. He spoke firmly yet in love even in judgment. Yet He could command attention with sternness if need be. He is to be our standard, our role model as it were. He is all things good. 

There's a part of Jesus in each of these children that makes them that way. Their parents raised them well, instilling in them the kind of love Jesus would offer them. These children see things apart from the world view of "me." I'm sure not all the time, but here when they were left to romp and play, that nature could have come forth, but it did not. Jesus is the center of their little lives whether they consciously know it or not. They are learning to be like Jesus. It's implanted deep at a young age. They could grow to be adults who are truly set apart from the world. 

I'm not going to go deep into this subject, but consider our country. We started out God-centered. We were raised well. We were set apart. Little by little God was removed and here are we now...a nation divided, a nation of disunity and unrest. The unity within this group of people over the weekend was delicious! The open-heart attitude shone. Where as a nation have we gone?

There was one twenty year old who drove nearly 300 miles after work Friday night to pick up three small kids from a family in a neighboring state so they could enjoy this weekend...and know what "family" is. We found this young man to have a very big heart for these children and through his interactions with these children, he has realized how his own father feels about him. He's growing to be another good example of Jesus...selfless and caring.

We are all made in the image of God. All the good parts, at least. What are the good parts? Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control... (Galatians 5:22-23). Yes, these children frolicked and were noisy, but there was love and joy, kindness and goodness and even some self-control! I looked up the meaning of the word image. It means a likeness, a resemblance. Being made in the image of God is not so much an outward image of God as an inward. Some of us, including myself, still have a lot to learn. 

There was peace and patience at this camping weekend among the parents. They could go about their business without having to constantly watch their kids. They could sit and enjoy each other's company while the children played. They also interacted in games and activities with them. There wasn't a lot of shouting and reprimanding the children. The children respected any adult or parent, not just their own. It truly was like one big family. No whining about something being "mine," children shared with adults, like one boy making a toasted marshmallow for me. He didn't question why, he just did it with a giving spirit. My heart melted, like the marshmallow. This is what we are to be, not just on camping weekends. 

One boy walked up to a little girl eating a S'more. He stood next to her and asked, "Is that yours?" I'm sure she said it was, yet he didn't complain because she didn't share. He just had this sweet, hopefulness that the delectable treat might be offered to him. Again, no whining, no shoving, no grabbing, no taking. Just a curious nature with an attitude of respect.

That was Jesus! We are to take on His attitude and nature. These parents have trained up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6). These parents have not allowed the worldview to infiltrate their lives and that will filter down to the children. These families know the heart of God. They live it out and share it. They have instilled a knowledge of Jesus through their own hearts that have been given to Him. They are passing down the legacy. I can honestly say, that was not my upbringing and what I experienced this past weekend was heavenly! This is what the power of Jesus can do in anyone's life.

What legacy do we have to pass down, as a person, a family, our church, even our country? What words of wisdom do we impart to our children? Is it what's important to God or important to us? Is it God's will our the worldview? Do we look like Jesus in our life? We were created in His image. Shouldn't we?

Romans 12:2 - And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Know and Understand

Jeremiah 9:23 - Thus says the LORD: "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches; but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight," says the LORD.

I need to do a study someday on words just like this. How many times would we find it said that we are to know and understand God? That's what He delights in and we can also if we put our hearts into it.

I think of all the admonitions to us about turning back to God, or turning to Him for the first time. He holds the key to life. All we need is right there in the Word.

The Word (which Nancy Pelosi had such a difficult time saying) is living water. It is our daily bread. It is the true Word of God given to people long ago to help us understand who God is. It's not just rules and regulations, admonitions, but filled with love and hope, words of comfort and words for us today as it was then.

I want to look at the first two sentences of that last paragraph and rewrite them: Jesus (which Nancy Pelosi had such a difficult time saying) is Living Water. He is our Daily Bread. He is the true Word of God given to us long ago to help us understand who God is. So again you see it's all about Jesus. It's all about seeking Him and learning and gaining His wisdom for our lives. 

When we seek Him we are given the ability to understand. He's the link that is missing when people claim they don't understand the Bible. You must first receive Him and everything else falls into place. The wisdom He gives is phenomenal! That's what it means when you hear scripture say "the blind will see, the deaf shall hear." Worldview is deaf and blind. But Christ gives us all wisdom and understanding.

God delights in those who delight in His Word. When we seek His Word (Him) He shows us the desires of our heart. He will speak to each of us individually. We will see differently, hear differently, feel differently. We do all these things because His Spirit has now become our Guide. I just can't tell you what the difference is. It's one of those things you have to find out for yourself. It's something that's difficult to comprehend until you experience it.

One thing's for certain, and I'm so thankful for this: the Word of God will never die. (Just like Jesus rose again from the dead and is alive today.) No matter how much this world or our enemies want it (Him) squelched it will endure, just like the nation of Israel. God has ordained His Word (Jesus) and His original people and no matter how bad things might look, they will not just fade away. Praise God. That means more people have a chance to accept the Word.

We are not wise on our own. We are not mighty on our own. We are not rich on our own. God has given these to us. It's when we don't realize where our wisdom, strength and riches come from we get into trouble...when our pride takes over and we attribute these things to how we worked for them. God deserves the credit. We are nothing without Him. James 4:6 tells us that God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Where do any of us stand? How puffed up are any of us when we do something we think is good? Do we ever give God the credit; do we glorify God?

If we have received Christ, we don't consciously go there anymore. We know where our "stuff" comes from. Because we have turned from our worldly ways and are now seeking His ways, our minds are set on things above, not on things on the earth because our lives are hidden with Christ (Colossians 3:2-3).

How things change when we sit back and realize that we really didn't get from Point A to Point B under our own strength, like I used to think. God's hand was in it all along. He had a plan for my life even when I didn't know Him and that plan included eternal life. I'm thankful for His prodding and turning me towards Him. I'm thankful that He cared that much. And I'll put my life on the fact that He will do that for anyone willing to truly seek Him, to get to understanding Him.

You will never get to knowing and understanding a wooden or stone idol, even if it's placed in a church. No celestial being can speak to you either. We may know about these things, what they "symbolize" but our God is alive and through His Word we may know Him. It is our direct worship of Him; it is our going directly to Him that He delights in. 

John 17:3 - And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Eyes, Cheeks and Waiting on the LORD

Matthew 5:38-39 - "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I [Jesus] tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also." 

After posting my blog yesterday I cut the grass. That's when I do my best thinking. I heard a song that said: ... just the dark before the morning. The song is by Josh Wilson and it's called Before the Morning.

Like I said, I got to thinking after I had posted yesterday's blog. My thoughts continued almost as an afterthought about more that I did not say yesterday. We can go through difficult times in life. Sometimes they come little by little, sometimes in clumps, sometimes just one big misery! The Word tells us that weeping may endure for the night but joy comes in the morning. I could have sworn in the song above I heard the words "hurt comes before the healing" but I was mistaken. But I think that's also true. We can't heal unless we've been hurt.

In the Old Testament the law stated an "eye for an eye." But in the New Testament, Jesus added we are to "turn the other cheek." So what do we do? Some would say the Bible contradicts itself. I claim it does not. An eye for an eye was a law that stated that punishment should not exceed that of the offense. Jesus came and preached forgiveness and love, and we are able to do that through a closer relationship with Him. Where does revenge get us anyway? It only exacerbates the situation by riling up the one exacting the vengeance...and possibly more vengeance back...a vicious cycle that one has to put an end to...like turning the other cheek. 

God is ever our Judge. He knows all, sees all, understands our thoughts and feelings. It is up to Him to be our retribution. "Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19) We are called to wait upon Him. ...but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.  (Isaiah 40:31) Through Him we renew our strength. Strength enough to turn the other cheek.

Turning the other cheek settles the score peacefully. Imagine how a person who had done you wrong would respond to a kind word rather than vengeance. It could provoke a feeling of shame, perhaps even asking for forgiveness. Some might say it would only make you look like a door mat. How many would openly state Jesus was a door mat with all He did for us? I think He was trying to show us that there is more strength in not retaliating than repaying evil with evil. Besides, God is the one who will bring judgment upon any wrong put upon a person. We may not see it happen, but that's where trusting Him becomes a factor. It WILL happen...sometime. And it will be an eye for an eye...God's way.

I think about people who have hurt me in my life and I don't really feel I want vengeance upon them. If a person doesn't know Jesus, we need to forgive them "for they know not what they do." If a person does know Jesus, we should forgive just the same for a lapse in judgment on their part. We're all prone in some way to messing up.

If we begin to start thinking about getting revenge, we are acting as the world would act. We are listening to the worldview and need to squelch that thought immediately. We are to be humble, not proud. Looking for payback is only our pride taking over; pride that gets at our feelings, pokes at our egos, and tells us "no one will do this to me." Yes, it hurts to know you've been wronged. That's part of the burden we bear in our lives. Look at Jesus and His life. Rejected, falsely accused, etc., etc.

Imagine on a grander scale if this world would adhere to these biblical words that today are being judged, criticized, shunned and considered offensive. If we would consider God more and ourselves with our big, fat, destructive egos less, we might have peace in this world. If we would have less tolerance (yes less) and a stronger rod on behinds maybe we would not have to worry about an eye for an eye and would feel more like turning the other cheek. 

The world once had a good example to live by, but He has been replaced with world view. Jesus humbled Himself before King Herod and the Jews prior to His death. He did not retaliate; He remained silent knowing that His Father would one day show the world the truth they ignored. He sacrificed Himself for us. He knows another day will come when He will return and judgment will take place. But it is God's judgment, not man's. There's a very huge difference. He knows how to do it with righteousness. Man's judgment doesn't always contain the righteous part. 

Jesus also knew then and knows today that if we seek Him, ask for forgiveness for the things that go against the "Jesus grain," He will be quick to respond. When we seek Him and get to knowing Him we will understand eyes, cheeks and waiting on the Lord. We will understand the things of God. 

Waiting, however, is not an easy thing and that's where we get hung up. But like Josh Wilson also wrote in his song: 

Do you wonder why you have to
feel the things that hurt you?
If there's a God who loves you
where is He now?

Or maybe there are things you can't see
and all those things are happening
to bring a better ending.
Someday, somehow you'll see….

    It might take a little time, but you'll se the bigger picture...

There's the key...waiting on the Lord because He's working things out behind the scenes of our lives. In the meantime, Jesus is here for the asking and receiving. He experienced everything we will ever go through. He will give us the strength to endure when we give ourselves into His hands, wait on Him, praise Him in difficult times and good. Then He promises us:

Romans 8:28 - And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Nothing, Absolutely Nothing

Jeremiah 32:17 - Ah Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You.

I've said it before and I'll say it again...I have a long ways to go to feel I've arrived! And yet, we will never truly arrive until Jesus returns! None of us are righteous, not one (Romans 3:10). There are some days that scripture speaks more clearly than others. It's not something you always want to hear it but it's true! That's good because the conviction is the first step to healing. But I confess with a heavy heart I know how unrighteous I truly am, how I am so in need of that Savior who wipes clean the slate of confession.

Even after "getting right with God" we fail...those unintended times, those times we aren't purposely trying to sin, those "things we do that we don't want to" (Romans 7:15) but because our flesh rises up we end up doing. Oh, what a wretched man am I (Romans 7:24). I have missed the mark...again. The whole reason Christ died was so that we could come to Him personally and confess our sins and He would forgive. I'm thankful for convicting words, no matter where they come from!

We spent a long weekend golfing with our little traveling golf group. Sunday night my husband and I took the time to again watch an extraordinary movie called Facing the Giants. 

It's a fictional football movie and some might think a "bit over the edge" with the number of problems that could happen to one individual. But aren't there times when it seems life has fallen out from under us? When "things happen in threes" or fours, fives? When those become the giants in our lives? 

The story was based on a high school football coach whose team had been losing steam. He was about to lose his job. Not only that but his house was in need of repair, the only car he and his wife had was falling apart, the children they had been desiring seemed unattainable because he had yet another problem! He was in total despair and felt like a failure. This was a strong Christian man working at a Christian school.

Where had he gone wrong? Where was God in all this? What did he need to do? When you're in a pit whether literally or figuratively the only way out is up. He was absolutely powerless to turn his life around...on his own. He did not have the finances. He'd been doing so well but now the tides had turned on him. He finally took the time to seek God's help and wisdom. Then...things turned around little by little. FYI - the team they faced at the end of the movie was called the Giants. I won't spoil the ending because whether everything turned out good or not, praise went up to God, as it should.

In the movie it was said that "if my attitude is a problem then I've missed the mark." In Greek the word that means missing the mark is bluntly, sin. These words convicted me as I thought about the weekend and a discussion I had with one of the other women. I was reminded that my attitude was wrong. I was feeling sorry for myself about something and letting that get the better of me. We must love God even when we don't see the results of our prayers...no matter what...praise Him. I doubt that I showed that I still loved and trusted God in my life's situations. In fact, God wasn't brought up at all...mistake #1. All that was evident were the thoughtless feelings and words that came forth. 

Nothing, absolutely nothing, is impossible with God, no matter what we perceive in our lives. Nothing! And the amazing thing is when God's hand is in it, others will notice. I failed in my attitude about the situation. To be honest, my attitude stunk. I succumbed to allowing my flesh to take over. I failed, because of a momentary lapse in memory (Lord, forgive me), to speak the positive words I knew to be from God and allowed myself into that negative place. I failed to forget and just trust in God's plan. Instead of looking at circumstances through my own eyes, I should have remembered that God sets things in place for specific purposes, purposes that may include others' lives, no doubt my own!

Pastor James MacDonald had this in his devotion on trusting God yesterday: "[God] sees more than you can ever see. God, who loves you and is committed to you, will not disappoint you now or in the future if you put your weight fully on Him." That is His promise and I'd better not forget that next time!
There will no doubt be more times like this and I prayerfully hope that my attitude will not come through but that my trust in God's plans will. I just failed to forget for a time. My words were not the true reflection of what God has promised me. Instead James 3:10 sounds more like my problem: from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.

Psalm 19:13 - Moreover, keep Your servant from willful sins; do not let them rule over me. Then I will be innocent, and cleansed from blatant rebellion.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Temporary or Permanent Things?

John 6:26-27 - Jesus answered them and said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.

"Most assuredly"...or as the King James version openly declares, "verily, verily." Both these delightful phrases mean "I tell you the truth..."

So here we have more truth about Jesus who is Truth and what He has to offer. People had begun to hear about Jesus. They hunted Him down as He traveled the Galileean countryside and across the Sea of Galilee. They followed on foot, perhaps on donkeys and in boats. They wanted to see this man who was healing people. Perhaps some wanted a healing themselves but I suspect some just wanted to see the miracles. He had what they needed. 

They sought what they could see. We are called to seek what we cannot see...the harder of the two.

What is it each of us wants? Do we want healing physically or emotionally? Do we want financial security? Do we want to know that our futures are secure? You name it, it's your want. Maybe we want to see a miracle in our lives...maybe to prove the Lord is still active? Some thing that proves without a shadow of a doubt it was God.

These people followed Him because He had food to share with them. They were needy and He fed them. After that they were satisfied. Isn't that just like us? Satisfy the immediate needs. There are people I know who live like this. Even Christian friends. Perhaps I fall into this category myself at times.

Jesus tells us in the scripture above basically not to spend your riches on things that will only bring temporary pleasure and satisfaction. He provides for us if we hold on to our faith in Him, if we don't get all worried about what we see in this world. Of course we still need to be wise about things. The Word tells us to be good stewards of what He has given us.

A friend called one day. She was all excited. This particular type of outward expression I have figured out is when she's stressed about something. It's her way of coping. She was stressed about this, that and another thing about our nation and where it's headed. Things she cannot control. Oh, we can pray about things. God will hear but everything is ultimately in His hands. Maybe everything we are going through is necessary to shake us into opening our eyes and getting off our butts instead of just believing that we are a blessed nation...even without God.

I couldn't get a word in edgewise as she spoke with great animation for twenty minutes. All I could say, finally, at the end was, "but we aren't supposed to allow ourselves to become worried. We need to have faith in our God. We need to show that we have faith in our God, that our peace lies in Him."

He has promised to take care of his children. He has told us above to seek Him but not for the outward things. If we are in relationship with Him the promise of protection is for us. Yes, we'll see some rough times but He will have us in the palm of His hand just the same.

2Corinthians 4 talks about not losing heart...although the outward man is perishing it is the inward man that is being renewed. That can only come from staying focused on the Word, on Jesus, and having faith that no matter what happens, we are secure, even unto death...if we are in Christ.

Where do we place our trust? Are we going to let ourselves become anxious about the things we see happening in this world? This is putting our own fears into action, not trusting God has a plan. We are only humans, incapable of understanding God's ways. Are we going to put our trust in the visible things of the world that fade or in the unseen, yet fully alive Christ?

After writing all this, Oswald Chambers' blog for August 5 stated these things: The things that happen do not happen by chance, they happen entirely in the decree of God. God is working out His purpose (in our lives and on earth)...As we go on in the Christian life it gets simpler, because we are less inclined to say--Now why did God allow this and that?...A Christian is one who trusts the wits and the wisdom of God, and not his own wits."

He has said not to look at the outward things but stay focused on Him. Seek Him in good times and bad. We can listen all we want to today's news but sticking close to His Word, which is "the food that endures," is better. Our life is there. The news can bring anxiety but we can find peace in God's Word. This is our source of comfort. It's an unseen life, yet it is true life. That's why it is called the bread from heaven. It is the living Word...Jesus was the Word that became flesh and lived among us (John 1:14). He is still alive today (seated at the right hand of God)...unseen but active.

John 6:33, 35 - For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." And Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst."

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Seasons Bring New Things

Isaiah 43:19 - Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

God is always doing a new thing. Our newly elected lead pastor, Rory Grooters, told us about the various seasons in our lives, in our jobs, our families, church, in nature...God is at work.

One thing begins, it ends and a new thing begins again. I thought about our church and the seasons I've experienced there. I tried to think back as far as I could to the beginning of our church based on the history I have learned about. We've had over 100 years of seasons in our church, mostly growth. But it doesn't start 100 years ago. It started over 6,000 years ago...years we can count...with creation and a God who is in control of the seasons in everything.

Without His creation none of us would exist. Bear with me as I put everything I heard Sunday into what I hope is some meaningful context.

Nothing surprises God. God's hand has been at work all along. About ten years ago the pastor I first knew in our church felt a call to move on which precipitated the need for a new pastor. One season ended both for our church and for our pastor and his family while an old and new season began for the pastor we were to receive. The new season for our church started well but ended with two divisions. Only God knows the reason why. They did not come as a surprise to Him. A once strong, 1500 member church a couple years ago has now dwindled to about 300. Seasons.

I am convinced that these divisions and the changes that took place over the past four years were necessary. As I talked with our interim pastor briefly yesterday he told me what I had believed all along...no one was at fault and we should not judge. In 1Corinthians 4:3-5 Paul told us that we should not judge ourselves or others or anything for that matter. God knows and when the Lord returns we will have a clear understanding why things happen as they do. 

With our church I have believed for a long time that God has been shaking and sifting us to get us to a very vulnerable place where the only thing we can do is stand as a congregation in faith and wait to see what He is going to do. That "word" came to me after several people I knew left after the first division. This was a word that came to us Sunday night as well. Like Gideon who had an army of thousands, God chose to pare it down to 300, sent Gideon out to fight his enemy with the only thing to do but trust that God would be their deliverer. It's always about God and what He can do. 

Seasons. New things. God takes the seasons in all circumstances to work out and work in. Shifting, shaking, raising up and bringing down are all part of the cycles. I believe we just need this so we don't become complacent. He is always wanting us to grow...and He is wanting us to rely on Him and glory in what He can do. It's all about Him.

Pastor Rory's second last sermon at his church two years ago was about Jumping Off Cliffs With God. He spoke about the faith it takes to just do as you know God is asking, without knowing what lies ahead, without clear vision, having faith only in Him. Pastor Rory pointed out seasons in his own life that he had gone through to get where he was. At the end of the sermon he told his congregation that God wanted him to jump off yet another cliff with Him, that he was to move on. He had struggled for five months with tears and sleepless nights because he loved this church family and had grown with them. Now God was asking him to leave for things unknown.

I say all that because while all that was happening in his life our church was undergoing our own struggles. God was preparing both our church and Pastor Rory for that new thing. Some will understand this because we know from experience how God sometimes chooses to work. Some might say it is nothing more than coincidence. With God there are no coincidences...He knows the beginning from the end and He's always working behind the scenes.

Pastor Rory described three things the Lord had revealed to him over the past two years about where he was headed. They all painted a picture both figuratively and literally about our church...as our struggles really began two years ago. These things made no sense to Pastor but he stepped out in faith and followed God's lead. It led him to our church. God is good!

The Lord is in the business of doing new things in our lives. They might seem torturous, frightening or exciting. We don't always understand why we are where we are at any particular moment. I for one can say that in the midst of something, a season change perhaps, it's easy to lose focus on God--for awhile. But He never let's you wander that desert too long without speaking a word of encouragement to get you back on track. In those quiet times He's strengthening so in the next desert experience you might recall how He didn't leave you stranded, how He came through for you...so the day might come when you will not lose focus but just praise God and trust Him knowing it's just another cliff to jump off of with Him.

I will end with a quote from Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest today! 
The greatest thing for us to remember is that we go up to Jerusalem to fulfill God’s purpose, not our own. In the natural life our ambitions are our own, but in the Christian life we have no goals of our own...We are not taken into a conscious agreement with God’s purpose— we are taken into God’s purpose with no awareness of it at all. We have no idea what God’s goal may be; as we continue, His purpose becomes even more and more vague...The work we do is of no account when compared with the compelling purpose of God. It is simply the scaffolding surrounding His work and His plan.

Hebrews 11:1 - Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.