This Sure is Different

If I were to say that this year has been “different” you would probably accuse me of understating things. But it most certainly has been different. I mean just in church life alone things are, well, quite different. In our setting, we were online only for eleven weeks. That isn’t as much as some others, I know, but still one of those Sundays included Easter Sunday. Could you ever dream up a scenario when the Church would not be able to gather in person on Easter Sunday? I couldn’t. We have been forced to redevelop our online presence, a task that thankfully I was able to easily integrate. But now as we near the end of the year, are we looking for something else that is different? I have plans in 2021, don’t you? The idea of being in a crowd again, a concert, a restaurant without this strange vibe in the air. I look forward to that. I refuse to call this the new normal; this is different.

Now it feels like we have been in this holding pattern for a while now. I know that I have offered some of the same prayers to God without any dramatic conclusion reached. I mean don’t you just long for those moments when you say amen and things just change. I believe He can do it. I believe God is in control of what we would call normal life, or when things change. But still isn’t it nice to feel like there is progress? Isn’t it fun to look at the results and admire His work?

This last week I was in the book of Luke chapter 1 in the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth. They were servants of God, serving in the temple, and blameless. They were leading people closer to God and doing a great job of it. Yet, they had this strange vibe hanging in the air over them– Elizabeth was barren. That was not just a personal tragedy, but it was a public disgrace. In these days it was disgraceful for you not to be able to have children. And it is obvious that they had prayed for this for a long time, but now when we meet them they are old. (or well along in years, as Zechariah wisely chooses to be a little gentler with his description about his wife) When all human possibility is exhausted, God sends an angel to interact with Zechariah. And what did he say? He said “God has heard your prayer.” And he goes on to tell him that he will have a son, John, who will play a key part in the story of the coming of Jesus Christ.

Trust God for your story

God has heard your prayer! I was so encouraged by that because this year has gone on for a long time. I mean I saw one of those advertisements for an ornament and it was a dumpster fire. Different is no longer fun. I want something that feels different from this — let’s call it normal even. And prayers, after a while, lose a little bit of their passion because, let’s be honest, we start to accept where we are. Zechariah had. I mean that ship had sailed. He wasn’t going to have kids now, he was old. Who wants to have kids when they are old? Well, God has different plans than we do and they are much better than we could ever dream.

This is an encouragement for all of us fed up with the different. Hang on. God has heard your prayer. And while they might not get answered in the time or manner you would have them, it doesn’t mean God is distant. I don’t know how long this whole pandemic thing goes. But God does. And even if I don’t get to do the things I plan on, it doesn’t mean God isn’t loving. The story in Luke tells us that God had a perfect plan for a specific moment in history. Trust him for your story.

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For a sermon on this passage, go to battlelake.org/sermons

Receive God’s Peace

There are two words that cause many problems for life.  “What if” If we would be able to eliminate those words, our level of stress would decrease. I mean consider all of the ways this comes up: “What if I get sick and my family needs me?  What if my car breaks down and I miss my important meeting?  What if I get robbed while walking downtown?” There are so many possibilities out there that our mind, if allowed to run free with all the possibilities, will run us ragged.  What does the Bible tells us about this?

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”  Philippians 4:6

The cure for anxiety is prayer.  God wants us to bring everything to Him in prayer and then leave it in His hands.  He is the one who can actually do something about it anyway! God is so gracious to us in this because not only will He take our anxiety from us, but He will then replace it with His peace.

“And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  – Philippians 4:7

Are you feeling anxious today?   Take it to the Lord in prayer and receive His perfect peace.

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Take it to the Lord and receive peace 

The Truth About Yourself

 

Looking into a mirror seems to be an enjoyable activity for every baby I have ever met.  When we get older, however, that enjoyment seems to wane a bit.  What started off as a simple admiration of someone so beautiful you could hardly contain yourself, has turned into a daily attempt to make yourself presentable to the world.

  In the book of James, it says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says.”  He goes on to say that if you just listen to the word but don’t do it, it is like looking in a mirror and then looking away only to forget what you look like. Do not be deceived into thinking that by simply hearing the Word in some fashion that you are doing what God desires.  You maybe have heard of Jesus or are able to recite certain verses from the Bible even, but if it doesn’t connect and become your own – as in, if you don’t respond to it, then you really haven’t received it.

 

Look intently to allow it to show you the truth

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No need for a comb today

The mirror does not lie about what you look like, it doesn’t look at you and say “hey, you know what, your hair is a mess, but nobody will notice” No it says – hey, your hair needs to be combed.  But the mirror also does not do anything about your problem. So if you walk up to the mirror with messy hair and you do nothing with your hair, guess what, you will still have messy hair.  But I looked at the mirror!   Yes, but you didn’t do anything with the information.  You didn’t respond to what it revealed about you.

Look intently into the perfect law and  keep looking.  Get a good look at what you see there and let the truth of what it shows bring you before the Lord who can do something about it.  Let the mirror of God’s perfect law show you the condition of your heart so that you get a good understanding of it and feel the need to have it repaired by Christ.

Let the truth lead you to action

 What do you see?  Okay…now do something about it.  He says that you will be blessed when you do what the Word says.  This is what being a disciple of Jesus Christ is all about.

Life for your soul

 

Have you ever been so tired that you couldn’t keep your eyes open or really move very quickly?  So much of our life is about doing something that it can be very difficult to find time to rest.  But it is critical to your life.  James 1:21 says, “Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.”

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Rest….

The Word of God is not an optional part of the life of a believer.  This is not just any other word that has been written down on paper.  This is the word that is implanted in you as you trust Christ and can save you.  This is life for your soul.  Take a drink and be refreshed!   It is one thing to feed the physical body, but it is another thing to feed the spiritual.  You need food for your physical body to live and you need food for your soul to live.  This food is from the Word of God.

The Word of God is as essential to our spiritual life.  So if you go from Sunday to Sunday without opening up the Word on your own, it is like holding your breath for 7 days.  You are harming yourself when you do not open this book up and sit under its teaching and authority in your life.  The Word of God is life for your soul and is the most valuable thing there is beyond God himself.

Take off moral filth

 The word therefore indicates a conclusion based on what was just said.  So if you look there you see that if we are talking and determining in our own minds and hearts what is right and wrong, we are never going to challenge moral filth in our lives. But if we sit under the authority of God’s Word, it is hard to wiggle out of it.

But it isn’t just taking off the moral filth, but it is replacing it with something else.

Put on the Word of God

 

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Show me how to fillet this one!

It says to humbly receive the word of God.  It is a picture of a father and a child, as the father imparts something to the child and the child listens intently to what the father is telling him or her.  My kids like to do a lot of fishing with me and naturally that means we are keeping all kinds of fish to fillet.  Of all my kids, the one most interested in this process is my daughter.  She will sit with me, poke the fish, talk to them and ask me questions about everything.  What is that?  Why is the fish making that noise?  What does the fish eat?  And she is very, very interested in what I have to say.  She will take whatever I have to say as truth because she has no reason to believe otherwise. This is how we receive the Word.  The difference is that this Word can save you.  This Word can help you make sense of the chaos in the world.

So take time in the Word today and everyday.  You will find new life for your tired soul.

God is Known Here

It was a few weeks back that I was sitting in my office asking the Lord to illuminate the passage I was supposed to preach on Sunday.  It didn’t take Him long to challenge me with a question.  I read Psalm 76:1 which says, “In Judah God is known; his name is great in Israel.”  And it was there that the Spirit of God asked a question “Am I known here?”

God is known here
A picture one of the kids drew after the sermon from Psalm 76

I was very quick to dismiss this question, to be honest.  Do I know God?  Yes, I trusted in Jesus Christ as my Savior years ago.  But I had to stop for a moment because while that is where that relationship begins, it is not where it ends.   If I just stop there, I run the risk of getting comfortable with a mediocre Christian life that just gives God leftovers of my life and not the very best.  Knowing God is something that we continue to grow in every single day of our lives.  There is a treasure chest filled with things about God that we will never see the bottom of in all of our digging. But that is not the end of it.

Is He known in me?  Is He know through me?

 Verse 1 says that in Judah, God is known.  That is a powerful statement to make.  Wouldn’t that be an amazing testimony if we could say that in Battle Lake, God is known?  What would it take for God to be known in the town you live?  I mean, really known.  Just like every small town in America, there are many churches here.  But really knowing God is different than just knowing about God.

And where God is known, His name is great!  His name is great whether we acknowledge it or not, but when we worship Him, exalt Him, put Him as first among all others – His name is great to me and His name is great through me!

So I ask the question today:  Is God known in you?  Is God known in your hometown?  What will it take?  What part do you play?

Reading the Bible to Dad

If you don’t think reading your Bible to your young kids is important, take a look at this. Here is my 4 year old daughter reading her Bible to me.  Keep in mind she does not know how to read.

Parents — Please don’t underestimate the stories you are teaching your kids. Passing on our faith is the most important thing we do for our children.

True Worship Practice

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Peanut

My daughter got a hamster for her birthday this year.  This hamster is probably the most well-loved hamster that has ever lived.  She talks to him, sings to him and reads here Bible to him.  If hamsters could know Jesus, Peanut would be a follower of Jesus by now.   Often we will be just sitting in the other room and she will say “I am going to go sing to peanut” and off she goes.  She will sing “Jesus loves me, this I know” over and over again to Peanut.   Anyone who comes to the house has to see Peanut.  Everyone she sees has to hear about Peanut.  She is glad we moved to a place that has a pet store so she could get a hamster.  Her hamster is loved!

There is something refreshing about hearing my 4 year old daughter talk to her hamster about Jesus.  This is just a natural way she loves him.  I think it is an important link to make for us ‘older’ people.   Psalm 76:1 says that in Judah God is known; that His name was great.  The reason?  Because God was there and His people worshiped Him.  Worship naturally leads other people to God.   My daughter is learning to make Jesus known; she is practicing what it means to make His name great!  That is such a treasure for me to have her being able to articulate that.

Worship is more than just Sunday mornings.  Worship is all day and worship is everyday.  And it seems to me that the more we practice this, the more natural it becomes to just praise God in every circumstance.