I have trust issues; I think we all do. It is not that I don’t believe God will do what He said, I do. My problem is in being too impatient to really wait for it. Well….no, that’s not entirely true either. Let’s couple that impatience with a desire to be in control and maybe we are getting closer. No matter how you describe it, at its core, it is a lack of trust. I guess I was convicted by my own sermon yesterday because as I sang the closing song I thought “Lord, I have held so much back out of fear or as the result of past hurts.” Fear and trust apparently don’t like hanging out together because when fear is around trust shows up only in shallow ways, not the deep, abiding way we are desperate for.
The song we were singing “All to Jesus, I surrender, all to Him I freely give. I surrender all, I surrender all, all to thee my blessed Savior, I surrender all.” Hmmm….I can’t imagine anyone can really say that they have surrendered ALL. Some, sure. Most, maybe. But to surrender all is much more costly. And so I sang that song longing to surrender all, with the realization that fear and doubt are always ready to make me start to grab onto things.
The picture I get in my mind is this:
Let’s say you are out in a canoe and you have all of your fishing gear there with you. This is not just any gear either, this is the best gear you own. You are floating along when all of a sudden you run into something, turn sideways, and flip over. In that moment it would be difficult not to try to grab your gear before it floats down the river. But do you know what is better? Surrender. Surrender those things to the river because if you don’t, you will drown trying to save them. If you make an attempt to gather all of your belongings, you have made a choice that those things are more important than your life. But what good will that stuff be to you if you are dead?
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6
It doesn’t take very long for life to flip you into the water. The question is: what do you do when that happens? If you are to trust in Jesus with all your heart, then you will grab onto Him and surrender everything else because life in Him is far more valuable than grabbing onto things that will drown you.
It seemed like a reasonable request to him, but to me it might be a bit much. “Dad, you need to change the carpet in here right now.” Why the sudden concern over the flooring choice in our living room? Like most things in life with him, it starts with a John Deere tractor. As it turns out, the new cultivator he bought with his Christmas money does not work well on the longer carpet. It gets tangled up and it falls off. We have ourselves a frustrated farmer. The only solution is to change the carpet.
We might laugh at that, but it isn’t actually too far away from how serious God is about our sin. Jesus even went so far as to say that if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. Which, by the way, is hyperbole — don’t really cut your hand off. But what it does is show how serious it is to stay untangled in the “carpet” of your sin. Run from sin. Stay away from sin. Change your scenery if it is just causing you to stumble.
Remember that this world is doing everything it can to take you away from God. Change whatever you need to avoid the trap of sin.
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
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.
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.”
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
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.
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?”
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?
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.
There is a lot on my mind and there is a lot off my mind. Does that even make sense? In the past few months I have experienced excitement, fulfillment, and absolute frustration, sometimes at the same moment. Ministry is tough. There is a battle going on for the souls of man and when we jump in to be a minister of the Gospel, well you know the devil is not going to just stand by and watch. I find myself wrestling with the Church — what is it and why don’t we look like it? I find myself looking at my own sinful heart and the hearts of those around me who claim to be followers of Jesus and I wonder — really? Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to set myself up as some spiritual giant, I just wonder if when Jesus said “they will know you are my disciples by your love” what exactly He had in mind. It is true I see people loving each other — at times. It is true that some of the most amazing examples of this I have seen in the lives of some of our missionaries who have gone to difficult places because they love the people there. Is that what it looks like? What if the church really loved like Jesus?
In the past three months I have seen some really difficult things in our community. I have seen people die suddenly, people attempt suicide, people drink themselves to sleep at night, and others just trying to figure out what it takes to make it through one more day. Where is the church in all of this? Is the Church standing on the corner shouting at the world saying “you must change and be like us” or do we really have the love of Christ in our hearts overflowing to our communities. I believe that the Church is in each community for a reason and must actually engage in the mission there. I also am constantly challenging those around me to look at this community and consider how we as the Church might make this community a better place. It seems to me that when we start loving people where they are, then maybe they will want to hear what we have to say. The walls need to come down and we need to go to the world.
Recently I was at Council for the Christian and Missionary Alliance. During that time we sang a song many different times. So often I found myself unable to sing it because I was so moved by what it was declaring and in such agreement with the prayer for the work of Christ’s Church worldwide. The line was this:
“There is no power in hell or any who can stand. Before the power and the presence of the Great I AM.”
That image comes from an interaction God had with Moses. Moses wanted to know who would authenticate his message and God said “tell them I Am sent you.” That is so simple and so powerful. We don’t need any fancy methods, techniques, mission statements with clever words — we need the power of the living God. The gates of hell will not prevail.
The same is true when in our own personal lives we can’t seem to breathe. Who is it that has given me breath? Who is it that I submit my life to? The Great I Am. And I know I long to see the Church be the Church again as a living testimony of the power of the Great I Am. That means you and that means me.
Here is the song — Maybe it will minister to you like it has to me