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?
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.
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.
Since I started this blog, many things have changed. My kids are continuing to grow up- despite my efforts to slow them down. I started writing this when my daughter was just a newborn baby. She is now 4 years old. In that time, I have moved from Cape Cod to Wisconsin and then to Minnesota. I have learned a few life lessons and I have gained new skills. I am a pastor, yes, but I have developed a wider ministry. I have also become an EMT , which has opened up opportunities all over the place. Why do I share all of this?
I want to provide some context for the things that are now on my heart. I care a lot about the local church and what it does. I have read many things about the health of churches, making disciples, and strategies that have worked all over the place. I believe in the church (obviously) and still think that it is the primary means by which the message of Jesus Christ is shared with the world. I also care about the message of the Word of God, which is still relevant and real today. I care about people and the complicated issues that so many are facing. But the more I think about all of that, the more I realize that what drives it all is a desire to live with a proper view of God. I want to be a better worshiper of God. Being a worshiper of God is a full-time, life-changing, decision-making, Jesus-honoring pursuit. It means that all of who I am somehow exalts God. This involves some inward looking because there are plenty of things that will distract any of us from this. But doesn’t it seem like worship of God is really what is lacking today? Why so many issues in the church? Why so many issues with people deciding for themselves what truth is and what it isn’t? It is because we are not worshiping God well.
I have started a series in the church to start the new year focused on worship. I believe it is so foundational to who we are as believers. We must get it right! I wonder what would happen if we really were worshipers of God. What if our lives reflected a sense of awe? Would it change our relationships? Would it change our attitudes? Would it change our communities? Would it make us appealing to those who are searching for answers? One thing I do know is that inwardness increases as worship of God decreases. It is at times when I lose sight of God that I start to look at me and then the complaining starts. God why don’t you do this for me? God why is my life so difficult? God why do I need to reach out to that person when they don’t even care about me? A worshiper approach would be “God you are….good…faithful…loving…kind..forgiving.” Starting prayers with God you are, I believe, is one way to help get us in that right mindset.
So a goal this year for me: Be a better worshiper of God. So I wonder: What are you doing to keep God center this new year? How do you keep your heart close to God? Do you think there is more to it than what I suggest here? May the worship of God increase in our hearts, homes, and churches this year!
I was listening to talk radio yesterday on my way back from a meeting. The content of the conversation was revolving around the recent snow we received and the debate over when to cancel school. On the one hand you have people who say that it makes more sense to cancel it than to have a day of school with only half the students — this one man said that he felt like it was a wasted day. That got me thinking about Sunday morning here. We had our worship service in the midst of a snow storm. There were about 20 people here; was that wasted?
In the framework of life there are many things that feel wasted. I feel like I might say something to my kids all the time and they still miss what I say. I know in youth ministry I would have phone calls that would make me want to throw my phone against the wall. It is frustrating to see someone go so far in their faith only to turn so far backwards in an instant. It is in those moments that I wonder how effective my ministry really is.
When there are deep issues to deal with in any arena of life, it can make us weary. Even Paul in the book of Galatians got a little frustrated with the people. They had heard the Gospel and had receive it. So, why were they living in the old way again?
“I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.” Galatians 4:10
I think we all have days like that. Whether it is with my ministry or with my own family, I sometimes look at all that goes on and wonder “what am I doing here?” “Why do I even bother with this?” But when the dust settles I always end up landing right back where I began; with a deep sense of purpose in this life. I know that things won’t always go my way — in fact, if they do go my way I start to wonder if I am missing something. What I do know is that there is no such thing as “wasted efforts” if my efforts are done under the empowerment of God.
So what does that mean for you today? You will never have this day again. So let’s not waste it. If today is not a good day from your perspective, perhaps it is time to look for ways to praise God. I know I have a hard time being grumpy when I stand before the God who knows my heart. I know for me I will continue to press on in the challenges I face knowing that God is not wasting anything — including what I perceive as my time.
Every year we get to this time of year and two things happen: People start playing music and other people start complaining about it. It generally strikes me as funny how Christmas decorations start to whip people in a frenzy. It is as if they have suddenly realized that this holiday is now coming and there is so much to do. I am one of the people they are annoyed with because I have embraced fully the season of Christmas. In fact, I look forward to it all year. I do this because it brings such excitement to our home (and also there are cookies) At the same time, I tend to keep it simple when it comes to Christmas. We set a budget and we stick to it. We do not use credit cards for gifts. We don’t waste time trying to impress people because they know better anyway. We just enjoy the season. There is no reason getting stressed out and maxed out in debt in order to celebrate the birth of Jesus. In fact, I think it misses the point of the whole season.
Jesus Christ came as a baby in a most humble way, to extremely ‘insignificant’ people and the world has never been the same. What are we to learn from that? I think it comes down to two salient truths: 1) Focus your heart on gratitude and worship and 2) Take time with people over time with stuff.
Focus your heart on worship and gratitude
The point of our lives is God’s glory. We exists for His glory. When we remember this, it makes each day significant for us. I realized that my life is in His hands and my heart leaps with joy. This is the heart of this season. God did not just leave us alone in our sin; He came so that He would die for the people (even me and you) that rejected Him. It is amazing that Christmas actually has very little to do with pickled herring. (and that is probably a better thing than I would like to admit)
Take time with people over time with stuff
We have spent time over the past few years helping family and friends not buy us gifts. We would much rather spend time doing something with people than receive a package in the mail. Sure we get our kids a few gifts, but we save more money for things we can do throughout the year as a family. This actually creates a better overall family atmosphere and sets up our family time as important and an integral part of our entire year.
So Christmas is coming and yes it is a good thing. Who knows maybe your humble Christmas might be the one Christmas you remember for the rest of your life and aren’t paying off for the same period of time.