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.
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.
It seems there are impossible circumstances and people all around us. In ministry I find the challenge is to balance out ways to help someone and be realistic about the results. It is those times when our faith is increased because it is something only God is able to do.
There is a story in Numbers 11 about Moses and Israelites. Naturally they are being an impossible group of people to lead because they are taking the blessings of God (freedom from slavery, daily food to eat) and complaining that they are not good enough. Really? Do you guys even remember what slavery was like?
But it was an impossible scene and God was not pleased with the people. Moses heard the complaining and he also grew increasingly angry. God decides he is going to give them meat to eat for a whole month and, as He tells them, “the LORD will give you meat, and you will eat it.” (I would add “and you will like it”) Moses, as the rational leader that he is, wonders how God is going to provide so much food for so many people for so much time. God answers Moses with such graciousness.
“The Lord answered Moses, “Is the Lord’s arm too short? You will now see whether or not what I say will come true for you.” – Numbers 11:23
It seems every day is a new day to question how God is going to take care of a situation. These are opportunities for Him to get the glory and for us to stand back and praise Him. I know of lives that are in complete shambles, but we are seeing God’s work in lives in the smallest, yet most profound ways. I have seen situations where our own family has been wondering how we would pay a bill and God has reminded us that His arm is not too short.
The arm of God is not too short. It is so wide and powerful that He knows every part of the vast Universe . His arm is wide enough to climb the tallest mountain, leap over the oceans, and yet still find each hurting heart right where they are at. God’s arm proved to be just the right length too as Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man, spread His arms on the cross to do the impossible. He took sinful man and God back together again!
May you be encouraged today in whatever you face. God’s arm is not too short for whatever you face today.
One of the most significant things any Christian can do is to uphold the Word of God. There are a lot of people out there who think they have the answer when they have not really taken the time to study God’s Word. There are even people in positions of spiritual authority who abuse their position and deceive many. The distortion of the Bible is nothing new. If you got back to 1 Kings 13 there is a story about a prophet who is told very specifically what to do. He was not to eat the bread, drink the water or return the way he came because that is what God said. He went where he was supposed to go and the king offered him food and water. What did he do?
He obeyed God’s Word
This is one of those victories for the believer because he is so resolved in his conviction. He says he would not even go if he were to give him half his possessions. Do you see that? The value of the Word of God is so powerful and real to him that he is not going to jeopardize that. He believes it and he does it. He then leaves, going a different way because that was what he was told to do.
This is when things get troubling for him. There was an old prophet who decided to chase him down and lie to him.
“The old prophet answered, I too am a prophet, as you are. And an angel said to me by the word of the LORD” Bring him back with you to your house so that he may eat brad and drink water. (But he was lying to him.” – 1 Kings 13:18
He gets fooled by someone who should have been honest with him.
A prophet is supposed to be a truth teller. How hard would it be to ignore a man who is supposed to be a prophet? You would think it would have been easy if you knew that God said something else. God wasn’t going to change his mind! He should not have let his guard down. But it only took an instant and he was deceived.
I think this is so powerful for any of us because we can so easily be deceived if we don’t remain steadfast in what we know God says. The right answer would have been “that is not what God said!” In today’s context there are many who just don’t know what God said. We need to stop thinking with our emotions and start thinking through the grid of God’s Word.
He gets punished
The next section we see the man getting killed by a lion. That seems harsh on the surface. We need to understand that he knew better and he made a choice to completely ignore what God told him. The problem here is not God’s judgement; the problem is the sinful man who disobeyed.
So this serves as a fair warning for all of us. Are you being pushed around by popular culture or by people who have written best-selling books? You do realize that the Bible is a best seller too, right? Let’s make sure we have things in the right order. The prophet in this story put the words of some prophet over God. That is a costly error- one that I don’t want to make.