There are times I look at someone and I wish I had more to offer. I wish I had the words to make things better. As a parent, we try to make things better with our children. Comfort them, kiss the wound, and send them on their way. But in so many lives there is anxiety, depression or emotional scars that are far deeper than a band-aid and a kiss. They need God. I am so glad He is there. You see, the good news is that God is willing to go to all of those places!
In Genesis 39 there is a familiar story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife. To make a long story short, she ends up accusing him of trying to assault her and Joseph ends up in jail. But do you know what it says? It says that while Joseph was in prison, God was with him. He was even in solitary confinement and God was with him. God showed kindness to him and watched over him even though he was suffering. He didn’t take the suffering away. He was there with him in it.
It is a healthy reminder for all of us that there is no limit to God’s presence in our life. If you are in prison, the hospital, or in your living room wondering how to navigate the pain of your life, God is with you! Sure the suffering might not just disappear, but knowing you are not alone should give you some hope.
So remember that no matter where you go in life, God is willing to go there with you.
After I wrote yesterday’s post, I remembered something. Actually, I was just about ready to fall asleep and I had a thought pop into my brain. As a side note, that is a strange place for that to happen for me, usually it is when I am taking a shower that I think the clearest. But anyway, I got to thinking about how in many different places in my life I have been told to “leave it better than you found it.” This is easy to understand when you are given something to borrow, or you are in someone’s home. But what about if we thought the same about the people we encountered everyday?
I was at a hotel with my family some months ago and I noticed an older couple strolling around the lobby. The older man was in a wheelchair and his wife was pushing him around. Immediately I had compassion for them because they looked tired to me. She loved him and would do anything for him. He had some sort of health problem that limited him to the wheelchair. I noticed they wanted to go into the pool area to see what was going on in there, but holding the door was challenging. I went over a held the door so they could come in and then when they left again. They both smiled at me and thanked me for my help. I didn’t do much, but I hope I left them better than I found them.
Words have the power to hurt and heal. Of course working with people can be a challenge. If I chose to be negative or grumble about others, I will just add negativity to an already negative situation. People don’t always do things like I do them. Sometimes I make mistakes, sometimes other people make mistakes. We are all human. One thing that helps make things better is gratitude. I can say thank you. In fact, I have found that one way to counteract negativity in the workplace or in the home is to say thank you, even to that person that can rub you wrong. Actually, this is probably something we all can do better at. It doesn’t hurt and it is free.
What can you do today to leave them better than you found them? Someone needs you to lift them up today.
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!
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.
Despite the inherent right that we have to remain silent, we sure don’t exercise it very often. The need to talk or at the very least fill the silence with something is overwhelming for most people. There is a young man who drives around the streets of town with some sort of speaker system in his car commenting on what he sees as he drives around. It is only funny the first time. This need to fill the quiet is something I wrestle with as I allow for a moment of silence at the end of a sermon so that people might be able to respond to what God is saying to them. There are people who want more and there are people who just cannot bear the dead air. And to be fair, I live in a house with 4 children (3 boys) so there isn’t a whole lot of silence in my home. If there is we probably want to figure out what is going on.
Even before God it is hard to be silent despite the fact that we can all recite the verse “be still and know that I am God.” We wonder if being still is something that actually involves moving and talking. Maybe “still” is a word that when we go back to the original language actually means “be boisterous.” Or perhaps being still is something we do while we sleep?
Silence is an appropriate, often overlooked, response to God’s Holiness. Silence helps us take time to listen to what God might be saying to us. Silence puts our heart in a posture to revere God in ways that we can’t when we are rattling off a list of prayer requests or lamenting about something in our lives.
I was reading Leviticus 10 the other day and was completely blown away by the phrase at the end of verse 3. “Aaron remained silent.” What was that in response to?
Aaron’s sons were doing what boys do- playing with fire. Except this wasn’t just any fire, it was fire that was to be used for God’s purposes. It was holy and needed to be looked at that way. The boys were playing with fire and they should have known better. The text says that they offered unauthorized fire, which of course means that there was time and place for this fire. They did not follow the rules and fire came out and consumed them. I guess their dad never mentioned that if you play with fire you will get burned. But here is what Moses said to Aaron:
“This is what the LORD spoke of when he said: ‘Among those who approach me I will show myself holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored.” – Leviticus 10:3
Do you see what was at issue here? It was not about the fire; it was about the holiness of God. We can approach God so flippantly, but He is to be revered and honored as Holy. And so Aaron’s response, to me, was the more genuine response he could have had. Most people would wail at God for that, but Aaron was just silent! I mean, what could he say?
Do you need to spend some time in silence before God? I would encourage you to do that because I know there is real refreshment in that time. Are you experiencing heartache or struggle? Be silent before God and worship Him. There is fresh perspective gained as God is honored in our lives. It is time to exercise your right to remain silent.
We are beginning to settle into our new home even with the adjustments of a new season of the year. If I reflect a bit I am amazed at the faithfulness of God through the whole journey. On the day after Christmas we packed up a large moving truck and took an early morning departure the next day to make a long journey to Wisconsin. We managed to make good time and the cat even managed to travel well. It all happened so fast, but turned out so perfectly. The day we arrived in Wisconsin it was quite warm only to drop in temperature significantly the following days. It is the little things that we often overlook but I am grateful.
It has taken some time to find true rhythm to the week here. As pastor my week is rather unpredictable even if I do know that Sunday is always coming. We have found the church to be a great fit.
My kids are thriving in this new setting. The two older boys will do little league this summer and the two younger kids are looking forward to their own things.
So as we start to settle in, I have a lot of things to write about. I am looking forward to sharing my thoughts again. The kids seem to never stop giving me things to think about. My 7-year-old son tonight asked me why his sin deserved death? He then asked me why God created the world? These are some great questions and what a joy it is for me to be able to talk with him about God.
For those that have prayed for us, thank you. God continues to lead us along. I never thought I would be here. I have learned that when you are obedient to God the destination is not as important as the one in whom we keep our eyes on. One step at a time he has led me from Cape Cod to Wisconsin. Everyday is a new adventure and opportunity to be faithful. That is the biggest transition we all need to make — to go from my will to His will.
Yesterday I mentioned a story in 2 Kings 6 about the prophet Elisha and the attempt by the king of Aram to capture him. The servant saw the army and wondered what they were going to do to stay alive. Elisha encouraged his servant to not be afraid, but he also prayed for him. He helped to connect the dots between what God was doing and his life. “God help him see it” God answered the prayer and he saw.
Isolation is no friend to someone walking in faith because we are easily shaken on our own. A life of faith is not something we just do on our own, nor should it be. We live it out with each other. We grow together. What a privilege to be able to help someone see what God is doing in the midst of crisis and to receive the same ourselves! It is awesome to be able to look at our brother and sister in Christ and say – “Keep your eyes on Jesus. Let’s do this together.”
How can you encourage someone to keep their eyes on Jesus, not in some cliché way like — “it will be okay”, but in a real way? How can you help someone in a way that doesn’t diminish the junk they find themselves swimming in, but instead helps them look up out of it to the Lord who walks with them through it. We need to pray with each other that God would open our eyes to whatever He has for us in any circumstance and to give us the faith needed for anything that might happen.
It is at this point that we are no longer paralyzed by the fear of the unknown, but are empowered by faith in the risen Savior. This changes how we live! Elisha acts on what his eyes of faith tell him and he prays that God would strike them with blindness in verse 18 and God does it.
It would appear that the servant takes a deep breath and calms down also. He has now seen that God is up to something big and he rests in it. Do you rest in Him? Do you find ways to stop, in the confidence of God’s Word and the ministry of His Spirit to rest in Him? Do you apply that which we confess with our mouth about Jesus being the Lord? That means giving up the desire to have it all perfectly arranged before stepping out in faith. That means coming before the throne of God with open hands and knowing that the assurance we have for each day does not come from a paycheck or a career, but a relationship with Jesus Christ.
We need to be connected with each other. We do know is that we will accomplish more walking in faith together than we will when we try to do it alone.