God’s love

God is There

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!

beach

No matter where you go, God is willing to go there with you. 

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.

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Trust the God Who Knows

Let me do it!

Let me do it!

We are short-sighted people.  What I mean is that we tend to forget all of the positive things when one negative thing shows up.  This is not too surprising given the way negativity seems to overcome our lives.  The car starts everyday with no incident and you don’t notice it at all.  But when the car doesn’t start and you are late for work, well let’s just say that car has been cursed.   I was driving back to church one time when the back suspension of my car literally broke in half.  I had driven that car for probably 7 years and it had always been reliable.  It was just that the break down came at a bad time.

God has been faithful to us again and again.  He has been faithful to us in the positive situations and the negative situations.  No one should have known that any better than the Israelites around the time of Moses.  They had been in slavery and God delivered them out of it.  Except they started to question God’s motives in it.

“That night all the people of the community raised their voices and wept aloud” – Numbers 14:1

Can you imagine the sound of that?  If the whole community was wailing, it would be quite the sight.

“All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in the desert! Or in this desert!.” – Number 14:2

People who are stuck in their ways do not see things any other way.  If you had been in Egypt all your life, even if you were a slave, that would be the only life you had ever known.  There is comfort to the prison.  But God was actually taking them to a better place if they would only trust Him!

The next verses show a discourse between Moses and God with God replying to Moses “I have forgiven them.”  God is so gracious to us, even in our grumbling.

It would be helpful for us to learn a bit from this because their grumbling did prevent them from entering into the promised land.  Our job is not to know how it all turns out, but to trust in the God who does know.   The path might not always be easy, but consider the alternative to walking with God!  I would rather wait on Him than wait on myself.

Are God’s arms too short?

It is all in His hands

It is all in His hands

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.

Remember to give and receive and give again.

IMAG0329Christmas is such a magical time.   There is just something about lights and snow that makes me want to drink hot chocolate with candy canes.  It brings families together and brings people to church for candlelight services.    There is something very intriguing to us about a silent night that was interrupted by a chorus of angels praising God for the birth of Jesus Christ. The only thing is that each year it seems like we add more distance between that scene in Bethlehem and what Christmas has become.    Yet,  no matter what we try to scream at each other, Christmas still means something valuable to all of us.  We don’t just enjoy it, we long for it.  It is the one time of year when we throw out all caution about leaving the lights on and we add more lights to our home.  I mean, it is Christmas — it only comes once a year!

Steeped in all of the commercial and political correct jargon is the reality of what has taken place.  Sure a winter solstice is happening, but Christmas was not that big of a deal until it became a celebration of Jesus.  It provided a time for us to gather together to tell the story of God taking on flesh to save people who have rejected Him.  It allows all of us to start to answer the question about what this is all about and how we can have hope in a future.  Jesus is the gift we need and He is where the focus needs to be.  The story actually includes us.

Think about what would happen if you received a gift that would save your life.  If your life literally hung in the balance and you got what you needed to live, would you put that gift on the shelf?  I know I would open it up and apply it to my life.  If I knew someone else with the same problem as I had, I think it would be a nice idea to try to save them too, wouldn’t it?

Who wouldn't want to watch this sheep?

Who wouldn’t want to watch this sheep?

In Luke 2 there are shepherds out tending to their flocks.  It says that they were living in the fields.  I would imagine that it was an ordinary night of sheep watching.  Then God showed up and His glory shown around them.  In other words, they knew that it was the Lord who was showing up to tell them something.  Despite their fear, they are able to calm down and hear about the Savior who has been born.  The gift is a baby and not just any baby, the Savior of the world for all people!

So they go to see and they find the baby in the manger.  What they do next is what I think we need to remember — they went and told everyone!  There is good news and they want the world to know.

This challenges me to make sure I don’t miss out on the giving part of Christmas.  There are people all around us who have never received the gift of forgiveness and eternal life in Jesus Christ.  We must not keep Him to ourselves.  I know it is not politically correct to talk about Jesus, but it is far worse not to.  The Savior has come for all people.  (yes, even them)

I believe that all of the rhetoric and media hype over things people say is just a distraction from what really matters.  We need to keep our head on straight.  Jesus Christ is the way for anyone who will come.  Christmas is a holiday to celebrate that.  The Bible is truth and God does not need us to defend any of it.  We are to share the gift of Jesus with the world around us.

As you receive the blessing of drawing near to God because of Jesus, remember also to share Him with others.

Merry Christmas! 

 

Prayer to Keep God’s Will in View

 

Tis the season

Tis the season

You may have noticed by the amount of crazy, frivolous spending, that Christmas is coming.  Materialism has run crazy and taken lives in its wake again.  Getting deals does not make people evil.  The sinful heart does a great job of bringing it out of people.  But why?  How is it that rational people can get so short-sighted over an electronic device that will be obsolete in a matter of months?  It is a lot like getting caught in the undercurrent.  If you don’t prepare for how you might guard yourself from it, you will end up underwater.

It is no different for any other area of our life.  I know my family is currently in the midst of a transition from one ministry to the next.  That lends itself to a lot of opportunities for unguarded emotions.  What helps is to back up and look at the big picture – eternity.  We are serving the God of all the Universe.  We are obeying Him and not getting taken in by the comfort of settling somewhere where God is telling us to leave from.  That is a hard place to be at times because our ability to try to control everything gets in the way.  But there is such joy in the trust that comes from a relationship with God.   It means we need to keep our eyes on Him and not on other things.

I don’t know what that means for anyone reading this, but I do want to share how I have been praying in order to keep focused on where I need to be now.  And when I say that I don’t just mean as a pastor, but as a parent, husband and member of a community.

“He is always wrestling in prayer for you that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.” – Colossians 4:12 (part of it)

I have been taking time to wrestle in prayer for my family.  We want to not just sort of settle in God’s will but we want to stand firm in it.  We want to have our feet firmly planted on the Rock of our Salvation, Jesus Christ.  So, I pray that my children, my wife and those I serve in ministry with will know the will of God and stand on it with confidence.  I also have been praying for progress and growth in our relationship with God. (maturity)  As we get closer, we become more like Him.  And lastly I have been praying that we are fully assured of that will.  As we walk each day in step with the Spirit of God, we want to know that we are right where we need to be!

This type of prayer involves taking a longer range view.  It means understanding that sometimes what is right in front of you is not what you might have chosen, but you know the God who has chosen it can be trusted.

The Journey of Trust

journey on

journey on

Our journey with God continues to surprise us.  The reason is mainly because I try to get ahead of God with the plan.  God has better plans and I have had to surrender many times to His purposes.  It is hard and stretching to be in that place.   As a parent I have to tell my children not to do certain things because it will harm them.  They often tell me to “chill out” only in nicer terms than that because they seem to know what will happen.  Of course you will be shocked to learn that often the results of their disobedience is the very thing I was trying to help them avoid.  Would I ever do that?

The thing is there is struggle in the process of obedience because on the surface I see one thing and underneath God knows what is best.  We are not given the whole plan.  We are given the option to trust.  This works out fine when you look at who God is.

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God. How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!”  Who has known the mind of the Lord?  Or who has been his counselor?” – Romans 11:33-34

Thank you God for calling us, using us, and going before us.  We are so grateful to be a part of your story!

 

You are not good and it does matter.

What dirt?  I am clean!

What dirt? I am clean!

Even with all that goes on in the world today, I still run into people who believe that people are generally good.  Often what they say is something like: “I am a pretty good person and God is alright letting me live my life how I think.”  Really?

It does not take very long to get corrected on that thinking when the Bible is opened up and read.

“Since then you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”  – Colossians 3:1-2

“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” – Colossians 3:5

This section of Scripture continues to list off more things you are to take off and a whole list of things that you are to put on.  In other words, yes it does matter to God how you live and no you are not good on your own.  That goodness comes only as a result of a transformation that happens as you trust in Jesus Christ.   It is at that point that these sinful things come off and these new things get put on.

This realization is actually key to the Gospel message.  When we stop and recognize that we are sinful people in need of a Savior it positions us to receive the gift of new life in Christ.   The message is not about behavior modification; the message is about a new spiritual life.  That is where true freedom is found – not in doing things our own way!