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.
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!
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.