The Snow Fort

snow fortThe legendary snow fort.  Who in their right mind would possibly ever think of even attempting to come against a 10 year old who sought refuge in a snow fort filled with snow balls?  Or so the 10 year old thinks as they craft their fortress with visions of winter dominance in their minds.

One of my favorite cartoons is Calvin & Hobbes.  In one cartoon strip, Calvin & Hobbes eagerly go outside to build the most intimidating and dominant snow fort in the history of snow forts.  They stand in the yard and state where the entrance will be, where the towers will be, where the armory will be, and where the walls will be.  In their minds, the fort will span much of the yard and be filled with enough snow balls to support 5 winter’s worth of war.  They eagerly begin their massive project, only to discover the snow isn’t that deep and it isn’t packing at all.  They begin to be overwhelmed by the immensity of their vision.  Then, they begin to get cold.  The final panel shows them sitting in the house in front of the fire drawing the snow fort while drinking hot cocoa.  Calvin says something along the lines of “Sometimes its better to dream about something to actually do it!”

I wonder if we are like that sometimes in how we rest in the strength of God.  You see, God has promised to be significantly better than a snow fort that will melt when the season changes!  In Psalm 46:1, we read “God is our refuge and strength.  A very present help in trouble.”  God is both our place of refuge, but He is also our strength!  Just ponder that for a few moments!  Only God has the strength to bring us through any situation.  Only God has complete control of all things that surround us.  Only God can deliver us from death.  Only God has the wisdom we need for the situations of life.  Only God is present with us wherever we go and wherever we are.

Yet, I fear perhaps we dream about resting in God more than we actually do it.  Perhaps we talk about it more than actually live relying upon God.  Let us be people who rest in God!  Let us be people who run to God and seek His strength.  What is the result of living like this?  Well, the Psalmist states in verse 2, “Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed.”

 

 

 

 

 

Thankful….for All Things

Child-playing-with-toysAnother Thanksgiving is upon us.  I am not sure how that happened so quickly!  But, here I sit, watching the black night slowly turn gray as the sun is creeping West, bringing light upon a new Thanksgiving Day.  I am compelled to consider that perhaps we need to think of Thanksgiving a little differently than we do!

I fear we often view Thanksgiving the same way a child sits in a playroom with their toys.  They gather their toys to themselves, dividing them from the rest of the children.  The child will then be grateful for all of their toys as they protectively guard them from all the other children.  “I am thankful for MY truck.  I am thankful for MY play set.  I am thankful for MY doll.”  

I wonder if we often do the same thing, just in a “grown-up” way.  “I am thankful for MY home.  I am thankful for MY family.  I am thankful for MY vehicles.”  It is good to be thankful for what we have been blessed with.  Don’t get me wrong!  But, should we not also be thankful for what we don’t have?  Should we not also be thankful for that which does not go our way?  Should we not also be thankful for what others have?  Should we not also be thankful for the trials that come our way?

Job provides us with a stunning example.  After Job had lost everything, his wealth, possessions, children, and health, his wife tells him to basically give up on God, curse God, and die.  Yet, Job’s response is “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?”  

Job’s statement stings us today because we are thankful for what God has given us and we hoard it to ourselves.  Yet, when a trial comes or we lose something, we are quickly found in despair, maybe even shaking our fist heavenward, crying out “Why God?  How could You let this happen?  Don’t you love me?”  Our attitude of thanksgiving is often intimately tied to the amount we have hoarded to ourselves and the happiness we have received from them.

Yet, the Bible calls us to a much deeper level of Thanksgiving.  Paul writes in I Thessalonians 5:18, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  This is the level of thanksgiving the Bible calls us to:  Thankfulness for everything.  Thankful for financial hardship?  Thankful for poor health?  Thankful for a difficult trial?  Why be thankful for things such as these?  Because God is at work in all things (that’s right….all things) for our ultimate good and His glory (Romans 8:28, 11:36).

So, this Thanksgiving, let’s be thankful for all things, even the things that are not as we wish they were.  Let us be thankful for both the good and the adversity.  Let us be thankful because we have a good, wise, loving, and sovereign God who works all things for our ultimate good and His glory.  Let’s be thankful for everything, because this is God’s will for us!  Happy Thanksgiving!

Scary!

imagesI am not one who really equates scary with fun.  I don’t like scary movies.  I don’t like being scared.  I don’t like doing something scary and calling it recreation!  Perhaps life is scary enough on its own without my adding to it?  Or maybe I am just a pansy!  However, there is one scary thing I feel compelled to do.  I don’t necessarily want to do it because it is scary.  Yet, I fear I must.  Do you know what it is?  It is a prayer.  It is one of the scariest prayers you will ever pray.

“Cleanse me from secret faults…Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and see if there is any wicked way in me.” (Psalm 19:12; 139:23)  Now that’s scary!  David is admitting that there is sin in his life he has no idea is there!  Deep in the recesses of his heart lies sin that David is unaware of.  There is wickedness in David’s heart that hinders his love for God and his love for others.  He begs of God to reveal these sins to him and to cleanse him from them.  David does not want sin to have dominion in his life and so he prays for it to be exposed.  Why?  So he can have deeper joy and deeper peace and deeper love for God, as well as deeper love for others.

Do you want to do something scary?  Stop focusing on the sins of other people and ask God to expose the sin in your life so that you can grow in Him.  What would our church look like if this was a regular prayer among all of us?  What would your life look like if this was a regular prayer of yours?

Oh God, I know the depth of my sin is beyond even my comprehension.  I praise You that in Your grace, You have reached down and rescued me from My sin through Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.  I am trusting in Jesus as my only hope for my sins!  I know that even now, sin still lurks in my heart in depths that I cannot even see.  God, would you please search my heart and reveal my sin to me?  My heart is desperately sinful and only You can deliver me from these sins.  Keep me humble Lord that I may grow in You so as to better glorify You and love others.  Cleanse me from the sins that I cannot even see.  Keep working in my heart for my good and your glory!  Thank you for the hope that is found in you and thank you that you are faithful to forgive my sin and cleanse me from my unrighteousness.

Now that is scary!  But….it is a scary that is well worth it!  

Vomit? Yuck!

Vomit

I am no stranger to vomit.  I wish I was.  I suppose this is a small price to pay for having children.  Last year, the stomach flu went through our home, not once, but twice and all within a few weeks.  Twice, we have all gotten the stomach flu within hours of each other.  Everyone laying around throwing up at the same time.  Great fun!  There is nothing like cleaning up a child’s vomit and then having to go throw up yourself.  While I am no stranger to vomit, I must admit I despise it.  Vomit is not pleasant, no matter how you look at it!

Clearly vomit has been a subject of disgust for centuries.  In Revelation 3, as Jesus speaks of the church of Laodicea, He states, “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot, I would wish you were cold or hot.  So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.”  Hmmmmm….I don’t think we are supposed to think that is a good thing!

What was the problem with the Laodiceans?  They were saying they were Christians, but they were not growing in the Lord.  Later, Jesus says to them “Be zealous and repent!”  In other words, live wholeheartedly for Christ!  Be zealous for the Lord!  Don’t be content with the status quo!  Constantly repent over sin and continually pursue Christ!

You see, the Christian life is a life of transformation.  We are not to be stagnant, but growing in the Lord!  We are to be growing to love God more and growing to love others more.  We are to be constantly putting away sin through repentance and deepening our trust in the Lord.  Jesus wants all of us.  Does He have all of you?

How do you grow in the Lord?  How can you be zealous for the Lord?  How can you change?  How can you grow out of anger, depression, anxiety, pride, impure thoughts, materialism, etc.?  These are big questions and important ones!  Romans 12:1-2 states we are to live our lives as a sacrifice to God and “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  How can our mind be transformed?  By applying God’s Word to our lives in every area and living out of the truth of the Gospel.

We will spend the next several months discussing this process on the first Wednesday of each month at The Journey.  The title of this series is “Its Time to Change!”  We will be looking at what it takes to be zealous for the Lord so as to not be the content of vomit!

Take Another Step

step
Take another step.  One foot in front of the other.  Take another step.  Those words rang in my mind as we climbed a mountain this summer.  The 3.5 miles were constant uphill with no break.  It was hot and my legs were getting tired. Take another step.  It would have been easy to slow down and eventually stop.  Press on.  As I crested the top of the mountain, it was worth the climb.  The view was spectacular!

Sometimes this is the perspective we need to have in life.  Quite frankly, there are times when life is down right hard!  Being a Christian doesn’t remove one from life’s hardships and struggles and those who claim it does have not read much of the Bible.

Jesus experienced great hardship.  He said that even foxes have places to sleep but He did not (Luke 9:58).  All of the Apostles experienced great hardship and they all lost their lives for the sake of the Gospel, with the exception of John who was exiled to an island.  Paul went into great detail in his hardships, yet he gives us amazing perspective in them!

“We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed-always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.”  He then went on to say, “Therefore we do not lose heart.  Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.  For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.  For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”  (2 Corinthians 4:8-10, 16-18)

Wow!  What an important lesson we learn here!  Yes, life can be difficult, but keep our eyes on Jesus and make our purpose be living for His glory!  In light of eternity, our time here is short!  Therefore, we must always live with an eye on eternity.

The temptation for us is to look away from Jesus and begin looking at our circumstances and how we feel in our circumstances.  Then, we respond to our feelings instead of responding to the truths of God’s Word!  Sometimes we need to remind ourselves to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2), and keep pressing on.  Take another step.  Paul said it this way in Philippians 3:13-14:

“Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

So, take another step!  Press on!  One foot in front of the other, fixing our eyes on Jesus and trusting in God, who is infinite in wisdom, completely sovereign, perfect in love, and in all ways good!

Steven Curtis Chapman, on his latest album, captures this well in his song “Take Another Step”.  May it encourage you!

Don’t Worry? But I Have to Fix it!

FolderThis may seem dumb, but I remember my first time using an automatic folding machine.  I was very much used to folding letters and stuffing them in envelopes (before the complete digital age, envelopes were paper thingys you put smaller paper thingys in and these smaller paper thingys actually contained forms of communication).  If I had to take care of a large mailing, it meant a lot of folding and stuffing.  One day in the office I was exposed to a paper folder.  All you had to do was put in your paper on one side and when it came out the other side, it was folded!  Amazing!  Genius!

It seemed too simple to be true!  The Bible calls us to something simple as well.  Don’t worry.  Wait, but I have to fold the paper myself!  And, I have to fix my problems myself!  NO!  Don’t worry.  It is so simple we tend to read it in the Bible, say “Yeah right!  Moving on!  Lights, camera, action, WORRY!”.  Yet the Bible simply states: Don’t Worry.  Jesus says this very clearly in Matthew 6 and backs it up with sound reasoning as to why worrying is foolishness.  Paul states the mindset, the process, and the effect:

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 4:6-7)

What are we supposed to do?  Not worry or be anxious.  How?  Lifting up our concerns to God and trusting Him with them.  What will happen?  The peace of God, which defies understanding, will fill our hearts and guard our hearts.  What is the flip side?  You can worry and be anxious.  You can hold onto the problems (which is trusting yourself more than God).  You can experience turmoil instead of peace.

Or……you could not worry.  Simple?  Simple.  This is the truth.  What makes it so hard?  We struggle to trust God.  Once again, we come face to face with faith.  God is God and we are not!  We must walk by faith.

“Now Faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen.  Without faith, it is impossible to please God.” (Hebrews 11:1 &6).

So, let us take the simple road!  You don’t have to fold all the papers.  There is a machine that can handle it.  You don’t have to worry.  There is God who can handle it!

Will It Really Work?

GrillI have often been accused of being a redneck because of the way I have often sought to fix things.  A little duck tape, a little wire, and a random bolt often makes things as good as new!  I am often successful.  However, I remember one endeavor in which I was not.  Our charcoal barbecue had broken.  The legs broke off the belly of the grill so it wouldn’t stand up anymore.  I really wanted to barbecue that night!  Not willing to give up, I went down to the local hardware store, examined the different adhesive materials that could possibly provide a quick fix, picked one out, and bought it.

I went home, liberally applied the adhesive and left it to dry.  After waiting for the allotted time, I tested it out.  It was sturdy and seemed quite solid!  I was relieved!  I could still barbecue my sirloin steaks that night!  I dumped the charcoal into the grill, soaked the briquets in lighter fluid, and dropped a match in it.  With a look of satisfaction, I watched the flames lick up the lighter fluid and begin to burn the charcoal.  However, my smile soon faded as I watched the entire barbecue go up in flames as the adhesive I had liberally applied to the joints of the barbecue caught fire.  Apparently I did not take into account the flammability of the adhesive!  In a few seconds, the barbecue collapsed in a heap of burning charcoal and steel as the adhesive burned quickly away.  At that point, the barbecue was beyond fixing!  Did it work?  Absolutely not!

Thankfully, God’s work in our life is not like my work, which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t!  God’s work in our lives never fails!  He always completes His perfect work in our lives!  Psalm 138:8 states: “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.  Do not forsake the work of your hands.”  Because of God’s love for us, He is deeply committed to us.  Because He is deeply committed to us, He will fulfill His purpose for us.  Aren’t you glad that you don’t have to wonder if God’s work in your life will really work?  Praise Him for His faithfulness!

Transformed

IMG_3187Praise God for a 3-day weekend!  Amen?  I took advantage of the extra day to finish a log bed for Jess and I.  This was something I have been wanting to do for 10 or so years.  It was a lot of work but I am thankful to have finished it.  Jess and I joked that we must be maturing and getting old because it is the first time we have ever had a bed frame!

 

What is amazing though is that the process started out with finding some dead trees in the woods and cutting them down.  I then cut them into sections before peeling them.  After that began the process of measuring, drilling, cutting, and forming.  Now, instead of those trees falling in the woods, rotting, and turning into dirt, they are formed into a piece of furniture that, Lord willing, will last a very long time.  The same is true in our lives when the power of the Gospel takes hold of us.  When God redeems us, everything changes.  He takes us, though we are dead in sin, and gives us life and purpose.  He takes our yucky (poetic effect) lives and makes them beautiful.  Our lives are then transformed as God is at work in us and we walk in faith and repentance, seeking to live for the glory of our Great Redeemer.  In Jesus Christ, everything changes!  Praise the Lord!

 

If you missed the sermon from Sunday, be sure to listen to it.  In Exodus 12-13, we see very clearly that when God redeems us, everything changes.  The most remarkable change is that the God who utterly destroyed the Egyptians is now for us and with us.  No wonder King David could be surrounded on every side by his enemies and still praise the Lord!

Everything Changes

Everything changes. All it takes is one phone call, one squeal of the tires, one doctor’s visit, one meeting with the boss and suddenly everything changes. If there is one thing that is certain in life, it is that there will be change. Now you are expecting the cliche statement “But God never changes!” While that statement is true, that is not where I am going. 

While there are certain situations in which everything changes, they pale in comparison to the change that happens at salvation. When God redeems a sinner, truly everything changes. One’s view of self, one’s priorities, one’s desires, one’s fears, one’s view on the world….even one’s view of death…. everything changes. In fact, Paul states this in Colossians 3: “For you died and your life is hidden with Christ in God”. Clearly everything changes.

The Israelites came to this realization as Pharaoh drove them out of Egypt. It wasn’t just that they became free people. When God redeemed them, everything changed. They became the people of God. This is what we will be looking at this Sunday from Exodus 12:31-13:22. What does it mean to be redeemed? What changes have occurred in your life? What changes need to occur in your life? This is the great challenge as we flush out in our lives “You died and your life is hidden with Christ in God”.