June 20, 2017

June 20, 2017

PSALM 36-39

Focus Verse: Delight yourself in the Lord;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.
Psalm 37:5

 

This tends to be one of the more misused Bible verses that I have come across in my time as a Christ follower. I think that it’s very easy to look at this verse as a legalistic verse, that if we follow God and do everything on the ‘Christian checklist’ then he will give in to all of our demands and requests.

 

But that’s not a good reading of the qualifier of this verse, “Delight yourself in the Lord”. When we delight ourselves in the Lord, His heart becomes our heart, His desires become our desires, His will becomes our will. It has nothing to do with doing anything. It has everything to do with relationship.

 

Is God your sole desire? Or is there something you want from Him that’s more important to you than He is? Is there a relationship that you need restored that’s more important to you than God? If so, you will never get that relationship restored enough. Is there a financial blessing that’s more important to you than God? If so, then you will never be financially secure enough.

 

Set God as the sole desire of your heart and I promise you He will give you the other secondary desires as well. What I’ve found in my own life is that it’s not even that God gives me everything I thought I wanted, it’s that He changes my heart to only want the things that He wants for me.

 

I never wanted to be a pastor…until I made God the sole desire of my heart, and then, slowly, over time, He changed my heart and called me into ministry. Now there isn’t a day that goes by that I question my decision to leave my job and follow Him. But it didn’t start with me seeking a job. It started with me seeking Him.

June 19, 2017

June 19, 2017

PSALM 32-35

Focus Verse: O taste and see that the Lord is good;
How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!
Psalm 34:8

 

It’s all about relationship. You cannot come to God outside of a relationship with Him. That’s the point of the whole covenant thing…all of them. That’s why this is one of my favorite verses in the Bible. This verse just further proves that God wants you to come to Him through relationship, not through knowledge or theology.

 

Before I launch into this, let me first say that knowledge and theology are good things. C.S. Lewis describes them as a map to God, and that’s a very good way to look at them. They can help you get to God, but they cannot be the destination in and of themselves. You can’t find a relationship through knowledge. That’s called stalking. Don’t be a stalker with God. Start a relationship.

 

Ok, so how? The same way you would with anyone else! You have to experience Him. You have to have experiences with Him. This verse doesn’t say, “Read and know that God is good” or “Listen and hear from others that God is good”. You can’t come to God that way! It will never be real to you if that’s as deep as your experience goes.

 

God wants you to taste Him. “That’s weird.” You’re thining to yourself right now. And that’s ok, because it is. Let’s not act all “super-religious” and pretend that we normally taste people. “Yeah, Jim’s a good guy. I tasted him.” That’s weird. And gross.

 

But God calls us to taste and see that He is good. I think this tells us two things about experiencing God. First, I think it tells us that God wants us to have a full, complete experience of Him. He doesn’t want us to settle for ways we are comfortable with or that we are used to. God wants us to be intimate with Him (awesome…just made it even more awkward). To know Him as deeply and as completely as we possibly can; deeper and more complete than any other relationship that we have here on this earth.

 

Second, I think God is showing us that our senses that we experience with here on earth are going to pale in comparison to the sense we will have in heaven to experience God. It would be like an old Walt Disney animation character all of a sudden being thrown into a 3D film. It would be a world that his 2D mind couldn’t even begin to describe. That’s how eternity with God is going to be for us. It’s a world that can’t even be described by our senses right now.

 

So how are you experiencing God today? Even if you are used to this and experience Him daily, He’s calling you deeper. Dive into Him today!

June 18, 2017

June 18, 2017

PSALM 26-31

Focus Verse: But I trust in you, Lord;
I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hands;
deliver me from the hands of my enemies,
from those who pursue me.
Let your face shine on your servant;
save me in your unfailing love.
Psalm 31:14-16

 

Do you trust in the Lord? I know that all of us will say yes, but do you really trust in the Lord? How do you answer that question when things aren’t going so well? When your being attacked on all fronts? Do you still trust in the Lord?

 

David’s answer is ‘yes’. And I love that he follows it up with “My times are in your hands”. What a statement of trust. My times are in Your hands God, the good times, the bad times, the times it’s a breeze and the times I don’t think I’m going to be able to make it through. ALL of my times are in Your hands.

 

And how can David have that kind of trust? Because he has experienced God’s unfailing love. He has felt the face of God shine upon him. He has a relationship with his God. So whether he is delivered from his enemies or not, his trust in God won’t fail. David’s earthly victory has nothing to do with his Father’s love for him.

 

You earthly success or failures have nothing to do with how much God loves you. I can’t tell you why you are going through the trials you’re facing, but I can tell you that if you keep your trust in God, He promises to make these trials work out for your good, whether that’s on this side of eternity or the other.

 

You can trust in His love. It will never fail.

June 17, 2017

June 17, 2017

PSALM 21-25

Focus Verse: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
Psalm 22:1
All who see me mock me;
they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
“He trusts in the Lord,” they say,
“let the Lord rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
since he delights in him.”
Psalm 22:7-8
I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
it has melted within me.
My mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
you lay me in the dust of death.
Dogs surround me,
a pack of villains encircles me;
they pierce my hands and my feet.
All my bones are on display;
people stare and gloat over me.
They divide my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment.
Psalm 22:14-18

 

Little Bible trivia for you: Psalm 22 is the most quoted Old Testament passage in the New Testament. It probably won’t get you any further in life, but you’ll know now if the question ever comes up on Jeopardy or in some Christian version of Trivial Pursuit.

 

But it makes sense, doesn’t it? I’m sure I’ll address this again when we hit Isaiah 53, but how can you miss the significance of this chapter in the Bible. King David wrote this about 1,000 years before Jesus Christ was born! Are you picking up what I’m throwin’ down?

 

If you were to read this chapter to someone who had little to no knowledge of the Bible, I guarantee that they would identify this passage as describing Jesus, NOT David. That’s how prophetic it is!

 

One thousand years before Jesus Christ was born, God was already working in the hearts of His followers how His only Son would die. The plan had already been made, even down to the last words that Jesus would cry out on the cross.

 

God’s plan to win your heart back to Him has been in effect since the moment Adam and Eve fell in the garden. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”, Paul tells us in Romans 5:8.

 

You are the apple of God’s eye. Do you believe it yet?

June 16, 2017

June 16, 2017

PSALM 17-20

Focus Verse: Show me the wonders of your great love,
you who save by your right hand
those who take refuge in you from their foes.
Keep me as the apple of your eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings
Psalm 17:7-8

 

I promise, I’m not getting lazy here. This is just too good for me to ruin with my words. Sometimes, the best thing we can do as followers of Christ is let His Word speak for itself, so here it is:

 

You are the apple of God’s eye. He loves you so much more than you can ever imagine. There is no love on this earth that can even compare to His love for you.

 

Say it out loud. You need to hear it. Say it until you believe it. If you’re in the middle of a public place, you better believe it before someone hears you.

 

“I am the apple of God’s eye. He loves me so much more than I could ever imagine. There is no love on this earth that can even compare to the love He has for me.”

June 15, 2017

June 15, 2017

PSALM 9-16

Focus Verse: The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and my cup;
You support my lot.
The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;
Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.
Psalm 16:5-6

 

I want to give you peace this morning. Well, not me personally, but God wants to give you peace this morning. He wants to give you peace all the time, and if you remain focused on this verse, you will have peace. The Lord is our portion. He supports our lot. Again, I’m going to jump to the original Hebrew because the word ‘lot’ is not one that we use much today. The Hebrew word here comes from the word ‘Goral’ which is commonly translated lot, allotted portion, land, territory allotted…etc. So, do you get the gist now? God IS your portion and He supports everything that you have been given.

 

All that you have, all that you do, all that you are is because God has ordained it. You are where you are, you are when you are and you are with what you have for HIS purpose for you life. God doesn’t make mistakes, and even when we do, He redeems those.

 

This is the most common question that I get as a pastor: “How do I know that I’m doing the will of God?” Well, do you believe that Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior? Do you listen to the Holy Spirit and obey His leading? If you answered yes to both of those, then congratulations! You are doing the will of God!

 

It’s so much simpler than we make it. I’ve heard the comparison that the will of God is not so much a path that we must find and follow as much as it is a river that we jump in and allow it to carry us. I love that description! The Holy Spirit will carry us where we need to go. You want to talk about streams of living water! Let His river carry you.

 

When I was offered the opportunity to go into full time ministry, it was a scary decision. I wanted to go, I wanted to do it, but I was scared to leave my job as a high school English teacher. I liked that job, I was good at it and the retirement and benefits were very secure. Needless to say, I prayed a whole lot about that decision and asked a lot of friends to join me in covering that decision in prayer.

 

I will never forget the advice that one friend gave me though. He told me, “In all of the huge decisions I have made for God, I’ve never been 100% certain – there has always been an element of faith involved. Don’t look for 100% certainty or you’ll never do anything.” That was the most truthful advice I have ever received. I am afraid that so many Christians have missed out on so many awesome ministry opportunities because they’ve been waiting for a fleece to come back wet instead of just jumping in the river and letting the Holy Spirit take them down God’s will.

 

So here’s the peace I want to give you today…that God wants you to have with you always: you are exactly where God wants you to be right now. If you are reading this and you do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ, now is the time. Get out of that dirty, gross river of your will that you’ve been struggling to keep your head above water in, and get washed in the river of God’s will for your life. His river holds healing for you, forgiveness, salvation, redemption, and a peace of knowing that the One who hung the stars and charted their courses in the sky is also directing your path.

 

God is your portion. He is supporting you. Do everything you can to grow IN HIM, do everything you can to be the best you can possibly be FOR HIM, but never forget to be content with where God has you in this moment. YOU ARE IN HIS WILL. Trust that He has you right where He needs you to be and let the Holy Spirit guide you through the currents of His grace and mercy.

June 14, 2017

June 14, 2017

PSALM 1-8

Focus Verse: Tremble, and do not sin;
Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still.
Psalm 4:4

 

Interesting verse here. The verb ‘tremble’ used here in the NASB comes from the Hebrew root ‘ragaz’ which means to tremble with violent emotion. This lends itself in several ways in this passage, and both are applicable to us today.

 

The two emotions most commonly associated with this Hebrew word are fear and anger. Because of the lack of fluency between the Hebrew and English here, we have multiple translations of the Bible that translate this passage differently. The King James version says to “Stand in awe, and do not sin…” while the NIV and NLT say, “In your anger, do not sin…” The first assumes we are trembling with a fear of the Lord (a healthy fear, a reverence for him…standing in awe), the second that we are trembling because of anger.

 

Either translation holds some cool stuff. If we are trembling out of fear of the Lord, that really is the only way that we can truly keep from sinning. NOT because we fear punishment from Him. This is the wrong motive. 1 John 4:18 tells us that perfect love casts out fear. On the cross, Jesus Christ took away ALL of the wrath and punishment of God. So it is not our fear of punishment from God that keeps us from sin, but instead, our adoration of Him. Standing in awe of Him, a God so strong and so might and SO FOR US! That kind of reverence, that kind of adoration, will drive you to a place where sin is the last thing you want to do. You want to please your Father, you want to make Him happy, so out of love, you cling to Him and the path He has laid before you.

 

The second translation is also very cool. If you are trembling in anger, there follows a warning to be careful not to sin. But note that trembling in anger is not a sin. Did you catch that? IT IS NOT A SIN TO TREMBLE WITH ANGER. In fact, there are certain things that it would be a sin to not get angry about. If you witness abuse or injustice and are ok with that, there’s something wrong with that. The key in anger is not to keep from getting angry, the key is to be angry in a healthy way…under control and without letting sin creep in.

 

With both of these, we need to be careful. Our fear and reverence of God has to be healthy; it needs to be balanced. We must have the humility to be in awe of Him, yet the confidence that He has called us His prized possession. Likewise, our anger must be controlled and without sin. To do both of these, we must follow the second part of the verse, meditating in our hearts on our actions and trusting completely in God. Being still and allowing God to move on our behalf, trusting Him to tell us when to take action and when to let things go, is the ultimate test in self-control and in faith in Him. Do you believe He will guide you through it?