Waiting for Him

Does it ever seem as though things are going all wrong? Your doctor tells you what you did not want to hear; something happens to a loved one; an unexpected bill shows up in the mail and was due two days ago. The list could go on and on. The question is what do we do during such times?

There is an interesting verse in Isaiah 50:10-11. It reads, “Who among you fears the Lord? Who obeys the voice of His Servant? Who walks in darkness and has no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord and rely upon his God. Look, all you who kindle a fire, who encircle yourselves with sparks: Walk in the light of your fire and in the sparks you have kindled – This you shall have from My hand: You shall lie down in torment.”

At first glance this seems to be a harsh rebuke. But upon closer inspection, it is nothing of the sort. God is speaking to people who are in a spiritually dark valley. He describes them as one who “walks in darkness and has no light.” He does give them a warning, but the warning is to trust in Him and wait for Him to act on their behalf.

When He says, “Look all you who kindle a fire,” He is referring to people who attempt to take matters into their own hands. These are the “fixers”… those who believe they have the ability, wisdom, and resources to get themselves out of the valley. They are attempting to break the darkness with their own efforts at making light (a spark).

The contrast, then, is between such people and those who wait upon the Lord. The implication is that the one who waits upon the Lord will eventually walk in the true light, which is a far greater light than the measly little “spark” we can generate through our own efforts.

If we seek to walk by our own efforts, all we can expect is more uncertainty, suffering, and hardship. God describes such a person as the one “who will lie down in torment.” The point is that our efforts cannot relieve our distress. A person who does not wait on the Lord will not experience the deliverance they seek. God will allow us to act on our behalf – if for no other reason than we learn that our little sparks of effort are nothing compared to His immeasurable and powerful light.

The point is that we should never become impatient when we seem to be in a dark valley. Our great God and Savior knows all our needs. Instead of taking matters into our own hands, we are encouraged to trust in the name of our Lord and rely upon our God. Sometimes that can be the most difficult thing to do; but according to this verse, it is the wisest thing we can do.

I am sure we can all think of a time when we attempted to “fix” a bad situation and made it worse. That’s exactly what the Lord is encouraging us not to do. My “fixes” become my “torment.” But His light becomes my salvation.

Walking with God is not for the faint of heart! It can be hard to wait upon the Lord, but it is always worth it! The next time you are in the dark attempting to make pitiful little sparks, remember this great promise:

“But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).

Embrace Him

I’ve been preaching through the book of Luke on Sunday mornings and evenings. For my part, it has been a great study. Oftentimes we have an understanding of who Jesus is and what He did. For the most part we know the big picture: He died for our sins and rose again on the third day. But often we are unaware of the many facets of His teaching that should impact our lives.

A slow, thorough reading of the gospel reveals that Jesus’ demands on our lives are very high. His expectation for our kingdom involvement is rather startling. He warns … “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things which I say” (Luke 6:46); “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23); “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62); “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters” (Luke 10:23); “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3); “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27).

There are several more verses like those in the gospel of Luke; but even that short sample reveals that Jesus’ demands on our lives are complete. Jesus is not interested in part-time followers. He is not interested in casual believers.

The reason is because He knows what is at stake. Unlike us, He understands the deceptive nature of the Enemy, and the eternal loss of not living in the Light. He came to die in our place for a reason. Nothing short of eternity is at stake.

We may think all is fine, but Jesus is screaming from eternity. He is yelling with all His might so that He may get our attention. He loves us so much that He wants us to hear and understand. He wants us to embrace Him with every fiber of our being. He wants to save us to the uttermost.

He said, “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day (the day of judgment) come on you unexpectedly” (Luke 21:34). Please don’t let that happen. Jesus died for you because He loves you more than you will ever know. There is no reason to be distracted by the “cares of this life.” If we are caught off guard, it is despite the efforts of Jesus to get our attention.

The simple answer is to embrace Him, live for Him, love Him, obey Him, and follow Him. Let Him be everything to you. You are everything to Him.

Enjoying My Rest

This past week I was sitting around and thinking about our worship service last Sunday. I thought about how great the choir sounded when they were singing the anthem. I thought about how good Betsy and Matthew played during the offertory. I thought about how well the congregation sounded when they were praising the Lord. I thought about how good God is and how He loves us enough to send His Son to die for our sins, give us eternal life, and allow us to enter His presence and worship Him.

As I was thinking about all that went on during worship, a smile began to stretch across my face. The church is joyously worshiping the Lord and it is so exiting to be a part of it. But it also made me think about all that God has provided for us. When I went home after worship, I turned on the news. Maybe that was not the best idea, but the contrast could not have more stark.

The world is filled with chaos and uncertainty. From the new war in Libya, to rising gas prices, to the earthquake in Japan, there seems to be much unrest in the world. As I watched all those unsettling things pass across the screen, I realized that I was not in a state of unrest. My heart was filled with God’s peace. I was in a state of rest. I realized that my present state of mind was a result of being with the body of Christ worshiping the Lord of Glory.

As I pondered the contrast, I was reminded of the vision God has given us about heaven. In the book of Revelation we are told about all the people who are before the throne worshiping the Lord (Rev 7:9-12). Then I realized that this vision is given in the midst of one of the most grueling books of the Bible. All through the book we see a fallen world under the spiritual influence of the evil one waging war against God. Yet despite the unrest of the world’s affairs, God’s people are safely placed before the throne of the Lamb. While the world rages, God’s people worship.

Worship is a great gift from our Father. It is a promise of things to come. It is also a reminder that God is our refuge and fortress. He knows His own and is able to deliver His children. And oh how He has delivered us! Jesus died so we may be free from the bondage of the world, sin, and death. He rose from the dead so we may have eternal life with the Lord. He ascended to the right hand of the Father so we may be filled with God’s grace, mercy, and love. He rules over the heavens so we may enter His presence in worship and find rest for our souls.

God loves us more that we can ever imagine!

All Aboard!

Jesus said some hard things that should get our attention. Here is a sampling:

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Luke 6:46, 11:23; Matt 7:13-14).

Fifteen college professors who taught human motivation were asked to write a concise statement on human motivation. After hours of study, they said: “What the mind attends to, it considers. What the mind does not attend to, it dismisses. What the mind attends to continually, it believes. What the mind believes, it eventually does.”

In short, we practice what we believe. I don’t think we need college professors to tell us something so basic, yet how many of us claim to “follow” Christ when, in fact, we barely give Him the time of day?

I am thankful for God’s grace. I realize how far short of His glory I truly fall. Yet, one thing I do, I strive (imperfectly) to walk with Christ. Walking takes time and effort. If you walk far enough, you might get tired. Sometimes walking with Christ can be tiring because those who do discover the resistance that comes from the flesh, the world, and the evil one.

It can be hard to love as God commanded. It can be hard to forgive others. It can be hard to flee from sin. It can be hard to be thankful for God’s mercy, grace, love, and forgiveness. It can be hard to open up the Bible and actually study God’s Word as we are expected to do. It can be hard to actually apply the Bible to our lives. It can be hard to actually worship in spirit and truth. It can be hard to be a part of the church fellowship where we love unconditionally and daily encourage each other in our walk with Christ. It can be hard to be a servant and actually use the spiritual gifts that God provides. It can be hard to share the gospel with lost people. In short, it can be hard to “follow” Christ as he demands – but demands He does!

Belief always translates into practice. If you are a Christian, quit fooling around with half measures and get on board! 🙂

Filling the Heart

Christian author and speaker S. D. Gordon said, “In every man’s life there is a throne. And when self is on the throne, Christ is on the cross. But when Christ is on the throne, self is on the cross.”

As we think about our Christian walk it is wise to occasionally do an inventory of our heart. It is a great truth that we war against principalities and powers; but it is equally true that our hearts are prone to wonder. Often times the sin that so easily besets us has very little to do with the world as much as it does with the condition of our heart.

The bible says that God “has put eternity into man’s heart (Eccles 3:11). I think that this attribute of our heart was created to be the throne where God reigns over our life. But often times we don’t allow God to fill that space, but instead we attempt to fill it ourselves.

Unfortunately we do not have the capacity to do that. When it is not filled properly by God’s Spirit then we are left incomplete with a sense of longing and emptiness. But instead of turning to God through Christ, we often seek to fill that space with our own ambitions and desires. In the end all we get for our trouble is a more intense longing and feelings of emptiness.

One of the great promises of God, however, is that we can enter His rest (Matt 11:28; Heb 4:9-10). When a person rests in Christ, they don’t experience longing and emptiness. They experience peace and joy. It is said that such a person rests from all their labors. As such they no longer are striving to fill that eternity in their hearts through their own efforts.

Only God has the capacity to fill that special place. He designed it that way. If your heart is troubling you today, could it be that you are trying to fill it yourself? Remember it’s a bottomless pit! It’s a place of eternity. No matter how much you put in there, it will never be enough to fill it. Only God can do that.

The good news is that the promise still stands. Jesus invites us today to enter His rest. We can stop striving and simply invite Him into the place that He was meant to fill, and experience His peace and rest.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt 11:28-29).

Raising the Temperature

I was born and raised in the North, but live in the South by choice. It’s been over twenty years since I lived in the North. During that time my blood has thinned out. I no longer like cold weather. But lately it seems that the temperature keeps getting colder.

Jesus said in the last days that, “because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold” (Matt 24:12). It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to notice that lawlessness is on the rise. Most people today do what’s right on their own eyes, contributing to the spiritual cool climate around us.

In fact, there is an official dogma taught in schools and universities, and accepted by the major institutions of our culture. It’s the idea that truth is “relative.” When a person says that truth is “relative” what they mean is that they no longer believe that there is such a thing as “objective” truth, or a divine standard that all people are accountable to. For them, truth is what they decide it is.

At its core, this is an atheistic principle that sets man at the center of his world. The obvious result is that people become self-centered. Self-centered people are not interested in how their actions affect other people. The effect is that “the love of may will grow cold.”

I believe we are witnessing this prophecy that Jesus made concerning the last days. However, despite the reality that many people no longer believe or follow God, we still have an obligation to love others – even those who are unlovable.

Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). As the world walks further away from God we can expect the spiritual climate to become colder. However, this only gives us more opportunity to make the warmth of Christ all the more conspicuous.

As followers of Jesus, let’s make every effort to share the love of God with everyone we can. In a spiritually cold world the warmth of Christ’s love will be noticed. So, though the love of many will grow cold in the world, as the church, let’s make every effort to ignite the fire of God’s love in our own heart so we can raise the temperature around us.

The Normal Christian Life

In Matthew 13:23 Jesus says, “But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” In John 15:8 he says, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so will you be my disciples.”

As I was listening to Carlos and Sandy Rios last Sunday night I was reminded of these passages. Carolos told how he came to Christ and told how the Lord began to work in his life. As I was listening to their testimonies I began to think that what they are describing is really, from the biblical point of view, the normal Christian life.

I was particularly reminded of the impact the Lord wants us to make in the lives of other people. When Carols and Sandy began to show the pictures of all the people they have led to Christ and brought into the body of Christ, that thought was only strengthened.

The normal Christian life is about the influence of Christ on two levels. These can be distilled into two chapters of every Christian’s life. The first chapter of a Christian’s life begins when one meets Jesus and is saved.

When a person is saved, there is a period of time when that person has to get to know Jesus. They begin to understand who He is through Bible study, prayer, worship and fellowship. For each person this chapter will last different amounts of time. But for a truly saved person, this chapter bears some very specific fruit.

The fruit that a person bears in this period of their walk with God will, at its most basic level, involve at least three things. First, there is the fruit of righteousness. As person gets to know Jesus, they want to leave their sin behind. As a person grows spiritually, they begin to have a hunger for righteousness. Second, there is the fruit of praise. As a person grows in Christ, they have a desire to want to praise and worship their Savior. Third, there is the fruit of love. As they learn to walk with God in Christ, a person begins to love God and love people more and more.

The second chapter of the Christians life begins at the moment they realize that they are satisfied in Christ and madly in love with God. It is at this point when two things happen. First, that person can say with complete conviction and joy, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel,” and as a result, that person will make the decision to follow Christ anywhere He leads.

When that happens, a person’s life necessarily changes. That person is now seeking to do the will of God wherever he/she is. The result is that he/she is no longer living for themselves, but for Christ who died and rose for them.

It is in that chapter of a Christian’s life when a different kind of fruit is born. While still producing the fruit of the first chapter of their life, that person is now seeing fruit begin to develop in the lives of the people he/she is influencing for Christ.

When Sandy and Carols where sharing the pictures of all people they have and are influencing for Christ, I was reminded that in the end, the only thing that really matters are people. Christ died for people; and in heaven we will be with people made perfect through the blood Christ.

The normal Christian life is ultimately about bearing fruit; fruit that is seen in our personal life as we walk with Christ and fruit that is seen in the lives of others as we influence them for Christ.

Are you living the normal Christian life?

Truth to Power

Do you yearn to be more like Christ? The bible teaches that one of the goals God has for you is to remake you into the image of His Son. The bible says, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…” (Rom 8:29).

For most of us, being remade into Christ’s image requires drastic transformation. It’s like the show, “Complete Home Makeover.” There are times when the team looks at the condition of the old home and concludes the only way to improve the situation is to tear down the old and start anew.

This is the same view God takes with us. In His Word He tells us, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17).

When God enters our life through Christ, He does not seek to remodel the old home; nor does He add additions on to the old structure. We are not a new and improved version of our old self. In Christ we are entirely new.

One of the key components of the Christian life, then, is that we are to experience radical transformation. This happens when we allow the Lord to speak His Word into our life.

The bible says that, “The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

Through the Word, God seeks to speak His truth into our lives. When we allow that to happen we experience His power within. The result is an inward transformation.

If you were to look back over the course of your Christian life, can you say with honesty that you are becoming more like Christ? Are you more loving and forgiving. Are you more disgusted with sin today than you were this time last year? Do you see yourself desiring more of God and less of the world now? Are you more concerned with the condition of the lost today than you were in the past?

In order for us to experience God’s power in our lives, we must decide that we are going to respond to His Word. The bible was not given so that we could learn a great deal. It was given so that our hearts could be remade into the glorious image of Jesus.

Knowledge is great and needful, but transformation is essential. God seeks to and promises to accomplish this work in our lives (Phil. 1:6); but we must allow the power of His Word to do the work (Phil 2:12-13).

Walk the Talk

In Philippians 2:12-13, the bible says, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

These are really important verses. If I were to distill the meaning into one phrase, it would simply be this: Live the Gospel!

God has so much in store for His children; but in order for them to experience the abundance of blessings that exists, the children of God must live the gospel every day.

The reason so many Christians do not experience the abundance of blessings that Christ seeks to give (see Eph 1:3) is because they are too busy attempting to be blessed by the world. Remember James, the half brother of Jesus, said, “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4).

At the bare minimum, it is reasonable to assume that seeking to be blessed by the world does not please the Father! I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not make God my enemy. It seems that all that is needed to accomplish that undesirable feat is to love the world and the things in the world. I’ll pass.

However, Peter tells us that there is “Joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” for the children of God (1 Peter 1:8). I don’t think God intends for that joy to be deferred. It is available now.

How do you get it? I’m glad you asked. It’s simple. Live the Gospel every day.

The gospel is not meant to be believed on only. It is meant to be lived. When we live the gospel, we enter into a spiritual state that brings, peace, joy, hope, love … in fact, it brings all those wonderful things the bible calls the “Fruit of the Spirit” (Gal 5:22-23).

Is the Fruit of the Spirit evident in your life? If not, ask the Lord to help you go from believing the gospel to living it!

Jesus Loves You

Jesus loves you. He came into this broken and fallen world so that He might save you from its destruction. He became one of us. He walked in our shoes. He experienced our pain, our trials, and our temptations. He even experienced our death. He went ahead of us. He made sure the path to the Father was clear and free of any obstacles. He removed all our sin. He destroyed the power of death. He made the path clear and without burdens.

He promised that He would prepare a new home for you. It is a place of beauty, love, peace, and everlasting joy. He promised that when it’s your time to travel that road, He would come to get you Himself. He prepared the road, and He does not want you to walk it alone.

In fact, He does not want you to be alone…ever. So, while He is away preparing your eternal home, He sent the Holy Spirit of God to live with you AND to dwell within you. He promised you peace. He promised you joy. He said that even though the world will deliver difficulties, we need not fear. He has provided our victory. Not only did He provide victory, He even promised that all of the riches and blessings of God are now ours!

He found you when you were poor, and He has made you rich. He found you when you were lost, and He has taken you by the hand and led the way. He found you when you were a sinner and has forgiven you. He found you lonely, and He has become your friend. He found you an outcast, and has accepted you. He found you sad, and has given you joy. He found you despairing, and has given you hope. He found you in darkness, and has given you light. He found you an orphan, and has made you a part of the family of God.

As a member of this family, He has bestowed His name upon you…the family name. With this name comes the honor of righteousness. With this name comes the glory of heaven. With this name comes eternal life. With this name comes the privilege of calling One Father.

The name He has marked you with, the name that He has bestowed upon you, is the name Jesus. Because of that name, when the Father looks at you, He knows you are His precious child. Because of that name, when the Father sees you, He sees a righteous son or daughter. Because of that name, when the Farther sees you, He seeks to lavish you with eternal love and joy. Because of that name you are loved, saved, and forever accepted. Because of that name.