Certainty in the Days of Uncertainty

Certainty in the Days of Uncertainty

Yesterday was the second Sunday we met together virtually, and I for one can’t wait until we can put aside social distancing and meet again face-to-face.  I miss your voice as you sing songs to the Lord and offer prayers to Him for the sake of others.  I miss your attentiveness as we look into His Word together and I especially miss our times of fellowship when we can catch up on things and see how everyone’s doing.

But since it appears this ordeal our nation is going through will last for several more weeks (hopefully not longer), I thought it would be encouraging to remember in the face of uncertainty what we do know for certain, and in our world of constant change, what is unchangeable and will remain forever.


Things We Know For Certain

There are so many things in our life right now that we have no control over.  How long will the coronavirus last?  What’s going to happen to our economy?  Am I going to have enough money to pay my bills and feed my family?  How can I protect myself and those I love from all of this?  And the list of questions seems to be endless.

There are so many uncertainties right now.  And nobody can give us any definite answers.

But there are some things that are certain and will never change, no matter what happens.  And as long as we keep our heart focused on these unchangeables, we will not get swept away by the swirling tides of doubt, fear, dread, and depression that often follow.


Certainty Number One:  God Loves You!

Scripture repeatedly reveals the wonderous fact that God loves you and you are loved by Him.  The word that describes the love God has for you is, of course, agapē.  This is the highest form of love.  It is a covenant love, an altruistic, unconditional love that describes the love God has for His own Son and even for you and me.

“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love” (John 15:9).

Just think about this statement for a moment.  As God the Father loved His own Son, so the Son has chosen to love each of us, regardless of how undeserving we are.  This love is not based on what we think we deserve or what good we have done, but on the nature of God whose very essence is love (1 John 4:8).  And in every instance cited the word used to describe this kind of love is agapē.

So rest or abide in this love that is unchangeable and will last forever.


Certainty Number Two:  God is Sovereign

As you know, my life verse is Psalm 115:3, which reads, “But our God is in heaven; He does what He pleases.”  In other words, our God exists beyond what we can touch, see, hear, taste or feel.  He resides far above our financial problems or worries about the future.  His abode is in heaven and from His throne, He does what He wills.  His desire can never be thwarted, delayed, or hindered.  Never.  This can be either good news or bad.  If you trust God and see him as your loving, forgiving, merciful Father, these are very encouraging words.  But if you view God through the eyes of an abused child and see Him as an angry, selfish, narcissistic, bully (that many of us may have had as earthly fathers), then His sovereignty becomes frightening.

But the Bible constantly reveals the character of God to us.  And His character coincides precisely with the fruits of the Spirit He gives to us.  He manifests Himself by the fruits of His character.  They are an extension of Himself and only come when He, in the Person of the Holy Spirit, resides in each of us.  This is who God is:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

This is a perfect description of your sovereign Father.  No need to live in fear or doubt.

So as you see wall-to-wall news coverage on how terrible the coronavirus is and how our economy is going to collapse and how one party is not doing what’s right for the other party or now everybody is a racist…  whew.  Just remember Certainty One and Two:  God is Sovereign, and in His sovereignty, He has chosen to love you with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3).

Rest in that love.  Abide in that love.  Take a deep breath and relax in that love.

And live secure in the fact that God sees the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10), and as long as you are in Him, you’ll be okay.

If there’s anything I can do to help you or if you have any specific prayer needs, please let me know.

Until tomorrow or until we see each other again face-to-face,

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417:  Do the Next Right Thing

417: Do the Next Right Thing

You want some great advice?  Good.  Then “do the next right thing.”

When we’re faced with depression, chilling disappointment, or numbing loss, what are we to do?  What happens when all our dreams come crashing down around us like Jenga pieces scattered on our dining room floor?  What happens when the intimacy we once felt with our Lord evaporates right before our eyes— and we don’t know why?  What do we to do when the only voice we hear is our own doubt and paralyzing fear?  What happens when our pain compels us to sleep 18 hours a day, and we forget who we are and Who we serve?  What are we do to then?

“Do the next right thing?”  Simply stumble forward.


Stumbling Forward

Do you realize that if your goal was to run 5 miles and all you could do was stand and then fall flat on your face, eventually you’d get there.  One body length at a time.  That’s exactly what our Bible heroes of old did.  They stood on their feet and did the next right thing.  They chose to not doubt in the dark what they believed in the light.  After all, truth doesn’t change.  But our circumstances do.

What did Moses do when decades passed and it looked like God had forgotten and forsaken Him?  He did the next right thing.  And remember Elijah, who was struggling with self-doubt and depression to the point he wanted to die.  What did God say to him as they met at the mouth of the cave?  Essentially this, “Do the next right thing.”  How about David when he learned his son was dead due to his own sin with Bathsheba?  What did David do?  The next right thing.

The Scriptures are full of those, just like you and me, who stumble forward in the dark faithfully doing the next right thing, even when they didn’t know why or how.  They just did what was right.  And they made sure it was the next thing they did.  Do you want to know more about putting one step in front of another and doing the next right thing?  Then keep listening.

The following is a study on being faithful and doing the next right thing, no matter what.

To download the slides to this message, click – HERE

Download this episode (right click and save)

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10 Reasons Why Many Christians Rarely Experience True Worship

10 Reasons Why Many Christians Rarely Experience True Worship

The ladies in our church are going on a women’s retreat in a couple of weeks and the theme of their study will include the abundant life found only in Christ and the idea of true worship.  And, as would happen, just today I discovered a blog post by Jeff Kinley that addressed some of the issues I have personally struggled with when it comes to true worship (as compared to the lame stuff we call worship today).

I pray this will be a blessing to you as you prepare this Sunday morning to worship our Sovereign God.


Read ‘Em and Weep

The following are 10 reasons many of us rarely experience true worship.   See if you can relate to a few of these.

1.   While most Christians struggle with the challenges of life, many live defeated lives, never achieving the “more than conquerors” victory that Scripture claims is the normal experience of those who have been redeemed.

2.   Many professing Christians simply stop growing after an initial burst of interest and enthusiasm.  Bibles gather dust and heart-fires start burning out.  As a result, the process of sanctification (becoming like Jesus) is often short-circuited, fueled by sin, Satan or self.  These people end up as spiritual children living in adult bodies.  Churches are FULL of these folks.

3.   Many have never taken the time to really understand salvation— studying what actually took place at the cross, contemplating their dark, sinful condition and future outside of Christ, and learning to regularly bath in the infinitely deep ocean of God’s grace and love.  Understanding how and why God saved you is the key to contentment and joy in life.

4.   Most Christians have little clue about how great their Lord is.  I mean, how could they?  They rarely, if ever, crack open the only Book God wrote to reveal Himself to them.  Ignorance of the mind-blowing truths in Scripture concerning who God is and how amazing His attributes are is a guaranteed one-way ticket to Bland Land.  Bank on this: true theology and doctrine is never, ever boring.  Rather, it infuses our hearts with awe and wonder, inspiring pure, explosive heart-worship.

5.   Face it.  We like comfort and often choose the path of least resistance when it comes to our faith.  Living for Jesus is hard, and few American believers have the lungs for the long, uphill race.  So we rest comfortably by the wayside, occasionally admiring those “Super Christians” who run by on their way to maturity.

6.   We refuse to exercise faith in the daily challenges of life, and almost never branch out and trust God for something truly supernatural, especially if it could cost us a bundle.  We treat sacrifice and suffering like tax season— with a sense of dread and avoidance.  Fear rules many of our life decisions, not faith.  Safety and security becomes our style, influencing everything from friends to finances.  And that makes Heaven yawn… and grieve.

7.   We love the idea that God is loving and compassionate, but fail to grow past those sentimental attributes.  Godly discernment, on the other hand, may lead us to actions that others may interpret as unloving.  So we continue enabling people in their immaturity and sin— and do it all in the name of love.  But in reality, hidden behind this “love” is simply a weak and impotent heart. Boring.

8.   We ignore the direct application of God’s Infinitely-Wise Word where it really matters— on the job, at home, in our marriage and in our parenting.  And we wonder why we’re so screwed up.  We trust in ourselves because having faith seems to be complicated and intangible.  We settle for “what works”— expediency, pragmatism and peace.  And when we do look for advice and counsel, it’s usually from someone just as messed up as we are.  Logical?

9.   The average American Christian checks into church 2x a month, way too little for it to ever have any real, life-changing impact on their lives.  Like working out 2x a month, there is never any real progress or growth.  Truthfully, there’s always a “good reason” to prioritize something else over gathering with your spiritual family – sleep, work, friends, fun, movies, sports on TV, etc.

10.  Honestly, we want a God who entertains and serves us.  We prefer that He act like we want Him to and at the time of our choosing.  And when He fails to deliver or meet our expectations, we lose interest and become bored with His “ways”.

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Do any of these resonate with you?  They do with me.  Ask our Lord to give you His “living water” and teach you to be the kind of worshipper He seeks.  And remember these wonderful words of Jesus to the Samaritan women He encountered at the well:

“But the hour is coming, and now is, when (who) the true worshipers will worship the Father (how) in spirit and truth; (why) for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.  God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must (what) worship in spirit and truth” – John 4:23-24.

Strive to become the worshiper the Father actively seeks to worship Him.  Because that, my dear friend, is the abundant life in Christ (John 10:10).  And begin that faith journey with Him today.

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You can find more about Jeff and his writings on his blog.  You can also read the rest of Jeff’s post here.  And rest assured, Jeff is one of the “good guys”.

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404:  Do You Enjoy God?

404: Do You Enjoy God?

When it comes to worship, some of the most profound words are those of Jesus to the Samarian woman He met at Jacob’s well in the city of Sychar (John 4:5).  It was here that Jesus gave us clear instructions on the type of worship the Father seeks.

John 4:23-24 – “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true (one who cannot lie, real, genuine, sincere) worshipers will worship the Father in spirit (human) and truth (reality, the essence of a matter); for the Father is seeking (to look for, search, strive to find) such to worship (to kiss, adore, fall or prostrate before, pay reverence) Him.  God is Spirit (Holy Spirit), and those who worship Him must (what must be done from duty) worship in spirit (human) and truth.”

Which, as usual, raises a few questions.

What is worship?
What’s the difference between worship and true worship?
What is true worship like internally?
What is true worship like externally?
And what does true worship look like today?

One last thought, in the Westminster Shorter Catechism, the first question goes like this:

Question:  What is the chief end of man?
Answer:  The chief end of man is to glorify God, and enjoy Him forever.

Did you catch that?  We glorify by enjoying Him forever.  So, do you enjoy God?  Do you love your time with Him?  Is that time the highlight of your day?  Do you know how to worship Him in spirit and truth?  If not, then keep listening.

The following is a study on John 4:23-34.

To download the slides for the message, click – HERE

Download this episode (right click and save)

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Jude:  Mercy, Peace, Love, and Multiplied

Jude: Mercy, Peace, Love, and Multiplied


Mercy, Peace, Love and Multiplied

Mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.
Jude 1:2

It looks like this verse presents us with a few more Greek words to define.  First, there’s the three-word salutation Jude employs: mercy, peace, and love.  In Paul’s general epistles, his opening salutation usually only involves grace and peace.1  In the pastoral epistles and 2 John, mercy is added to the mix.2  Now, in Jude, love replaces grace.  We then find the Holy Spirit choosing to amplify the blessings of mercy, peace, and love by using the word multiplied instead of given or added— which is breathtaking in its implications.  Let’s take a look at each of these.


Mercy

The word mercy (éleos) refers to “compassion, kindness or goodwill towards the miserable and afflicted; it’s a state of active pity, accompanied by a sense of piety and innate goodness.”3  It’s not getting what we deserve, which is pretty much the opposite of justice.

Some teach that mercy is just another word for grace.  But that’s not true.  There’s a gulf of difference between these two words.  Mercy is when God chooses not to punish us for what our sins rightly deserve (Rom. 6:23).  We are spared the chastisement we’ve earned.  And grace, on the other hand, is when God chooses to go a step further and bless us in spite of our sins.  One is the removal of just punishment, and the other is the pouring out of undeserved blessings.


Peace

Next, the Greek word for peace (eirḗnē) means “to be in a state of tranquility, harmony, and accord; it’s the opposite of war and dissension and arises from the reconciliation with God and a sense of divine favor.”4  Psalm 7:11 says “God is a just judge, and God is angry with the wicked every day.”  But not with us.  We are at peace with God due to the sacrifice of His Son on our behalf.

But Jesus spoke about another peace.  Jesus promised us this peace when He said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace (eirḗnē) I give to you” (John 14:27).  Note, it’s His peace.  It’s the very peace He experienced in the midst of His pain and suffering, that He now gives to us.

A few chapters later Jesus said the only peace that can overcome the tribulation of the world is found in Him (John 16:33).  And this is just a taste of our inheritance as children of God and joint-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17).


Love

Then we have agápē, the Greek word for love. Agápē is the love God has for each of us and is not based on performance or perfection.  It’s a type of love that doesn’t come naturally, but is imputed to us by the source of that love, which is God.  The word means “love, goodwill, and benevolence; it’s God’s willful direction toward man.”5  It’s the highest, most unselfish, and graciously giving form of love imaginable.  Especially when compared to érōs (erotic or sexual love) or philéō (brotherly love or friendship).

And just think, Jude begins his letter by praying this trifecta of blessings on each of us, his brethren: “mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you” (Jude 1:2).


Multiplied

Which brings us to the last, and the most encouraging, truth in this short verse.  It’s the word multiplied.  Not added.  Not combined.  But multiplied— in greater, ever-increasing proportions.  The word multiplied (plēthúnō) means to “make full, increase, to have much or too much, to abound exceedingly.”6  The implication is that mercy, peace, and love will come upon the believer in waves of ever increasing blessings.  They will be multiplied upon each other, like compound interest on steroids, and grow to exceedingly abound.  It’s a hint of what Jesus meant when He said “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).  The word for abundantly refers to “more than enough, over and above, surpassing, super-abounding, much more than all.”7

The Father doesn’t say: “Here’s one for you.  Oh, let me give you another one.  And another one, which makes three.”  Instead, He says, “Here is one for you.  Then two more.  And then four, eight, sixteen, thirty-two, sixty-four”— and on the numbers go!

Jude’s prayer for the children of God is that they would find His blessings multiplied to them, in ever-increasing, super-abounding portions, regardless of what turmoil they may be suffering.  And the blessings of God are found in His mercy, His peace, and His love— which are all revealed through His Son and lavishly imparted to us by the Spirit.


How Much Does the Father Love Us?

This is where it gets so exciting it’s hard to grasp, let alone believe.  But it’s truth, nonetheless.  Jesus, in His last prayer for His disciples, prayed for unity among all believers (John 17:21-22).  He then concluded His prayer by saying:

John 17:23 – “I in them, and You in Me (unity); that they may be made perfect in one (unity), and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.”

Did you catch the last part of His prayer?  Jesus wants the world to know that God the Father loves us, His children, as much as He loves His own Son.  Let that sink in for a moment.

How much does the Father love you?  As much as He loves His own Son?  What can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus?  According to Romans 8:38-39, pretty much nothing.  And when you come to grips with the reality of God’s love, in all its magnitude, intensity, and mercy, it gives you what nothing else can, peace.  It’s the “peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Phil. 4:7).  This amazing peace can belong to you.  All you have to do is ask.

Rest today in His mercy, peace, and love for you.

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1. See Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:3; 2 Cor. 1:2; Gal. 1:3; Eph. 1:2; Phil. 1:2; Col. 1:2; 1 Thes. 1:1; 2 Thes, 1:2.
2. See 1 Tim. 1:2; 2 Tim. 1:2; Titus 1:4; 2 John 1:3.
3. Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (pp. 564-565). Chattanooga, TN: AMG.
4. Ibid., 519-521.
5. Ibid., 66-67.
6. Ibid., 1175.
7. Ibid., 1151-1152.

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