I live in a city where basically half of the people claim “none!” That is, they claim “none” when it comes to affiliation with a church of any kind. I am surrounded by people for whom church is a foreign concept. While I grew up in the era of Billy Graham crusades, people in my town are not going to crusades anymore. Billy Graham has gone to be with Jesus. And if they are going to hear about Jesus, they are probably not going to first hear about Him in a church service. People need to hear about Jesus from me and other followers of Jesus like me. They need to see Jesus lived out in me, but they also need to hear about Jesus from me. “Lord, open doors for me to talk with people about Jesus (Col. 4:2-4). Open my mouth to talk about Him with boldness (2 Thess. 3:1). Open the hearts of men and women to respond to the Good News (Ephesians 6:18-20).”
Yesterday a young woman asked me an important question: “How do I find peace?” Her question reminds me of a great song that our worship pastor at Faith Bible Church, Brian Hill, wrote: “Peace Is a Person.” Follow the link below and scroll forward to around minute 28 and give it a listen!
As you think back to this last Christmas, what was your best gift? My best gift came Christmas night! A young man for whom I had been praying for quite some time came up to me and said, “I did it.” He meant, “I put my trust in Jesus!” Of all the things that make me happy here on this earth, I cannot think of much that makes me more happy than birth. The birth of my three sons made me happy! The birth of my three granddaughters made me happy! The new birth of a person who has just put their trust in Jesus makes me really happy! In John 3:3 Jesus told Nicodemus, “. . . unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (ESV). Want to experience something that really makes you happy?! Start praying for someone you know to put their trust in Jesus, and watch what God does!
Every Tuesday noon I have been reading through Isaiah. These verses from Isaiah 55 really stuck with me: “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food” (Isaiah 55:1-2; ESV). Then verse 6 says, “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near” (ESV). Why do I seek that which does not satisfy? Only the Lord can bring satisfaction to the deepest thirst of our souls. Christmas season can be a time that turns our attention to the glitter of that which can not satisfy. To set aside the “stuff” and the anticipation of gatherings and to sit at the feet of Jesus brings fulfillment. To ponder the depths of His love, that He came to earth to die for me, brings satisfaction.
Do you ever feel like you can never quite get your ducks in a row?! As much as I try, it just seems like things never quite work out the way I thought they would. Life takes unexpected turns. Disappointments lie around the corner. The more we live the more we realize we are in a scratch and dent world. Why is that? My tendency to want to control the ducks is really my tendency to want to rely on myself instead of the Lord. Those scratches and dents remind us that He and He alone is to be our source of peace and joy. The Apostle Paul writes in 2 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (ESV).
Paul writes in Galatians 5:16, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (ESV). Paul uses a form of the word translated “walk” that carries a continual sense with it, like “be walking by the Spirit.” That means that there is never a time during our waking hours when we are not to be living under the control of the Holy Spirit. We are always to be “filled” with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). We are to be living a Spirit-filled life even in the mundane! Even when staining a deck, mowing a lawn, paying bills, or grocery shopping, we desperately need to allow the Holy Spirit to control us. If the Spirit is not in control, our sinful flesh (i.e., that drive within us to live for self) will be in control. The Christian life is not just lived in times of prayer and Bible study. The Christian life is lived in the mundane. How? Confess our sin. Align our lives with the Bible. Depend on the Holy Spirit: “Father, please control me by Your Spirit today!”
The events of Exodus 33 happen just after Israel made an idol (i.e., a golden calf) to worship because they were afraid when Moses delayed returning from Mount Sinai. God told Moses to go ahead and take the people to the land of promise. He would send an angel before them to clear out the people who lived there. It appears to be a pretty clear path, right?! God’s directions seem as straightforward as this marker for the Appalachian Trail I saw in Georgia. Just follow the path, and you will be okay. But there was a problem: God said, “. . . but I will not go up among you” (Ex. 33:3; ESV). So the people took off their jewelry as a sign of repentance for their sin. And Moses plead with the LORD, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here” (Ex. 33:15; ESV). Even though the path appeared to be clear to the land of promise, Moses wasn’t willing to take a step. Unless he was assured of God’s presence in the journey, Moses said, “do not bring us up from here.” There is a principle here for us. When we are making decisions and the path appears clear, there is one more question we need to ask: Is God going with me down this path?
What am I seeking? That’s a good question for all of us to ask. I enjoy a good hunt. But at the end of the day, I can also say that a hunt, even a great hunt, doesn’t bring satisfaction to the depths of my being. A good hunt doesn’t bring me peace, give me a lasting sense of fulfillment, or define purpose for my life. I read a verse on Saturday that was a good reminder of not “what” but “Who” every follower of Jesus should seek. 1 Chronicles 16:11 records David’s words for us, “Seek the LORD and His strength; Seek His face continually” (NASB). To seek the LORD’s face is to seek Him. He is the only One worth seeking!
Isaiah 30:1-2 says, “‘Ah, stubborn children,’ declares the LORD, ‘who carry out a plan, but not mine, and who make an alliance, but not of my Spirit, that they may add sin to sin; who set out to go down to Egypt, without asking for my direction, to take refuge in the protection of Pharaoh and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt'” (ESV)! It seems simple doesn’t it?! Ask the Lord to direct me before I take action! How often do you and I fail to simply ask the Lord what He thinks! How often do we carry out plans but not His plans! Isaiah 30:15 says, “For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, ‘In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.’ But you were unwilling.” Am I willing to quietly trust in the Lord’s direction for my life? One way I can know if I am quietly trusting in Him is this: Am I asking Him to direct me? I’m not asking for an audible voice. I’m asking Him to open and close doors. I’m asking Him to give my wife and me peace in our plans. The real question: Am I asking Him at all?
I continue to experience just how much reading my Bible and praying belong together! They fit together like cheese and a burger! This cheese burger from the Cup & Saucer Cafe in Monterey, TN was as good as it looks. Listening to God and responding in prayer is even better! I can listen to God talk to me through His Word, and I can respond back to Him as I pray. This week I was reading Isaiah 28:23-29 during my prayer time. In them, Isaiah says that God instructs the farmer, even in proper farming techniques! Verses 26-27 say, “For his God instructs and teaches him properly. For dill is not threshed with a threshing sledge, nor is the cartwheel driven over cummin; But dill is beaten out with a rod, and cummin with a club” (NASB). Verse 29 concludes, “This also comes from the LORD of hosts, who has made His counsel wonderful and His wisdom great.” So I prayed back to the Lord and thanked Him that all truth is His truth. I thanked Him that His counsel/wisdom is vastly beyond my comprehension. And if He gives counsel to the farmer, He will give me the wisdom I need to navigate life.