The Big Softie

So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the Lord. And His soul could no longer endure the misery of Israel. (Judges 10:16)

Now I don’t want to give you the wrong idea about God, but He’s really just a big softie at heart.

Because of His love for us, God will at times “chastise” us, or allow trouble into our lives, for the sake of getting us to turn from our sins.  A good parent will do what it takes to keep their child from playing football on a freeway.  Yet I’m like that rebellious child. I get enticed by the fast cars and noise and think the freeway is a fun place to play the game of life.  I find my Good Father will lovingly do whatever it takes to get me to turn around and stop walking towards that evil highway.

Once we turn around though, God shows His true colors.  He’s not angry with us over our sins, as much as He is grieved over what we are doing to ourselves.  When we get those amazing moments of clarity, realize we’re heading for disaster, cry out to Him for mercy, and most importantly actually turn around from the highway to hell, He quickly and lovingly responds with mercy, forgiveness, and help.  Do you need to turn around friend?  God isn’t trying to destroy you, He’s trying to save you.  Turn around.

Real Courage

This week’s Pastor to Person was written by Caleb Beller:

Act 14:21 “And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch”

The term “hero,” describes a broad spectrum of individuals. Heroes range from fictional to non-fictional. Real heroes to me are the ones who run in when our natural instinct says run away! When Paul finished his mission, he could have headed directly home. It would be only half the distance of retracing his danger-filled steps. He was rejected in Antioch, nearly killed in Iconium, and stoned in Lystra.  Why would he go back!

Act 14:22 “strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.”  Like Desmond Dawes, in the movie Hacksaw Ridge, Paul seems to say, “just one more.” Paul’s focus was not on the pain but the people. He saw souls whom Jesus had died for. Paul knew how hard it would be for these new believers to grow in such a hostile environment. Paul didn’t just preach love, he lived it. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”

Have you been rejected or hurt while trying to reach people with the Gospel? Are we avoiding those places for fear it will happen again? Family members, colleagues? May Paul’s courage inspire us to go back into the flames, clothed in the love of Christ, with the hope of the Gospel.

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear. — Franklin D. Roosevelt

Barefoot

Then the Commander of the Lord’s army said to Joshua, “Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy.” And Joshua did so. (Joshua 5:15)

It happened to Jacob when he was fleeing his brother and heading to the land of his ancestors.  Alone and afraid of what lie ahead, Jacob lay down that night with a stone for his pillow.  God spoke to Jacob in a dream and told him that He would be with him and help him.  Jacob awoke from his dream and exclaimed, “Wow, God was here, and I didn’t even know it” (Gen. 28:16)

It happened to Moses.  Tending his flock on a mountainside, Moses’ attention was drawn to a bush that was on fire.  God began to speak from that bush and told Moses to take off his sandals because he was standing on “holy ground” (Ex. 3:5).  God continued to speak and told Moses that He was calling him to a great adventure.  Moses didn’t need to be afraid because God was with him.

Joshua was about to face his first battle in the conquest of the Promised Land. It would be a long, fierce war. Joshua needn’t be afraid.  God was with him.  He just needed to take off his sandals and acknowledge that fact.  Holy ground is where God is.

Are you facing challenges?  Beloved, God is with you.  Acknowledge His presence.  You are not alone. Take off your shoes.

Second Chances

So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs.” (John 21:15)

One of the things I learn from the resurrection of Jesus is that God might not be finished working when I think He’s finished.  The disciples might have thought all was lost when Jesus’s body was laid in the tomb, but in three days He rose again.  Peter might have thought that he had irreparably ruined God’s call on his life when he denied knowing Jesus before Jesus died.  Yet after the resurrection, Jesus sought out that knucklehead Peter and set the record straight.  Just as Peter had denied Jesus three times, Jesus asked Peter three times if Peter loved Him.  With each affirmative answer, Jesus said the same thing – “Peter, get back to work.”  Peter had been called to be a shepherd over God’s people, and Peter needed to get back to what Jesus had originally asked him to do, despite his failings.

Where are you today friend?  Are you in that pit of despair, thinking that you’ve let the Lord down too many times?  Do you wonder if God could ever love a knucklehead like you?  Just like Peter, Jesus is looking for you.  He’s looking to turn you around and put you back to work.  He is not finished with you.

The Central Sanctuary

…then there will be the place where the Lord your God chooses to make His name abide… (Deuteronomy 12:11)

Before Israel made it into the Promised Land, Moses could guide the nation and teach them God’s ways because the people all camped together.  Yet once they entered the Promised Land, that would all change.  The nation would begin to spread out, and the danger they faced was that everyone would start doing whatever seemed “right in their own eyes”, instead of following God’s ways. To deal with this, God would set aside a special place, a “central sanctuary”, where truth was taught, and people learned how to follow God.

Today, our nation is pretty well defined as everyone doing what seems to be “right in their own eyes”.  I’m not sure if the problem is that we don’t want to walk in a way that pleases God, or if we simply don’t know what it means to please God.  We certainly need a place to be taught by God.

Beloved, your church ought to be that kind of “sanctuary”.  While the rest of the world experiences a “famine” for God’s Word, church ought to be a place of feasting.  There’s nothing wrong with sermons that make you “feel good”, and there’s nothing wrong with topical sermons per se, but the real question is, are you learning what pleases Him? That may not always be what pleases you.

Know Your Boundaries

“… this is the land that shall fall to you as an inheritance—the land of Canaan to its boundaries. (Numbers 34:2)

Before the Israelites crossed into their Promised Land, God spelled out their boundaries.  Boundaries help me know when I’m in the right place and when I’ve crossed a line into a place I don’t belong.  A boundary tells me that my kid’s ball is in the neighbor’s yard and no longer in mine.

Some people don’t respect boundaries.  They might be over at your house way more than you wish they were.  They might be that person who stands just a little too close for comfort.

As believers, there are places we belong and places we don’t belong.  We don’t belong in sin.  We don’t belong in rebellion against God.  We don’t belong in hatred.  Those are lines that shouldn’t be crossed.  Just as there are places we don’t belong, there are also places we do belong.  We belong in the presence of God.  We belong in grace.  We belong in hope.  We belong in holiness.

Do you know your boundaries?  Do you know where you are right now?  Which side of the line are you on?  The land God has for us is a good one.  David wrote, “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.” (Ps.16:6)

God has a beautiful place for us.  It’s where we belong.

Misrepresented

Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their animals drank. (Numbers 20:11)

To the casual outsider, this looked like a wonderful miracle.  The people needed water, and Moses performed a miracle that produced water.  The story is a bit more complicated than that.  In fact, this is the event that would keep Moses from entering the Promised Land.

In a way, I can certainly sympathize with Moses.  He was growing quite tired of the constant complaints from the people.  It seems that all these ungrateful people did in the wilderness was to gripe, gripe, gripe.  When God told Moses that all he needed to do was to “speak” to the rock to produce water, Moses let his anger get a little out of hand.  He yelled at the people, picked up his staff, and gave the rock a big wallop.  Water came out of the rock, the people were satisfied, but this was when God pulled Moses aside and informed him he would not be going into the Promised Land.

Beloved, God wants to work in our lives.  He wants to work through us to meet the needs of people around us.  He also wants us to give the people an accurate idea of who He is.  He is patient when we are not.  He loves when we don’t.  He is gracious and kind.  We miss out on greater blessings when we misrepresent Him.

Duty

So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’ (Luke 17:10)

I have to confess that I really like it when people pat me on the head and tell me I’ve done a good job.  I think it’s appropriate to show appreciation for a job well done, but sometimes we can become a little too addicted to that “attaboy”.  Instead of doing a job because it’s good and necessary, we do it looking for the kudos and accolades.

In Jesus’ day, the world’s economy ran on slavery.  The people understood the mindset of the slave.  Though some slaves might have a kind and gracious master, most slaves knew they were just a piece of property.  As believers, we have become “servants” of God.  He has purchased us for an extremely high price.  Yes, Jesus calls us “friends”, but we shouldn’t forget that the apostles, Peter and Paul, both called themselves “slaves” of Jesus Christ (2Pet 1:1; Rom. 1:1).

Some of our modern work ethic has lost this sense of “duty”.  We tend to be reluctant to commit to a job unless we know what’s in it for us.  Our mindset ought to be about serving our good Master, instead of serving ourselves.  We ought to trust His guidance and judgment and simply do our duty.  You may not always get the “thanks” you deserve, but you will have done the right thing.

Desperate Faith

This week’s Pastor to Person was written by Caleb Beller.

Luke 8:46, Jesus said, “Somebody touched Me, for I perceived power going out from Me.” Often we feel our problems may be too personal, small or persistent to change. We feel like Jesus should just walk by. ‘It will never get better’. ‘He won’t care’. These lies often paralyze us in our brokenness. This woman was desperate. Luke tells us that for 12-years she struggled with this intimate and debilitating condition. She spent and tried everything with no relief.

That day something was different, Jesus was close. She dared not stop Him as He was on His way to do something much more important (She felt). I won’t bother Him with all the details, but If I can just touch his robe!  Maybe she felt she was too impure to touch Him, desperately she thought if I can just get close enough to touch his robe. “Daughter, be of good cheer; your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”

Had she kept her hands to herself, or given into fear instead of faith, she never would have heard those beautiful words.  Are you desperate for a touch of Jesus? Maybe it’s time to press through the chaos and confusion and touch Him! We need to stop waiting, worrying, and wishing, and mobilize our faith. His presence is near today, we the church are His hands and feet. Do you need to reach out to another believer today? Is someone reaching out to you? May we have the faith to reach out and the faith to respond with the Love of Jesus. His power is present to heal today, through you or for you!

Peace Offering

Family Saying Grace at Thanksgiving Dinner — Image by © Larry Williams/CORBIS

Then he shall offer from the sacrifice of the peace offering an offering made by fire to the Lord. (Leviticus 3:3)

One of the Old Testament sacrifices was known as the “peace offering” or “fellowship offering”.  The Hebrew name is related to shalom, the word for “peace”.  It would seem to indicate that this sacrifice was declaring that you are at “peace” with God.  It was a way of expressing “thanks” to God.

The sacrifice involved an unblemished animal, because you don’t give God your second-hand castoffs. Unlike some sacrifices, this one was accompanied by a meal.  God got a serving, the priest got a serving, and the rest was eaten by your family.  It was like the best Thanksgiving Dinner but with a spot for God at your table.  Somebody pass the potatoes! That’s “fellowship” in the best of terms.

The New Testament brought a change in the sacrifices when Jesus died once for all, as the ultimate sacrifice.  But there is still something we can give. “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name” (Hebrews 13:15)

Have you found peace with God through Jesus Christ?  Then consider spending time with God.  Invite your family and friends and together give God thanks.  Give Him the best of thanks.