The Word

Open BibleLife can get complicated when the world’s standards of right and wrong are constantly changing.  Making the right choices can be confusing sometimes.  Our stability lies in the thing that never changes—God’s word (Mt. 5:18). The Psalmist wrote, “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:11).  Here are some ideas of what that means:

Read God’s word.  It all starts with picking the book up and reading it.  The Bible doesn’t do you any good sitting on your shelf or as an unused app on our phone.  Open it up and read.  Every day.

Study God’s word.  Make sure you understand what you’re reading.  Some passages are harder to understand than others, but don’t get discouraged.  Dig in.  There are lots of available resources to help you understand this treasure.

Memorize God’s word.  I’ve found that there is great benefit to having the word tucked away in your mind ready to recall whenever you need it.  It’s not easy, but it’s a useful discipline to master.

Meditate on God’s word.  Chew on the words.  Think about them.  Turn them over and over in your mind.  There is much more benefit in meditating on God’s word than there is in worrying about what tomorrow will bring.

Obey God’s word.  Ultimately, the book doesn’t do you any good if you refuse to do what God says.  Yet when you learn to take steps of obedience, you will have strength to weather the coming storms (Mat. 7:24-27).

Testing

PrisonJoseph lived an amazing life.  He rose from being a peasant in a backwater country to rule over the nation of Egypt.  Yet Joseph’s life wasn’t one that was easy.  It was a life of testing and difficulty.

Joseph received some interesting dreams when he was younger, dreams that hinted at the big things God would have for him one day.  But it wasn’t long after the dreams that Joseph found himself kidnapped by his own brothers, and sold as a slave into Egypt.  It seemed that the rough days were over as he rose in the ranks of his master’s house, only to be falsely accused by his master’s wife, and summarily thrown into prison.  Joseph spent several years in prison for something that he did not do.  God was with him in those difficult years, but God was doing more than just hanging out with Joseph, God was testing Joseph.

Sometimes God’s “testing” is about refining us.  When gold and silver are refined, their impurities are removed through the fire.  Sometimes God’s “testing” is about showing us what we’re made of, showing us that we are the very person God wants us to be.  Joseph was being “tested” during those days as a slave and a prisoner.  The Psalmist wrote, “Until the time that his word came to pass, the word of the Lord tested him” (Psalm 105:19). When the time of testing was over, the rest of God’s plan for Joseph (“his word”) began to unfold as Joseph was now ready to handle the responsibilities God intended for him in Egypt.  Are you being “tested”? God may be preparing you for what’s ahead.  Make sure you pass your “tests”.

Home Improvement?

Home ImprovementKing Ahaz had a new best friend.  When Ahaz was being attacked by the northern kingdom of Israel, he sent boatloads of cash to Tiglath-Pileser and asked him to step in and help him out.  When his new “friend” helped him, Ahaz decided to visit his new best buddy. Now King Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria, and saw an altar that was at Damascus; and King Ahaz sent to Urijah the priest the design of the altar and its pattern, according to all its workmanship. (2 Kings 16:10)

Ahaz decided that he liked the way the Assyrians “did worship”, and he thought it was time to upgrade that old altar in Jerusalem.  Ahaz had the new altar built and replaced the altar that Solomon had made.

Now I have to tell you that I like to keep improving things.  I’m always asking myself what I can do to make things better.  I always like to be one of the first to download an “update” or buy the newest gadget.  I think that it’s a good thing to keep certain parts of your life looking and working clean and fresh.

But friends, there are some things that simply don’t need improving.  One of them is the basis of your relationship with God.  Our “altar” by which we approach God is through the cross of Jesus Christ.  And there’s no improving on what Jesus did for us.  We may read our Bibles on our smart phones (or have them read to us), but the text is still the same.  We may post our prayer requests on Facebook, but there’s no replacing the actual discipline of prayer.  Be wise in what you try to “improve” upon.

Keep Going

Elijah Fire ChariotThe end of Elijah’s life looked something like this – Then it happened, as they continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. (2 Kings 2:11)

Elijah was a man who led an amazing life.  The dead were raised.  The hungry were fed.  Fire came from heaven at his word.  And yet James tells us that Elijah was a man with a nature just like us (Jam. 5:17).  He was human.  He had his struggles.  At one point in his life, he became so fearful and depressed, he begged God to let him die (1Ki. 19:4).  Elijah had just had a big showdown with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel.  Elijah called down fire from heaven and the people turned back to God.  But when wicked Jezebel heard what had happened, she threatened to kill Elijah, and Elijah fled into the wilderness discouraged and distraught.

If God had listened to Elijah’s prayer to die in the wilderness, things would have been different.  Elijah would not have raised up a successor, the prophet Elisha. Battles for the nation of Israel would have turned out different because Elijah wasn’t there to guide them.  Wicked people would have gone unchecked because Elijah wasn’t there to rebuke them. And then there’s that glorious chariot of fire thing.

Are you discouraged?  Are you struggling in the “wilderness” wondering if your life is worth living?  If you are still breathing, there is more for you to do.  Keep going.  Walk by faith.  God has a future for you.  Don’t quit.

Thirst for God

thirsty

This week’s Pastor to Person was written by David Cathers:

King David’s enemies had chased him into the wilderness, away from the ark of God, the symbol of the Lord’s glory and strength. As he fled for his life, the dry wilderness prompted him to think of the thirst his soul had for God. David wrote, “O God, You are my God; Early will I seek you;” (Ps 63:1a), to express the earnest desire he had for God.

In spite of his physical separation from the sanctuary of God, David found satisfaction in praising God, for it brought joy and comfort to his heart.

David sought after God early in the morning and praised him in the evening. “My mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night.” (Ps 63:5b-6)

King David was by no means a perfect person, but the Bible does describe him as a “man after God’s own heart” (1 Sam 13:14). Perhaps one of the steps to gaining this title ourselves is to be a man or woman after God’s heart. Are we seeking after Him early in the morning? Are we meditating and praising him into the night when we go to bed?

It’s very easy to run to other things when we are stressed and afraid that things in our life aren’t turning out as we expected. We often turn to entertainment, comfort food, money, new stuff, and sin in all its forms, thinking these things will ease the pain and suffering we are experiencing.

What do we thirst for? What do we seek? Who do we worship? Let it be God, early in the morning and into the evening.

Still Changing

This week’s Pastor to Person was written by Dan Looney:

ChangeIt’s been almost two years since I wrote the following Pastor to Person. I suppose we all know that storms come and storms go—or do they? Some folks are out in the cold, wind and rain, storm after storm, and they can’t see an end to it all. Pray for the mentally ill, the depressed, the drug and alcohol addicted and their children. Prayer changes things.

 

How quickly things change. Most of us don’t like the changes we’ve been through, and we are not looking forward to what lies ahead. At least this is the case when the changes are not seen as something good.

A lost job can cause unimaginable stress in a household. A sick child will bring devastating worry and grief. Deaths and divorce are all things we expect to hit us like a hurricane. We fall onto our knees and cry out to our Jesus for comfort and peace through the storm.

What about those who don’t know Jesus? Are they left on their own? We know that our God loves them, wants to comfort them, give them hope, and open their eyes. “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Can we praise God through the storms? It may make the difference in a friend or family member’s eternity. They will be watching. Will they see Jesus?

True Beauty

Lord Youre Beautiful

Today’s Pastor to Person article was written by Dave Dunagan –

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the things of this world. We can invest so much time and effort in the seeking of and in the fulfillment of our pleasures and desires. All one has to do is turn on the television and we are immediately, and even subconsciously, bombarded by all the things that Madison Avenue is telling us that we need. We are told that all the cool people are driving this model of car and that all the beautiful people are wearing this latest fashion. Whatever tickles your fancy… go for it!

Now I don’t think there is anything wrong with doing some research on your next purchase, but I want to encourage you to pay attention to the one thing that is really important.

King David said, “One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple. (Psalm 27:4)

Beloved, are we seeking after those things that the world has to offer, or are we seeking after something greater? There is an old song that says… “This world is not my home, I’m just a-passin’ through. My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.”

God tells us in Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (NIV)

Oh to dwell in the house of the Lord, to behold His beauty… You can’t get that on Amazon.com!

Hope in a Hard Place

This week’s Pastor to Person was written by Drew Morehouse:

sunrise-over-the-mountainsAll those who see Me ridicule Me; They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, “He trusted in the Lord, let Him rescue Him; Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!” (Psalm 22:7-8 NKJV)

There may come a time in our life when the unbelievers we know mock us because of the situation we find ourselves in. If we have done something wrong, then we need to admit it quickly so as not to give them an opportunity to blaspheme, but if we are there through no fault of our own, we need to hold fast to our faith.

This is what Jesus did while enduring the cross. He had been brought to the “dust of death” (Ps. 22:15), yet He knew that God would not allow His “Holy One to see corruption.” (Ps. 16:10) This gave Him the confidence to look forward to the day when His present circumstances would be overcome, and He would testify of God’s power in the midst of the church.

This should give us hope. No matter what happens, if we hold fast, there will come a day when we, too, will say with Him, “I will declare Your name to My brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will praise You.” (Psalm 22:22)

Hearing His Voice

This week’s Pastor to Person was written by David Cathers:

The hearing of the word of the LORD was rare in those days. The priesthood was corrupt. Full of greed and lust, they kept the best of the sacrifices for themselves and committed adultery in the house of the LORD. Even Eli the high priest, dulled to the voice of the LORD, looked the other way while his sons sinned. The LORD would condemn their blasphemies.

But God spoke to Samuel, and Samuel listened. “And Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established as a prophet of the LORD.” (1 Samuel 3:18-19) His calling was established not by his violent outrage over the injustices the priests had committed, nor by subverting the leadership in a coup, but by hearing and by obedience to the word of the LORD. It was the LORD that brought justice.

There is power in the word of the Lord. He speaks and it surely comes to pass. It is like a sharp sword in battle. It cuts and it brings life. When it goes out, it does not return empty-handed.  Jesus told us that, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)

I fear we are again in a time where the hearing of the word of the LORD is rare. There is much greed and corruption in leadership, and public outrage and violence in response. Rather than answering evil for evil, we ought to seek God’s word and obey. May we be like Samuel and learn to listen to the LORD, and answer His voice with, “Speak, LORD, for Your servant hears.”

Shepherd

Good_ShephardThis week’s Pastor to Person was written by Dan Looney:

The word “Shepherd” can be defined as “a person, who herds, tends and guards sheep” or “a person who protects, guides, or watches over a person or group of people.”

Psalm 23 is a scripture most of us are familiar with, and it seems the older I get the more familiar it gets. Recently, I attended a memorial service for an old friend. During his service, they read Psalm 23, and I think I heard it in a different way this time. I, along with many Christians, struggle with why my prayers are not answered with the results I am looking for. What does this mean?  For me it means that I don’t necessarily know what is best for me. It takes little hindsight to see that this is true.

“He makes me to lie down in green pastures”, but do I rest? He leads me beside the still waters”, but do I drink? “I will fear no evil; For You are with me”, yet I fear. “He leads me in the paths of righteousness”, and we still wander off into the woods from time to time.

As Christians we are not just sheep, we are also shepherds. We are sheep to our Lord Jesus, and we are shepherds to others that are searching for Him. Are we leading others into rough terrain and turbulent waters with our actions or attitudes? We all need to answer this question. My friend, Carl, who just went home to Jesus, was a shepherd to me and didn’t even know it. Without a word, I knew Carl was a Christian. His mannerisms and work ethic were a witness that Jesus was his Lord. Who is watching you?

We are beggars, showing other beggars where to find bread.