Refuge in God

But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works. [Psalm 73:28]

Anyone can study the Bible and talk about what is in there. Anyone can memorize facts and spew them out in order to “win” a trivia contest. Anyone can memorize scripture in order to interject something into a debate/argument.  But it is only the one who places their very lives in the hands of God, through Jesus Christ, that  you can truly tell of God’s mighty works with any amount of passion and conviction.

There are many out there that preach about God. They stand in front of the masses, waving a Bible around, and tell of the mighty works of God. And these mighty works can be for you if only you believe right or give enough money to this ministry or think right or dream right. The problem is that this is not the mighty works of God that the psalmist is talking about. The mighty works of God are what God does for His children to show HIS glory; not OUR glory. God’s mighty works advances GOD’S kingdom; not OUR measly, little, weak kingdoms.

It bugs me when I hear about prosperity “gospel” preachers using the mighty works of God to advance a selfish agenda rather than to advance the kingdom of God. This kind of testimony says nothing about the truly amazing work of God; Jesus dying for sinners and rising to give eternal life to said sinners. THAT is a mighty work. And it is only truly a mighty work for you if your refuge is in the Lord God almighty through faith in Jesus. For,

it is there that you can truly see how Satan flees from the sound of Jesus’ name.
It is only in the refuge of God that true peace is known.
It is only in the refuge of God that true love in known.
It is only in the refuge of God that you can see how God is FOR YOU.
It is only in the refuge of God that true life can be known and received.

God’s mighty works can not be seen from afar, but only in the refuge of his loving arms. God is not a long distance relationship but rather an intimate, close, life-saving, cross-bearing, glory-showing relationship.

And let me tell you, for me it is good to be near God.

Mighty God, Your works are amazing, but Your work of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ is the most amazing of all. May I never stray from the refuge that in only found in You. It’s in Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

The Heart of a Child

The heart of the child is something that should be nurtured, cared for and encouraged, because what is planted in the heart of a child, especially at a young age, is something that will pay dividends later in life; for the child and for the Church.

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6 ESV)

This past Sunday during worship, I was up front leading the offering prayer and then led the congregation in the Lord’s Prayer. As I was praying I started to hear the voice of a child also praying and I quickly recognized it.

It was my 2-year-old little girl.

My heart immediately melted as I stopped saying the words of the Lord’s Prayer so I could listen. Mayah didn’t say all the words of the prayer but she was definitely trying. I knew she had been doing this for a while but I just never heard her before Sunday.

I was one proud daddy :-)

I have heard parents lament over whether their kids are getting anything out of worship. I tell them that they might not understand everything now but they are definitely getting something out of it so don’t give up. Children have amazing recording devices in their brains that are connected to their five senses. They take in information (good and bad) but they may not process it until later; when they are able to decode what their brains were too young to comprehend then. It may seem like you child is just goofing off or not paying attention or just plain bored;

but keep at it (with the good stuff, that is),

keep training them;
keep exposing them to the saints of the congregation;
keep bringing them to the assembly;
keep the rituals of the faith in front of them;
keep talking about Jesus with them;
keep planting seeds.

Granted, Mayah doesn’t understand what she is trying to say now but she is beginning to understand that when we gather in this room every week we say these familiar words. As she grows up she will hopefully begin to comprehend what she is praying. Seeds are being planted now. So all that is left for me to do is to continue to nurture those seeds and be patient; waiting to see what the Holy Spirit will bring forth from them.

So…

parents of young children,
people who worship with parents of young children,
pastors who lead worship for parents of young children;

never, ever resent the presence of noisy children in worship but rather do your part as a member of the Body of Christ to raise children up in the way they should go. Never dampen the spirit of a child as they are trying to make sense of the faith. Never discourage a parent who only wants their children to experience worship with the assembly. Never take for granted what children may be absorbing during worship. Never glare or stare or judge, but rather teach and encourage and nurture. You just never know what children are learning, as it just might be something they will hold on too even when everything else has seemingly left them.

Let’s not show children the proverbial door through our impatience or being annoyed that they are squawking during a “holy moment” in worship, but rather let’s be in the business of planting and nurturing seeds; remembering how Jesus received children…

And they were bringing children to him (Jesus) that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them. (Mark 10:13-16 ESV)

It takes a village to raise a child and it takes a Church to pass on the faith and it takes a child to teach us adults the humility required to receive the kingdom of God. The circle of faith.

Father God, grant me the faith of a little child; one that receives you as their father. May I be granted the wisdom to teach children and serve as a faithful example of Your love. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

GOD IS GREAT!

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How does one not shout, “GOD IS GREAT!”, when one contemplates God’s salvation? I suppose the person who looks at salvation as a theological concept or myth to be studied. But if God’s salvation is your salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, then, “GOD IS GREAT!”, just flows out of your mouth. If it doesn’t, then maybe you don’t realize what this salvation really means.

You are a sinner condemned to hell.
You can not save yourself no matter how hard you try.
God’s wrath is something you can not escape.
You are worthy of judgement.
You have no logical defense against God.

That right there is damning. Even for this sinner, when I contemplate my rightful place before God I shudder and shake. But enter Jesus…

JESUS was born unto you.
JESUS was unjustly judged, convicted and condemned.
JESUS was sinless.
JESUS was punished, beaten and tortured.
JESUS was mocked, spit upon and sentenced to death.
JESUS crucified.
JESUS suffered greatly.
JESUS died,

for you.

But…

…JESUS rose from the dead,

for you.

Now, think about all of that. That is salvation for you. That is life for you. And if that does not bring out a shout of,”GOD IS GREAT!”, then you have no idea the gravity of your terminal disease (sin). If you are not entering worship with joy then you really don’t know this awesome God of ours. If you are not seeking God on a daily basis then you are lost; seeking for the wrong things/people.

Stop and reflect on your terminal disease.
Stop and reflect on the awesome love of God.
Stop and give thanks to Jesus.
Stop and worship.
Stop and praise God.

Stop and shout, “GOD IS GREAT!”, for the whole world to hear.

Awesome God, when I stop and reflect on my sinfulness I am in awe of the salvation Jesus won for me. I shudder to think what I am worthy of but leap for joy what you have decreed for me through faith in Jesus. Oh God, you are indeed GREAT! All praise and worship and honor and glory be to You, through Jesus Christ, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

I Give You Thanks, O God

Awesome and holy God,

the sound of the rain,
the singing of the birds,
the peacefulness of the morning;

I give You thanks, O God.

Time with Your Word,
moments of prayer,
worship with the saints;

I give You thanks, O God.

The cooing of my child,
the babbling of my child,
the love of my family;

I give You thanks, O God.

My parents,
my sister,
all my family;

I give You thanks, O God.

The loyalty of friends,
the strength of community,
the joy of Your church;

I give You thanks, O God.

My shelter,
my clothes,
my food;

I give You thanks, O God.

Your grace,
Your love,
Your faithfulness;

I give You thanks, O God.

Your grace,
Your love,
Your faithfulness;

I give You thanks (again), O God.

The beauty of Your creation,
the presence of Your Spirit,
the love of Your Son;

I give You thanks, O God.

A good cup of coffee,
another good cup of coffee,
and another good cup of coffee;

I give You thanks, O God :-)

My Father,
my Lord,
my Savior;

I give You thanks, O God.

Your glory,
Your power,
Your kingdom;

I give You thanks, O God.

Your victory over death,
Your victory over Satan,
Your victory given to me;

I gave You thanks, O God.

For the fact that I could go on and on and on and on and …

I give You thanks, O God, in Jesus name I pray, Amen.

——————————————————————-

May God bless you and keep you as you give thanks and praise to our most holy and awesome God.

The Pastor -|—

Gazing and Reflecting: A Holy Moment

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I was captivated by this figure from the first moment I saw it and was honored that my wife’s grandfather wanted me to have it. It’s a simple piece; beautifully carved in Mexico that, by some divine providence, has made it’s way to my study; where it now sits (actually, it’s kneeling). The figure is seemingly bowing it’s head in prayer as it meditates on scripture; showing me a faithful engagement with God through his holy Word.

The figure’s face is determined, peaceful and focused as it holds the Word of God. I Imagine him reflecting on a passage he just read and listening; listening intently for the voice of God, hence the determined face. He’s at peace because not only is he cradling the Bible but he feels cradled by the promises of God that he is reflecting on, hence the peaceful face. He also seems to be in his own little world as he meditates on God’s Word; not drawn away by the lure of cultural forces, hence the focused face.

I gaze at this figure and notice the cross dangling at his knees. For him it is not just some piece of jewelry or something to adorn his outfit. The cross is something that brings him great joy and hope (as it does me), thus the attitude of worship that I also see emanating from his face.

I gaze at this figure and I almost feel guilty; like I am invading his privacy as he worships. Sounds weird and goofy and maybe a little disturbing, but as I am gazing I notice something else. I notice that I am being drawn into worship as I reflect on him reflecting and on whom he is reflecting. I find myself drawn to enter a time of prayer; engaging God through scripture; and I like this. For there is much the world wants me to embrace as truth but I refuse to embrace that truth. For me, THE Truth is God almighty through Jesus Christ my Lord. And that Truth is found in God’s most holy and inerrant Word.

I gaze at this figure and see a person; loved by God and loving his God. I see a person who would readily acknowledge that he is a redeemed sinner. I see a person who devotion to God is not only in his moments on his knees but in every moment of his life. And I like what I see.

I gaze at this figure and see a beautifully crafted piece of wood but I also see a God who loves me beyond anything this world is able or willing to do. Weird, goofy, disturbing; call it what you may, but for me, I will gaze and listen and pray and listen and worship and listen and read and listen and remember and listen and…

Holy God, I am thankful for the many ways You speak to me and proclaim Your amazing love to me. You do so through Your most holy Word. You do so through people in my life. You do so through “usual” means which just shows You are not limited by anything or anyone. Thank you, Father, for the right to be called a child of Yours, through Jesus Christ my Lord, Amen.

As you gaze at that figure, what do YOU notice?

The Pastor -|—

Prayer of Discernment

As I am constantly praying; seeking God’s will and direction in my life. As I speak to people who are doing the same, the prayer at the end of this was placed on my heart.

Are you searching,
wondering,
looking,
floundering,
lost,
confused,
frustrated?
Are you seeking God and looking for a black and white answer? Whatever it is, lift it up to the Lord and then…

…listen.

I am not writing a discernment prescription. I am not guaranteeing a black and white answer for you. Rather, I’m encouraging you to do something you already know…

…PRAY.

So let’s do that…

Oh God, holy and mighty, immortal and omniscient,

You see the whole picture for You are the whole picture. You have my life in Your mighty hands for You are the giver and sustainer of life. You keep my going out and my coming in, now and forever more.

And so I appeal to Your wisdom and ask for Your Holy Spirit.

I feel caught in between what seems to be a myriad of
options,
paths and
opportunities,

and I don’t know where to go. One moment I think “This is the path” and then the next moment that doesn’t look good. And then, “Maybe that is the path” and then I am not so sure. Oh God, my wisdom is fleeting and flawed and incomplete.

I’m so discouraged. So,

I ask for Your wisdom so I may see.
I ask for patience that I may listen.
I ask for courage that I may follow.
I ask for boldness that I may lead.
I ask for faith that I may show Your glory.

And I ask for Your will to be done through me. Holy and mighty God, hear my prayer and glorified through Your holy will through me. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

May God bless your day :-)

The Pastor -|—

Don’t Play God

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You know, it’s just not worth it…

Someone does something evil to you and you do something evil back, and then that someone does something evil back to you for the evil you did back to them for the evil they did to you and then you do something else evil back to them for the evil they did to you for what evil you did back to them for the evil they did to you and then…

It’s just not worth it, but rather…

Someone does something evil to you and you respond with something good; messing with their heads.

[19] Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” [20] To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” [21] Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:19-21 ESV)

Or that works too.

Let God be God.
Let God deal with evil.

Besides, you don’t bring glory to God if you are playing God. So bring glory to God by doing good to everyone and always. And think about it, isn’t it more fun to mess with people’s head AND bring glory to God than to get caught up in evil and thus destruction? And you never know if your head-messing might just get to their heart…

…and thus bring glory to God.

Yup, that sounds better :-)

Let the head-messing commence.

Father God, may I have the faith to respond with good rather than evil and thus bring You glory, in Jesus name, Amen.