The light is red as I wait semi-patiently in my car, then I hear my new stoplight neighbor before I ever turn to look at them. You know that sound, the sound of a bass thumping from a car’s sub-woofer and vibrating the windows. I suspect many of us try to endure for the minute or two until the sound fades by distance. Some of us may succumb to muttering some words under our breath. At that moment, I sometimes reflect on my personal experiences with turning up the volume. One recent occurence was on my front porch around 7 am, where I had just finished my Bible reading and praying. In reflection of what I had read, I listened to praise music on my ipad. A particular moving song came on and I instinctly turned up the volume. My personal jamming session was checked when I considered a neighbor trying to get the kids out the door for school. That is when I wondered why music playing devices have a volume range well beyond the comfortable hearing abilities of most of us? Even more, why do I want to explore those ranges when I hear a song I like? That is when I realized that it was about glory. I want to literally amplify words I celebrate and beautiful music. This is how God has made us and it is worship. So will I amplify and magnify the beauty of God and goodness of a Holy God? This is our loving God who delights to condescend to a sinning man in order to redeem and restore them to Christ-like beauty of soul. What’s not to sing loud about? If ever I raise my voice, should it not be in what is the most glorious? When we live loud the goodness and grace of God in our life, the passing neighbor can’t help but feel the reverbations.
As we look forward over the next few weeks and consider our desire to see more of our community join us on Sundays to worship our Lord there is a lot to think about in how, or even if, we fit into the plan individually. I mean let’s face it, we are all busy right, and some of us are introverts, some are shy, some feel like they are not equipped with enough Bible knowledge to lead someone to the saving grace of Christ, and the list could go on. But we are his children and he has chosen us to be the ones that carry his message to the lost. Read what Matthew 28:19-20 says:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[b] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
So there it is, we are commanded to Go and make disciples of all Nations. Now the good news is that in this Local outreach “all nations” doesn’t require travel to a foreign nation. Truth is there are many in our community who are lost and struggling due to the fact that they do not know Christ as their Personal Savior. So for this, all nations is our community and our daily sphere of influence. Certainly we all come in contact daily with friends, family, co-workers, waiters, waitresses, cashiers, strangers in a line, you name it we encounter people daily and many of them are lost. So here is our chance to step up and all we really have to do is take the first step and invite someone to Church. From there, together as His Church we will disciple them, teach them and Baptize them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
And more good news for those who struggle with the first steps is what he says at the end of verse 20; “And Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age”
So take comfort in the fact that God is with you, and he will be with you every step of the way. So go ahead, step out on faith and invite that person to join us for worship. God will guide you and he will provide all you need to get the job done!
Fifteen years ago, I was at the house preparing for the next sermon when word came out about the plane crashing into the South tower of the World Trade Center. My wife and I watched on in horror and bewilderment while trying to settle our 15 month old into her routine. At that time, we wondered what kind of world our children would grow up in, but we were certain it would be different from our childhood. Fifteen Septembers later and our 15 month old is now sixteen, and has 3 other siblings. As we crossed that date again, I find myself in the postition that my grandparents were in trying to describe the impact of Pearl Harbor. It was my job to try to convey the feelings, emotions, and events to a generation that could not know. I wondered if my grandparents felt the failure that I felt in trying to communicate the impact. I also can’t help but think some day my children will be in the same place I am in and trying to communicate what will be so devastating in their generation.
According to Jesus, men bent on doing what is evil to others will be inevitable. Luke 21: 9 “And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified, for these things must first take place, but the end will not be at once.” I am struck by the word “must” in his warning. It’s as if the tumults are following the laws of nature. Just as items must fall down due to gravity, so to the world must endure evil due to men’s free will. However, is it inevitable that Christ will also be demonstrated through people in these dark times? Just as our memories of tumult on 9/11, we will also remember courage and sacrifice of people to helping others. In the future evil acts, will our society witness the love, strength, and kindness of Christ on display? That question will be determined by our surrender to Christ today. Let our heart grow more fond of Christ and His words and Spirit, than any other competing ideal, object, or relationship. How about today? What can we do to meet the need of someone else today?
The well-known cliché, “The Waiting is the Hardest part” is no stranger to most of us. From the time we are born we all have a natural tendency to not be a fan of waiting. All of us who have had the experience of caring for a little baby understand that when it’s feeding time the waiting doesn’t go so well. As a child, I can remember many times where waiting was the most miserable experience that I could imagine. As we grow older that really doesn’t change for most of us though does it? Take a brief moment to think about the last time you had to wait and how you dealt with it. Maybe the challenge was waiting for some circumstance to end, an answer to be given, a phone call to be received, a letter in the mail or whatever it may have been that caused you to have to wait, patiently. Maybe some of us are living in that waiting period right now. We’ve become impatient, overcome with worry or anxiety, our independence is challenged and perhaps we’ve even become angry or bitter. The “struggle is real” so to speak and it is consuming your thoughts, emotions and even the joy of your salvation.
Nothing can be more trying to our faith than waiting on God to deliver us from our situation or circumstances. In the waiting we are challenged with finding ourselves having to truly live out our Faith in Him and praying for something that is beyond our control. In Psalm 25:4-5 we read “Make me to know your ways, Oh Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.” God’s gives us direction and is teaching us His truths as we draw closer to Him in our waiting. It is in the waiting that we can learn to trust God through going to Him in Prayer and reading His word. In doing so we can learn how our relationship with Him is worth so much more than the object of our waiting.
So today, as we wait, let’s be mindful of the opportunity we have to draw close to Him. Let’s be challenged to faithfully proclaim through our lives what we proclaim with our mouths that He is indeed our Sovereign God, that He is in control of every situation and there is nothing that is out of His Grip. Let us ask Him to make His ways known to us and that He would be our salvation as we wait and patiently trust in Him as He transforms us into the image of Christ Jesus.
Who is better off because you exist? This question has challenged me the last 6 years through various experiences and Scriptures. The latest has been the examples of non-profit work of believers in Lynch, Kentucky and Jeremiah 29. In a letter to Jews captured in Babylon and living as exiles, God commands, “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” (Jeremiah 29:7 ESV) The word for “welfare” is the Hebrew word, “shalom” commonly translate as “peace”. This word encompasses so much more than the cessation of hostilities, that a better word might be “flourishment.” God’s people are to seek the flourishing of the community they live. How can Knightdale flourish because of us socially, educationally, financially, spiritually, physically? Let us look for who the underserved might be around us and serve them in the name of Christ.
As we do this, we could get discouraged or depleted, so where do we get strength and hope to carry on? This is a nod to the title of the blog when Jeremiah 29:11 encourages us, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare (Shalom) and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope”. (Jeremiah 29:11 ESV) We serve a LORD who is working in even the most unlikely of circumstances to bring about our ultimate flourishment. Consider things above in order to help the family with special needs. Consider God’s investment in us so we can invest in Hodge Road Elementary and collect Box tops for the school find out more about that here. God chose to work on our behalf so we can support the new ichoose pregnancy support center. Consider how Jesus fights for us so we can appreciate the military veterans around us this November. How might your business help our community flourish? How might your family help your neigborhood flourish?
As my wife and I embark on a five-week weight loss challenge, each of us will be faced with temptations to overcome. She and I both love chocolate. I devour all kinds of bread. She enjoys candy and nibbling on snacks throughout the day. I have been known to consume a soft drink or two. But as challenging as these pleasures will be to forego, there is a larger motivation at work. And you could call it, too, a temptation. I am tempted by the challenge to reach a goal in the allotted time. I am tempted by the way I’ll feel and look and certain clothes will fit when I hit the mark. Those are good temptations for me. They will help keep me on track when my stomach gets to growling or someone breaks out the Double Stuf Oreos. And hopefully, when it’s time for the final weigh-in, I will have gotten what I bargained for.
There are plenty of temptations for good that Christ has made available in scripture to His children, if we can acquiesce to His unique economy. Jesus said for those tempted to be exalted, you can get there by humbling yourself. If you are tempted to show your good works, then do them where no one can notice. And if by chance you are tempted to know the God of the universe and all that He has in store for you, then give Him your life and die. The problem with these good temptations is that we quickly grow tired of their appeal. Their satisfaction is real, but it’s an acquired taste, fostered by time and tempered with sacrifice. That path offers fewer bells and whistles than the quick yet shallow rewards immediately available to us all. It might sound good Sunday morning, but by Monday afternoon we’ve moved on.
But be advised, if you are tempted to follow a real King, then He will most certainly call you to task. His greatest desire is to have worshippers. And since all of mankind was made to worship, you’re going to scratch that itch, one way or another, sooner or later. But if you’ll let Christ be the answer to your temptations, you’ll get so much more than you bargained for. You’ll get all of God turning you into all that you were meant to be. And that is very tempting.
Probably like you, I am in full Olympic mode, which means I’m fighting sleep so I can watch the next American hopeful in the Olympics at Rio. We get to revel in Michael Phelps swimming for record setting gold medals. I rejoiced in Simone Manuel’s gold winning performance as the first African-American to win a medal in swimming. I was inspired by Katie Ledecky’s dominating grit. Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, and the rest of the women’s gymnastic team were dazzling in their performances. Every night is presenting another attempt for glory. I’m even reading For the Glory: Eric Liddell’s Journey from Olympic Champion to Modern Martyr, by Duncan Hamilton, to round out by olympic saturation.
Despite NBC presentation of the Olympics, the faith of Olympians seems to be looming in the performances, like “Christ the Redeemer” statue stands over Rio de Janeiro. I first noticed this in an interview with Michael Phelps describing his post 2012 personal meltdown. The words he used to describe the difference of today versus then seemed to ring of a new Christian understanding of self and life. The second clue was he reference of Ray Lewis, an outspoken Christian, as a mentor. Later I learned that it was The Purpose Driven Life book, by Rick Warren, that was used to bring change in Michael’s life. Then I wondered at a commercial describing Yusra Mardini, the Syrian refuge who saved the life of fellow refugees by pushing and pulling a broken boat through the Aegean Sea. Yes, I later find out that she too is a believer. There is the exuberant praise to God from Simon Manual, the picture of Usain Bolt kneeling in prayer on the track, and there is so much more. You can read more about Olympians who put God above their sport here.
However, one particular interview capture well this relationship between sport and their identity in Christ. Watch this interview with David Boudia and Steele Johnson after their dives.
All of these public expressions of faith matter, for their is a battle going on for glory. Every Olympic scorecard is an expression of glory. The only question will be who gets the glory. In the score cards of your life, who is getting the glory?
Last week Jarrod talked in his blog about one day seeing the countless stars in the sky, a view that only a Creator could create ( Gen. 1:31 ). The next day he saw the effects of neglect and poverty on a community that had been forgotten by man, but found within it a silver lining, confirming they had not been forgotten by God.
Yesterday I had a similar experience. I was able to stand within a few feet of a huge waterfall spilling down from the mountaintops into a beautiful lake. However, right next to it was an aging glacier, once majestic and now scarred with dirt and rock, receding 20 feet every year, destined to nearly disappear in my lifetime. I know many will disagree with me on the cause of its demise, but as I moved my eyes from the waterfall to the glacier and back again, I could not help but see the contrast between God’s creation untouched (the waterfall) and God’s creation damaged by man (the glacier receding from climate change).
Sin is typically discussed on a personal, individual level (Romans 3:10, Romans 3:23). That is critically important since we can only be saved on a personal, individual basis (Romans 10:9-13). However, the impact of our collective sin nature can so easily be seen in the world around us. For some reason, theological warning bells go off in the minds of many Christians when the issue of the destructive nature of human intervention on our planet is discussed. I would offer the point that personal sin is amplified, not muted, as we cohabitate as stewards of God’s workmanship ( Gen. 1:28 ). If one does not accept man’s sin nature tied to global warming, there are no shortages of other examples to point to. Remember the industrial smog in China for the 2008 Olympics? The pictures of residents wearing masks as a normal course of life. In 2012, it was London who had to temporarily reduce its auto traffic by 30% in the weeks leading up to the Olympics in order to bring emissions levels under predetermined requirements. Today’s news is about concerns in Rio for the 2016 Olympics, as more than 10% of athletes will be exposed to water that is thousands of times above accepted limits for untreated human waste.
There is a tipping point. Have we reached it? Are we past it? Who but God knows. He is patient with us ( 2 Pet. 3:9 ) but we all know the end of the story (2 Pet. 3:10 ), when our stewardship over this old earth ends and He wipes everything clean, for eternity. I would expect that, when we no longer have a sin nature, we will take much better care of our home. In the mean time, we need to recognize the pervasiveness of sin and, more importantly, be about our Father’s business ( Luke 2:49 ) ( James 4:14 ).
Is it ever good to be forgotten? I suppose it depends on who is forgetting you. Two nights ago I was standing outside in a dark mountain valley, cut off from the technology that surrounds us (I barely survived no cellular and wifi service). Without the small light of a screen, I looked up to see the millions of starlights that were immensely bigger than our earth, but diminished in appearance by the billions of light years distance. Once again my mind reeled and imagination failed to grasp the depth of space. Yet Isaiah 40:26 commands us, “Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.” Not one of those brilliant dots were misplaced and each subject to the will of the Maker.
The next day I was in another technology challenged corner of the world in Lynch, Kentucky. Everywhere I looked, evidence was shown of a place and people being forgotten. It is a town built by a corporation that the business disregarded fifty years ago. A town being disregarded by its own people. The buildings show decades of neglect, the infrastructure is barely there. The people show little hope and addictions of the town give evidence. However, it is here that I see a sign stating “In God’s name, serving those who are underserved.” It is here, that I hear the stories of God answering prayers in miraculous manner for a people who will call on their Lord. It is the forgotten place that God has shown His presence. The God who is the Maker and Master of all space is the same one who speaks to the forgotten of us.. This to show that within one soul is the treasure that our maker seeks. One 8 year old little girl has the great capacity to glorify God in trusting relationship that cannot be matched by a sky filled with stars. The world may forget you, but the One who made the world does not forget you.
As we consider this thought of dealing with the headlines of today I was wondering…. is it ok be worried? I mean why shouldn’t we worry? It seems like every time we turn on the TV, listen to the radio, or read an article there is another tragedy going on somewhere in the world where lives are threatened and even taken in a senseless fashion. Even today we are hearing about an 84 year old Priest who was brutally killed by a terrorist at his church in France. It continues to look like there is no place and no person immune to the possibility of exposure to this type of danger. We’ve seen it happen at all times of the day, in all types of places and to all types of people, so why shouldn’t we worry that it could happen to us tomorrow?
Here’s why…..God has told us not to, that’s why.
In Matthew 6:34 He tell us “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is it’s own trouble.”
So there it is, He tells us we shouldn’t worry about tomorrow because the truth of the matter is that we don’t belong to tomorrow, and we don’t belong to this world, we belong to Him. Let’s face it, no matter how much we worry or how hard we try, we are limited in our ability to protect ourselves and our families. We can’t add another day to our lives and we certainly can’t eliminate the threats of this world on our own.
So if we shouldn’t worry about tomorrow what should we as believers do?
He give us the answer to that in Philippians 4:6-7. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God. And the peace of God which passes all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
The real truth is that our reliance is in Him and Him alone. The question that faces us each day is do we believe it? Do we trust Him or do we trust ourselves? Is it Thy will be done or my will be done?
According to His word, if we are willing to take it all to him in prayer and trust in Him – that is when we will find the “peace that passes all understanding” for today and tomorrow.