Too Good to Pass Up!

Psalm 3:3 – “But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.”

filled teacup with saucer beside good morning card and pen and macaroons
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Have you ever saw something that you just had to pay attention to? Perhaps it was a sale or a car or something from your childhood.  You saw it and regardless of what was going on you had to stop and pay attention to it.  Psalm 3 is just that.  The world is focused on the coronavirus and most of my blogs and devotionals lately have been about how to deal with the world of Covid-19.

Psalm 3 however is so rich and beautiful that we just have to stop and pay attention to it.  Psalm 3:3 says “but you O Lord are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.”  David had committed adultery with Bathsheeba, and then further descended into the abyss of sin by having her husband killed so that he might cover up his sin.  David the man after God’s own heart had become all about himself.  Community disapproval had soared and in Psalm 3 David finds himself on the run from his own son, with others breathing down his neck as well.

David however has repented of his sins (see Psalm 51) and his relationship with God has been restored.  The people however were not as quick to forgive as God was and David even though he is forgiven is still on the run.  And while he is running he says God is my shield.  God has forgiven David and now God is protecting David.  It would be expected for David to make a declaration like this, he has cried out to God for protection and God has heard his cry.

The next statement however is shocking because David says “God is my glory”.  The word glory that is used there is used in other places in the Old Testament to talk about the glory of God.  It is a bold declaration by David.  When this word in Hebrew is used to describe a person it is in reference to their character.  David here is claiming that God has given him character.  The world is mad at him for his sins, but David boldly proclaims that God has given him character.  David’s character was broken, but God had now forgiven him AND restored his character.

Now do you see why I said it is too good to pass up? God forgave AND restored! He does the same today.  How? Through the cross of Calvary.  Holy week is upon us and we need to spend some time thinking about the goodness of God that is seen on the cross.  We need to get our minds off the troubles of the world and on to the goodness of God.  Through His cross He forgives all of our sins, and He restores us!  This happens through the cross but David was pointing to it roughly 700 years before the cross.  King David was pointing to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

David doesn’t stop there, God forgives and God restores and then God lifts up his head.  In the Old Testament a downward head was symbol of defeat, but David says God has lifted up my head.  David is saying God gives victory.  David himself certainly isn’t victorious, but God gives him victory.  Again this is forward looking, because today where does our victory come from? It comes through the resurrection of Jesus!

Forgiveness and restoration through the cross.  Victory through the Resurrection!  There is a lot more wonderful things for us to be thinking about than the things of the world!  These truths are too good to pass up.

What a Day? What a Day!

Philippians 4:4 – “Rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS and again I say rejoice.”

Today I spoke to a lady who talked about the difficulty of working and then coming home to homeschool her daughter and do all the things that needed to be done. I didnt know her but she cried out of frustration as we talked. I spoke with another lady who expressed fear over the state of the world. My own mom called and asked, “what do you think about it all?”

I’ve hit the point of trudging through myself. Unknowing what the future holds, playing the what if scenarios in my mind. Its been a heavy day.

Tonight we went outside to play, to run, to get some fresh air, and to film my wife reading to her school kids. She sat in our glider and called them all by name, tears welled up and she began to weep because she misses them. These are hard times.

I’ve said in the past that everytime I preach on joy I’m confronted with reasons to not rejoice. Sundays sermon is on 5 things we should be doing today. I don’t want to give it away but one of those things is rejoicing and today I was so overwhelmed I couldnt. Many shared that same sentiment.

I was sitting at the computer watching a sermon trying to be refreshed tonight when Lane ran to me, hugged me and said “I love you daddy and I love this family.” He walked into another room and it occured to me he’s not worried about anything.

Then I heard the boys in another room laughing and playing. They were rejoicing and I wasn’t. Why? Because they werent worried about anything. They were trusting. I wasn’t.

What I should do is not be overcome by distress and weariness of soul. I shouldnt be in a state of dread but instead in a state of trust. Trusting my Father, rejoicing that I get to be a part of His family, and knowing that He has everything under control.

Bioluminescence

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Matthew 5:16 – “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Bioluminescence is a word that is defined as the biochemical emission of light by living organisms such as fireflies or deep sea-fishes.  Off the shore of Vancouver Island in British Columbia there is a single cell plankton that lives in the ocean and every night these plankton emit light.  It is a beautiful phenomena that is called “sea sparkle”.

Scientists are unsure why the plankton are giving off the light.  Some animals do it to attract a mate or to warn predators, but for these single cell plankton scientists are unsure.  It is thought however that they give off the light in response to the movement of the waves.  The jostling of the waves cause the lights to go off.

We live in times of jostling I think it is fair to say.  The world SEEMS to be in chaos and distress is everywhere.  We are being jostled.  We need to respond the same way that those plankton do (they are actually called Noctiluca scintillans).  We need to let our lights shine.

Jesus says to let our lights shine before others, not to draw attention to ourselves but so that others can see Jesus within us and in turn glorify the Father.  Light shines brightest in the darkness.  It is certainly dark right now, so let your light shine brightly.  Do good works for the glory of God.  Take a moment today to ask God what you could do to be a light in the darkness.  Ask Him for the strength to shine when you are jostled about.  Then seize your opportunities to show the beautiful love of the Father.  Sea Sparkle is amazing but it pales in comparison to God’s amazing grace!

God Speaks ……

Luke 21:22-24 – “Those will be days of God’s vengeance, and the prophetic words of the Scriptures will be fulfilled.  How terrible it will be for pregnant women and for mothers nursing their babies.  For their will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people.  They will be brutally killed by the sword or sent away as captives to all the nations of the world.  And Jerusalem will be conquered and trampled down by the Gentiles until the age of the Gentiles comes to an end…..”

beige concrete buildings on high ground
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It was around the first of April in 70ad, and the Roman armies were on their way to Jerusalem intent on destruction.  Eusebius, the first Christian historian tells us that the Christians living in and around Jerusalem received a divine revelation instructing them to flee Jerusalem.  They did just that and ran to the city of Pella.  Because of that when the Romans invaded Jerusalem many Christian lives were saved.

What was this divine revelation? What did it say? How did it come to those followers of Christ? Through the word of God.  Luke 21 said that Jerusalem was going to be destroyed and when those Christians read it they realized that the time was drawing near.  So they fled.  God spoke to them and they listened.

God still speaks to us today.  He speaks in all sorts of ways but the main way is through His word.  His word points us to Jesus.  The writer of Hebrews puts it this way, “long ago at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son.”  God’s definitive word to humanity was the written word of God, Jesus Christ.  He speaks to us today through His written word which points to Jesus.  God spoke to those early Christians through His word and many lives were saved.  God still speaks to us today through His word.

The question is are we listening?  If we aren’t we will certainly miss out.  Think if those early Christians wouldn’t have been listening, they would have missed out and many of them would have died.  They were listening however and so they were saved.  We should be listening as well.

God speaks to us today as well.  He speaks words of comfort and hope.  He speaks words of encouragement and wisdom.  He speaks words of love and victory.  The question is are we listening.  If we aren’t listening to Him but to the world we will hear words of hopelessness and gloom.  If we spend time “logging on” to the world we will hear fatalistic words of despair.  We will hear words that steal our joy and our peace away when we are listening to the outside voices.  When we are listening to Jesus however we hear words of triumph and victory.  We hear words of perfect love and of course perfect love “casts out fear”.

God still speaks today very very clearly.  The question is are we redeeming the time by listening?

The Burbs: A 31 Year Old Reality

Romans 7:15 – ” for i do not do what I want but I do the very thing that I hate.”

Tonight as part of our safer at home night 1 we watched the 1989 movie called “The Burbs”. It was a well written satirical movie that was somewhat of a social commentary. The main theme seemed to be “don’t become like what you fear.”

Tom Hanks character lived next door to a group of people that were strange at best and possibly even were serial killers. The movie revolves around the strangeness of each and every neighbor as they try to prove that the new neighbors are in fact killers.

During the climax of the movie Hanks character says something to the effect of “we’ve become just what we thought they were. We are the ones breaking into houses and snooping around. We are the ones breaking the law, they are the normal ones.” At the end of the movie we find out that the new neighbors are anything but normal, but Hanks’ sentiment is certainly heard – they have become like what they feared.

I couldnt help but wonder if sometimes we do the same thing. We fear the sin that we see in other people but do we become just like it. We fear becoming like the world but do we emulate it in its hopelessness. We fear Covid-19 but are we infecting people with sadness and hopelessness. Do we spread things they cause people to lose their peace. Have we become like what we fear?

Paul was acutely aware of sin in the book of Romans and in chapter 7 he says “the things I want to do I dont do and there things I dont want to do that I do.” In other words I give in to sin.

We do the same thing. Sometimes we become like what we fear and we give into the sin around us. We want to stay strong but we dont. We fail and we give in. We allow what we hate to be a part of our lives.

What is the solution? The only answer is Jesus. Through Him we can give hope in a world of hopelessness. Through Him we can have peace in a wormd of chaos and through Him we can have joy in a world of fear. We dont have to give in, we dont have to become like the world, through the power of the Holy Spirit even in hard times we can show forth Jesus.

The PATH, March 30-April 5 2020

Weekly devotions from Ephesians

The PATH. March 30-April 5, 2020

Theme: This week we continue studying the book of Ephesians. Someone once said that the question when we approach Ephesians is not so much what we will do with this book, but the question is what will this book do with us. It is a powerful testimony of the grace and power of God. The book has a two fold focus, and it is Jesus and the church. Paul wants us to see how the grace of God changes and empowers the church to be the light of the world in the midst of a crushing darkness.

Monday – Ephesians 3:1

Paul calls himself a prisoner of Christ Jesus here. He is writing these words from prison and yet Paul knows that he is not a prisoner of man. He knows that it is God’s will for him to be in prison. God has allowed it to happen so that Paul would proclaim the truth of the Gospel as he writes his letters. Paul’s circumstances were extremely negative but God was working in them. We would do well to remember that. God has a purpose for what we are going through. Believe it or not God is working through even something like Covid19 and He will make good come out of it. So give thanks even in hard circumstances that you are because God is working in those circumstances and God is with you in them as well.

Tuesday – Ephesians 3:1

In ancient times Kings would take prisoners after the battle was over. Paul here refers to himself as a “prisoner of Jesus Christ.” At one time he was God’s enemy. He was living for himself and for his flesh. He was persecuting the church of Jesus Christ, He was God’s enemy. But now Jesus has won the battle (on the cross and through the empty tomb), He is risen King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is triumphant and on the Damascus Road He took Paul prisoner. Paul now recognizes that as part of his identity. He is a willing prisoner. He is thankful that he is now a prisoner of Jesus, before he knows that he was a prisoner of sin and of his own flesh, but now he knows that that is changed. He has been set free by Jesus from his sins and his flesh and now He is grateful to be a prisoner of Jesus. It is his identity and it has changed his life. How do you define yourself? If we know Jesus, we are children of the Father, we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and we too are prisoners of Christ Jesus.

Wednesday – Ephesians 3:1-7

Did you ever have a secret? Most of the time when we are told a secret what do we want to do with it? We want to tell everybody. When we were younger there was a song that we would sing, “secret, secret, I’ve got a secret.” Paul has been given a secret, he calls it a mystery, and he is definitely not going to keep it to himself. He is going to share it with the world. What is the secret? It is awesome news for us. The Gentiles are given the revelation of the gospel. That is good news for us because we are gentiles. This mystery changes everything. We can now know God. We can now have our sins forgiven. We can now have the promise of the Kingdom of God to look forward to. Don’t keep this secret to yourself, share it with the world. After all, the world needs hope.

Thursday – Ephesians 3:8-13

Have you ever looked at a prism that had light shining on it? Colors explode everywhere and it is beautiful. In Ephesians 3:10, Paul says that God’s multifaceted wisdom may be known through the church. The picture that he is painting is that the church is a prism that displays the rich colors of God’s wisdom. We are to show God’s wisdom in the midst of the world that we live in, we are to show God’s grace in the middle of Covid19 or whatever else is going on. We are to bring the grace of God and the love of God to every tribe, tongue, and nation. That starts with shining God’s light into our community. During these difficult days, the need for the church to be the church is greater than it has ever been. People are looking for hope. People are asking why? People are looking for wisdom. We as the church have all of that. We have hope, we have the wisdom of God, we have His power. We may not know the answer to the question of why, but we do have the assurance that God is working in the midst of it and that He is going to make good come out of it. We also know that He is with us as it rages. Because of this we cannot be silent, we must let God’s light shine on us so that His wisdom, His grace, and His majesty can be reflected out into the world.

Friday – Ephesians 3:14-21

Most of us would say we agree that prayer is powerful. Most of us would say that we know that we are supposed to pray, but if we are honest most of us don’t pray the way that we should. The last few days may have changed that however. Someone said years ago that when we pray our greatest need is not for the subject of the prayer to be answered but instead our greatest need is for us to be in the presence of the Father.

That doesn’t mean that we don’t need but it does mean that as large as the need is, it is not as significant as our need to be in the presence of the Father. In reality the greatest need that we have in any season of life is the presence of Almighty God.

Paul knows that and that is why he prays what he prays here. Before he begins to pray however he says, “for this reason I kneel before the Father.” In other words this is the reason that I pray. What is the reason? Well you have to go back to the verse before and in that verse he is talking about the church at Ephesus being discouraged and he is talking about the afflictions that he goes through. He is saying I’m going to God in prayer, because you are discouraged and I’m going to God in prayer because I am suffering through all sorts of afflictions. This is a prayer born out of discouragement and a prayer born out of affliction.

What does Paul pray? That we would be strengthened with God’s power in our inner being. What is the remedy for discouragement? Paul would say it is the strength of God. He also prays that Christ would dwell in their hearts through faith. Again what is the remedy for discouragement and affliction? It is the presence of Christ. Our greatest need in any season is the presence of God. Paul prays that we would be aware of that presence here. Not only that he prays that we would be rooted and established in love. That we would be growing in Christ and unshakeable because of His love. When discouragement reigns, God gives us the ability to be established and unshakeable. When afflictions come, His love helps us grow through those times.

Then he prays that we would know the length and the width and the height and the depth of the love of God. He prays that we would know that which is unknowable. So what is Paul saying? He is praying that we would have an awareness of the love of God, and that we would daily be learning about how much He loves us. That love overcomes the pain of affliction and the heartache of discouragement. That love changes everything. And it is that love that we need on a daily, moment by moment basis. Whether we are in the season of Covid19 or the season of peace and solidarity, our greatest need is for the love of God.

So during these days of social distancing (I prefer the term physical distancing) let’s draw near to God with the promise that He will draw near to us, and let us pray this prayer for ourselves, for our families and for the church. Let us pray this prayer for those that are lost, and then let’s be amazed at what our God can do!

Throwing Off

Hebrews 12:1 – “Let us also lay aside every weight and the sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”

Yesterday morning we awoke to a flooded garage. I went down and started pushing the water out but then I quickly realized that it had ran behind bookcases and shelves so it was going to be quite the clean up job. I issued an “all hands on deck” call to the rest of the family, and we spent the rest of the afternoon and some of today working and cleaning things up.

We moved, we sorted, we pushed, we pulled and we threw away. In fact we threw away a lot. Things that were old, things that were broke, things that were no longer needed, things that were soaked with water. It’s probably the best that the garage has looked in the last 12 years. Most of the clutter is gone.

In much the same way Scripture tells us to “throw off” or throw away the things that hold us back and the sins of the world. Why? Because they clutter up our lives. They cause problems, they hold us back. They keep us from being what we are supposed to be in Christ. Which means sometimes we need to do some spiritual spring cleaning. We need to get rid of the things in our lives that hold us back in our relationship with Christ and that keep us from running the race of life effectively.

At the end of Hebrews 12, in verse 28 the writer says “let us therefore be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken.” This gives us another reason that we throw off the things of the world. They are temporal, they are fleeting, they can be shaken.

We have certainly been reminded of that with the Covid-19 pandemic. Many of the things of this world are shut down. They are temporal, they are fleeting. It shows us that the things of this world fade away. Because of that we need to throw aside those things so that we might more effectively concentrate of the things that really matter.

We must get rid of the clutter that bogs us down. Things like doubt and unbelief must be thrown away. We must get rid of the weights that hold us back. Things like fear and anxiety need to be taken to the trash heap. We must also get rid of the sin that holds us back. Selfishness, worldliness and pride need to be taken to the landfill. All of that is temporary. God’s kingdom is eternal.

Let’s throw off the temporary so that we might fully concentrate on the eternal. Lets let this pandemic be a wake up call to live for what matters. After all we really were born for such a time as this.