What Is Your Problem?

What’s Your Problem

1 Samuel 7:6 – “So they gathered at Mizpah and drew water and poured it out before the Lord and fasted on that day and said there ‘ we have sinned against the Lord.’ And Samuel judged the people of Israel at Mizpah.

What is your problem? It is a question that takes many forms isn’t it. It can mean you are being rude, what is wrong with you or it can mean I care about you and I can tell something is wrong. Or it can mean just about anything in between. So what is your problem? We all have one don’t we? If the truth is told we have more than one, but perhaps the root of the problems are the same – sin.

It is a word that we don’t like yet it is one the effects our lives each and every day. John Owen said that “our sins are like an iceberg, we are only aware of 10% of them,” sadly enough he is right but his number may be too high. Sin fills up our lives. Jesus certainly shows us this in two of His more famous exchanges in the Gospel of John. The first is with Nicodemus and from the outside Nicodemus looks like a pretty good person. He is the person that you want moving into the neighborhood. A good man, a religious man, an upstanding member of the community. Yet when he comes to Jesus, Jesus just simply tells him, “you must be born again.” In other words Nicodemus you must change. Why? Because Nicodemus, this good, upstanding, religious person is full of sin. So Nicodemus if you are going to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, you must be born again.

Next, Jesus encounters a Samaritan woman at the well. She is just the opposite of Nicodemus. He is wholeheartedly religious, she is religious as well, but just a little bit. He is an upstanding member of the community, she too has a reputation but its not a good one. In fact she comes to the well at a time when many people wont be there. She doesn’t want to face people, she after all is one of the people that other people like to talk about. Nicodemus seems to be a pretty good person, she is filled up with sin (he is too but from the outside he doesn’t seem to be). What does Jesus say to her? Come partake of the Living Water. In other words you are trying to fill your life up with all sorts of things as you search for meaning and as your search for joy, but those things aren’t going to give you fulfillment. You must change. It sounds a whole lot like what He told Nicodemus doesn’t it, especially when you break it down.

So to a good, religious person Jesus said, you need to change and to a woman with a bad reputation Jesus said you need to change. What is His message? That we as people need to change. We are filled up with sin. Timothy Keller points out that Nicodemus’ sin was pride and position, while the woman at the well’s was the pursuit of pleasure. These seem to be very different sins, but they have the same root, the root of idolatry. They were seeking to glorify themselves. Nicodemus by having the power and prestige and social position, the woman at the well through her relationships. They had made idols of themselves and they needed to repent. They needed to lay their sin down if they were going to be a part of the Kingdom of God.

In 1 Samuel 7, the people gathered together and drew water and then poured it out. This doesn’t make a lot of sense to us in the 21st century does it? Why pour the water out? The answer is really simple, it was symbolic of repentance. Symbolic of emptying yourself, so that you could be filled up with the Spirit of God.

Emptying yourself, so that you could be filled up with Living Water. Emptying yourself so that you could be born again. Born not just of water, but born of the Spirit of God by the blood of Jesus Christ. We are to drink of the Living Water, we are to be born again. How does that happen? Through us emptying ourselves (repenting of our sins and idolatry) and being filled with the Spirit of Almighty God. Then and only then can we be a part of the Kingdom of God, and then and only then will we find the peace and the joy and the hope that we all are desperately and frantically searching for. We find it at the foot of the cross. To God be the glory!

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Its All in How You Look at It

“It’s All in How You Look at It”

Psalm 118:24 – “This I the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

The past few weeks have brought some interesting changes and in fact challenges into our household. It is of course back to school time, which meant that my wife was back to teaching, my oldest son was starting 3rd grade (at a different school), and our middle son was going to Kindergarten. Life was filled up with excitement, with worry, with anxiety, and some days even with dread, as we wondered how the oldest was going to respond to the new school, and how the middle one was going to do in school, period. There were many sleepless nights especially about out middle son because he has a seizure disorder and some other “special needs”. Needless to say we worried a lot and prayed a lot as well.

He seemed to be adjusting pretty well to school and we have always tried to be very positive and upbeat about him going (at least around him). One night I said to him, “Isaac, you have to go to school tomorrow.” I said it in my most encouraging voice and to be honest was somewhat proud of myself for my dose of encouragement. I turned around and say my wife just simply shaking her head NO.

No? I thought he doesn’t get to go to school tomorrow? I thought I had memorized this staggered schedule. What have I forgotten? Then I thought well she is a Kindergarten teacher so she probably knows some secret about him not going, so I said, “so he doesn’t go to school tomorrow?”

“Yes,” she said, “he goes to school tomorrow. But its not he has to go to school its he gets to go to school.” In other words its all in how you perceive it and more importantly in this situation its all in how he perceives it. So we want him to see school not as something he has to do (even though he does), but as something he gets to do because he likes it so much.

That makes sense for more than just school doesn’t it? It makes sense for more than just a 6 year old too, it makes sense for us. Life is in how you perceive it. Think about the difference just in these statements:

I have to go to church………..I get to go to worship

I have to go to work…………..I get to go to work

I have to clean my house……I get to clean my house (because I have a house to clean)
I have to bathe the kids……..I get to bathe the kids

And on and on and on. In reality as followers of Jesus Christ that is how we should perceive each day and each opportunity. Why? Because “each day is the day the Lord has made we REALLY SHOULD REJOICE and be glad in it.” We don’t have to but we get to through the grace of God.

His mercies are new every morning. Again so we get to live our lives for Jesus and walk each day in His grace. We don’t have to but we get to.

He has promised to never leave us or forsake us, so we really should live life to the fullest. After all we GET to do it with Him, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords by our side.

So tomorrow, don’t just go to work, celebrate the privilege of going and more importantly of having Jesus go with you. Saturday don’t just spend time with your family, but be thankful that you get to do that. Then on Sunday, sprint out the door to worship, not with a heart that says “I’ve got to go to church” but with a heart that says, “I GET to go to church and how could I not go and worship because of all that Jesus has done for me. How can I not thank Him for going to the cross and dying so that I might be redeemed, and so that I might be forgiven. How could I not rejoice, after all He took the wrath of God in my place.” He didn’t have to but He chose to because He loved us that much. To God be the glory!

Reflections on Fatherhood

Fatherhood

1 Peter 3:21 – “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

What a difference a week makes. Last Thursday I was privileged to go to Dennis Cove and baptize a friend of mine, this Thursday I watched and prayed as my 3rd grader went to school for the third day. He has changed schools this year and he went from loving it on the first day to not liking it all that much on the second day. He left behind a lot of friends at his last school and a routine that he was used to, now everything was different. So as he walked out the door to go to school, I prayed, God provide him with good friends here at this school, let him have a good day.

When I picked him up that day, guess what I saw? A smile on his face, and his smile put a smile on my face. In that regard the two Thursdays were very much alike. They both made me smile and rejoice in the grace of God. I was thankful for the baptism and the privilege that it was and I was thankful for the grace of God that answered my prayer. God is good. He is our loving heavenly Father.

I saw a picture of fatherhood this past Thursday as we walked up the path to the cove for the baptism. The man who was baptized brought his wife and his 2 year old son with him, and it was an absolute joy to watch. The little boy wanted to walk a little while, he wanted to explore, he wanted to check things out, but because it was about a 10 minute hike he also got tired and wanted to be carried. So his dad picked him up and carried him. He let him explore, he let him look but he kept a watchful eye on him to make sure that he didn’t get off the path. He steered him away from danger and he watched over him. When he got tired, he picked him up and carried him.

That is a picture of fatherhood., and the same thing I was trying to do as I prayed for my son walking out the door going to school. Being a father is a calling to be a person of love, care, and compassion. Yet the Bible tells us that even in our best efforts we aren’t perfect fathers. There is only one perfect father, and that is God, our Father. Matthew 7:7 says, “if you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”

In other words when we pray for our children, we can be sure that God our Father hears our prayers. God takes care of us infinitely beyond our best efforts to take care of our children. He watches over us. He keeps us on the path. He steers us away from danger. He carries us when we are exhausted. He picks us up and cleans us up when we fall. That is the goodness and the grace and the love of Almighty God towards those who are His children.

So how is it possible to be a child of God? After all Matthew 7 reminds us that we are evil (not a pleasant reminder I know), so how can we who are evil be a child of God? Only through the blood of Jesus, only through the love of a Father who sent His only son (see John 3:16) so that we could be forgiven of our sins. We become a child of God through the grace of God as we repent of our sins and place our faith in Him. Then He adopts us into His family. We go from being “children of wrath to being children of God” (Ephesians). That is the love and grace of the Father. That is what He does for us. To God

NOTHING LASTS FOREVER

Luke 10:42 – “Few things are needed—or indeed only one.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

“Nothing lasts except the grace of God by which I stand……” sang Keith Green very powerfully over 34 years ago.  And even though it’s an older song it still rings out with truth.  For truth is lasting, why? Because truth comes from the grace of God and truly nothing does last except God’s grace.

The Bible makes it abundantly clear,  “the grass withers, the flowers fade but the word of God stands forever.”  How? Because the word of God comes from the grace of God.  Why do we have God’s word, the Bible? Because God in His grace wants us to know Him and His ways.  He reveals to us how to live because He loves us.

Nothing Lasts EXCEPT the grace of God. That is a hard realization but a realization that brings freedom.  How many things do we worry about in life? Think about all of the sleepless nights, the anxiousness, the feelings of desperation.  Now think about how many of those things will last forever?
I’m just guessing but I’m sure the answer is not many.  After all nothing lasts except the grace of God.

God’s word lasts forever because it comes through God’s grace. God’s kingdom will last forever again because it comes from Gods grace.  God in His grace created us, which means that we will last forever.  Where we spend that forever depends on what we do with the grace of God.  If we repent of our sins and place our faith in Jesus and His grace then we have the gift of salvation, and this gift lasts forever.

Nothing Lasts except the grace of God, so why do we worry and concern ourselves with other things? Things that don’t matter.  In fact we spend more time worrying about things that don’t matter than we do things that do matter.

Nothing lasts except the grace of God.  It was a message that Jesus certainly lived and one that He conveyed.  In His conversation with Mary and Martha He said, “Martha, Martha why do you worry about many things?” In other words why are you so concerned about things that don’t matter? “Your sister has chosen the most excellent way,” Jesus then said to Martha.  What was that way? It was sitting at the feet of Jesus and experiencing the grace of God.  That is the most excellent way.

We may worry about life being perfect, about having a spotless house, about having more money in our bank accounts.  We may worry about having children who are happy all the time or who are better behaved.  Yet in the overall scheme of things these things really aren’t that important.   Jesus says, “seek first the grace of God.”  In other words concentrate on what is important,  again remember the grace of God.  For that grace is truth and that truth will set you free.

Free from a life of worry, free from a life of perfectionism,  free from trying to always measure up. Free from what happens if everything doesn’t always go as planned (because trust me it won’t).  Jesus sets us free and that is the grace of God.

School’s In for the Summer?

School’s In for the Summer

Deuteronomy 17:18 – “Also it shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book.”

Growing up one of my favorite songs was “School’s Out” by Alice Cooper. I’m not sure if it was one of my favorites because of the artist or because of the subject matter. Regardless it was a song that I enjoyed year round but was especially fitting during the months of May through August, when school was either out for summer or preparing to be out until fall.

School’s out has a nice ring to it, school’s in however does not. Of course in reality it doesn’t matter whether it has a ring to it or not, school really is back in. It is that time of year. The time for staying up late and sleeping in is over. The time for playing outside at noon and playing video games during the afternoon is over. School is back in session and it is now time to learn.

The writer of Deuteronomy gives us some commands regarding the king of Israel in Deuteronomy 17, he says that the king should be someone who reads the law of God and who copies in his own handwriting the law of God. Why? Because we learn while reading and we learn while writing. Learning was important even 1000s of years ago. I know that is heartbreaking to many school children today as summer is still in full bloom but school is also in full session.

Learning is important, what the children do everyday in school (and hopefully us adults are still doing as well) matters. Learning matters. Of course what the king was supposed to learn in the book of Deuteronomy was of the utmost importance. He was to learn more than just reading, writing, and “rithmitic” (presumably since he is the king he knows those things), he was to learn the laws of God and the ways of God. That is of the utmost importance, whether we are 5 or 55, 9 or 99, or anywhere in between or beyond. Learning the things of God are of utmost importance, in fact they have eternal significance.

Today my 8 year old began his 3rd grade journey, and tomorrow my 6 year old will begin his academic career in kindergarten. I pray for both of them, I pray for their safety. I pray for them to have clear minds, I pray for them to behave and I pray for them to make good friends. I pray for their teachers this year and the teachers that they will have. I pray for the school, the principal, and all of the faculty and staff. Why? Because learning is important, it matters. But I pray even beyond that they will learn about the things of God, the laws of God, the ways of God. I pray that they will learn to love Jesus and follow Him. Why? Because it is of the utmost importance. So I pray for my wife and I as well because it is our responsibility (according to Deuteronomy 6) to teach these things to our children. For us to teach them we must know them and we must live them out.

So tomorrow as you take your children to school (or you see someone taking theirs) pray for the children, for the school, for the teachers, the faculty, and all the staff. After all learning is important. If you are the parent, pray for yourself and your spouse, pray that you would show Jesus to your children and that you will teach them about Jesus. After all it is of the utmost importance and it is our responsibility, our calling, our privilege as parents. To God be the glory!

OBSCURE YET LIFE TRANSFORMING

Deuteronomy 17:19 – “And (this book) shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes.”

A cool breeze was blowing through the outside camp shed, which wasn’t highly unusual except that it was the first August. That made it highly unusual and the text that the speaker read was highly unusual as well. In fact it was a very obscure text, Deuteronomy 17:14-20, which is the instructions for Israel’s king. A cool breeze, an obscure text and in fact a shocking text considering it was the start of revival. You might occasionally hear a sermon from the book of Deuteronomy but lets be honest they are few and far between, especially for the start of a revival service. It was an unusual night.

Yet as the speaker read this text, interestingly enough the only text in the entire Old Testament that gives the king instructions for how is supposed to rule, everything became very clear. This text tells us that the king is not supposed to be driven by power, nor by possessions, nor by pleasure. He is not supposed to be abusive to other people, or be prideful over them. These are the commands for the king. Read through that list again however, a national politician not driven by power or by pride? One whose life is not given to pleasure or to acquiring many possessions. There is no person who is going to fit that bill is there? Have you ever heard of a national politician like that? In fact have you ever really heard of a person like that? A person whose life is like that would be more rare than a revival sermon on the book of Deuteronomy. In fact it would seem to be humanly impossible for a person to be like this.

However the Bible makes it clear, “with God all things are possible.” And that is when it became very clear. Clearer in fact than an August, not a cloud in the sky, evening with low humidity. This text is more than just commands on how a king should act, this text is more that just a prescription that we should try to measure up to. This text is about Jesus. He is the one who is not driven by pride, or possessions, or pleasure. He is the one who doesn’t abuse people or puff Himself up over them. Deuteronomy 17 is all about Jesus. Which is shocking, but in reality it shouldn’t be, for the entire Old Testament is about Jesus.

So as I sat and wrestled with my children going to school. As I worried because my oldest is changing schools and my middle son has autism and this is his first year in school (yes sometimes even a preacher’s mind wanders in church), I had a beautiful realization and it is this – this text in Deuteronomy changes everything. For Deuteronomy 17 is about Jesus, and my life is supposed to be about Jesus as well. Of course it is not only my life but the lives of my children and the life of my family, it is all about Jesus. Which means I shouldn’t worry, but I should trust. I shouldn’t just pray for my boys to be ok at school but I ought to pray that God would be glorified in them and through them while they are at school. And I should pray for their teachers and all the people at the school to see the glory of God and to have the realization that all of our lives are all about Jesus. To God be the glory!