Wednesday, September 4, 2019

What Would You Do?

Joshua 5:13–15When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?” And the commander of the Lord’s army said to Joshua, “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.

The first thing that is interesting about this passage is the reaction of Joshua to the man. Upon seeing him, Joshua identifies that the man has a sword in his hand. Keep in mind that Joshua was already preparing himself for battle against the first city in the conquest of the Promised Land, i.e. Jericho. Joshua had recently sent out spies to spy out the city and bring the report back to him so that he could strategize for the siege. Therefore, Joshua’s mindset was that of engaging the enemy to take the city.
But when Joshua saw the man with his sword drawn standing before him, Joshua did not react in fear. Joshua confidently engaged the man and asked him if he was friend or foe. This engagement by Joshua provides us with our first important lesson. The lesson is this: when God has clearly called you to do something don’t let the first obstacle that presents itself stand in your way, confront it with confidence.Too often Christians know what God wants them to do, but at the first sign of opposition they respond with fear and question if they are supposed to do it in the first place. Joshua did not question if he was to proceed with what God had already made clear to him, his response was appropriately addressing that which seemed to stand in his way of accomplishing what God wanted him to do. 
Joshua also didn’t react with the immediacy to fight the man without first assessing the situation, lesson two. This is another mistake that people seem to make, they react too quickly without understanding the big picture or context of the situation. As we will see, if Joshua would have reacted by immediately drawing his own sword and engaging in combat things probably wouldn’t have turned out very good for him. But since Joshua took a moment to assess the situation, he quickly found out that the perceived obstacle was not an obstacle at all.
Upon inquiring about the intentions of the man, Joshua finds out that the man is in fact “the commander of the army of theLord.” The commander? Wasn’t Joshua supposed to be leading God’s people into battle? None of those thoughts went through Joshua’s mind, because Joshua knew exactly who the commander was. The commander of the Lord’s army was the second person of the Trinity, the pre-incarnate Christ. (This is what Bible scholars call a Christophany.) Joshua was standing face-to-face with the Messiah, the One who would ultimately be the Deliverer of His people.
At the moment that Joshua realized who it was standing before him, his posture toward the Man drastically changed. Joshua did not cower in fear, he fell to his face to worship. Notice that he did not tremble in fear, but he asked the Lord what He wanted him to do. This communicates another lesson for us to learn. Joshua confidently knew what God wanted him to do, so when God Himself showed up he did not shrink back in shame but was prepared for further instructions. 
This is a good test for the Christian to assess him/herself by: if God were to show up in your current situation, would you shrink back in shame or fear, or would you fall to your face to worship and inquire of further instruction?Joshua did not have to question the task that God already made clear. Joshua merely positioned himself in a posture to receive the empowerment from God to accomplish His mission.
The response of the Lord to Joshua’s inquiry is an important element to this whole encounter. The Lord does not immediately unfold the strategy He has in place for conquering Jericho, as He soon would. Instead, the Lord instructs Joshua totake off his sandals, for the place where he was standing is holy. This is another indication of Who it was that was standing before Joshua. It was not that the ground itself had any intrinsic value, it was the fact that the Lord Almighty was present in this space. Joshua immediately obeyed the Lord and removed his sandals.
In Joshua’s response to the Lord we can find the final lesson from this encounter. When the Lord instructed Joshua (the one who was leading millions of people into the Promised Land) to perform the simple act of humbling himself before the Lord, Joshua did it and did not question His motives. In Joshua’s simple act of obedience we can see that all the preparations given by God for entering into the Promised Land are clearly visible in the man who will lead God’s people. Bottom line: Simple obedience to the Lord makes all the difference.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Rebellious or Misguided

As I was thinking more about yesterday’s blog (What Does God Really Want from Me?) and last Sunday’s sermon ( a thought crossed my mind. My thought began a little like this: “I wonder if Christians are really  rebellious, or are they just misguided in how serving and the Christian life are designed to work?”
“Are people coming to church with an attitude that they want to be served, or are they coming with the attitude of serving?” Or maybe something even a little more personal: “Do some people come to church with the desire to be refreshed and restored because of the chaos in their life and think that they can get the restoration that they need and desire by being in attendance, not ever intending on being engaged with anyone or in what God is doing?”
What am I getting at? Well, I think it comes back to my first question, is it rebellion or misguidance? I don’t believe that the majority of people come to church and openly and rebelliously say that they are not going to serve and that they should be served. I just don’t believe that. I do believe that can appear to be the result, but I don’t believe that is the intention of everyone.
What I also believe is that people are coming to church in search of the restoration and refreshment that they need and desire, and have heard that God gives, but they misunderstand how it works. (This is really where my spark of thought came from.)
Does God gives refreshment and restoration for the soul of the Christian?Absolutely! But what the individual needs to understand is that there is something required of them. 
There is no doubt that the Bible clearly communicates that God works in the lives of His people. What most people seem to overlook is a truth that I communicated on Sunday. The truth is that “God works in you as He works through you.”
Here’s the deal. The refreshment and restoration of the soul comes only through the power of the Holy Spirit as He is working through you to accomplish His will. This is why Scriptures like James 1:22 are so important in the life of the believer, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” If you think that you can just hear the truth and you’ll be changed, you’re deceiving yourself. You must take action. The Spirit of God works in us as He works through us.
Another important key to understanding this is a hard reality that most don’t like. The reality is that you are not the end game. You are not the ultimate goal and destination for God’s work in this world. Are you a part of His plan? Absolutely! You are a piece in the puzzle. You are a conduit for His glory to flow through. God’s glory does not end with you, it is designed to flow through you.
Now I say all this to make the point that inactivity in the Christian life is not the Christian life. The life of the Christian is designed to be marked by God’s presence and power working through the Christian, not working for the Christian. The Christian is to be a vessel in which God fills so that it overflows into the lives and context around them. It is to be a life that is marked by service to God by serving others for His glory. The Christian life is a life that is transformed as He completes a work in you as He works through you.
Is God working in you? If not, ask yourself if He is first working through you.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

What Does God Really Want From Me?

What does God really want from me?Have you ever asked yourself that question? Chances are some of you are asking that question right now. Let me tell you, it’s a legitimate question and there’s a lot to say about it. People have been asking that question for centuries. They have been trying to figure out the secret magical equation to unlock the code God has put as a sentinel on their lives. 
“If I could just figure out what God wants from me then I could focus my life on that.” That’s a very common thought. But it’s all wrong. Not only is the reasoning for wanting to know what God wants from you wrong, the formation of the question is wrong. Instead of asking the question as if God is a dictator wanting specific tasks done by His army of ants, how about we approach the issue from the perspective of the loving Father that He is. So instead the question should be: What does God really want for me?
So here’s the deal, there is no secret equation or magical code involved in this question. Although people want to make themselves feel really smart and important, there is only practical biblical insight, and one of the toughest things of all, obedience that is required for you to understand what God wants for you. So let’s look at one very simple and practical biblical insight that can have the greatest impact on understanding what God wants foryou. 
This biblical insight is the truth about blessings. God wants to bless His children. From the creation of the world to future eternity, God’s plan is to bless His children. Now the ultimate way in which this happens is by Him revealing Himself so that we can have relationship with Him. But just because He wants to bless His children, and just because He has relationship with His children, doesn’t mean that His children have no responsibility in the receiving of blessings. God’s children are not to act like entitled spoiled brats.
What do I mean? What I mean is that there is a required participation of the child to receive the blessings from the Father. The requirement is not complex, yet it is one of the most common hindrances that stands between the individual and what God wants for them. This simple objective is found throughout Scripture, but we will look at it in the book of James.
In James 1:22, Jesus’ little brother, who by the way thought Jesus was crazy until after the resurrection, writes by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” He then says a few verses later, “But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing” (James 1:25). 
James clearly states that as followers of Christ we must not merely hear/read the Word of God (the Bible), we must also do what it says. If we do not do what it says, we will not be able to enjoy what God wants for us. So if you’re looking for an equation or special formula here it is, “Don’t just listen to what God says, do what God says.” The outcome is of eternal value.
Now don’t be the one to overcomplicate this truth by saying that you don’t know enough Bible knowledge. How about this, start with some of the most common and clear commands of Christ so that you can be a doer and not only a hearer. The greatest of these Jesus says in Mark 12:30-31 “‘And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
If you faithfully pursue these two clear commands of Christ, “being doers and not hearers only”, I am convinced that the Father will reveal His blessings to you. And who doesn’t want what God wants for them?

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Daniel’s Persuasion

After the fall of Jerusalem to king Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C., the king ordered that the elite youths of Judah be gathered and taken back to Babylon. Four young men chosen, along with a number of others that are not named, were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. Upon returning to Babylon, the young men were put on the king’s diet, to which the four young men refused. Daniel, the spokesman for the four, bargained with the captors to let them have their own diet. (Now the diet of the king was not in itself harmful to the four, for the king ate the same meals, but that which made up the diet went against their dietary laws set forth by the Mosaic Law.) The deal that Daniel makes involves the four eating nothing but vegetables, and drinking nothing but water. 
So after ten days, Daniel and his friends stood in front of their captors with all the other young men taken from Jerusalem. The captors could not believe their eyes when they noticed the visible difference between Daniel and his friends and the other young men. 
So what’s the big deal about this passage? Is it, “Should God’s people only eat vegetables and drink water, forsaking other food and wine?” NO! If we only see the material facts of the story it would be easy to come to the conclusion that Daniel’s diet is the focus of this passage. But Daniel’s diet is merely a demonstration of something greater. The author uses the material object of food to communicate a bigger picture.
So, what is the focus of this passage of Scripture? It’s Daniel’s decision! Look at what it says in v.8, “But Daniel resolvedthat he would not defile himself…” Daniel made a decision that, no matter what, he would not defile himself. We can ascertain from the text that he was a faithful Jewish young man, along with his friends, and that they rightfully obeyed the Law of Moses in practice. This is why they were chosen from among all the young men of Jerusalem when it was captured.
Daniel’s decision that he would not defile himself displays where his heart truly lay. Daniel’s heart was fully persuaded to be faithful to God and trust Him in any situation.We see that, because of his decision to trust God and His law, Daniel and his friends excelled over their peers. Trusting God is not merely words in which one says, it involves the actions in which one does. Daniel and his friends were fully persuaded that God would take care of them, no matter what they would face.
So my question for you today is, “Are you fully persuaded that God will take care of you, no matter what life throws at you?” For some this question may seem easy to answer because you are in a good place right now. But, what if you were in a situation like Daniel’s? What about when things are not good; or, things don’t seem to be going your way? What if you are in a place in which you have never been, and you are scared? What if something/someone you love is taken away from you? How would you answer the question if you are in the darkest place you’ve ever been? That is where Daniel and his friends were, in a place that seemed hopeless…hopeless to everyone, accept those who were fully persuaded that God was still with them, guiding their way. 
The difference that may be present between you and these four young men, is the reality that you are not fully persuaded God will take care of you. The enemy wants us to think that God is distant and disengaged from whatever situation we are encountering, and that He doesn’t really care about what’s going on. Those are lies! God cares more about you than you do. God cares about things that we may think insignificant. Look! God cared about a diet plan for four young men in a foreign land! God could have easily given the four super-ninja skills to defeat the enemy and recapture His people from exile, but He chose to work through a diet plan. All I’m saying is this, “God knows, God’s present, and God cares!” All this is waiting to be visible in your life!

Friday, August 16, 2019

Jonah or Jesus?

I was reading in Jonah this morning and this thought started running laps in my head: “Why are so many people more comfortable in being like Jonah instead of being like Jesus?” 
You see, Jonah was given clear direction from the Lord in what he was supposed to do, and he disobeyed and did what he wanted to do instead. He didn’t face the obstacle that was put in front of him by the Lord, instead he ran in the other direction. He figured that he could outrun and even flee from the presence and purpose of God. 
You all know the story, Jonah finds himself on a boat headed in the direction he wanted to go and not where God wanted him. He experienced some unnecessary rough times that were a result of him running, then he finally had enough and he gives up and has the men of the boat throw him overboard so he can escape the turmoil he is in. But his plan still doesn’t work. God sends a great fish (probably a whale) to swallow a great mess (definitely Jonah) to do a great deed (proclaim His message) in a time and place that He appointed for Jonah to be.
Now you may be wondering how this relates to you. Maybe it doesn’t. Maybe you’re the one fully obedient child of God that does everything God has told you to do. But for the rest that struggle with being obedient to the Lord, this story hits home. There are some of you that try to run from things when they get tough instead of facing them. You justify your actions in your own mind as being ok, as if you know what’s best for you. Or you try to take the spiritual approachand say things like, “I think God is leading or wanting me to do…” Both approaches are dangerous! Just like Jonah, if you don’t listen to what God has already told you, or if you try to avoid the tough things that He has put before you, you’re constantly going to be in turmoil.
The fact is this, God has made it perfectly clear what He expects out of His children. He expects His children to “be holy as I am holy.” He expects His children to be like Jesus and face the obstacles in their lives to become more like Jesus. The hard times or obstacles in your life are not a surprise to God. He knows about them. And, He gives you what you need to face them…when you submit to His will and not your own. Just like He gave Jonah the words to say when he finally made to Nineveh, He will not leave you abandoned to face your troubles alone. But running away in fear or in the opposite direction of what He has told you leaves you vulnerable for attacks and the turmoil that follows.
Don’t fight against the Lord. Don’t continue doing what you want just to avoid some hard times or struggles. If you do you’ll end up like Jonah at the end of the book, angry and upset with God because God’s will was accomplished. Jonah was mad at God for doing what God said He would do in the beginning. Don’t put yourself into that situation. Face life’s obstacles as Jesus did, “Father, not My will but Thy will be done.”
I know everyone has a “unique” problem that I or no one else really understands… That’s not true. The reason you hide behind that excuse is because you don’t want to face the truth. Find someone in the context of where God has already placed you to help you face that truth. It may not be easy, but it’s better than being swallowed by a whale.
(This is loving counsel from a pastor who sees this all too often…)
- Pastor Lee

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The Gospel is not appealing...

This past Sunday I made a statement that I have believe to be very true, yet some don’t seem to quite understand me. I stated that “the Gospel is not appealing to the world around us.” Now when I said that I communicated that I was not saying that it has any less power or importance, I was merely stating that people are not naturally drawn to the Gospel. So for the sake of clarity for some, and emphasis for others, I want to take a moment to unpack this a little further.
The Gospel, (i.e. The good news of God’s redemptive plan for sinful humanity, ultimately executed and displayed in the person and work of Jesus Christ), is as the apostle Paul says “the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16). So if the Gospel is the “power of God” then why would I make the statement that it is unappealing to the world around us? I’ll address two areas in my response to this.
First, the Bible itself says that the Gospel is a ridiculous thought for those who are not children of God, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing,…” (1 Cor. 1:18a). So to make my statement that it is unappealing to the world, all I’m doing is sharing the very words of the apostle Paul. Now it is important that we don’t stop with this truth alone. The verse continues on to state the same point Paul emphasizes in the previous Romans text, “but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18b). So what we have here is a dichotomy that explains the truth that the Gospel is unappealing to some but unearthing to others.
So why did I focus on only the first part? I believe that in the reality of the Gospel being unappealing to the world that Christians have a part in the responsibility for this. What I’m saying is that Christians are a large part of why the world finds the Gospel unappealing. 
The fact of the matter is that too many Christians live in the “folly” and not in the “power.” Too often Christians live their lives void of the truth of the power of the Gospel. Yes Christians believe that the Gospel can save us from a future and an eternity separated from God, but the reality of the Gospel seems to fall short in the present. It’s as if the Gospel is good enough for Heaven but doesn’t really have effect on planet Earth. If Christians act this way, as if the Gospel doesn’t have power and purpose in their lives now, no wonder the world around us looks at it as being foolish. 
Here’s a thought… What if we actually lived what we claimed to believe? What if we not only believe the Gospel can transform our lives, but lived in the newness and boldness of that transformed life? The fact is, the Gospel is“the power of God unto salvation”, and it doestransform our lives when we live in its power as we believe.
Here’s the deal… When our lives are transformed by the ongoing and continual power of the Gospel, people will notice. Yes they may not like the changed or transformed you, but that’s not because of you; it’s because of the Gospel. Granted they may not understand, but Paul says that it’s because the devil “has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4). Don’t let the world’s opinion of you dictate the way you live your life. You were designed to live for God not them. In His truth and power, not their lame perspective.
Make a difference, and do your part to make the Gospel more appealing to the world around you by actually living in the truth and power of the Gospel!