Friday, April 28, 2006


That's an interesting title today, isn't? It's fitting, because that is how I feel. Frustrated. Discontent. Restless. Do you ever feel this way? I’ve been doing some reading on other minister’s blogs and websites, and one thing I’ve read about is a theatre church. Not that I want to make church a theatrical production, but they seem to make great meeting spots. Reading about this has once again stoked the pioneering flame inside of me. The result from my admittedly poor vantage point has me in a place of discontent, and frustration. I want so bad to jump out and do what I feel God has called me to do, but I just don’t know where to start. There are so many questions I have, so many details to work out, that my mind is simply baffled.

For a long time, I have had the sense that God is preparing me for something a lot bigger than me. I know at least in part, that is a church. The funny thing is though, that I immediately begin scanning and researching different areas, different cities, and I just am baffled as to what city to even try something like this in. As a minister in the Church of God, headquartered in Cleveland, TN, I ideally want to have a ministry where no COG presence is. I have several cities nearby my home that do not have that presence.

I am full of questions. In fact, I could probably ask so many questions about this that I would not get to the actual work itself! I admit, I’m fearful about this. What if I fail? What if I launch something, only to have to shut it down some time later because no one supported it? Can I get people to come along who catch the same vision, and help lead? How do I get those people? You see, I have lots of questions and worries. I know that I shouldn’t be fearful about this. But perhaps I feel a lot like the spies Moses sent over to check out the Promised Land, excited about the land, but fearful of the opposition.

The Bible tells us that “eye has not seen, nor ear has not heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man, the things that God has prepared for that love him" (1 Cor.2:9). It also tells us in Ephesians 3:20 that God is “able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us”. God is more than able to see his call and vision through, using even an inexperienced punk like me. I guess at the heart of this blog today is a simple request to pray for me. I want to move in God’s will for us. Thanks, friends. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

It's Not About The Tangibles

“Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.’” John

When I bought my house a couple years back, I learned pretty quickly how to maneuver around in the dark. I’m talking “can’t see my hand in front of my face” dark. At times I had to get up and help the kids as they tried to get downstairs for a midnight potty trip, or to comfort them when they were frightened about something. Though I could make my way around without hitting a wall or stubbing a toe, I never knew what might lie on the floor in total darkness that could be a tripping hazard, and some toy left on the floor that would hurt to step on (it hurt’s, believe me!). Sure, I can get around, but I much prefer some light. I want to tangibly see what’s around me or in my path before I step on it.

The verse I pulled out of the fourth chapter of John focuses on a Samaritan woman who was centered on tangibles as well. At her encounter with Jesus, she had a tough time grasping onto anything spiritual. First it was the water to quench a raging thirst, but the water Jesus spoke of was spiritual. The spiritually dry can’t quench that thirst using natural means. That’s why folks today try everything to get the satisfaction they need with things like work, education, money, sex or drugs. It’s kind of like trying to power an electric appliance by pouring gasoline on it. It just doesn’t do the trick.

Then, once the lady found out that Jesus was a man of God, she started talking about worship. Perhaps she was on the right track, but she was still thinking of the tangible. “We Samaritans think we should worship on this mountain, you Jewish people say we need to worship in Jerusalem”. In other words, worship is about physical location. Jesus corrected her ignorant notion of what real worship is. That is my focus for today.

As I quoted the text at the beginning, Jesus let this poor soul know that it isn’t about the locale. Worship is a spiritual thing. All too much, we make this same mistake. We attribute God’s blessings to certain places. A few years ago, during the Brownsville Revival in Pensacola, Florida, people would come from all over the country, and even the world, to experience what God was doing there. It was a glorious time. And pastors would go, see how they operated, and said, “If I only do this, and move the keyboard here, and preach like this, God will show up like at Brownsville”. But worship isn’t about how the drums and keyboards are set up. Some people feel that we aren’t truly worshipping unless their favorite music is played, and their favorite preacher preaches. Some say they can’t worship unless the service is traditional, others say it has to be contemporary for them to worship. So now many churches try to appease everyone by having multiple services that cater to everyone’s tastes. While I won’t really speak to that, I think that we are missing the point of true worship. Worship isn’t about the tangible things. Jesus said that we must worship God in spirit and in truth. It is a spiritual thing, done according to the truth of God.

Also, we must realize that worship isn’t simply an event. Biblical worship is a lifestyle. To worship is to express to God just how much he means to us, to declare to him his worth. That isn’t just done verbally and in song on Sunday morning. It’s done in our lives. It’s done through living a life that is pleasing to God. Things like being a person of integrity. It’s done through having a consistent, godly character. It’s done through loving others as Christ loves us. We worship the Lord with our very lives. That’s why Jesus said to “love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength”.

It’s no wonder this woman kept zeroing in on the tangible things. She needed to be born again. She needed to be confronted in her sin. She was an adulteress, and only after the Lord called her sin out, did she start to have her spiritual eyes opened. Paul said that natural, unregenerate man can’t understand spiritual truths (1 Cor. 2:14). She was what we would say is a “carnal” person. That’s why it’s so disheartening to see God’s people operating in that kind of attitude.

So, that is my study for today. I pray that you are blessed by it. God bless, friends!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


“Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth”

“Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10 from the KJV and NASB versions of the Bible.

If we are to be honest with ourselves, there have been times when we seemed to get tossed through stormy periods in our lives like a helpless fishing boat on a raging sea. I’ve written about before, we will go through tough times of trial and testing. Why do we have to go through such times? I believe that God uses such “furnaces” in our lives to purify us, to get rid of everything that is unlike him, and to cause us to grow in faith. It was James who exhorted us to, “count it all joy when you go through various trials, knowing the trying of your faith produces endurance and steadfastness” (my paraphrase of James 1:2-3). Friends, one thing I’ve come to realize is that God most certainly has a purpose for you trial, whatever it is.

The Psalmist here in the 46th Psalm is writing about a trying period in Israel’s history. They seemed to have been under the threat of foreign countries, and were obviously distraught over it. The Psalmist has a refrain that he can’t seem to get away from: the LORD is our refuge. Think about that. What is a refuge? It’s a place of safety and shelter. He was reminded his countrymen that God would take care of them, even if the outcome would seem to be hugely against them! How encouraging this must have been for these weary and frightened people, to know that God is on their side!

Yet, I know that my nature is one of problem-solving. I think that most of us guys are like this. These people must have been trying to figure out how they could come against these foreign kings and their armies, and fretting over it. I’ve heard it said that there are two kinds of Christians-microscope Christians and telescope Christians. These people were looking at a problem, and, like a microscope taking something very small and magnifying it to look much bigger than it is, so they made the problem bigger, even bigger than God. They should have, and the writer tried to encourage them, to look at God and realize that he is big enough to handle the problem. Like a telescope that helps us to see planets and the moon as the really are, huge! God was big enough to handle their storm. The writer spends nine verses proclaiming that God is able to help them, but then, it is almost as I God tells him to step aside so he can personally deliver a message. The speaker changes to God, as he himself tells us that we need to “Be still”! I love the meaning of the Hebrew word here. It means, as the NASB translated it, “Cease striving”. It means to relax. God personally assured his people that they can relax, because he is going to handle the problem!

Friends, whatever trial you are enduring right now, let the Word of God encourage you. Relax! Stop trying to do what only God can do. The mountain is to high, the storm is too strong, but God is bigger! So, I will close out today with the NASB version of the verse:

“Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

God bless!

Monday, April 24, 2006

He Gave

My thanks to Pastor Tim Dilena for his inspiring sermon, "From Thee Comes My Praise", which sparked my blog today.

I love getting gifts. Who doesn’t? Birthdays or Christmas or Father’s day, I’m not partial. I love to get gifts. And I am grateful for the gifts I receive. But just as I love to get gifts, I can honestly say that I love to give just as much. I don’t say this to brag, because it hasn’t always been this way. God has made me a giver. Whether it’s time, money or other resources, I am blessed to be able to give.

Let’s think about this for a minute. Doesn’t it make perfect sense have such a desire to give? After all, God’s plan for each of us is to make more like him (Gal. 4:19). He tells us in 2 Corinthians 3:18 that he is changing us into the image of Christ. Of all that makes up God’s nature, one attribute that we absolutely can’t deny is that God is a giver. “For God so loved the world that he gave…” If God is such a giver, friends, then it only make sense that he is making us givers, too.

Abraham was a very blessed man. Back before God changed his name, when he was called Abram, he was called by God to leave everything dear to him and simply follow God. So, he did. And what God promised Abram is something we still hang onto today. Let’s read it:

Now the LORD said to Abram, "Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father's house, To the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed." Genesis 12:1-3

This is a passage of scripture that we love to quote nowadays. We love the fact that God promises to take care of us. Yet how much attention do we give to one little part of this passage, “I will bless you, and you shall be a blessing”? You see, God didn’t intend that his blessings for us would simply remain with us. God blesses us to be a blessing to other around us. And Abram most certainly was a blessing to those around him.

The apostle Paul in the New Testament illustrates this truth for us. In 2 Corinthians 9, Paul is talking about giving. Then he says in the eighth verse, from the NLT, “And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.” I love that version. It stresses the fact that God gives so we can give.

But it’s not just people that we are to give to. We must remember to give thanks to God for the gracious blessings he has poured out on us. God isn’t obligated to give, as if under some contractual agreement. Plain and simple, he is good, and he loves to bless his children. So, when he blesses us with another day, breath in our lungs, and the means to support our families, friends, we need to bless him! How do we bless the God who already owns everything? We praise him! David understood this. In the 103rd Psalm, verses 1 through 3, we read this:

“Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me,[bless his holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies; Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's.”

When David tells us to bless God, it can be translated as praising God. Look at what David is praising God for. He is praising him for his benefits! God forgives us, he heals us, and he’s redeemed us from destruction. He is merciful and gracious to us. We need to give him praise!

So, today, don’t just look for someone bless on a human level. God is a gracious and good God who is worthy to be praised. I’ve heard it said that praise is simply vocalized compliments to God. So take the time today give God some compliments. After all, he has been so good to us, when we don’t even deserve it. God bless, friends!

Friday, April 21, 2006

Thorns and Weeds

Hey, all! I seem to have slacked off on this blogging thing, haven't I? It's been several days, and I realize the need to keep blogging because though not to many comments are left, I know quite a few out there in blogland are reading. It's a vehicle to minister to those who are reading. So, I don't want to lose you! Here is another little devotion that I pray will bless you.

I was going to write on our responsibility to live our lives in such a way as to give God glory and honor through our good conduct. Really, it is based in the fourth commandment, "You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain", Ex. 20:7. That will be for another day, now, because I sense the need to write on something different. Perhaps I can pick up on the fourth commandment next time.

Yesterday I had a doctor's appointment. I found out that my blood pressure is somewhat high. I wasn't stressed out about anything, so I knew that wasn't part of it. I got to thinking about my lifestyle and eating habits lately, and I believe that I have found the culprit-me!

I'm a busy guy. Between my now good-sized family, work and ministy, I am pretty much going nonstop. To help make ends meet, I have a second job that I work a few nights of the week delivering pizza. Being around all that food is tempting, and yes, I have given in, taking advantage of my employee discount! Not to mention the salty junk food, and a lot of coffee lately, it's no wonder I am having some issues physically. Of course, as the saying goes, garbage in, garbage out. I have to make some changes in my eating and lifestyle habits to bring my health back where it should be. I am starting today. I have a half a chicken breast that I grilled last night left over, and a salad, sliced pepper and some baby cucumbers. I need to start eating better. Now, if I can only beat myself into a regular exercise routine!

We do the same thing spiritually. We allow junk to take the place of the most substantial spiritual meal we can eat, God's word. We'd rather read a newspaper or a good book than take the time to read the Bible. There isn't anything wrong with recreational reading, but if it takes the place of the Word of Almighty God, I think we are stuffing our spirits with spiritual potato chips. We allow anything and everything to crowd out our study time and prayer time.

We live in a time of distraction like never before. We have digital cable and satellite TV, the internet and radio. We keep busy with our jobs, our hobbies. And we choke out the most important stuff. I'm reminded of the words of the Lord Jesus in the Parable of the Sower:

"He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful" Matt. 13:22

(For a good study in this parable, see Pastor Henry's blog, as he has been writing about it lately.) Jesus in his explantion of this parable, said that seed sown is God's word, and that the ground it's sown into is our hearts. So, that tells me that nowadays, we seem to have very thorny hearts. The cares of life, the pursuit of "the good life", the American dream, has choked out our desire to grow in the grace of the Lord. We are an unfruitful lot. Friends, God didn't call us so we can sit pretty in our big houses and drive our fancy cars and look "blessed". I know that seems to run contrary to the message many of the TV preachers seem to preach. But didn't Jesus call us to forsake all and follow him? He had a conversation with a young man one day that was actually quite thorny himself. The guy wanted to know how to have eternal life. He had tried to honor the commandments of God. Yet, Jesus told him that he still lacked one thing. He said to "go and sell all you have, give the money to poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come and follow me." The Bible then says that the man went away sorrowful, because he had great wealth.(See Matt. 19:16-22) His heart was full of thorns so that he could not allow the Word of God to grow and flourish through the junk he held onto.

Friends, we are allowing our spiritual health to fail. And just as my body won't fuction the way it should when I stuff it with junk, so spiritually we can't be fruitful and function the way God intends. So, let me encourage you, start weeding your garden. Get the weeds and thorns out of your life. Cultivate your life with the Word of God, with prayer and relationship with the Lord Jesus. Spend time in worship and praise, not just in a church setting, but in your personal time with the Lord. I pray that this devotion has sparked a desire in your life for more of the Lord. God bless, friends!

Monday, April 17, 2006

Weighted Down

Hello, there everyone! Man, it's been a while since I last blogged anything. On Saturday, I dropped the kids off at my parent's house. I was greeted by my step dad, Don, saying, "You're falling behind, Jeffrey! You haven't blogged since Tuesday!" It isn't that I haven't had anything to say, but I have been busy. Sometimes, no matter how much we want to sit down to do something we love, as I do writing, that other things at times wrestle into that spot. Of course, I think what Pastor Darrell said on his blog the other day is certainly true: the arrival of spring weather leads us to do other things. For me, it is playing with the kids outside, or starting in some much needed yard work. That reminds me, I need to get some yard waste bags on the way home!

We have a habit of allowing "stuff" to hinder us. Look. we all have important stuff that needs to get done, and sometimes it requires our immediate attention. I guess what I am talking about is the pursuit of things that don't really have any lasting value. I want to keep my yard looking good and healthy, but I don't want to do that at the expense of never spending the time needed with my kids. In fact, I'm struggling with this even as I write. I was outside Saturday with my kids in the backyard, and they we're playing and wanting me to push them on the swing watch them go down the slide, throw the tee balls and tennis balls around with them. While I was spending that time with them, I had one eye on the ground, looking at all the sticks that the annoying cottonwood tree drops all over the yard. I knew that soon I'd have to pick them up before cutting the grass for the first time this year. So, I had an idea. "Hey kids, I've got a fun game we can play! It's called, 'Pick up sticks!' My very wise 6-year old then said to me from her favorite swing, "That's not a game, Daddy!" To my shame, put in place by a little kid!

We do the same thing with the Lord. We allow "stuff" to weigh us down and keep us from drawing close to him. I guess I am continuing in my seemingly scattered series in prayer, now that I've been writing for awhile. We let things distract us, and keep us from the only true life-giving time we have, that is time alone with the Life-Giver! The early church had this problem, too. Only, they were worried that their faith in Christ would cost them their lives, and were considering renouncing faith in Jesus and going back to the Old Covenant system of Judaism. The "stuff" that weighed them down were the fears of losing their lives. And that "stuff" kept them from their life in Christ, which is a life trust and prayer with the Lord. The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews had this to say to them:

"Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us" Heb. 12:1

The point today is to remind us all that the most important relationship we as Christians have isn't with a spouse or a child or a parent. It is with the Lord Jesus Christ. It is he who made us, he who saved us from our sin, he who forgave us, and he who is working out the process of making us more like him on a daily basis. By the way, this "stuff" or weight doesn't have to be some secular pursuit like video games or golf. It can be church work or ministry of various sorts. I think that some of us have equated our relationship with God with the work we do for him. It's simply untrue. It's because of my relationship with the Lord that I want to serve him, to work for him. Here's an analogy: I'd have a pretty sad relationship with my kids if it were defined by them cleaning their rooms and picking up toys to make me happy. I am happy when they cling to me and say, "I want you, Daddy!" In fact, last night before the Easter Cantata, all three kids were doing that! Talk about being a happy guy!

So, don't let "stuff" weigh you down and keep you from the time you need with the Lord Jesus. Well, that's all for now. God bless, friends!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

A Royal Priesthood

*Picture above is a replica of the High Priest's Ephod and Breast Plate.

Today I am going to continue with the theme of prayer. Yesterday, I spoke of the need to live lives of prayer. Today, I will start to focus on different types of prayer.

I am a parent. What that means is that I spend a lot of time praying for my kids. This is what is called intercessory prayer, or praying for the needs of someone other than you. I have on a couple different occasions had to pray for the health of my kids. Two of my three kids have asthma problems. Both have been hospitalized for it. It’s a frightening thing to see you child struggling for a breath, and being put in the back of an ambulance. It’s hard to see them lying in a hospital bed. It drove me to prayer. This is the type of prayer I am talking about today.

As I was reading from Exodus 28 this morning, I came to a passage that deals with the clothing and accessories (if I can call them that) that the High Priest was to wear while doing his job. Part of the outfit included shoulder pieces, upon which two onyx stones were to be placed. Engraved into the stones were the names of the twelve tribes of Israel, six to a stone, as it says in verse twelve:

"You shall put the two stones on the shoulder pieces of the ephod, as stones of memorial for the sons of Israel, and Aaron shall bear their names before the LORD on his two shoulders for a memorial.”

Next, he was to wear what is called the “Breastplate of Judgment”. It was a special piece worn on his chest, in which twelve precious stones were fitted, four rows of three stones each, laid out in a square pattern. All sides were equal. What that means to me is that God sees his people as being equal. No one person is greater than another. Or, as we like to put in New Testament times, the ground is level at the foot of the cross. The stones making up the breastplate were “according to the twelve tribes of Israel”. In other words, there was one stone for each tribe. Really, what the passage is describing are the clothing worn by the High Priest when he was performing the duties of his office, that of a “go-between”, or a mediator between man and God. Really, in the presence of God, he was literally bearing up his fellow Israelites before God, on his shoulders, and on his chest.

You see, part of the job of the priesthood was to be an intercessor for the rest of Israel. In the era of the Church, in these New Testament times, we who are followers of Christ have now been called by the Lord himself a “royal priesthood” (1 Pet. 2:9). Simply as Christians, we have been declared by God to be priests, or those who are “go-betweens” and advocates for our fellow believers, as well as those who don’t yet know the Lord. We pray for them, we bear them up before God, asking that he touch those that we pray for. The Apostle Paul uses language that describes a priestly duty:

“We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves” Romans 15:1

“Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:1-2

It is our duty to come alongside our brothers and sisters, and help strengthen them in times of weakness. Literally, to “bear their burden” means to come alongside them and uphold them, to support them. We must come to their aid in prayer, interceding for them to God himself. A word of caution however, is to be mindful that if a brother or sister is weak, or has fallen, does not mean they aren’t as good as us who haven’t fallen. Remember the breast plate, it was a square, all sides being equal. That’s why the Bible says in the Galatians passage quoted above to consider ourselves as we are praying for a fallen brother, and working to see restoration, lest we also be tempted and fall. We were all condemned to hell before Christ saved us, and we all can fall just as easily.

There are times I have sensed in my spirit that God was telling me to stop whatever I was doing and pray for someone in particular. It’s important with being an intercessor to be sensitive to the leading of the Spirit of God, as at times he will lead you to pray for certain people and circumstances.

Of course, we need to remember that we have the greatest intercessor of all on our side. The Bible tells us that Jesus “ever lives to make intercession” for us. (Heb. 7:25) The Bible tells us that Jesus is the one Mediator now between God and man. (1 Tim. 2:5) He is on our side. He is going to bat for us at the Father’s Throne. That isn’t something that Jesus is only doing this side of Calvary, but even as he walked this earth, he prayed for his disciples, and even all who would come after. (see John 17) He interceded for Peter: “I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not”. (see Luke 22:31-32) You see, Jesus is our prime example of a prayer warrior.

So, let’s follow Christ’s example. Begin to pray for those around you. Watch God begin to move in their lives. And while you’re at, friends, pray for me! God bless, and I am praying for you!

Monday, April 10, 2006

Let's Talk Prayer!

Let’s talk about prayer today. When you think of prayer, of praying, what is it that you think of? Some may think of saying prayers before bedtime, or mealtime, as perhaps as children their parents taught them to say their prayers. Some maybe think of prayer as something that is done corporately in a church service, praying in unison along with the preacher. Some think of prayer as quiet, private and personal, not something to be shared with others. Some may think of prayer as an archaic religious practice with no real benefit for us in the 21st century.

I think we tend to compartmentalize spiritual disciplines. We place going to church in a box, Bible study in a box, so on and so forth. Prayer is no different. We even have a term for it- Prayer life. I am of the view that we shouldn’t have a little box that we call our “prayer life”, but that our lives should be saturated with prayer. I believe the Apostle Paul said it best in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 when he said “Pray with out ceasing”. Not that we live our lives on our knees, always trying to think of stuff to say to God, but that we keep in communion and fellowship with the Lord.

Both the Old and New Testaments give us vivid pictures of praying people, and I believe that it provides us a wonderful example of lives of prayer. From the very beginning when people began to “call upon the name of the LORD”, Gen. 4:26, to John the Revelator in the Spirit on the Lord’s day while imprisoned on the isle of Patmos (Rev. 1:9-10), the Bible as a whole is the great textbook for the life that prays.

But prayer isn’t simply talking to God, or reciting prayers from memory. Those may have a place in the life of prayer, but prayer is so much more. Prayer isn’t a monologue, but it is a dialogue. It’s between God and me when I pray. Sure, I talk, I bring my questions, my fears, and my petitions to my Father in heaven, but I am learning that he also desires to speak to me. He may give me direction; he may speak to me through the Bible, as I have found it important to bring his Word into his Presence. He may simply speak a comforting word into my spirit in a time of distress. I remember one time a couple years ago, I had some car trouble. I didn’t have any money to repair it, but God provided for the repair, which was to be done later that week. When the car was inspected a couple days before the scheduled repair, it was found that much more was wrong than I realized. On my way home, I was worried sick. I was saying, “God, you heard the repair guy. How can I get this car fixed? I can’t afford it!” I sensed the Lord speak gently to my spirit, “You weren’t worried when you thought the problem was small; don’t you think I knew about these other problems, too?” I almost started weeping right there in the car! I sensed that peace that passes all understanding envelope me. Yes, friends, let this be a testimony that God does indeed speak to his children!

But do you know that prayer can be wordless? Sometimes, the most invigorating times of prayer for me are the times that neither I nor the Lord says anything. I’m simply basking in his presence, as he ministers to me by his Spirit. I liken it to riding in the car with my wife. Though I enjoy talking with her, there are times when we don’t have to say anything, but we just enjoy each other’s presence. David was a man that enjoyed the presence of God. Just read through the Psalms of David. He so desired to be with God.

Ps. 23:6- “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever”

Ps. 26:8- “LORD, I have loved the habitation of thy house, and the place where thine honour dwelleth”

Ps. 27:4-5- “One [thing] have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple. For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock”

Ps. 63:1- “O God, thou [art] my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is”

Ps. 84:2- “My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the LORD: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God”

We are told in the New Testament that we need to shut ourselves away with the Lord. Jesus told us in Matthew 6 that when we pray, we need to go into our inner chamber. That means a solitary place, a place where we can be alone and undistracted. Don’t laugh, but for me, one such place is actually the bathroom! Not using it for its intended purpose, but as a quiet place to shut out the noise and distraction of life. Paul tells us in his writings that we have been given access to God. As a teenager, I would go to NASCAR races with my family. My step dad was a season ticket holder at Michigan International Speedway. But in addition to the great seats, we also had pit passes. These special passes gave us access to the pit area, where you would often see the drivers signing autographs before race time. In the same way, Christ has given us access to the throne of Grace. In fact, the book of Hebrews says it like this:

“Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Vs. 19-22)

You see, friends, there is no reason for us to simply hang around God’s presence like it’s a swimming pool, simply dangling you toes in water on the deck. We have been given the go-ahead to dive in headlong in the presence of God! That’s what true prayer is. It’s getting alone with the Lord and enjoying that precious fellowship with him, praising him and worshipping him. It’s my prayer for you today that you, the reader, whoever you are, that you today will dive into the presence of God for an exciting life of prayer-communion with God Almighty! God bless!

Friday, April 07, 2006

My Favorite Guitar

Hey, all. The picture is of my favorite guitar of the two that I have. It is a 1965 Gibson LG-1. It was my dad's, and it's the guitar I learned to play on. He gave it eventually to my uncle, and he did some modifications to it, like the pickup. He then gave it me, when hearing that I didn't have a decent guitar. Kind of indirectly, it ultimately went from father to son.

We love to receive gifts, don't we? Whether it's Christmas time or a birthday, we love getting presents. But it's not just our earthly parents and others that give, most importantly, we have Father in heaven who loves to give. He demonstrated that in the giving of the greatest gift of all, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. In fact, we will be celebrating that gift next week as we remember Christ's sacrifice upon the Cross, and his subsequent resurrection 3 days after. God's nature is to give. In Matthew 7:9-11, Jesus said, "Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!" Also, in James 1:17 it says, "Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow." Clearly, God loves to give.

I don't want to turn this into a lopsided message that focuses only on what we can get from God, but the truth is that God desires to bless his children. So, if you have put your trust in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you too are a child of God. Be encouraged that God desires to bless you! That is all for today, friends. God bless!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Gradually Growing

Think about some of the great gospel songs through the years. Many of the songs written were heaven-themed songs. One such song, I borrowed the tune from for the Chinese food song I posted Friday, called, “I’m Getting Ready to Leave This World”. Songs that look forward to the glory of heaven are good, because one day life on earth will end for each and every one of us, and heaven is the place to be. Through the years, many of have often thought of the wonder and glory of that blessed place as a reminder that the temporary pain of trial and trouble will give way to the to a joy that we simply could never understand on this earth. Even the scriptures bear witness to this. It was the apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that wrote, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us”, in Romans 8:18. Heaven is indeed going to be a wonderful place.

One of the pictures people use to give us a type of heaven is that of the Promised Land, the land of Canaan, into which God led his people Israel, under the leadership of Joshua. In fact, one of my favorite gospel songs is called, “What a Day That will Be”, in which the lyrics say, “…when he takes me by the hand, and leads to the Promised Land, what a day, glorious day that will be”. The problem is, though, that the typology isn’t theologically accurate. The land of Canaan wasn’t a type of heaven. Heaven is a place of rest, a place of peace and joy. The land of Canaan, now Israel, was eventually the place where the Israelites would settle down, but not before facing battles. They were to go in and battle for the land that God was giving them. Gradually, over a period of time, God gave them the land, clearing out the land of the inhabitants, like the Amorites, the Hivites, and the Hittites. There were people in that area, giants of Goliath-like stature, which needed to be removed. When I get to heaven, friends, the only giant I’ll be looking at is the Giant of my salvation, the Lord Jesus Christ!

In Exodus 23, God began to tell them how he was going to give the land to them. Let us read in verses 28-30:

“I will send hornets ahead of you so that they will drive out the Hivites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites before you. I will not drive them out before you in a single year, that the land may not become desolate and the beasts of the field become too numerous for you. I will drive them out before you little by little, until you become fruitful and take possession of the land.”

The way God was going to clean up the land was to do little by little. If he had cleared them out all at once, the animals of the land would then multiply and move into the areas people inhabited, and pose a danger to the people of Israel. God does the same thing with us, doesn’t he?

When we were born again, we began this relationship with the Lord, and in that relationship, God began to lead us into his plan and purpose for us. He began the work of sanctification, or setting us apart for his holy purposes. The Holy Spirit began to convict us of sin in our lives; he began to lead us to study the Bible, to pray, and to worship. And gradually, as we look back over our lives, we can see where God has been working.

But he leads us one battle at a time. I know from my own experience, that it is easy to get prideful when I seem to have “mastered” a certain area of my life, be it a persistent sin or priding myself in doing what I ought, like making sure I am studying the Bible consistently. The Bible does warn us, in relation to the examples of the Israelite people, to beware, “if any man thinks he stand, lest he fall”, 1 Cor. 10:12. That fall may be pride, or some other sin coming in like wild animals would have come into Israel had the land been cleared to quickly. God knows how to lead us.

So, let’s sum up the message today. Don’t get rushed. Don’t let yourself get ahead of God. Allow him to do the work he needs to do inside you. I know how frustrating it can be when it seems that the process isn’t moving along quickly enough, but God knows what it is we need. To cap off this devotion to, I can think of no better Bible verse than Philippians 1:6, which tells us that “He who began a good work in you will perfect (complete) it until the day of Christ Jesus”. God bless!