Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Blessing For You...if you want it...

1 Blessed is he who has regard for the weak;
       the LORD delivers him in times of trouble.
 2 The LORD will protect him and preserve his life;
       he will bless him in the land
       and not surrender him to the desire of his foes.
 3 The LORD will sustain him on his sickbed
       and restore him from his bed of illness.  (Psalm 41)

I've been a f/t worship leader/pastor for the past 10 years, and was leading worship for another 6-7 years before that.  What does that mean?  I live in the book of Psalms.  And yet somehow, I never saw this before.  It's pretty simple, and yet pretty important.  It's an "if/then" statement - "if you do ___, then ___ will happen."  Start with the end in mind...

Would you like God to do the following for you...
- Deliver you in times of trouble
- Protect and Preserve your life
- Bless you in the land and protect you from the desires of your enemies
- Sustain you when you're sick and restore you to health

If you want God to do those things for you, then He asks one thing from you - "Have regard for the weak."  Or to put it another way, when you help others who are in need, you will be helped in your need.

What does it mean to "have regard?"  At this point it's important to remember another passage of Scripture in James;

16If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

What's the point?  I believer that God is simply asking us to look after the weak, and those who can't defend themselves, and when we do this, it will come back to us when we are in need.

Not rocket science, but it does make one pause and examine your life to make sure you're living this out with actions.

Friday, April 23, 2010

When Life Nails You...

This post is for those with a heavy heart.  I myself am doing quite well right now - new baby and all.  However, I know there are a lot of you out there who are going through a deep valley right now.  Some of my best friends are currently in a valley.  The emotions range from depression to anger, to frustration, to not understanding, to fear and questioning God.  For those of you who are there, I give three things today.  Two songs, and one passage of Scripture.  I have been in the valley, and these three things helped to sustain me.  I pray they help you as well.

Psalm 42

 1As the deer pants for streams of water,
       so my soul pants for you, O God.
 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
       When can I go and meet with God?
 3 My tears have been my food
       day and night,
       while men say to me all day long,
       "Where is your God?"
 4 These things I remember
       as I pour out my soul:
       how I used to go with the multitude,
       leading the procession to the house of God,
       with shouts of joy and thanksgiving
       among the festive throng.
 5 Why are you downcast, O my soul?
       Why so disturbed within me?
       Put your hope in God,
       for I will yet praise him,
       my Savior and 6 my God.
       My [c] soul is downcast within me;
       therefore I will remember you
       from the land of the Jordan,
       the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.
 7 Deep calls to deep
       in the roar of your waterfalls;
       all your waves and breakers
       have swept over me.
 8 By day the LORD directs his love,
       at night his song is with me—
       a prayer to the God of my life.
 9 I say to God my Rock,
       "Why have you forgotten me?
       Why must I go about mourning,
       oppressed by the enemy?"
 10 My bones suffer mortal agony
       as my foes taunt me,
       saying to me all day long,
       "Where is your God?"
 11 Why are you downcast, O my soul?
       Why so disturbed within me?
       Put your hope in God,
       for I will yet praise him,
       my Savior and my God.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

I'll be back soon

In case you've been wondering where I've been, I've been on a two-week paternity leave.  Check it out here.

God has been good and we are so blessed to have our little one...he is already teaching me more about the love that God has for us.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Are You a "Fill"?

"A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed."  (Proverbs 11:25)

I read this Proverb a couple of weeks ago and it has stuck with me.  The first thing that jumped off the page when I read this was a question I asked myself; "Am I generous?  Am I one who refreshes others?"

There's a rule in place here...it's one of the golden rules - "It is more blessed to give than receive" (Acts 20:35; Paul, quoting Jesus).

What does it mean to "refresh others?"  I'm not sure I know the full scope of this, but to help me answer this question, I simply asked myself another couple of questions; "who in my life refreshes me - what is it about them that refreshes me?"  And "who are those that drain me" and "why do they drain me?"

Those people who refresh me have a few things in common;
1) They're genuinely interested in my life and well-being
2) They experience joy with me when I'm up, and when I'm down, they are there to help
3) They're good listeners: they ask lots of questions about my life and how I'm doing
4) They are optimists - always looking for the good
5) They know that sometimes, words can't help
6) They are thankful people
7) They drive me to God, and they pray for me
8) I make time in my day and week to be around/with them

Those people who drain me?
1) They talk about themselves...a lot
2) They don't seem to have time to hear about my joys and sorrows
3) They don't listen well
4) They're pessimists - and seem to be highly critical of everything or everyone
5) They always have "the right answer"
6) They are "glass half-empty" people
7) They really don't help me grow spiritually
8) I avoid them

When I look at these two lists, I then must ask myself, which list best represents ME?  Now don't get me wrong - I'm sure that all of us at times waffle and display characteristics on both lists.  However, generally speaking, on most days with most people, which list hits closer to me?  Am I a "fill" for others or a "drain?"  To people enjoy hanging out with me, or do they avoid me?

"He who refreshes others..."

Now this may come as a surprise to you since I'm a pastor and all, but I am NOT a highly relational person.  I recently did one of those temperament tests and it confirmed that I'm high on the "Doer" and high on the "Thinker" - combine those two things and you get a somewhat detailed perfectionist who moves quickly from task to task.  I have often been accused of "not caring."  I get easily drained when I'm around a lot of people, and need time by myself to stay fresh.  However, none of that can be used as an excuse to be a drain on others.  There are those around me who need to be encouraged and refreshed...

"He who refreshes others, will himself be refreshed."

Nothing helps someone feel better about themselves then helping someone else.  Let me say that again: if you're feeling down and blue, the quickest and most surefire way to start feeling better is to do something for someone else.  It's a law of the universe that cannot be broken.  When you help others, you find that you are helping yourself.

So what about it?  If you dare, pray this prayer today; "God, I pray you would help me to be someone who refreshes others.  Please put someone in my path today that I can encourage and refresh; and mostly, help me to be someone that leads others to You." - Amen

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

I can't escape...God is serious about this one

If you follow this blog at all, you know I've written quite a bit about the Sabbath.  Why?  Two reasons, I think.  First, it's something that God has been teaching me and showing me the past couple of years...the importance of rest.  Second, it's arguably the most violated of the 10 commandments...perhaps second only to "Have no other gods before me."

I've been reading through Exodus and you simply can't escape the frequency that this command appears.  It's popped up two more times in my reading first in Exodus 34:21, and second in Exodus 35:2.  Let's have a quick look;

21 "Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest."

1 "Moses assembled the whole Israelite community and said to them, 'These are the things the LORD has commanded you to do: 2 For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day shall be your holy day, a Sabbath of rest to the LORD. Whoever does any work on it must be put to death. 3 Do not light a fire in any of your dwellings on the Sabbath day.' "

Woh - anyone who does any work must be put to death?  That is SERIOUS.  Now I don't want to be redundant so if you haven't read my other 287 posts on the Sabbath, (ok, it's only a few), then you must do that first to get what I'm saying in context...(click here).

I simply want to point out two things here.  One I've already said: the frequency that this command appears in Exodus shows its importance.  That's all.  Number two is an observation...

In Exodus 35 Moses says "These are the things the Lord has commanded you to do..."  You expect a list of things to do...and at the very least, you expect the whole list of commandments.  But what do we get instead?  The first thing out of Moses' mouth is the Sabbath.  A "holy" day, "set apart," and a day to rest.

In America, we have prided ourselves on hard work and the "American Dream" - if you work hard enough, you can make it, and prosper.  There is nothing against that.  As one professor once said, you are supposed to "work" for 6 days.  However, I fear that we suffer as a country from a disease called "work-aholism" which again, isn't necessarily a sin, except that continually violate God's command to rest.  Why?  A day for Him...a day set apart, and a day that vitally need if we're to be as effective on the other 6 days.

This may be the last post I write on Sabbath...my last words to you are stolen from Nike - "Just Do It."  Pick a day, one out of seven, and REST.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Easter: Direct Access.

I'm on a two-year Bible reading plan right now...started in January.  Each day I read a portion of Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs.  Today, (Monday the 29th), there were two things I read that jumped out at me; what I might call the Greatest Gift Ever.

33 "When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face. 34 But whenever he entered the LORD's presence to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out. And when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, 35 they saw that his face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the LORD." (Exodus 34)

50 "And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.  51At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split."  (Matthew 27)

Was it coincidence that I just happened to read these things together?  I don't believe in coincidence.

I read the Exodus passage first, and I stopped and wrote in my journal these words; "Exodus 34:33-35; the foreshadowing of 'the veil.' "  Moses is meeting face to face with God and as a result, his face is so radiant that the people were afraid and couldn't look at him.  So Moses put a veil over his face.  We also know that there was a veil in the temple that separated God's presence from the people, and we know that when Jesus died, that veil or curtain was torn.

We too often forget...we forget what life was like pre-Christ and/or what life would be like without Christ.  Imagine having to go through a priest anytime you wanted to inquire of the Lord, or having to offer sacrifices.  When God appeared to Moses at Mt. Sinai, the people and livestock were told to keep clear of the mountain or they would die - God's presence is such.  And now?

The moment that curtain was torn, God made His dwelling IN US.  No longer do we need a priest, no longer do we need sacrifices, no longer is there a veil or curtain, for we now have direct access to God through the blood of the Lamb.  Think about it...and respond, in worship.

 1 "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" (1 John 3:1)