True Worship

Connecting Points

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Today’s Topic:  Worship for the Right Reason

Today’s Text: 2 Peter 3:15 (NIV)  Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation

                         Luke 19:41 (NIV)  As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it… 

This Sunday is a special day on the church calendar. We call it Palm Sunday, the day Jesus made His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. But from the Savior’s perspective, it was excruciatingly hard. So hard it made Him weep.

Here was Jesus, the Messiah, who had come to rescue people from their sin, and they were celebrating His arrival into the capital city for the wrong reason. They had been healed from their diseases but had failed to look beyond their own superficial needs to the spiritual condition of their hearts. They had been fed bread and fish miraculously, but had failed to see their real need of spiritual food. They had heard the words of a King speaking about a kingdom, but failed to see the true spiritual kingdom of which He spoke. They wanted only their current political status revolutionized.

As the people swarmed around Him they began to praise Him. They shouted, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” and “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Jesus permitted it because it was the truth, even though the worshippers did not fully grasp the significance of their own words. When the “religious” leaders of His day asked Jesus to rebuke the people for speaking such things, He defended their worship by saying,     “I tell you if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” 

But the reality for Jesus was that His heart was breaking. How He longed for the people He came to save to worship Him for the right reason. As He came around the bend in the road so that the elevated view of the city of Jerusalem was visible, that reality broke His heart. He saw the city of the King being run by selfish and greedy leaders who had declared themselves the super-spiritual of their day. He saw His truth being twisted so that it did nothing more than build man’s own kingdom. He saw people living under the deception and in bondage to sin. He knew that even in this hour of His presentation to the people as their King that they would soon turn their backs on Him and demand His death. As a result, He wept.

Even as He wept, the Savior spoke, and the people once again failed to truly hear. He said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.   The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side.   They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”

The same attitude of those people that broke the heart of our Lord is still prevalent today. Yesterday I saw a bumper sticker that proves it. It was just two words – TRY JESUS! How sad. How heartbreaking. It may seem to you at first to be a good thing, but that is exactly my point. We have been deceived into believing that Jesus is just the latest thing to try to get us where we want to be. It is so self-centered, just like the people who were fed and healed. As long as Jesus meets our needs we will stick with Him. But we quickly jump off the wagon when a wheel breaks. That’s heartbreaking because it’s not what Jesus intended.

Jesus desires surrender, not trying. He weeps when we use Him for our benefit, and we will end up weeping as well. We will rejoice when we surrender. We will conquer only after we are conquered. We will only find the provisions to our felt needs when we first surrender our will to the Master and have our sin needs met in Christ. Salvation is not our attempt to find an answer to our needs; salvation is God’s gift of rescuing us from our sin. Salvation is not a self-help, five-step plan to recovery: salvation is the sacrifice of self and deliverance from self so that the life of Christ replaces ours.

May you worship the Messiah in truth this Easter season.

Pastor John

Look Your Best

Connecting Points

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Today’s Topic:  Look Your Best

Today’s Text: 2 Peter 3:14 (NIV)  So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.  

As Denise and I prepare to travel to Africa, we are evaluating carefully what has to go in each piece of luggage so that it makes the weight limitations. In addition to that, we are carefully planning what to take in our carry-on luggage and personal item we each get to have inside the plane.

We will pack one bag with emergency clothing. Books that have been requested by the missionaries will go in another bag so they don’t overload the checked luggage. Then there will be the personal care items we will need on the plane and at the Hotel in Johannesburg the first night. Both of us will be very diligent about that and what we are wearing when we step off the plane in Swaziland.

Why? Because we’re going to see dear friends that we haven’t seen for well over a year, and we want to meet them at our best. Now I know they won’t care what we look like when we get off the plane, because they love us. I know that there will be no subtle glances at my belly or baldness followed by facial expressions of disgust. I know that if I was wearing my ragged jeans and the same sweaty t-shirt I had on when I started the journey, and had not showered or shaved at the hotel, that Dudley would still hug me. Not just because he’s used to that kind of personal hygiene from the people of his country, but because He loves me.

But I don’t want to put him in that position. I want nothing about me to distract from the total joy of our reunion.

My friends, we are God’s children, if we have been born into the family of God by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit. He was given to us by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ when we received by faith the forgiveness of sins He paid for on the cross. Some day – maybe very soon – we will be reunited with Him in person. We will step off this earth into His glorious presence for all eternity. He will extend His arms and welcome us into heaven. He will hug you no matter what you are like, because He saved you.

Yet the Scriptures tell us that there is a possibility of shame on our part when we meet Christ. There may be the experience of grief and remorse when we are pulled into His loving arms. It hinges on how we have lived our lives prior to getting there. Peter’s challenge to us today is to use the coming reunion as motivation for pure and holy living. The Apostle John says it this way in First John 2:28 – And now, dear children, remain in fellowship with Christ so that when he returns, you will be full of courage and not shrink back from him in shame. (NLT)

This is a very real thing. There will be those of us who will shrink back from the Lord as we approach Him because suddenly, in His perfect presence, everything about us becomes absolutely transparent. All lying ceases. All cover-ups are exposed. All wrong motives are revealed. There will be, for the first time in our existence, absolute honesty about who we are. That’s scary to all of us, isn’t it?

Remember, Jesus will still hug you. He will revive you if you pass out from fear and shame. He will restore you. There will be the experience of His unconditional forgiveness as He reviews your life. But we will be reviewed in the light of His holiness. There will be no opportunity for us to excuse anything we have done, said, or thought. All will be revealed. Then Jesus will wipe away every tear from our eyes and welcome us into the perfection of His presence forever. Hallelujah!

Now is the time of preparation for that reunion. Today is the day to begin setting aside all falsehood about who you are. This is the moment to manage your motivations. Right now, at this very second, it is time to become spotless, blameless, and at peace with Him. Every lie, every cover-up, every self-serving motivation puts us at odds with our Savior. The guarantee of our reunion with Jesus is our new motivation to be like Him. The Apostle John says Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is.  And all who have this eager expectation will keep themselves pure, just as he is pure. (1 John 3:2-3 NLT)

Pastor John

The New World

Connecting Points

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

 

Today’s Topic:  The New World

 

Today’s Text: 2 Peter 3:13 (NLT)  But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness. 

 

In 386 hours from the time of this writing my wife and I will be landing in Johannesburg, South Africa. After spending the night there, we will hop a small plane and fly up to Swaziland to visit our dear friends Dudley and Inge Donaldson, who are serving as missionaries there with TEAM. We are so excited to see them and participate with them in ministry.

 

We will also get to see a part of the world we’ve never seen before. In fact, Denise has never been out of the continental United States. I’ve been to places like the Philippines, Korea, and Japan, but never to the continent of Africa. I can’t wait to see what it looks like. I hope we see lots of wildlife. The game reserve we are going to has everything except the big cats. That’s what I really wanted to see, but I’ll be thrilled with the other giants of the plains like rhinos and giraffes and more.

 

As much as I look forward to this trip and what I will see, the real desire of my heart is for a land far beyond this earth. In fact, it hasn’t even been created yet. It will be a place of unsurpassed and unimaginable beauty. It will literally be glorious because it will be lit by the glory of God Himself. There will be no need for a sun. There will be no night without one, because God’s glory never stops shining and filling the whole new earth with light.

 

The city of the King, the New Jerusalem, will be spectacular. It will be huge. Imagine a cube – you know, with equal sides so that height, width, and length are all the same – and this cube is 2.744 billion cubic miles in size. That’s 1400 miles long by 1400 miles wide by 1400 miles high. Amazing! And I get to go there someday and walk on the streets of crystal gold. In fact, I get to live there. Even more awesome is this…I get to reign there with the King of Kings.

 

Let the incredible words of the Apostle John inspired by the Holy Spirit of God capture your heart as they have mine and put your focus on the right land. I know it looks long, but it will be worth the time investment. To use the words of Dudley and Inge’s theme song for their call to ministry, this world is not our home, we are just passing through… Get your eyes on the right goal. Here it is from Revelation 21 and 22…

 

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children. “But cowards, unbelievers, the corrupt, murderers, the immoral, those who practice witchcraft, idol worshipers, and all liars—their fate is in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” Then one of the seven angels who held the seven bowls containing the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come with me! I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” So he took me in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and he showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God and sparkled like a precious stone—like jasper as clear as crystal. The city wall was broad and high, with twelve gates guarded by twelve angels. And the names of the twelve tribes of Israel were written on the gates. There were three gates on each side—east, north, south, and west. The wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were written the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. The angel who talked to me held in his hand a gold measuring stick to measure the city, its gates, and its wall. When he measured it, he found it was a square, as wide as it was long. In fact, its length and width and height were each 1,400 miles.  Then he measured the walls and found them to be 216 feet thick (according to the human standard used by the angel). The wall was made of jasper, and the city was pure gold, as clear as glass. The wall of the city was built on foundation stones inlaid with twelve precious stones: the first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were made of pearls—each gate from a single pearl! And the main street was pure gold, as clear as glass. I saw no temple in the city, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its light. The nations will walk in its light, and the kings of the world will enter the city in all their glory. Its gates will never be closed at the end of day because there is no night there. And all the nations will bring their glory and honor into the city. Nothing evil will be allowed to enter, nor anyone who practices shameful idolatry and dishonesty—but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Then the angel showed me a river with the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. It flowed down the center of the main street. On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations. No longer will there be a curse upon anything. For the throne of God and of the Lamb will be there, and his servants will worship him. And they will see his face, and his name will be written on their foreheads. And there will be no night there—no need for lamps or sun—for the Lord God will shine on them. And they will reign forever and ever. Then the angel said to me, “Everything you have heard and seen is trustworthy and true. The Lord God, who inspires his prophets, has sent his angel to tell his servants what will happen soon.”  “Look, I am coming soon! Blessed are those who obey the words of prophecy written in this book.”

 

Pastor John

 

 

The Day of the Lord

Connecting Points

Monday, March 22, 2010

Today’s Topic:  The Day of the Lord

Today’s Text: 2 Peter 3:10 (NLT)  But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment.

WOW! What a fabulous way to start a Monday morning. It is an unbelievable blessing to know that we are safe and secure. Hope has been restored. The future looks bright. People’s real needs are being met. Our Fearless Leader has done it. We have been granted life insurance.

You thought I was going to say health insurance, didn’t you? What the government did last night is puny news compared to what Jesus did on the cross. The health care needs of people are real, but not nearly as important as their spiritual needs. Dying from sickness should not concern us nearly as much as dying forever.

The Day of the Lord is coming, and it will surprise most people. There are two reasons for this: they haven’t been listening; or they haven’t had anything to listen to. They probably aren’t listening because they are so intent on getting everything they can from this world. They believe this life offers them everything they need, and they are intent on getting it. And what they can’t get for themselves, government owes them.

But I think the issue of them not listening is primarily because we aren’t speaking the truth to them about the Day of the Lord that’s coming. I hope it doesn’t surprise those of us who claim to be the follower’s of the true King.

My friends, there is a terrible day coming. Everything that God created in the original creation will be destroyed by fire. The very tiniest of elements which form the building blocks of all else will be destroyed. It will be utter and complete annihilation. All that “stuff” that people worked so hard to accumulate will be gone. All the pleasures we experienced from it will be forgotten. All the value we thought we added to our lives will become worthless. All the identity we placed in it will be erased.

Hang on a minute, PJ. I thought you said this was a fabulous way to start a Monday.

Like I said, the joy is in the life insurance. Death will happen to the world. Life eternal is ours now and forever! Hallelujah!

Read on in Second Peter 3 verses 11-13. Since everything around us is going to be destroyed like this, what holy and godly lives you should live, looking forward to the day of God and hurrying it along. On that day, he will set the heavens on fire, and the elements will melt away in the flames. But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness. (emphasis mine)

Quite a contrast, huh? Which side of the “Day of the Lord” coin will you choose to look at today? My goal today is to be more excited about the coming of Jesus than the Democratic leadership was about what they did last night. My goal is to focus on getting as many people rescued from the bondage of worldly pleasure as possible.

That means they have to hear about the alternative.

Will you join me in telling them?

Pastor John

God Is Patient

Connecting Points

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Today’s Topic:  God Is Patient

Today’s Text: 2 Peter 3:8-9 (NIV)  But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

Some people find it easy to get excited about the judgment of others. Even in Christian circles there is a dangerous tendency to want the Lord Jesus Christ to return to the earth primarily for the purpose of destroying evil and evil-doers. It’s hard to listen to such people for very long. They display very little compassion for the lost and are overwhelmed with a self-centered arrogance that seeks to enhance their own image by condemning others. It really is distasteful, and at times unlovable.

It is true that Peter reminds us of the coming judgment of sin, as we discussed yesterday. But he immediately tempers what he said and puts it into its proper context. He reminds us – in fact he emphasizes that this one point should never be forgotten – that our primary focus should be on the days we have left and how we will use them to accomplish God’s will. We are not to desire the Lord’s return for the purpose of the destruction of evil people so much as we are to be thankful for the time He has given us to rescue more people from their sin.

As impatient as some of us get with the corruption of the world in which we live, imagine how impatient God must get when viewing it from His perfect perspective. Or does He?

Our desire to elevate ourselves by belittling others is an attempt to achieve perfection in our own eyes. It causes us to see others critically and judgmentally. If we would carefully evaluate that position, we would realize that it is the most immature perspective we can have. It is such a self-centered attitude. The logical conclusion of it is the destruction of all others who don’t meet our self-imposed standards – and the sooner the better. The problem is that as soon as the objective is accomplished there is no one left with whom to compare ourselves, and we are left as empty as ever.

But God, who is perfect, displays the mature attitude – patience and grace. The more we grow to be like Jesus, the longer we will endure the failings of others. The more we reflect the heart of the Father, the more we will desire the sinners around us to come to repentance and be saved. The more filled with the Holy Spirit we are, the more we will look with eyes of compassion on those in the bondages of sin and seek to set them free.

Maturity of faith brings identity with Christ. As we grow up in Him we reflect more and more of His nature, character, and mindset. His mindset is patient towards those who sin. He has not left us here as an unloving Father to suffer at the hands of sinners: He has allowed us to remain in His service of bringing people to Jesus.

Every day we awaken to a new sunrise on this degenerating planet, we should arise with thanksgiving that Jesus has granted us more time to win the lost, especially those we know and love in this life. God is patient with us and with the lost. Not because He is slow (the Greek word means “retarded”), or unfaithful to His Word, but rather because He is loving and gracious. His love does not desire judgment. His justice will accomplish it someday. But for now, His love is being extended.

Maybe His love should come through us a little more clearly.

Pastor John

The Coming Judgment

Connecting Points

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Today’s Topic:  Coming Judgement

Today’s Text: 2 Peter 3:7 (NIV)  By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.

This will not be popular. This could make me more infamous than famous – not that it matters to me. People doing an internet search who come across this blog today may be moved to anger and take offense. Some will feel that I have stepped on their toes. Well, in the words of my grandfather, I’m sorry about your toes. It must be a bad shot, because I was aiming at your heart.

Whether we deny it or not, the truth does not change. I cannot avoid the affects of gravity simply by saying or believing there is no gravity. I cannot avoid the consequences of sin simply by saying or believing that there is no God. I cannot deny the coming judgment of sinners simply by believing that God is perfect in love but not in justice.

Let the revelation of God to mankind speak to you today, first from the mouth of Jesus himself:

  • For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it.   Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son,   that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him. I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.   I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.   For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself.    And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.   Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice   and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.   By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me. (John 5:21-30 )

This same One named Jesus who has the power and authority to judge all men for their sin, became the very judgment of sin for those who believe on Him. He who would one day sentence many to death because of their sin would himself be sentenced to death to give life to those who believe. Right before His arrest and crucifixion Jesus said, Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.   But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself. And lifted up on a cross He was so that you and I could be saved from our sin and its judgment. The judge has become our High Priest and has offered himself as the once-for-all sacrifice for our sins.

As a result, the Holy Spirit inspired writer of Hebrews says:

  • Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 
      by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body,   and since we have a great priest over the house of God,   let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.   Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.   And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.   Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.   If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left,   but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.   Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.   How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?   For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”  and again, “The Lord will judge his people.”    It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

There is a judgment for sin coming. Those who believe in Jesus and have been saved by His blood shed on the cross will be excluded from the judgment. Thos who do not believe and receive, but reject the truth about their sin and the coming judgment will have eternity to think about their choice, if they can think clearly at all through the horror of their suffering.

Pastor John

Forget It!

Connecting Points

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Today’s Topic:  Forgetfulness

Today’s Text: 2 Peter 3:5-7 (NIV)  But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.

It comes with age. It also comes with pride. We would like to blame it all on age, but that would be to deny the simple truth of our choices.

Forgetfulness is a two-sided coin. On the one side is the simple brain freeze type that we easily forgive in one another and excuse in ourselves. On the other side of the coin is the intentional type, when we make choices to forget. Our motivation for these choices can be sinful or saintly.

Peter tells us that forgetfulness is intentional when it comes to the sinner’s ignorance of truth. They will deny this. They will claim superior knowledge. The truth is that God has revealed His nature through creation and the people who do not see it or know it have made the choice to ignore the obvious. (Read Romans 1:18-25) These are the prideful choices of sinful man to forget what is not convenient for the pursuit of personal pleasure.

But there is a proper and Godly time to be forgetful. The proper motivations for forgetfulness are given to us in Scripture. One of them stands out to me today:

  • We are to forget the past, no matter how painful, and press on towards the high calling we have in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14)

Years ago, there was a master violinist in Europe. He would play in concerts, and he had a magnificent Stradivarius violin, extremely expensive. He would play the Stradivarius violin in concert and everyone would whisper in the crowd, “Listen to the beautiful sounds of the Stradivarius.” He would play in churches, and people would say, “Listen to the beautiful sounds of the Stradivarius.” He even played before kings and queens, and they, too, would turn to one another and say, “Listen to the beautiful sounds of the Stradivarius.” All the glory went to the instrument.

Then one day this master violinist was walking by a pawn shop. He noticed an old, beat-up, worn-out violin. He walked into the pawn shop and asked how much it would cost. The owner of the pawn shop told him the American equivalent of five dollars. He bought the violin, and he took it home. He polished it, and he refined it, and he tuned it, and he re-tuned it, and he built some character into that violin. Then, when he was to play the greatest performance of his life in a concert hall, he took out the little, five-dollar, worn-out, beat-up violin that he had polished and refined. He put it up to his chin, and he began to play, and everybody in the concert hall whispered, “Listen to the beautiful sounds of the Stradivarius.”

In the hands of the Master, your life has been revived, revitalized, and restored. You are of great worth and value. Do not think about the past. Forget it. Look ahead. As F. B. Meyer wrote,

It is a mistake to be always turning back to recover the past. The law for Christian living is not backward, but forward; not for experiences that lie behind, but for doing the will of God, which is always ahead and beckoning us to follow. Leave the things that are behind, and reach forward to those that are before, for on each new height to which we attain, there are the appropriate joys that befit the new experience. Don’t fret because life’s joys are fled. There are more in front. Look up, press forward, the best is yet to be!

Permission granted by God to be forgetful.

Pastor John