Praise the Lord!

Connecting Points

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Today’s Topic:  Praise Him

Today’s Text:  Isaiah 25:1  O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name

For the last 8 days I have been caring for my dad following surgery and a major flair-up of his arthritis in his knees. For the last 7 days he has been immobile, unable to walk or rise to a standing position on his own. He needed to be lifted so he could move from one place to another. What a privilege it has been to be able to help him, first in his home and then for the last 5 days in mine.

During this time I have had to listen and watch – and I might add suffer – as God dissected my heart. I was so unaware of my selfishness. I was so blinded to the way I had built a life of comfort for myself. I was so distressed to discover that I had been in control of what I did and when I did it. God used my dad’s physical needs to humble me, and boy did I need humbling.

On Tuesday I surrendered myself to the realization that at any time God should be able to interrupt me and invite me into His work and I will accept His invitation. There can be nothing in this life that is so important that it causes me pain to surrender it for the sake of the King. There can be no possession so precious that I grieve over its loss. There must be no activity or pursuit so significant that the thought of not be able to do it causes me to even think about shedding a tear. I must and I will be able to say with the Apostle Paul that I consider all things rubbish compared to the excellency of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.

Last night, as I prepared my dad for bed, we both noticed that his feet smelled. We laughed about it, but it was bad. His special elastic support socks he wears to prevent swelling and cellulitis had not been changed for a week. So as he sat in his wheelchair I carefully removed his socks. Then in a warm basin of water and gentle soap, I washed my dad’s feet and legs. As he sat there he simply said, “You are doing a very Biblical thing, just like Jesus.”  At that moment there were no thoughts of anything else I could have been doing. I was doing the work God had prepared for me to do, and I was doing it with a heart that He had also prepared.

This morning, dad woke up early. When I walked into the room there was a gleam in his eyes and a smile on his face. As I pulled back the blankets, he lifted his legs. He rolled to a sitting position all by himself. When I put the walker in front of him he grabbed it and stood up. He took a few steps to the center of the room and stood there the whole time I helped him get dressed. Then with his walker he walked all the way to the living room and got into his lift chair unassisted.

When I arrived at my office this morning my devotional Bible was opened to these words in Isaiah 25 –

O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done marvelous things, things planned long ago…You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat…On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine—the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The LORD has spoken. In that day they will say, “Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the LORD, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”

Keep praying for my dad…and for me…but it appears that he is healing us both.

Pastor John

He’s Holding On!

Connecting Points

Wednesday, October 20, 20100

Today’s Topic:  He’s Holding On

Today’s Text:  Malachi 3:3   “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.”

Here’s a stupid question (with apologies to my grandchildren for using the word stupid) – have you ever experiencing a trying time in your life? Of course you have. You may be going through one right now. Our tendency is to want an explanation of how we got into this mess. Was it our fault for a sinful choice we made, or was it someone else who sinned against us? Maybe it is just God working on us to make us more like His Son Jesus.

Instead of analyzing how we got here and how to get out, we should be focusing on Who’s with us while were here. Some time ago a friend sent this story to me and I was really blessed by it. I hope it helps you to maintain your focus as well as you go through whatever trial or test you are currently in.

A group of women was studying the book of Malachi and they came to the verse, “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.”  They wondered what this statement meant about the character and nature of God. One of the women offered to find out the process of refining silver and get back to the group at their next Bible Study.

That week, the woman called a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him at work. She didn’t mention anything about the reason for her interest beyond her curiosity about the process of refining silver. As she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest as to burn away all the impurities.

The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot then she thought again about the verse that says: “He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver.”

She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined. The man answered that yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. If the silver was left a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed.

The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith, “How do you know when the silver is fully refined?”

He smiled at her and answered, “Oh, that’s easy – when I see my image in it.”

–Author Unknown

God is holding on to you. Trust Him to refine and purify you until He can see His image in you.

Pastor John

Glory!

Connecting Points

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Today’s Topic:  Glory to Jesus

Today’s Text:  Isaiah 24:16a  From the ends of the earth we hear singing: “Glory to the Righteous One.”   

I’m back, and I’m richer. There is no wealth that can be compared to the treasure of a new baby. In case you missed it, last Thursday my 8th grandchild was born – another boy. That makes 6 boys and two girls. Our house is so much fun at holidays. I guess I’d better get serious about building that tree house. Anyone want to help?

As we sat around in the hospital room admiring little Crosby Jonathan, everyone had something to say. “Ooooh! He looks just like Caleb (his older brother).” “His hair is darker than the other kids’.” “His eyes are so blue already.” “His hands are so big!” And on and on it went. Everyone wants to share their thoughts on why the baby is so perfect and so unique.

Someday, maybe very soon, we will hear such talk from the ends of the earth as people unite to sing the praises of Jesus Christ when He comes to the earth as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

After all the prophecies of man’s judgment have been pronounced by Isaiah, the Lord announces one final victory against man’s pride and the political system he created to perpetuate it. In Isaiah 24 the Lord Jesus Christ destroys anything and everyone that stood opposed to Him and sets up His Kingdom on earth. (for the LORD Almighty will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem. verse 23) As the people of the earth are brought to submission, suddenly a song breaks out from the ends of the earth. Jesus is being given honor and glory for His victory.

What a day that will be – the birth of the political Kingdom of God on earth in fulfillment of the spiritual kingdom that began when Jesus was on earth the first time. The glory of the True King will be seen in all the earth. Peace will arrive in the Prince of Peace. The Name of Jesus will be exalted throughout the earth. I can hear it now…

“He’s so powerful!” “He’s so righteous!” “He’s so just!” “He’s so faithful!”

But let’s hear it straight from God’s Word…

 “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”

 “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”

“Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,   for true and just are his judgments.”

“Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the ages. Who will not fear you, O Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.”  

“To the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.”

“Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!”

Let the singing begin!

Pastor John

Praying with Authority

Connecting Points

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Today’s Topic:  Praying with Authority

Today’s Text:  2 Thessalonians 3:1-3  Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you.   And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith.   But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. 

Within the last month we have had two burglaries at our church. Each time a laptop computer was stolen from our sound booth. In the second robbery a video projector was also stolen, as well as a small amount of cash from the lockbox used to collect money from people who buy DVD’s of the worship service. We believe someone is sneaking into the church while other people are there with the doors unlocked and then hiding until they leave. Yesterday, after an event at the church, we found a back door that is normally never used unlocked from the inside. Someone must have snuck in, unlocked the door, and then left in an attempt to come back later and gain easy entrance.

After the first robbery, I sent out an email and asked people to pray for protection for our church. In response, I received an email prayer from a former member of our church who moved away several years ago. Her prayer reminded me that for the most part I, and maybe you, pray very weakly. Some of us maybe even pray only weekly. We rarely stand in the presence of Almighty God and proclaim His majesty and power and declare His promises. We repeat a request, but we do so without the authority of Scripture and with very little understanding of what it means to pray “in the Name of Jesus.”

We have an incredible privilege as God’s children to come boldly into His presence because of the finished work of Christ on the cross and the application of His blood to our lives. Yet we come to Him weakly, or weekly, with fear and trembling wondering if He is really listening and really cares about our needs. We come to Him asking the wrong things when we could be declaring all the right things about who He is and what He is capable of doing. We come expressing our ideas rather than expounding His Word.

I wonder how many people have really been praying for our church, or do they just think about it? I know for me it is easy to justify thinking as praying, but the Scriptures declare that we are to pray in the Spirit, removing ourselves from all distractions and focusing completely and totally on God. How many of us do that for more than a few seconds at a time?

I want you to read the pray that this faithful saint and prayer warrior sent to me. Compare it to how you pray. I am not asking you to copy her, but I am asking you to consider how you pray, and do you pray with this kind of Scriptural authority? If not, let’s start learning together to pray with them authority we have been granted by God through our Savior Jesus Christ.

Dear Father in Heaven                                                                               

Thank you for the testimony of Calvary Baptist Church. Even here in Excelsior I hear of their good works in Your Name. The evidence is that Satan is working so hard to discourage and defeat them. But greater are You who is in us than he that is in the world!

I pray a hedge of protection around not only the building but around Your Church and Your Under-Shepherd there. I know sometimes he may feel like he is in this battle alone, but You have promised that You will never leave him nor forsake him. Father, he calls upon You daily and You will in no wise cast him aside. You place him in Your strong tower and uphold him with Your strong arm. You lead him beside still waters and refresh his spirit.

Father, I stand beside this local body of believers and agree with them that You shall have the victory, the glory and the honor over this and all other devices that Satan may bring, knowing that as he does so, he only proves that Calvary Baptist Church is doing a good work for You.

In the Blessed assurance of eternal life, that God, who cannot lie, gave before the beginning of the world and in Your Son’s Name, I pray.

Amen so be it!

Pastor John

Enhancing Our Positions

Connecting Points

Monday, October 11, 2010

Today’s Topic:  Enhancing Our Positions

Today’s Text:  Isaiah 22:15-16  This is what the Lord, the LORD Almighty, says: “Go, say to this steward, to Shebna, who is in charge of the palace: What are you doing here and who gave you permission to cut out a grave for yourself here, hewing your grave on the height and chiseling your resting place in the rock?

Several years ago we outgrew our church facility. We are still cramped in there as we await God’s timing on a new building, but we made some changes back then that temporarily helped. The first thing we did was to rent additional office space and move our administrative offices out of the church. God directed us to a wonderful landlord who gave us an incredible deal on an office complex that not only serves as our administrative hub but also as our youth center.

There were decisions to be made when we moved into the building, not the least of which was who would get which office. The welcome area was sufficient for the office administrator, and there was one small office that was perfect for the part-time staff. But which of the two large offices would the two pastors get?

As Pastor Dennis and I surveyed the two rooms, there was discussion about the pros and cons of each. The larger office had two windows on the front corner of the building. But it was located down a narrow hall right across from the restrooms. The smaller office was on the other side of the wall from the restrooms and had only one window. It was located right off the coffee break area and next to the youth center. Decisions, decisions.

As we looked at the offices, I regretfully remember my pride filtering to the top of the logic column. I am the Lead Pastor. I deserve the best office. Which one is the nicest? Which one matches my status? I fought those urges to make a decision based on those things. In my heart I wanted what was best for everyone so they could serve effectively for the Lord. But how would we decide?

At the same time we were looking at the new offices, a businessman from our church came to me and said that his company had some desks and chairs to donate and wondered if we could use them. The desks we had were very old metal things that were functional but not very professional. I said yes. He had the desks and chairs delivered to the new location while the decorating team from the church freshened up the place with new paint and decorations.

When we saw the desks for the first time, we began to evaluate how they would fit into the offices. The desk designs actually made the decision about offices for us. The desk I needed for the work I do would only fit in one office. That would be mine. Pastor Dennis would get the other one with his new desk. He got the office with the view. I got the office with the sounds of the bathroom through the wall. The decorating team recognized the problem and had sound panels built that are beautiful. They even let me pick out the fabric, which is covered with deer. I love my office, and so does Dennis.

The connecting point I want you to see today is observed as we compare the story I just told with the one in Isaiah 22 above. Shebna, an Egyptian, had been appointed the chief steward of the palace under the reign of King Hezekiah. He had high ambitions. He decided to make a name for himself and promote himself. He decided that his position in the King’s palace was worthy of special recognition – historical recognition. So he had a tomb built for himself in the palace of the King. He wanted to be remembered and figured the best way to do that was to be buried with royalty. He was all about enhancing his own position.

What a contrast to the story of Joseph in Genesis, who as a Jew served in the palace of the Egyptian King, yet never sought to enhance his own position. He even went to prison to maintain his integrity. But not Shebna. He was all about self-exhaltation. But God saw his attempts at honoring himself and declared that it would end in humiliation. And it did. A short time later he was demoted to a secretary and replaced by Eliakim who served humbly as a follower of God.

We are all tempted to promote self. We are all urged by our fleshly desires to enhance our position in the eyes of people. We all struggle with pride that drives us to make decision based on the benefits it will bring to us and the enhancement of our image. But we must fight those desires and be humble before God, considering others better than ourselves. Jesus said, “If any one of you wants to be first in the Kingdom of God, he must first become the servant of all.” After all, if we truly believe that in Christ our position has been fully established, then what else is there to enhance?

Pastor John

Defending Our Positions

Connecting Points

Monday, October 11, 2010

Today’s Topic:  Defending Our Positions

Today’s Text:  Isaiah 22:13  But see, there is joy and revelry, slaughtering of cattle and killing of sheep, eating of meat and drinking of wine! “Let us eat and drink,” you say, “for tomorrow we die!”

I try to avoid it. I intentionally stay away from it. I have found other things to meet my need for information without turning to it. I’m talking about the national media. I made the mistake of watching a little of it this morning and now I regret it. It made me angry because there is no honor any more, and there certainly is no moral compass.

Day after day we are bombarded with news that is intentionally slanted to promote man’s agenda over God’s authority. Then on top of it our intelligence is attacked by the preposterous political ads that dominate the airwaves. I am once again so very thankful that God is in control no matter how much man thinks he is and attempts to prove he’s worthy to be. Praise be to Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you with great joy and without fault before His glorious presence – to the only God our Savior be glory and majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! AMEN! (Jude 24-25)

As I read through the book of Isaiah, I can almost begin to feel about it the way I do about the media. Here we are in the twenty-second chapter already and the news is still gloom and doom: chapter after chapter of man’s rebellion against God and His coming judgment of their sin. But with careful reading there are great truths to be discovered that can help us in our daily lives. Let me share one with you from today’s passage.

This chapter is a prophecy about the fall of Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonians. It would take place in 586 B.C., some 125 years after Isaiah wrote it. I want you to notice these points about what is written:

  • Isaiah is heartbroken over the sin of the people and the knowledge that God has every right and intention to discipline them. In verse four he writes, Therefore I said, “Turn away from me; let me weep bitterly. Do not try to console me over the destruction of my people.” My first response to the tragedy of sin in people’s lives must be one of grief rather than anger. Anger in this case is prideful, plain and simple. When we respond with anger at another person’s sin we are essentially judging them to our own prideful advantage. Think about that carefully. There is a place for anger against sin, but not until we have sufficiently wept over their Christ-less condition that has caused it.
  • The people who are sinning are doing everything they can to defend their situation so they can continue in it. Here’s how the siege of Jerusalem is described:
    • The Babylonians have surrounded them.
    • Their choicest valleys are filled with chariots of the enemy.
    • The cavalry is at the gates of the city.
    • The defenses of the city have been destroyed.
    • There are breaches in the walls.

The response of the people is interesting. They are destroying anything and everything they had built in the city to reinforce the walls. They are doing everything they can to protect the lifestyle they love. But that is not the response God wanted from them. He did not ask them to defend the city – it was futile for them to attempt it because He had brought it upon them as a consequence of their sin. There was only one way they could avoid the punishment – repentance. God’s message to them was clear. The Lord, the LORD Almighty, called you on that day to weep and to wail, to tear out your hair and put on sackcloth. But they only wanted to protect the little world they had built for their own enjoyment. I see that played out every day in the media and in the lives of people all around me. They do everything they can to defend their positions so they can enjoy their lifestyles. Now they have turned to attacking anyone who speaks out against what they are doing. We truly are living in the last days when the messengers of truth from Jesus Christ will be persecuted as people defend their ungodly positions.

  • But the people do not repent. Instead they plan one final party to satisfy the desires of their flesh. But see, there is joy and revelry, slaughtering of cattle and killing of sheep, eating of meat and drinking of wine! “Let us eat and drink,” you say, “for tomorrow we die!”  They had a chance to turn from their wicked ways and surrender to God in brokenness and humility. Instead they chose to pursue their passions one last time. When they do, they seal their fate. God says, “Till your dying day this sin will not be atoned for.” How sad. There is a point in man’s rejection of God when God declares them to be eternally rejected by Him. They have refused to surrender to the call of the Holy Spirit for forgiveness, and for this they cannot be forgiven.

My friends, this is the culture in which we live today. But beware lest you think it is only “them” who are doing it. Let’s all check our lives as well and make sure we are not defending any positions in our lives that are not of God. Let us be holy and blameless before Him at His appearing, which I believe is coming soon.

Pastor John

More on Humiliation

Connecting Points

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Today’s Topic:  Volunteering for Humiliation Detail

Today’s Text:  Isaiah 20:2  –at that time the LORD spoke through Isaiah son of Amoz. He said to him, “Take off the sackcloth from your body and the sandals from your feet.” And he did so, going around stripped and barefoot.

I want to continue the thoughts we started yesterday. As we read on in the 20th chapter of Isaiah we discover that the humiliation the prophet must have felt was not a short-term thing. In fact, it lasted for three years (see verse 3). What faith in God Isaiah had! He obeyed for three years before God revealed the purpose for his suffering.

Yesterday I asked several people this question – “What would be the most humiliating thing that could happen to you?” I answered my own question first and told them about the occasional dream I have of forgetting to get dressed before going onto the platform of our church to preach. That loosened them up so they would share.

One person said they would be humiliated by losing control of their finances and having to file bankruptcy. Another said they would not want to be accused of a sexual sin and have it made public. Another responded with a fear of developing Tourette’s Syndrome. One person said they didn’t want to experience the humiliation of a public reprimand by their boss at work. Everyone I asked had a fear of humiliation of some form.

Every one of those fears was motivated by a need to protect the perception of other people’s opinion of them. The need for acceptance and approval goes much deeper than we realize, and we may be in denial about how many of our behaviors and activities are the product of those two needs.

As I thought about this yesterday and last night, I realized that we probably have far greater faith in our own ability to accomplish acceptance and approval than we do in God’s ability to keep us safe in the palm of His hand. We place far more emphasis on the avoidance of pain in the immediate than we do on the elimination of pain in God’s eternal glory. We focus intently on trying to make life comfortable today when God has told us that the sufferings of today are not worthy to be compared to the glory that will be revealed in us when Jesus appears.

What do we not believe about that? Do we doubt that the glory of God will sufficiently remove any and all memories of past sufferings? Do we not understand that God is telling us that we must suffer in this life as His followers? In fact, we cannot experience the fullness of God’s power in our lives unless we are willing to suffer as Jesus did. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death. (Philippians 3:10)

I must spend more time evaluating the everyday experiences of life. The odds of me forgetting to get dressed on a Sunday morning are pretty slim. But the reality is that there are days when I forget – no, I choose intentionally for the purpose of self-preservation – to not get dressed in the clothing of righteousness. There are far too many steps taken in life without the protection of the armor of God. In an effort to avoid shame directed at us by people, we choose to be ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

So think about the simple activities of your life. How many of them are controlled by your need for immediate gratification? How many are chosen because they produce an immediate response of acceptance from others? How many of those same choices and activities are a direct denial of the faith you claim to have in Jesus?

Ponder that today, and then choose to do whatever Jesus asks you to do, no matter how publicly demeaning it is, because you know your life is a light of God’s glory and not a sponge to absorb your own.

Pastor John