Pillars

Connecting Points

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Today’s Topic: Firm Foundation

Today’s Text: Isaiah 40:6-8   A voice says, “Cry out.”

And I said, “What shall I cry?”

“All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the LORD blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.”

You really can’t tell by standing on it, but the ground is sinking. In fact, it’s already several feet below sea level. That’s what it’s like on the bayou. The road serves as a dike to hold back the sea. When it floods, and it usually does during a hurricane, it’s easy to have three to four feet of water everywhere. In addition to the flood threat, the land mass is actually sinking at a rate of up to two inches per year.

Because of those two realities, the people who live there need unique houses. They need to live above ground level – well above the potential flood level. The houses are built on pillars, sometimes up to 12 feet above the ground. Many of the homes were at ground level at the time of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. That’s why the people of our church continue to travel to the bayou and help rebuild homes for people who are still living in terribly rotten conditions.

The placing of the pillars for the home is the most important part of the rebuilding process. Huge treated telephone poles are brought in. Holes are drilled into the ground at least 8 to 10 feet deep and then filled with concrete to within two feet of the surface. Holes are then drilled through the poles two feet from the bottom, through which thick rebar is passed. The rebar extends out from the pole 2 feet, and each end is then welded to another piece of rebar that connects them all forming a 2 foot by 2 foot square around the pole. The pole is then placed into the concrete-filled hole, and then concrete is poured around it and over all the rebar. This is done to keep the pole from sinking into the ground. If the ground does sink, the pole moves with it and maintains the integrity of the home above.

I went into that detail for a purpose. It’s a lot of work to lay the right foundation to build a home upon. It’s also a lot of work to build the right foundation to build a life upon. People have tried lots of options and alternatives, but there is only one foundation that cannot sink or fail – the Word of God.

Our lives – the houses in which we live on this earth – are to be built on the pillars of truth in God’s Word: pillars that are firmly grounded on the Rock of Jesus Christ. Any pillar not resting on the Rock is sure to shift and sink, causing the house to crack and fall.

In the average bayou house there are at least 12 pillars, but there could be more depending on the size of the house. I’ve seen some houses with more than 20. But every one of them is put down the same way with the assurance of the same stability.

The number of pillars in our lives varies based on each individual’s choice of how extensive their life will be – how many activities they will be involved in. But each pillar must be placed on the same foundation of God’s Word. Every choice we make for recreation, career, relationships, hobbies, finances, or ministry becomes a pillar of our life, and it must be resting on the truth of God’s Word. If not, our lives will fall apart. Try as hard as we might to keep them together, there is no hope that our houses will survive unless they are grounded on the Bible.

Check the pillars of your life today – those things you think are indispensable and define you. Are they really resting on the promises of God’s Word, or are they settling into the sinking sands of the world. It may be time to remodel your house.

Pastor John

The Smoothing Process

Connecting Points

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Today’s Topic: Level Ground

Today’s Text: Isaiah 40:4-5Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

It was tedious, but it had to be done. After all, the work they were doing was being done unto the Lord. Sure, they could have skimped, but eventually that would have caused problems. The easy fix is not always the right fix.

So while I tended to some plumbing issues, three of our crew took to their knees and starting filling in all the nail holes and imperfections in the floor with a fast-setting putty. After it was dry, they hand sanded every spot to make sure it was perfectly smooth. They did this in every room of the house. It took them almost two days to complete. They were tired and sore from all that bending and kneeling. But now the floor was ready to accept  the free-floating vinyl.

You see, every one of those flooring nails and screws, if not puttied, could loosen and raise up and cause damage to the flooring that would be laid over them. Every indentation in the wood would cause the flooring to become dented at that point. Every bump or low spot had to be made level, and it had to be a permanent fix or the floor would be damaged.

Our lives are like that. We are filled with rough spots and deep dents. Our character is rugged. The seemingly insurmountable mountains of circumstances drive us into valleys of pain and despair. There is more preparation to do before the fullness of God’s glory can be laid upon us.

This morning one of my facebook friends posted a quote from the devotional book entitled Streams in the Desert. “Beloved, never try to get out of a dark place except in God’s timing and in His way. A time of trouble and darkness is meant to teach us lessons we desperately need. Premature deliverance may circumvent God’s work of grace in our lives. Commit the entire situation to Him and be willing to abide in darkness, knowing He is present.”

God’s promises make that possible. Today the Word of the Lord comes through the prophet Isaiah with such a promise – Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it.

Last Thursday afternoon at 4:30 we put the last piece of trim in place after laying all the flooring in the house we had prepared. Anyone who walks in will see only the finished product. They will not see any of the putty that was used. They will not see any of the dust that was created from the sanding and smoothing process. They will see no bumps or dents. They will only see the beauty of the finished product.

So it is with our lives. Every rough spot, rugged place, and mountain will be made smooth. Every valley will be raised up. And when God has finished His work in us, His glory is all that will be seen. So let God do His work. Let us cooperate with Him by rejecting any notion of pride in our prayers, our personal life, and our choices. Let Him smooth out all the rough spots of sin in us, and  lift us up out of the valleys of discouragement, depression, and despair. Let Him turn your rugged places into productive and pleasant plains. His glory is about to be revealed.

Pastor John

 

See the Finish Line

Connecting Points

Monday, March 28, 2011

Today’s Topic: See the Finish Line

Today’s Text: Isaiah 40:1-2 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD’S hand double for all her sins.

Where do I begin? We spent 4 days travelling almost 3,000 miles, one day worshiping and relaxing, and four days working in 85 degree temps with high humidity. It was tremendous. We joined God in doing His work and we received the greatest blessings. God’s Kingdom principle of being more blessed by giving than receiving is proven true once again.

I really am struggling with how to begin telling you about the ministry that we did and the people we touched with the grace and love of Jesus. This may seem a little disjointed, but here goes.

When we arrived on the bayou in southern Louisiana, those of us who had been there right after the hurricanes were impressed with how the landscape had recovered. At the same time we were also saddened by the number of homes that had once been under water and were still standing on the ground and being occupied. We actually worked on one such home that had no running water and a broken sewer pipe with raw sewage running down the back of the house onto the ground. We fixed the water and the sewer pipe, but the house needs a lot of work and needs to be raised up.

Living in that house are a grandma and grandpa, their 26-year old disabled daughter, and two grandchildren who were left there by their mother who ran off. The water hasn’t worked for weeks. They get their water through a garden hose hooked up to the neighbor’s house. It’s all cold. They flush the toilet with a bucket. They bath in cold water. In order to fix everything, two of our men had to crawl under the house with only 18 inches of clearance. They slid through rats and spiders and sewage to reach the broken water line. They cleaned the sewage from the back of the house to repair the broken pipe. They went back under the house and strapped up all the other water lines. It was a mess, but now it works. Grandma said she couldn’t wait to take a hot shower.

Serving people. That’s what Jesus did. He went into the sewage of sin and served us. He saved us. Pastor Jerry Moser from the church these people attend said this to me about the conditions these people live in: “When we stand before the Lord someday, how will we explain to Him that we let someone right next door to us rot to death?” Those two men who went under that house are true servants of Jesus. They are real world heroes, although they would never want to be called that.

That was just one small part of our mission trip, but it taught me a huge lesson. How far was I really willing to go to bring comfort to others? Would I have been able to ignore and conquer my claustrophobia and crawl under that house? If I lived in that house, how long would I have put up with those conditions? How long must we wait for the comfort we have been promised?

In Isaiah 40, God is telling the people that their hard service is completed, their sins are paid for, and comfort is coming. But wait, it would be 100 years before their land would be invaded and they would be taken captive. Then it would be another 70 years before their captivity would end. Yet in the mind of God it was already done. They were to take comfort in the promise of God for a glorious outcome even while it was a long way off.

Oh if I could only have that kind of faith. Why do the problems of today overwhelm me so much? Why is my focus always on the hurdles I keep tripping on rather than on the finish line where Jesus stands with outstretched arms to greet me and reward me for my faithful service?

Whatever you are struggling with today, God’s promises are not voided by your circumstances. No matter how long you have been in the middle of this hardship, God’s comfort is available. Your sins have been forgiven. In the mind of God your time has been served. The lessons He wants to teach you are being learned. You are becoming more and more like Jesus. Just keep your eyes on the finish line. Jesus will get you there!

Pastor John

 

 

 

God’s Word Stands Forever

Connecting Points

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Today’s Topic: God’s Word Endures Forever

Today’s Text: Isaiah 40:8 The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.

This will be the last official Connecting Points article….for a while. Not forever I hope, but who knows. Tomorrow is filled with meetings for me as I prepare to leave on Friday for the southernmost tip of Louisiana on a missions trip with 26 other people from my church. We’ve been going there ever since Hurricane Katrina, and there is still so much to be done. People are still living in their homes that are below sea level and were seriously damaged in the flooding. We have made a commitment to them that we will stand with them and work for them to restore their land, and we will be faithful to that promise.

God is faithful to His promises as well. What He has spoken cannot be undone. All around us everything that has been corrupted by sin is falling apart. Everything about this creation is deteriorating. But not the word of God. It stands forever.

For the next 10 days I am going to dive deep into the fortieth chapter of Isaiah. In its depths lie pearls of truth waiting to be retrieved, just like we will see oyster fishermen doing on the bayou. These are truths that never grow old, fade, or tarnish. They are the word of God, and they stand forever.

Today I challenge you to spend time in God’s word every day, and discover the wealth of wisdom for walking in the world. A walk in the Word is required for a walk in the world. Without the Word of God, we have nothing permanent or trustworthy to stand upon. It may seem that what we have built for ourselves in this world is trustworthy and sufficient, but it is not. Do not be deceived – everything in this world will pass away. It will fall apart. It will crumble. Only the Word of God stands forever.

I am excited to see what God brings out of my 10 day study in this chapter. Maybe while I’m gone I will get a chance to share some of it with you. If not, when I get back we will dive in together. In the meantime, start your own pearl-hunting adventure. See what gems God will give to you.

Pastor John

 

I Want To See God’s Glory

Connecting Points

Monday, March 14, 2011

Today’s Topic: God’s Glory Revealed

Today’s Text: Isaiah 40:3-5 A voice of one calling: “In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

How great is our God! His glory is being revealed.

Our choice of focus determines my attitude about those statements. Surrounded by hardships, tragedies, and negativity, it is easy to become discouraged and even depressed. Unfulfilled dreams become wet blankets thrown over the flames of faith. Personal failures force the pride of life to turn our attention inward in a misguided attempt to find pleasure in pity. Any and all of which turn our attention toward self and we miss seeing the glory of God.

That’s where I find myself today. The Enemy of my soul is attacking viciously in an attempt to turn my focus from the face of Jesus to fear generated by the following:

  • Worldwide tragedies of war and nature.
  • Economic hardships projected upon our personal finances, which I see causing us to consider stealing from God to pay our bills and fulfill our own dreams. At the minimum we choose not to give extra for the accomplishment of God’s vision for His kingdom purpose.
  • Hurtful words spoken by others become more believable than God’s Word as the statement of our worth.
  • Pride that turns the focus inward on personal pain rather than the pain we caused in others, hindering true repentance and forgiveness.

These are the things that oppose the glory of God in my life today. Yet I hear the voice of God calling out – Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it.

Oh that I might see the glory of God today. Reveal yourself, O Lord, in ways today that grab my attention and snap my head up to look at you.

Pastor John

 

 

Rightly Placed Faith

Connecting Points

Monday, March 07, 2011

Today’s Topic: Man’s Greatest Comfort

Today’s Text: Isaiah 40:1 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.

What does it take to make you feel comfortable? I’m not talking about your pillow-top bed or your LazyBoy recliner. I’m not referring to the temperature outside or inside. What is it that makes you feel comforted when all around you life is a mess? Where do you find your peace of mind when there is nothing but war around you – the war of words from people and the war of the worlds from an economic and political perspective as well as in the spiritual realm?

The reason we may not feel as comforted as we should is that we are so shallow. We are really in denial of how much our sinful nature continues to dominate our thinking and dictate our attitudes. We say we are people of faith and trust, but in what have we truly placed our faith? We may think we have placed it in God, but I suspect that most of us have misplaced our faith in the knowledge of God’s activity rather than in the knowledge of His character and nature.

If our faith is placed in the knowledge of God’s activity and plan for our lives, then we will never find true comfort in the storms of life. Our faith must be completely in the nature of God and His character, regardless of how much information he provides about His specific plans for our situation.

Many years ago I was in a 24 foot boat with outriggers crossing a five mile stretch of the Pacific Ocean in the Philippines. We were on our way home from an island where we had dedicated a new church. The wind was strong, blowing right down the straights. The waves were bigger than anything I had ever experienced. There was one question on my mind. I did not care how far it was to the shore. I did not care what direction we were traveling. I did not care how long it was going to take to get out of the waves. The only thing I cared about was whether or not the boat was strong enough to carry us through. The nature and character of the boat mattered more than anything else.

John Hannah,, writing in Preaching Today, tells this story:

My wife returned from a gynecologist’s appointment some years ago to say, “In my routine checkup today the doctor discovered a lump.” I knew what that could mean. At the time we had a four-year-old and a two-year-old. I said to myself, “How will I ever raise my daughters alone?” For six months I thought that, trying to be brave.

I would put my wife to bed and then go out into the living room and turn off the lights. In the darkness, with my Bible in my hand, I discovered the greatest comfort that can be given any man: not knowing that everything will be all right, but knowing that everything is under control.

What comforted me was not the answers—there were none—but the character of God. I realized that God cared for me. He cares for the mountain goats, and he cares for me. I found out that this world is not chaotic. He controls the behemoth and the leviathan. He is infinite God, and I am finite man.

So I could go to bed and rest, not in my knowledge, but in confidence in the character of God. He is good. He is infinite. He is full of mercy.

Comfort comes from rightly placed faith. Make sure your faith is not wrongly placed in human understanding of God’s plan, but in the knowledge of Who God is. That is the key to comfort.

Pastor John

Being Shortsighted

Connecting Points

Friday, March 04, 2011

Today’s Topic: Shortsightedness

Today’s Text: Isaiah 39:8 The word of the LORD you have spoken is good,” Hezekiah replied. For he thought, “There will be peace and security in my lifetime.”

Sorry this is late today. I have had some important meetings and more to come today. This will be brief. Don’t think it won’t be important. It has certainly been convicting to me.

Yesterday we talked about hindsight. Today I want us to look at being shortsighted. You know, looking at the immediate rather than the future. Now that’s an appropriate topic in this day of reduced wages, job layoffs, and higher gas prices.

Here’s the story form Isaiah 39: King Hezekiah decides to show off to the envoys from Babylon. He reveals to them the what he thinks is the glory of Israel – its wealth, technology, and military power. He does not reveal to them its true glory – the glory of God. Hezekiah needed affirmation and personal recognition, so he did what he thought was necessary to receive it – he showed off to visitors from another land.

As a result, God declared that the nation that he tried to impress would eventually use the information to overthrow Israel. His descendants, some not even born to him yet, would be taken captive. The nation would go into slavery and all its wealth would be carried off.

Now, here’s the shortsighted response of Hezekiah. In his mind he’s doing the math. Let’s see, I have fifteen years left to live. I am going to father some children. When Babylon attacks those children will be old enough to be taken as slaves. That means I will be already dead when this invasion occurs. Therefore, it doesn’t matter. There will be peace and security for me for as long as I’m alive and that’s all I care about.

What a horrible attitude. His choices and actions were going to result in the downfall of his country and the loss of his family, yet all he cares about is his immediate security. He had no concern for the future generations.

Before we get too hard on him, let’s take some time today to consider whether our political, financial, and even spiritual platforms are based on the same kind of shortsightedness.

Pastor John