Embrace New Things

Connecting Points

Friday, May 27, 2011

Today’s Topic:  Embrace the New

Today’s Text:  Isaiah 43:22   “Yet you have not called upon me…”

God is doing new things.

That’s scary to most of us. We don’t like new things. We want the comfort of the familiar.

God is doing a new thing at our church. Last night I had a meeting with several people from our worship ministry. Our staff Worship Director is leaving for another completely different ministry opportunity. God is doing something new in her life as she moves by faith into an area of ministry she is totally unfamiliar with. She will be stretched. She will grow. She will be missed here. She will be a blessing there.

Meanwhile, we have to figure out how to organize our worship ministry over the summer and decide what we will do for leadership in the future. For three months we have been advertising for a part-time worship director but so far have received only one response. Three major Midwest Christian college placements services have produced almost no options.

Dead end, right?

Wrong!

The temptation would be to try and find a solution in our own strength. But last night at our meeting we began with prayer, calling on the name of the Lord for wisdom and direction. Not just an obligatory prayer, but a heart-felt one: sincere and humble as we confessed our need of Him. We called upon Him.

There are various responses we make when God starts to do something new around us or in us:

  • We reject it. Maybe it’s too hard. Maybe it’s too uncomfortable. Maybe we don’t think we are ready.
  • We embrace it, but for the wrong reason. We take advantage of the benefits of the change for personal gratification only. We rarely give thanks because selfish convinces us that we deserved it.
  • We embrace it for the right reasons. We see the glory of God being revealed. We see the growth of our character through it so we become more like Jesus. We respond with gratitude to the One who would bless us so greatly with His goodness and grace. We come before Him and worship.

Every member of our worship ministry that attended the meeting last night stepped up to serve God in a fresh way. I was so blessed and encouraged. Is it going to look like it did for the past 6 months as Kristin led us? Probably not. Is it going to enrich our spirit of worship? That’s up to those who worship. They can embrace it as a new thing God is doing, or they can sit sad-faced and long for the good old days.

One of the most tragic statements in all of Scripture is the Word of the Lord from Isaiah 43:22. God has revealed new things to His people. He gave them a clear course to walk through the deserts of their lives, and provided fresh streams of refreshment for them in the wastelands of their experiences. The wild animals were blessed by the benefits and gave honor to God, and God fully expected that His people would give Him praise (verse 21). But they didn’t. They didn’t call on the God who gave it all to them. They gave God no thanks for the new things. They did what we do…they complained, and their complaining was seen by God as sin and it wearied Him (verse 24).

Embrace the new things God is doing. Be patient to see how His glory is revealed and how your growth is reinvigorated. Let’s reserve our judgments and complaints until we see the great things God does through these new things. Our pride in our way of doing it must be eliminated.  It must be replaced with praise that God has blessed us with a fresh anointing of His presence and power to accomplish His purpose.

Pastor John

Streams in the Wasteland

Connecting Points

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Today’s Topic:  Streams in the Wasteland

Today’s Text:  Isaiah 43:18-19  “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”

I am filled with rejoicing this morning. Last night I had the marvelous privilege under the direction of the Holy Spirit to meet with two people. One has known Jesus as Savior since childhood. The other thought he could get by on his good works and earn his way into heaven.

After ninety minutes of discussion, all three of us ended up on our knees before the Lord. The saved person realized how far she had drifted from living a life of love for Jesus, and recommitted her life to doing that and resting in His arms for all her needs. The unsaved man humbled himself before the Lord and surrendered his life. He accepted the forgiveness of Jesus and gave Him his life.

I am rejoicing this morning. The Lord has brought streams in the wasteland.

Pray for these two. They have a long and hard road ahead of them as they seek to trust the Lord and give up their self-produced comfort zones. But greater is He that is in them than he that is in the world. Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Pastor John

Refreshment

Connecting Points

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Today’s Topic:  Refreshing Relief

Today’s Text:  Isaiah 43:18-19  “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”

As a young boy I never got to drink soda pop. Then one day, when I was in sixth grade, I was at my grandpa’s house for a visit. I loved going there because of the creek and big trees behind the house where I could spend time alone in the woods. As I played there, I wandered along the creek and came to the house of a friend from the church. His dad owned some kind of a plumbing or electrical business, and outside was a pop machine – a coke machine to be specific.

My friend Tom asked me if I wanted one. I said yes, and he took two dimes out of his pocket and bought us each a six-and-a-half ounce real glass bottle of coke. It was cold, and the bottle began to sweat as the humidity in the air condensed on it. I took my first swig. Aaaaaah! How refreshing! To this day there is no better way to drink soda than from a cold bottle.

But there’s a life lesson in this as well. I’m not saying that the bottle of coke was transformational for me, but it does illustrate something that developed in my life as I grew up – I love new things. I love going new places, meeting new people, experiencing new things, and trying new methods. I love change. Sounds weird I know, but I love the risk and rewards of new things.

Last night my wife and I were discussing that. We were talking about our budget book, and why we used a four column ledger instead of a three column since we only need three columns. I told her that if we used a three column, then one column is always right next to the three rings of the binder and my hand has to take an awkward position to write because they are in the way. She laughed. She said things like that never bother her. She’s different than me, and that’s okay. In fact it’s pretty special. She’s content. I’m looking for improvement – sometimes to a fault.

I remember my dad telling me over and over again as a kid to be content. This idea of looking for new things and new ways was a problem for me. The Lord has helped me bring it under control through the fruit of the Holy Spirit, but I still like new things and new ways of doing things, and that’s okay. In fact, if we define contentment as never wanting anything new, we will miss some of the obvious things God is trying to do in and around us because He does new things.

In the beginning, God created new things. New living beings. New people. When Noah and his family got off the ark God told them they could eat meat. That was a new thing. Sometimes, as the nation of Israel was conquering the Promised Land, God told them to watch while He fought the battle, and other times He guided them as they fought. Sometimes they simply marched around a city and the walls fell down. New methods each time. Same God.

What have we been missing because we want things to stay the same? How many opportunities for walls to come tumbling down have been passed up in favor of traditional battle tactics? How many cold, sweating, refreshing bottles of coke remain unopened in favor of lukewarm Kool-Aid?

Come on. Open up to the new things God is doing. Your wasteland of tradition will soon turn into a beautiful garden watered by the new streams God put there just for you.

Pastor John

P.S.  Thanks Dad for letting me experience new things. I’m praying for you today as you walk along the new stream God has put in your life to help you through the wasteland of loss as you think about this day – the day you and mom were married 60 years ago.

Move On

Connecting Points

Monday, May 23, 2011

Today’s Topic:  Move On

Today’s Text:  Isaiah 43:18-19  “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”

Major League baseball season is under way, the Stanley Cup playoffs are in the semi-finals, and so are the NBA playoffs. Can anyone out there tell me who won the World Series last year? How about the Stanley Cup or the NBA Championship?  Are any of those same teams in the running again this year?

Many people pride themselves on their past victories, and they have a right to. I have trophies in my office from days long past and skills long lost. But to dwell on the past and believe that there is nothing more to be done is to put ourselves on the road to a meaningless existence. Resting on past accomplishments minimizes the chance of any future ones.

Don’t get me wrong – God requires memorials of His past victories in our lives. He told the Israelites to set up memorials at key times of their history. But now He tells them to forget those things and press on to the new things that He is going to do.

This teaching of the Lord has a spiritual and a corporal application. From a personal perspective many people, especially those of us who have surpassed the age of fifty, tend to spend far more time looking backwards at what we did and how we did it than we do looking forward to the adventure that God has planned ahead. We get stuck in our ways, and then get critical and bitter towards new people doing new things. This must not be!  God says, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.”

It happens corporally in the church as well. Too many times we hear the phrase “But we’ve never done it that way before.”  God says “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.”

Do you think for one iota of a nano-second that when God told the people to forget what He did at the crossing of the Red Sea that He was telling them to devalue it and consider it unimportant? No way! To do that He would have had to devalue Himself and admit He was wrong. God did what God did, and at that time it was great and good. But He would not do it that way again. He used part of the method the next time at the Jordan River, but not all of it. He adapted to new situations with new methods. That doesn’t mean the way He did it the first time was wrong. In fact, it was just the right way to do it for that time. Now it was a new time, and God was going to use new methods to reach His people.

This really speaks to me, both personally and pastorally. I need to meditate on this today and let the Lord show me if there is anything from the past that I am still holding on to because I believe for some reason it validates my life. I need to let the Holy Spirit tell me if there is any accomplishment or method from my past from which I receive my affirmation. Then I need to confess the idolatry of that, and surrender to the new things He wants to do in and through me.

Will you join me in that process of growth and healing today?

Pastor John

Wrong Eternity?

Connecting Points

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Today’s Topic:  Wrong Eternity?

Today’s Text:  Galatians 6:7-9  Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.   The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature  will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.

In the midst of a very busy schedule I must take a moment and challenge your thinking with something this morning. No explanations, just a thought provoking statement that I want you to contemplate.

As I was driving through the city yesterday I read something on a church sign that challenged my thinking. I know what the Pastor is trying to say, I think, and I want to give him the benefit of the doubt. But in reality the theology is all wrong. It seems to appeal to our culture’s desire to never be responsible for our own actions. Here’s the statement:

“Don’t end up in the wrong eternity.”

Here’s why I think that’s wrong – NO ONE ENDS UP IN THE WRONG ETERNITY. We all end up in the eternity we have chosen for ourselves.

Think about it.

Pastor John

Whose Thirst Matters

Connecting Points

Monday, May 16, 2011

Today’s Topic:  Whose Thirst Matters?

Today’s Text:  Isaiah 43:10  “You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from me there is no savior.”

I want to continue with some thoughts on the subject of God’s call on our lives to be His witnesses. It just so happens that in my current chronological study of the life of Jesus that I am doing for our Sunday worship services, we came yesterday to the story of Jesus meeting a Samaritan woman at a well. (John 4:1-30) Let me share with you the first three points that the Lord taught me about the model witness Jesus was.

First, as you may remember from the story, Jesus was on a trip from Judea to Galilee. Instead of going the traditional Jewish route which avoided any contact with the region of Samaria and/or Samaritan people, He intentionally went into the “forbidden” territory. Jesus was travelling, but His itinerary was scary.

It’s scary to intentionally go out witnessing. It’s scary just answering spiritual questions people ask us. But early in His ministry on earth and in the training of His disciples, Jesus modeled the priority of doing the Father’s will, which is to be a witness. It is what we have been called to do. It is our divine purpose. We are the ambassadors of Christ, bringing the message of reconciliation through the cross to the unsaved people of the world.

Jesus intentionally went to where the unsaved were. Not only did He choose to go into dangerous territory, but He put His own reputation at risk by communicating with a Samaritan woman – and an adulterous Samaritan woman at that. That was totally contrary to anything that a respectable Jewish man would do, let alone one who was proclaiming Himself to be the Jewish Messiah. But risk meant nothing to the Savior of the world when compared to the mission He had been assigned by the Father. Obedience to the Father and trust in His Sovereign grace was the priority of His life.

Are we willing to accept the call the go wherever God leads us to bring the Gospel to the lost? What does your itinerary look like today? Is it comfortable and controllable, or does it include something scary like sharing Jesus with an unsaved person?

Second, Jesus went to the well at a time of the day when He would meet someone who was rejected by the rest of society. The traditional time for the women of the city to go out to the well and draw water was early in the morning. They might also return in the evening. They never came at noon because it was too hot. Only the people who weren’t a part of the “in” crowd went to the well at other times. So it was with the woman Jesus met. Because of her marital and sexual immorality she had most likely been excluded from the circle of fellowship with the other women. Jesus went to a place where He would meet the worst that society has to offer.

How about us? Are we only comfortable sharing our faith with our peers, or will we intentionally go out of our way to meet the spiritual needs of the people commonly rejected by those in our social strata?

Third, Jesus asks the woman for a drink, fully intending to steer the conversation to the living water He had to offer her. I was blown away by something so simple yet so profound in this section of the story – Jesus NEVER got His drink of water. He was thirsty, but her thirst came first! He completely set aside any and all of His fleshly desires for the sake of fulfilling His purpose to be a witness to the woman of God’s salvation.

So again the questions pop into my mind. What desires do I have for my life that I have made a higher priority than being a witness? What am I thirsty for, and how many opportunities to be a witness have I missed because I am pursuing my physical or emotional thirsts rather than seeing the spiritual thirst of others?

CONVICTION…followed by repentance…followed by forgiveness…followed by a renewed commitment. That’s the plan for today.

Pastor John

Wonder, Worship, and Witness

Connecting Points

Monday, May 09, 2011

Today’s Topic:  Wonder, Worship, and Witness

Today’s Text:  Isaiah 43:10  “You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from me there is no savior.”

I love to take notes in my Bible. I don’t do it as much as I used to, but when the Lord teaches me something from His Word, it is appropriate for me to make a note of it in the margins. As I look through my Bibles from the past, I realize I should have been doing something more – I should have been writing down when and where I was when the Lord revealed that truth to me. It would be helpful to have the context of the Holy Spirit’s teaching to give me a deeper connection to it.

Such is the case this morning as we come to Isaiah 43:10-15. At some point in my study of this prophetic book the Lord showed me something very special that I have written down, but I don’t know when it was or what the circumstances were. Oh well. Such is the memory of an aging man. So there will be no funny stories and no personal anecdotes. Just truth. Plain and simple teaching. May the Holy Spirit add the flavor necessary for you to ingest it and digest it.

Notice first the wonder of who God is. There is no other God, nor will there ever be. There is no other Savior, nor will there ever be. He has revealed Himself, He has saved us, and He has proclaimed His purpose to us. Then as if it isn’t enough for us to see His splendor and majesty, He has told us that we can know Him, believe Him, and understand Him. What a wonder that is!

Then notice the worship of God. When we know Him we worship Him. We worship Him as our Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel. We worship Him our Lord and King. We worship Him as the eternal one, the ancient of days. Our worship is personal and intimate as God reveals Himself to us. He is our God, not just a god. The more we understand the wonder of God the more we will worship Him in the splendor of His majesty.

Finally, notice the witness for God. Worship is a witness. Worship motivates witnessing. God calls us witnesses. He call us to witness. We are witness of who He is and what He has done. He calls us to be unashamed to tell others everything we know about Him.

The wonder of God produces worship to God which produces witnessing for God.

Let that be the flavor of your life today and every day.

Pastor John