He’s Here!

Connecting Points

Friday, December 23, 2011

Today’s Topic: He’s Here!

Today’s Text:  Isaiah 56:1 “This is what the LORD says: “Maintain justice and do what is right, for my salvation is close at hand and my righteousness will soon be revealed.”

God established a connecting point. Since the Garden of Eden there had not been one. Oh, there were numerous events where God allowed sinful mankind to approach Him, hear Him, and obey Him, but He had not yet established a point in time where people could be reconciled to Him permanently. Man was separated from God by his sin, and could do nothing about it. All of human history prior to this one event was preparation time for that problem to be fixed. It had been proclaimed prophetically for thousands of years. Now it was here.

Seven hundred years before it happened, the Prophet Isaiah declared that it was close at hand and ready to be revealed. Salvation was near. God would soon be with us, making it possible for Him to be in us. God established a connecting point.

It was a two-part plan. First, God would connect with us. God would become one of us. The angel announced it to shepherds on the hillsides of Bethlehem. “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” God connected with us.

The second part of the plan was to establish a place where we could connect with God. That place is called Calvary. It is where Jesus died on the cross as one of us, yet undeserving of death because He was also sinless God. He became our sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus paid the price of death so that we, through repentance from our sin and belief in Jesus as our Savior, could be saved from our sin and given the gift of eternal life. To confirm the gift and its payment, God resurrected Jesus from the dead. God established a place where you and I can make a permanent connection to Him.

That’s what Christmas is all about. ALL about! Everything we do at this season – the gifts, the family, the friends, the food, the football – is ALL about God establishing a connecting point with us. Take all the fluff away, and I will still joyously proclaim “He’s Here!” I need nothing else to be able to say it is the best Christmas ever!

Thanks for the Connecting Point God!

Pastor John

P.S.  Sit down with your kids and watch this sometime this weekend. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v__QaCsdvQk

Switching Teams?

Connecting Points

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Today’s Topic: Which Team Are You On?

Today’s Text:  Isaiah 56:1 “This is what the LORD says: “Maintain justice and do what is right, for my salvation is close at hand and my righteousness will soon be revealed.”

I know – you are probably very tired of sports analogies, but I must do this because it is a good illustration of the truth God has placed in my heart this morning.

In my closet are five articles of clothing that represent the football team I support. Now for those of you with humorous minds, I know what you are thinking. “And that’s where they should stay.” But I don’t have them to hide them. I wear them. In fact, it is so well known that I am a fan of this team that even when I wear that color of clothing without any reference to the team on it, people make comments about my team. It happened last Sunday at church when I wore a purple sweater.

In the past few years, when another team that is popular in this area has played for the championship, I have supported my friends by wearing the colors of their team. One year I even wore an official team jersey of that color to a church event. The people who saw me when I came in with that jersey on were shocked. They were confused. They knew that I was taking a stand for something that I had never supported before. I felt out of place. It was awkward. They had no reason to believe that I was being sincere, for there had been no past experience upon which they could base their trust.

Soon and very soon the Salvation of the Lord will be upon the earth. Soon God’s righteousness will be revealed by the Righteous One appearing on the earth to establish His kingdom. It will be a kingdom ruled with justice and perfect righteousness. The weak will be made strong. The poor will have all their needs met. Victims will cease to be victimized and every act of sin will be exposed. Hate will disappear in the presence of perfect Love.

When all this happens, what will the people of the world say about you and me?

  • Will they know that we have been consistent supporters of God’s kingdom?
  • Will they recognize the banners now flying over the earth because they have seen us wearing the same colors proudly every day?
  • Will they be thankful for the foundation that we laid in their lives and in our culture that prepared the way for the King to take His throne?
  • Or will they wonder with good reason why at the last minute it appears we are switching teams?

Think on these things.

Pastor John

The Great Creator

Connecting Points

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Today’s Topic: Get Wet

 

Today’s Text:  Isaiah 55:12-13 “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.  Instead of the thornbush will grow the pine tree, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the LORD’S renown, for an everlasting sign, which will not be destroyed.”

This morning I am in awe of the immensity of God. Never mind that in my mind I know the fact that He is limitless – today my heart has captured it in a fresh way.

I saw this picture in a National Geographic magazine this morning while I was waiting for my car to be finished at Aerco Auto Body. Take a look:

This is a centuries-old supernova remnant. Its rose-tinted shock wave is blasting outward at more than 11 million miles an hour. It hangs in the Large Magellanic Cloud orbiting the Milky Way like an iridescent holiday ornament.

When I read the description of this picture, and saw that for several hundred years the shock wave of this exploding star has been travelling at 11 million miles an hour I was blown away. My mind cannot comprehend how big the universe is that God created and He holds in the palm of His hand.

For example, let’s just randomly assign an explosion time of 200 years ago; it could be older than that. Let’s see – 24 hours in a day times 365 days in a year times 200 years equals one million seven hundred fifty two thousand hours. That means the rose-tinted ring has already traveled over 19 trillion miles. Yet when you look at the picture, the ring has not yet reached the nearest neighbor stars. The heavens truly declare the glory of the Lord.

This is really significant today as we consider the closing verses of Isaiah fifty-five. They put a cap on several chapters of Messianic promises concerning the restoration of Jerusalem after its abandonment and destruction caused by the people’s sins which led them into captivity. God says that the day is coming when the people will return to the city in renewed glory, and when they do they will go out in joy be led forth in peace. Everything in nature will burst forth into praise to the Lord, and what had once been a land filled with thorns and thistles will now be a land of productivity and promise.

As I thought about that, and looked at the picture again, I realized that the thorns and thistles of my life that are so burdensome to me are less than specks to an awesome God who holds the universe in His hands. The problems of my life are not worthy to be compared to the glory that will be revealed in me when Jesus returns. We have the certain hope – the guarantee of God – that everything we consider hardship right now will be replaced with joy and peace when God finishes His work in us.

Just think – God’s Star exploded on earth 2000 years ago. The shockwave of His glory is filling the earth. You can see it. You can know it. You can live in it. Let everything in your life come under its influence. Don’t let the thorns and thistles speak. Instead, let every part of your life burst into song – Joy to the world, the Lord has come! After all, God is bigger than any problem you have.

Pastor John

Get Wet!

Connecting Points

Friday, December 16, 2011

Today’s Topic: Get Wet

Today’s Text:  Isaiah 55:10-11 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Even when it’s not raining, we tend to carry umbrellas.

What a strange way to start a devotional. But think about it. The reason we carry an umbrella when it’s raining is so that we won’t get wet. We have big ones attached to our golf bags and little ones stashed in the pocket on the back of our car’s front seat. We have them leaning against the wall next to the door of our house, and we even carry built in umbrellas called hoods attached to the collar of our jacket. We don’t want to get wet. Wet is uncomfortable. Wet is cold. We want to stay dry and warm. Hooray for umbrellas!!!

Unfortunately we have carried our love of umbrellas into the spiritual realm. You see, just as it is impossible to not get wet when you stand unprotected in the rain, it is equally impossible to not get wet when exposed to the Word of God. But that makes us uncomfortable, so we put up our spiritual umbrellas.

We sit in church listening to the message from the Lord, and whenever the Word of God starts to makes us uncomfortable, we pop up an invisible yet very real umbrella to protect us from the conviction.

We put up umbrellas of many styles and colors, representing a variety of personal interests and objectives, but they all have the same purpose – to keep us dry and comfortable in our present little world of experience. We have them stored all over our lives, so that at any moment we can pop one up to protect us from any rain that might fall. Every umbrella is designed to distract us from the reality of the rain that is falling around us. Up it goes and off we go into our own little thought world of self-indulgence, seemingly protected from the shivers of self-examination.

Yet the benefit we think we are receiving by staying dry is actually leading to our demise. The shivers we are avoiding are actually making us shrivel. It is when we get wet that we flourish. It is the rain of God’s Word that produces fruit. When we are saturated with the rain of God’s truth we are able to see God accomplish His purpose in us.

We are stained people. Stained with sin. We must get wet to be washed. That is why Jesus came to earth, to wash us in the water of God’s Word. He uses the Apostle Paul to tell us that in Ephesians 5, where God says, Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing  her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

You and I cannot be holy, stainless, unwrinkled, and blameless if we don’t let ourselves get wet. We must take down our umbrellas and let the water of the Word wash us. Every stain needs a good soaking. Every protective covering we have put on or put up to shield us from the rain of God’s Word must be removed. We must do what little children do when it rains – take off all our clothes and run naked in it, letting it soak every part of us. Our shields – our umbrellas – will never do what God’s Word can do. As Agur, the author of Proverbs 30:5 says, Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.

In my church there is a dear old saint who comes to me consistently after worship and shakes my hand. As she does, she says these words – Thank you for washing me in the Word today.

She has no umbrellas. She’s ready for rain.

Pastor John

 

 

Trust

Connecting Points

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Today’s Topic: Making Sense

Today’s Text:  Isaiah 55:8-9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

We have a family game that I have only played twice. It is a game that doesn’t make sense. Each player is required by chance to do some strange things that are seemingly disconnected from the ultimate goal of winning. I can’t even tell you if there is a way to declare a winner or not. I’m sure there is, but the nonsensical nature of the game detracts from winning. That’s really the point of the game, but it is very hard for me to adjust to that. I am outcome driven, and the process to the outcome has to make sense.

How many times have you heard the statement, “That makes no sense?” I’ve said that at times. I’ve had that said to me many more times. It is especially true when it comes to listening to God. I’ve said it to Him way too much.

God is really working on me in this area. He is filling my mind with tough questions.

  • What is it about ‘My grace is sufficient for today’ that you don’t understand?
  • What kind of faith do you have if you need to know everything before acting on what I said?
  • Why do you think it has to make sense to you?
  • Do you really think you can be that much like me?
  • Do you really trust me?

That last question is the toughest for me. I know how untrustworthy my heart is, and I transfer that distrust to my heavenly Father. I know how manipulative I can be based on my motivation to serve self. I transfer those qualities onto others and believe they are doing that to me. I know how much pride I take in how many answers I have and how much I can get done. I dare to stand in the presence of Almighty God and demand to know.

I am going to have a tough day today. These thoughts are going to pound on me until I learn to trust the truth of Isaiah 55:8-9. Unless I crucify my pride, my ways will always be higher than His ways, and my thoughts will always be higher than His thoughts. I will consider myself first and Him last unless I surrender my need to know. I will fall flat into failure when I live life according to what makes sense, when I could fly into fullness of faith by following the Father even when it makes no sense.

This is my goal – to use the statement “That makes no sense” as the starting gun to a race of faith, rather than a hurdle over which I stumble. When God speaks, and it makes no sense, then I will know I am exactly where God can use me the most.

To help me trust God more, I’ve written a little acrostic for the word trust. Maybe it will help you too.

The

Rational

Understanding

Surrendered

Totally

 

Pastor John

 

The Games People Play

Connecting Points

Friday, December 09, 2011

Today’s Topic: Hide and Seek

Today’s Text:  Isaiah 55:6-7 Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near.Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

In 1969 an entertainer named Joe South recorded a song that became a hit in the world of secular music. It was called The Games People Play, and won two Grammy awards. If you are interested here is a link to the lyrics. If read them carefully you will see some truth to what he is saying – that we play games with one another and have fallen victim to pride and vanity. It is basically a protest song against hate, hypocrisy, and intolerance. But there is also a deep current of humanistic thought running through the song. Essentially it says that each of us is to be content with who we are and not let anyone, especially Christians, influence us to change. All change is a game we play, and God is only there to grant us the serenity to remember who we are and be content with that.

One of the games we play so well with each other is Hide & Seek. It’s a childhood game that has become a childish game played by adults. We mostly play the hide part as we seek to be undiscoverable by others. We hide our true feelings. We hide our true intentions. We hide our true thoughts. We hide behind psychological trees we think are big enough to completely protect us from view. We dare not let anyone get to close or we may even try to run to a new hiding spot without being seen. We must not let anyone see us for who we really are.

The motivation for finding a good hiding place as a child is so that we won’t be found first because that would make us “it”, and no one wants to be “it”. No one wants to be the seeker. It’s no different for adults. We have avoided being the seeker since the very first sin. When Adam and Eve experienced the guilt and shame of sin for the very first time, the game of Hide & Seek began. They first tried to hide behind tree leaves. Then, when they heard the Seeker coming, they hid themselves more thoroughly in and amongst the lush growth of the garden. They did not want to be found.

They had good reason to not want to be found – they were guilty and deserved punishment. It’s that same sense of guilt and deserved punishment that drives us to hide today. We hide our guilt from others, but more significantly we attempt to hide our guilt from God.

I remember a time when I was a child playing this game in the woods of Michigan with a group of friends. The hiding place I found was so good that they never found me. I waited there for a long time, relishing in the pride of my hiding ability, until it started to get dark. So I wandered out of that place, carefully making sure no one saw me to protect the location for future use, and I walked back to my friend’s house. They were all inside playing. They had stopped looking for me. I had to look for them. They had not reported me lost, they just went on with their lives. Ouch! Eventually all hiding ends in loneliness.

It is time for the hider to become the seeker. The days of hiding are done. It is time to be found. The guilt and shame that motivate your hiding can be gone. All you have to do is choose to be “it”. God wants you to play the seeker role, and find Him. He is not hiding from you. He is not waiting to punish you because He already punished His Son for you. He will have mercy on you. He will pardon you. Open your heart. Expose the darkest parts of your life to the Light of God’s grace. For when you find Him, the games are over.

Pastor John

An Invitation

Connecting Points

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Today’s Topic: Come!

 Today’s Text:  Isaiah 55:1-2  “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.  2 Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.”

On June 19, 2000, then Presidential candidate Dick Cheney held a $2,500-per-plate fundraising dinner for the upcoming election campaign. Among those who received an official invitation was an inmate in an Ohio federal penitentiary.

Imagine how the prisoner felt when he received that invitation. Is this for real? Will I actually be released for the event? Why would I be invited? What does Mr. Cheney see in me?

That’s how I feel when I read Isaiah 55:1-2. Has there ever been a better invitation sent out than this one? I was a prisoner of my sin. I was unable to pay for it. I had wasted all of my resources on things that never satisfied me. Then Jesus said, “Come! What I have for you is worth more than you could ever afford, but I will give it to you free. Come, and you will be satisfied.”

My friend, this is the invitation of Jesus to you today. Come! Accept His gift of salvation, and your soul will be released from the prison of sin.

You may ask, “How?”  Here’s what God says you must do:

  • Admit you are thirsty. Embrace the longing of your soul for satisfaction.
  • Admit you are poor. Confess to God that you have no options left to satisfy yourself and that you cannot afford the gift He is offering.
  • Repent (turn your back on) of all your past efforts to satisfy yourself.
  • Turn to Jesus and listen to what He says. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”
  • Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved! Put your trust in His death and resurrection as the full payment for your sin, and God will give you eternal life!

The invitation has been sent. How will you respond?

Pastor John