Can They Hear Him?

Connecting Points

Monday, April 30, 2012

Today’s Topic: Can They Hear Him?

Today’s Text:  Isaiah 65:1 (NIV)   “I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, ‘Here am I, here am I.’

Is it possible that there is a time limit on God’s grace?

Before you try to answer that, be advised that the question is fundamentally flawed. When we attempt to put any sort of human limitations like time and space on God then we have asked the wrong question. God is God because He never ceases to be perfect. He does not set aside justice to be merciful – He is both always. He doesn’t set aside love to judge sin and sinners – He is both always.

I know, pretty deep for a Monday morning, but stick with me. Beyond our understanding, God is eternally perfect, not limited as we are to time and space, and certainly not limited to single expressions of the heart. He is always fully God in every way all of the time.

But when God became incarnate in human existence in the life of Jesus, He took on time and space. The human race was able to see, for the first time, the full glory of God. It’s described for us in John 1:14 when the disciple Jesus loved wrote under the power of the Holy Spirit of God these words: The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Grace and Truth – the glory of God. Both always. In human time, He showed love to those who were lost, while showing truth to those who claimed to already know it. He spoke words of grace and compassion to the needy and spoke words of anger and judgment to those who were self-righteous. Different times – same Jesus who was God in human flesh. He was Truth when He showed Grace, and He was Grace when He spoke Truth.

Why have I spent time on this? Because God reveals to us today through the prophet Isaiah that from a human perspective there is a time coming for many people when God’s grace will come to an end. For now, though they reject Him, He is still making Himself available to them. Even though they do not ask for Him, He is still responding to them. When they are not looking for Him, He keeps showing up in their lives. He is offering His grace to them.

Read these words of grace from verses 2-5. All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations—a people who continually provoke me to my very face, offering sacrifices in gardens and burning incense on altars of brick;  who sit among the graves and spend their nights keeping secret vigil; who eat the flesh of pigs, and whose pots hold broth of unclean meat;  who say, ‘Keep away; don’t come near me, for I am too sacred for you!’ Such people are smoke in my nostrils, a fire that keeps burning all day.

God’s grace is being extended even to those who are in constant rebellion against Him. But the time is coming when He will manifest His judgment on them. Look at what else Isaiah says: “See, it stands written before me: I will not keep silent but will pay back in full; I will pay it back into their laps—both your sins and the sins of your fathers,” says the LORD. “Because they burned sacrifices on the mountains and defied me on the hills, I will measure into their laps the full payment for their former deeds.”

Do you see it? Do you see the truth that God is both always? While He is extending grace, it stands written before Him that He is also just, and will impose judgment on all those who have rejected Him.

Here’s your connecting point – the time of His judgment has not yet arrived. We are living in the age of grace. Yet we tend to seek justice before its time. We tend to be judgmental and critical rather than the expressions of grace and love. We who cannot be all things at all times as God is have chosen to be the wrong thing.

We are called to a mission to make disciples, expressing the love of God to a lost world that rejects Him. It is by our love for God and for one another that the world will know we are the followers of Jesus. Over and over again we are both commanded and encouraged to grow in love and grace, but never in judgment. It is time for us to rise up as the people of God reflect the current expression of God’s nature to the world around us. Let us boldly and courageously live according to the heart of our Lord so that it may be said of us –

To those who have not asked; to those who have not sought; to those who have rejected and rebelled; WE SHOWED THEM GOD’S GRACE AND LOVE.

Maybe then they will finally hear Him.

Pastor John

Love and Faithfulness

Connecting Points

Monday, April 23, 2012

Today’s Topic: Love and Faithfulness

Today’s Text:  Psalm 115:1 (NIV)   Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.

When was the last time you sang the children’s song Jesus Loves Me in church on a Sunday morning? For those of us at Calvary, it was yesterday. What an amazing day God orchestrated for us, from the break of dawn until after dessert. Let me tell you about it.

I tend to see God in the little things. I thank Him that I do. Back in January, when we began to see God start this latest move of His Spirit in our church, I was directed to Psalm 115:1 as the theme for our upcoming annual Jubilee celebration. We were beginning negotiations on the sale of our building as the Lord had brought us a buyer out of the blue. We had organized a building team to start the design work on our new building. God granted us the faith to step out and follow His clear direction, not for us or so that others would notice us, but for His glory based on His love and His faithfulness.

As plans continued to develop, the Lord began to move mightily in the hearts of people. We had multiple people saved and had ten baptisms in four weeks, with more planned in the next two months. Week after week the Lord was drawing new people to our church, and people’s lives were being connected to God in a deeper and more meaningful way through the ongoing discipleship ministries of the church.

It was obvious that the Holy Spirit was directing everything, because I was failing at communicating with the worship team about any themes or subject matter for my sermons. I’m terrible at planning out a sermon series beyond one or two weeks, but each week the worship ministry was and still is incredible – planned totally by men and women who are filled with the Spirit of God and are being used by Him to lead us into His Presence.

Yesterday was no exception. Yesterday was the day we had chosen for our Building on the Rock: Steps of Faith dessert banquet where we would ask God to open the floodgates of heaven on us and pour out a financial blessing that would allow us to continue to follow Him by faith into the new ministry center He has planned for us. The service started with a couple of great old hymns done with a contemporary flavor that celebrated our salvation. Then it happened. My heart was broken when we sang Unfailing Love, followed by Jesus Paid it All and Jesus Loves Me. Nothing captures my heart more than the love of God!

The Holy Spirit was in charge of everything in the service, including the clock. When I arrived at the church, I noticed that the clock placed on the back wall so that I have something to ignore was five minutes slow. So I got a ladder and fixed it. When we started the service two hours later, that clock was right on time. When I got up to preach it was right on time. When I got done preaching the clock was almost fifteen minutes slow. I thought I was quitting right on time, yet the Holy Spirit had kept us there an extra 15 minutes without my knowledge. I can’t wait to see what the Holy Spirit did in people’s hearts during that extra time.

Then came the afternoon dessert banquet. One of our Elders rose to speak a challenge from God’s Word to us all, and it was on the Holy Spirit chosen subject of faithfulness. In his mini sermon, he read from the book of Lamentations.  The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

Love and faithfulness. It was amazing, yet why should we be surprised. Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness. The Holy Spirit magnificently showed me that He is in the little things, right down to the individual choices made by multiple people so that everything reflects the unity of the Body of Christ. O how great it is to walk in fellowship with the Lord!

When the dessert banquet was over, the congregation rejoiced at the gifts that were given for the new ministry center. Not everyone from the church was there, so there are still more commitments to be made, but we are getting very close to having sufficient commitments to move forward. We believe that God will continue to provide. We have a signed purchase agreement on our current building. The building team is meeting Tuesday to interview potential contractors. The initial design of the building has been approved. This is a fearfully wonderful time, and we will proceed on this premise and promise –

Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.

Pastor John

Have It Your Way?

Connecting Points

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Today’s Topic: Have It Your Way

Today’s Text:  Isaiah 64:8 (NIV)   Yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.

Have it your way!

Now be honest, when you read that did you instantly think of Burger King? Did you immediately think that it was a statement directed at you and for you so that you can have your own way?

There is a huge difference in meaning when instead of being said to us this statement is said by us. Our pride demands that the statement be said to us. The heart of Christ in us compels us to say it – first to the Father, and then to others.

That’s all I’m gonna say today. Yep, shortest devotional ever – but I guarantee you that if you re-read Isaiah 64:8 and think about what I said, it will have a huge impact on your life.

Have it your way!

Pastor John

There’s Only One

Connecting Points

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Today’s Topic: No Other God

Today’s Text:  Isaiah 64:4 (NIV)   Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.

It’s still true today – since ancient times no one has heard about, heard from, nor have they seen any God besides YHWH – Jehovah – the One and Only God who exists as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Every proposed option is the fabrication of man’s imagination and designed as an imitation of the One and Only so that ultimately man can be his own god.

Need proof? Isaiah 64:4 offers it. God acts! He acts on behalf of those who wait for Him. No imaginary God can. For a time it may seem that our imaginary gods are acting on our behalf, but ultimately no action has taken place therefore no enduring benefit can be realized.

Our gods of resources, responsibilities, relationships, recreation, and religion produce only temporary satisfaction and fulfillment that never truly satisfy. But we are such creatures of the immediate that we are content with those temporary feelings and we embrace the false belief that we will somehow avoid the pain and loss that have been experienced by everyone else.

The reality is that there is eternal fulfillment for every soul that by faith surrenders to the One True God for salvation. Yet even those of us who have done that still struggle with the need for immediate gratification. We have acceptance issues. We have value doubts. We have personal ambitions that we believe will compliment what God has given and supplement what He hasn’t.

But God acts on behalf of those who wait for Him. We are not good at waiting. We want what we want when we want it. Yet God says some things are worth waiting for. The apostle Jesus loved was directed by the Holy Spirit to write these words: It does not yet appear to us what we shall be, but we know this, that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.

We work so hard at our appearance in this world, when what we should be waiting for is our God’s glorious appearance. Why is it that how we appear now is so important when that will all be changed when we see the One whose appearance we will become? There is only one appearance that we should desire right now, and that is to be the reflection of our Savior’s appearance. Then, when He returns and we see Him as He is, our transformation into His appearance will be an easy step rather than a shock to us.

We all have other gods we have chosen to fulfill some need we believe we have. They are all a product of our imagination based on what we believe is best for us. We are our own gods, and it will end badly. Today, get rid of the idols you have determined bring value to your life, and trust the One True God to totally satisfy and fulfill you. He is acting on your behalf if you choose to wait for the eternal good He has in store. Let the world see that your appearance is nothing but a reflection of Jesus.

Pastor John

Where Do You Stand?

Connecting Points

Monday, April 16, 2012

Today’s Topic: Where Do You Stand?

Today’s Text:  Isaiah 64:1 (NIV)   Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you!

My wife is a wonderful seamstress. When our kids were little she made them a lot of clothing. Now she’s doing it for the grandchildren. She even does it for the granddaughter’s dolls.

Years ago, when the kids were small and I was in business, I was the manager of a retail department store while the Lord was training me for ministry. There was a fabric department in the store. Bolts of fabric would come in on the truck, and it seemed like all the seamstresses in town knew our shipping schedule. No sooner did we have the material on display than the department would be filled with women searching for just the right fabric to sew into a new garment for their kids or even themselves.

One table in the department was reserved for remnants. Whenever a bolt of fabric would be sold off to the point where less than two yards were left, we would mark down the price and put it on the remnant table. The fabric left on the bolt was just as good as the previously sold yardage, but the limited quantity also limited the available applications. The remnant was a small reminder of a previous abundance.

That’s the picture we have in the sixty-third chapter of Isaiah. I would really encourage you to spend a few minutes right now and read it. Isaiah 63:7-19

Did you see the remnant? The nation is in shambles. (vs. 18-19) They have rebelled against the Lord God. (vs. 10) Throughout their history God has revealed His glory to them. ( vs. 11-14) But in the midst of the dark days of the present, there arose a remnant that recognized their Redeemer. (vs. 16) Now their hearts are crying out to God for His return and His deliverance. (64:1)

I believe that we are living in a world that is on the precipice of prophetic fulfillment. Soon the remnant of those who truly believe that Jesus is the Messiah will begin to grow. Already there are organizations like the Israel Mandate that are committed to bringing the truth of the Gospel to the Jewish nation. Their mission statement says,

We believe we are living in a time of prophetic fulfillment. We have seen the return of the Jewish people to their homeland – Israel’s physical return to the Land – in preparation for Israel’s spiritual return to the Lord. We believe Israel’s spiritual revival will release world revival resulting in world redemption through Messiah’s return. We believe the day is coming when national Israel will say, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” We therefore commit ourselves to participate in the fulfillment of God’s promises to his people Israel and invite others who share this vision to join with us.

Two things are certain from the prophecies of God’s Word: Jesus is coming back and the nation of Israel will be the political, spiritual, and economic capital of the world; and before He does return, we will see a great falling away from the Gospel by the people of the world and the true followers of Jesus being identified and persecuted for their faith that stands opposed to the cultural consensus of humanism.

I thank God that I live in this day, and that the Lord has chosen to pour out His Spirit on our church so that the Gospel is having a profound and eternal effect on people’s lives. I praise God that there is a remnant being identified that, while small and seemingly with limited applications, has the power of the resurrected Christ to exalt the glorious name of Jesus Christ. I am humbled that He has chosen to use our weaknesses to magnify His strength. I am honored to be surrounded by so many who have also chosen to set aside all of their earthly pursuits for the sake of the Gospel of salvation by grace through faith in the resurrected Lord.

May I implore you to consider the call of Jesus Christ to true discipleship? With the love of Christ compelling me and the Holy Spirit empowering me, I challenge you to consider your connection to the kingdom of this world and repent. I urge you, my brothers and sisters in Christ, to place your total faith and confidence in Jesus Christ alone that He can and will provide every one of your needs if you once again permit Him to be the priority of your love. I beg you as a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to reflect on your family life, and the priorities you are teaching to your children about dependence on the world’s activities to provide personal and emotional value. I charge you, as Paul charged Timothy, to not have a form of godliness without the power of it to transform your life.

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.

I implore you to be identified with the remnant of those who will stand apart from their culture and remind it of what once was and is coming again!

Pastor John

 

There is Hope

Connecting Points

Friday, April 13, 2012

Today’s Topic: Hope for the Future

Today’s Text:  Isaiah 63:8 (NLT)   He said, “They are my very own people. Surely they will not be false again.” And he became their Savior.

“And He became their Savior.”

Excuse me while I look for my socks, because they have just been blown off. It’s a little hard to walk around because my world has been rocked.  I’m floppin’ around like a scared bird whose cage has been rattled. STOP!

Seriously, I am overwhelmed with that statement. Think about it. They had rebelled. They had committed spiritual adultery by embracing idolatry. They had become completely self-centered and self-serving. They manipulated the laws of God to serve their own purposes. To remove guilt and shame they indulged in every form of pain relief known to man. They were drunkards, drug addicts, sex addicts, rapists, and murderers. They offered their children as human sacrifices to false gods. They were corrupt to the core.

Yet God said, “They are my very own people. Surely they will not be false again.” And he became their Savior.

On Sunday, for the third time in four weeks, the baptistery at our church will be filled and people will be symbolizing their death to sin and their resurrection to new life in Christ by being baptized by immersion. Let me tell you about two of them.

He’s an ex-con, released from jail recently. She was totally opposed to anything spiritual. They hooked up after he got out of jail and now have a beautiful set of twin daughters. They are not married – yet. After investing time and love into them, a young married couple from our church invited them to come see the movie Courageous. The next day they were in church. At the conclusion of the service, I couldn’t give an invitation to salvation fast enough, and both of them responded in faith to the offer of God’s grace. He became their Savior.

That was two weeks ago. On Sunday the husband of the couple who brought them to the Lord for salvation will have the honor of baptizing them. Our congregation will shout and praise the Lord. We will rejoice, because once again we have seen the power of Jesus Christ to save. No matter how bad the past, there is a Living Hope for the future.

Maybe it’s time for you to finally see the love that God has for you. Maybe it’s time to realize that the affirmation you have been searching for is found in the words of the Lord when He says, “Surely they will not be false again.” Maybe now is the time to trust the One who gave His life in exchange for you when He died on the cross as the ultimate expression of God’s love. That’s how much He loves you.

There is hope for you, no matter where you are or what you have done. God is not counting the number of failures; He’s planting the seed of faith in your heart right now so He can guarantee your future.

Isn’t it time to trust Him to be your Savior?

Pastor John

Computer Upgrades

Connecting Points

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Today’s Topic: Computer Upgrades

Today’s Text:  Isaiah 63:7 (ESV)   I will recount the steadfast love of the Lord, the praises of the Lord, according to all that the Lord has granted us…

My memory is changing.  I feel like an obsolete computer that’s in need of a major upgrade. My hard drive has become fragmented, and access to the filing system is substantially slower than it used to be. When I finally do locate the file, it is corrupted and unreadable.

Yet some parts of this change are very good. I have discovered that the first files to become corrupted are the ones containing all the bad memories of life. I had a specific password-protected folder named “Hurts and Hard Feelings” and I’m having a terrible time remembering the password. It used to be the first folder to be opened every day. Now it’s hard to get into it at all.

Yesterday in fact, as my wife was going through a bunch of old paperwork in our office, she showed me a letter I had written to a church that had deeply hurt me in the past. As I read the letter I tried to access the HHF folder and couldn’t. Instead, I saw the glory of God’s work to refine me and mature me into the Pastor I am today.

Several years ago I ran a diagnostic check on my filing system. I discovered that the corrupted files were not being repaired or deleted. I checked my Virus Protection Software and discovered a setting I never knew was there before. There’s an option in the Program that allows It to automatically repair and/or delete corrupted files.

When I first set the computer up with the new Operating System I remember hearing about this feature, but never turned it on. I was afraid that it would delete things in those files that I might need to access at a later date. I really believed that information might be able to be used to my advantage in the future. Little did I know that the viruses in those files would slowly infect all of the other files in my system as well.

So I turned on the Automatically Repair or Delete feature in my Virus Protection Software. My HHF folder is almost empty. The Virus Protector is working. There are days when I want to put a file in there, but the VP has changed the password and I cannot even save the file. And when I try to save it to a different location, the VP brings up a dialogue box and asks me if I really want to save this corrupted file to my computer. Then, even on the days when I really want to save it and click “Yes”, the Operating System shuts down until I authorize the VP to scan and clean my computer.

I am amazed at how well my computer is running these days since I downloaded and accepted all of these manufacturer’s recommended updates. Now when I wake up every morning, my mind is filled with memories of the steadfast love of the Lord rather than the events filed in the HHF folder. The Virus Protector is constantly scanning my computer for any downloads or inputs that will harm the Operating System.

So you see, loss of memory can be a good thing. However, don’t wait for the memory system to start to deteriorate to experience the benefits of lost files. Let go of the control of your filing system, and turn on the automatic features in your Virus Protection Software. Then you can start experiencing the full benefits of your upgraded Operating System.

Pastor John

 Footnotes for the computer illiterate:

  • Hard Drive = Brain
  • Operating System = The New Life of Christ born in us when we were saved
  • Virus Protection Software = The indwelling Holy Spirit