Our Highest Priority

Connecting Points

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Today’s Topic: Press On To Know the LORD

Today’s Text:  Hosea 6:3 (ESV)  Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.”

This morning I am overwhelmed with this simple yet profound thought – I am privileged to know the LORD personally and intimately! My passion to press on to know is completely satisfied in the privilege of knowing Jesus Christ as Savior and LORD. As a result, I choose to make that my constant priority.

Let’s review the progression of truth in this incredible passage of Scripture:

  1. We press on – it is our passion, regardless of the pain it involves, to press on toward the prize of the high calling we have in Christ Jesus.
  2. We press on to know – it is our privilege to be able to know. We have been created in the image of God with the ability to reason – to think rationally. Praise God for this privilege.
  3. We press on to know the LORD – it is our priority to use the privilege of knowledge to know the Lord Jesus Christ intimately as Savior and LORD.

Many times privilege is taken for granted and ceases to be a priority. The value of privilege is diminished by time and choice. The passion to pursue the fullness of the privilege is lost and replaced with what we think are more significant, meaningful, and rewarding objectives, usually based on nothing more than a deep need for immediate gratification. Oh how quickly we turn from the priority of our privilege to know the LORD to the priorities of life as we assign value to their importance.

Once there was nothing, followed by everything being spoken into existence by the voice of Almighty God. Beyond the limitations of what we can see and know is the One True God of eternity, with no beginning and no end, no boundary or limitation, and with no need of anything outside of Himself for His sustenance. His knowledge is limitless, His power cannot be diminished with time or exertion, and His presence is not limited to time and space. His thoughts are beyond our thoughts, and His ways, plans, and purposes are beyond our understanding. He answers to no one, seeks the counsel of no one, and needs to approval of no one. He exists as One God in three persons – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit – each one fully and completely God in Himself, a mystery that is received by faith in the Word of all three and yet unexplainable in human understanding.

Yet – oh the glory of this thought – God has made Himself known to us and has invited us to know Him! How long has it been since we have basked in the splendor of that privilege? And if indeed we say we believe that He is all that He is defined to be in the Bible, then why is the privilege of knowing Him not our highest priority? Why have we replaced Him with things that are less than Him? Why do we press on to know more about financial freedom, job security, personal relationships, sports, politics, business, or any other secular and social pursuit when we have the privilege of pressing on to know the LORD of all those things? We are settling for less than our privilege permits.

We are living beneath our privilege. We have forsaken our first love. We have set as the priority of our lives the pursuit of this life rather than the eternal life we have been granted in Jesus Christ. We who were created in God’s image for God’s glory, sacrifice that glory for the temporal benefits of sin. Yet God, in His infinite grace and love has extended Himself to us in Jesus Christ, to reconcile our relationship and offer us restoration of intimacy. We have the privilege – how glorious this thought and yet how indescribable it is – we have the privilege of pressing on to know Him in a personal, intimate, and fulfilling relationship that provides all that we need for life and eternity.

My friends, I am writing in tears. My LORD and Savior Jesus Christ, God’s revelation of Himself to sinful mankind, was sent to earth to reconcile us to God through His own sacrifice for sin on the cross. He has guaranteed us permanent relationship with the Father through His resurrection from the dead. Yet we press on to know the world more than we press on to know Him. We have lost the passion of our privilege. May this not remain true any longer!

Intellectually or Relationally?

Connecting Points

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Today’s Topic: Press On To Know

Today’s Text:  Hosea 6:3 (ESV)  Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.”

Let’s do a little mental exercise. Finish this sentence – I have an insatiable need to _____________.

I can only imagine some of the answers that are coming from all of you. Finish first. Make money. Be successful. Find love. Be known. That last one is the one I spend the most energy trying to resist. The answer that best describes me is know. For as long as I can remember I have had an insatiable need to know everything I can about everything that is relevant to my life.

As a child, I took things apart to see how they worked and to challenge myself to make them work again. I investigated everything I was told to seek to understand the truth of it. I took classes in high school specifically to learn everything I could about electronics and how radios and televisions worked. (Yes, they were color by then, but we owned a black & white.)  I tore lawn mower and car engines apart to learn how they worked. Don’t leave anything broken lying around, because if I have time, I will attempt to fix it. I read instruction manuals. I read rules for games before playing them. I have an insatiable need to know.

However, that need to know is my biggest flaw in my spiritual life. Why? Because the need to know seems to get stuck in the intellectual mode most of the time rather than in the relational mode. That’s not healthy.

It is one thing to seek to know about God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but it is quite another thing to press on to know Him personally. Those of us who get stuck in the intellectual mode have a serious problem, because that’s the Devil’s territory. The Apostle Paul reminded us of this in his letter to the church at Corinth when he said, “We know that ‘all of us possess knowledge.’ This ‘knowledge’ puffs up, but love builds up.” (1 Corinthians 8:1) Herein lays the contrast between pride and love – the intellectual versus the relational. People who know a lot about God tend to become judgmental and critical of others who don’t “measure up”. People who know God are filled with the nature of Christ – compassion, love, joy, and peace.

Last night at 2:00 AM I woke up from an intense dream. I cannot tell you what it was about, but my whole body was on the verge of quivering with tension. It took me a long time to go back to sleep. During the first period of time I was awake I thought about how to get back to sleep. I searched my memory for tricks I had used in the past. Then I started trying to figure out how to solve many of the issues that were on my list of responsibilities. I figured that as long as I was awake I might as well put my mind to good use and fix some problems.

But oh how I wanted to sleep. Finally I realized that what was needed was some relational time with the Lord, so I started praying; not for solutions or answers but for intimacy with my Lord. I wanted to know His peace that passes all understanding. I wanted to know His love and His care for me. I pressed on to know Him, not to know what He could do for me or what I should do for Him. That’s the last thing I remember until I woke up at 5:30.

So as you try to figure out what your greatest need is, and what you will press on to achieve, think about this: an insatiable need to know the Lord relationally and personally will satisfy all of your other needs.

Press on to know the LORD!

Pastor John

Press On Passionately

Connecting Points

Monday, February 25, 2013

Today’s Topic: Press On

Today’s Text:  Hosea 6:3 (ESV)  Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.”

I am still being showered with the blessings of our Jubilee worship service yesterday. Every part of the service displayed God’s handiwork. He completely directed our attention to himself from the very beginning when our media computer crashed. We adjusted our schedule, turned our eyes on Jesus, and proceeded to worship from our hearts without dependence on multi-media assistance.

The testimonies of people who have been touched by the discipleship ministries of Calvary were incredible. What an encouragement to hear how God is personally at work in so many lives! We were blessed yesterday to hear a variety of sermons.

When it came time for me to share what God had laid on my heart from our theme verse in Hosea, we were already well past the normal ending time of our worship services. So a condensed version was presented under the power of the Holy Spirit. So for the rest of this week, I am praying that the Lord will expand our understanding of the four truths that were introduced yesterday as we dive deeper into them in these devotionals.

The first point from Hosea 6:3 is based on the words “Press On.” This is to be our passion. Have you ever thought about what the word passion means? For most of us it has an emotional context. We think of passion in terms of intense desire for things or goals. We equate passion with love – from love of things to love of people to love of activities. While all of these applications of passion have some validity, did you know that the word passion primarily means suffering, yet according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary that meaning is obsolete? Culture has re-defined the word passion from its original roots to something more definitive of man’s fleshly desires.

True passion originated in the Bible. Our English word passion is the translation of the Greek word paskho, and is translated 39 times in the New Testament as suffering. That’s why the time of our Savior’s life between His arrest and His resurrection is called the passion of Christ.

So what does this mean for us today? Pressing on requires the courage to suffer for what one believes in. There is no true passion in a person’s life without the willingness to suffer as they press on to achieve what they believe in.

A rock-climber has a passion for reaching the top, which means they will suffer whatever physical pain and contortions of the body are necessary to accomplish it, all potentially based on a love for adrenaline and the belief that the meaning of life will be found in the view from the top.

A single mom has a passion to protect and raise her children in a safe environment, and will endure whatever financial and emotional suffering she must to see her children grow up strong and stable.

A football player has a passion to be the best at his position, and will endure whatever pain he must to recover from injury and play through pain to become the MVP of his league.

Passion always requires the courage to suffer for what one believes. It is the same in pressing on to know the Lord. We cannot claim to be passionate for Christ while living our lives in fear of rejection or retribution from the world. It is unreasonable to state that we are passionate for the Lord and press on to know Him through consistent prayer and Bible Study, using our busy schedules as an excuse. We dare not claim to be passionate for the souls of the lost while we hide our faith in public and seek to be accepted by our culture.

Passion always requires sacrifice. Passion always requires suffering. It is the nature of the word that originated with Christ, and is fulfilled in the context of Christ’s life in us. Pressing on to know Christ is our passion, because Christ’s passion was His love for us that He courageously expressed in His sacrifice for our sins. He suffered for us, so we who are His children willingly suffer for Him. He is our passion, and His passion becomes our life. We will press on to know Him no matter what it costs or how it hurts.

Seeking the Lost

Connecting Points

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Today’s Topic: He’s Always Seeking

Today’s Text:  Psalm 119:176 (ESV)  I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant…

As we come to the end of the longest chapter in the Bible, filled with praise, prayer, problems, and practical wisdom for maturing disciples, consider two culminating truths in the very last verse:

  • All we like sheep have gone astray; every one of us has turned to his own way. (see Isaiah 53:6)
  • The Savior is constantly seeking the lost. (see Luke 19:10)

What joy it brings to the heart of every child of God to know that the Savior is constantly seeking us when we wander. What blessing there is to be found in the words seek your servant. Is this not the heart of God?

My own heart is overwhelmed this morning with the indescribable joy the love of God that compels Him to seek and save the lost. You can hear His heart throughout the Scriptures:

  • Ezekiel 34:6, 16 (ESV)
    6  My sheep were scattered; they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them. 16   I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.
  • Matthew 18:12-14 (ESV)
    12   What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13  And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14  So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.
  • Song of Songs 1:4 (ESV)
    4   Draw me after you; let us run. The king has brought me into his chambers.

From the very beginning of recorded history God has been seeking those who have wandered into sin.
And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:8-9)

What a conclusion to this majestic symphony we call Psalm 119. All of the music of the songs of praise and movements of prayer crescendo to this final chord – no matter where we go or what we do, God is seeking us!

My mouth bursts forth with songs of its own. My Jesus, I love thee, I know Thou art mine. For thee all the follies of sin I resign. My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou; if ever I love Thee my Jesus ‘tis now.

I love Thee because Thou hast first loved me, And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree; I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow; If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death, And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath; And say when the death dew lies cold on my brow, If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

In mansions of glory and endless delight, I’ll ever adore Thee in heaven so bright; I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow, If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

Use the Right Lens

Connecting Points

Monday, February 18, 2013

Today’s Topic: Everything Changes

Today’s Text:  Psalm 119:169-172 (ESV) 169 Let my cry come before you, O LORD; give me understanding according to  your  word! 170 Let my plea come before you; deliver me according to your word. 171 My lips will pour forth praise, for you teach me your statutes. 172 My tongue will sing of your word, for all your commandments are right.

After college I took a special interest in photography. Obviously I wasn’t very good at it or I would still do it. I bought a wonderful thirty-five millimeter camera with several lenses, and took to the prairies of North Dakota to take pictures. I love ducks and geese, and they were the subject of most of my photographs, although I did get some pretty good shots of a certain chick.

I soon learned that certain lighting conditions required certain settings on the camera, and that the final picture quality could be improved by using lens covers that altered the light. I had a variety of colored lenses that changed the image on the film and brought out certain features, colors, or qualities that I wanted enhanced. The goal was to make the photo look as much like what God created as possible.

Just like a camera, we also wear lenses on our eyes. We put on just the ones we think will make the picture of our life look better. We have telephoto lenses we use to look closely at the lives of others. We have wide angle lenses to help us see as much of life as possible. We put on colored lens covers to alter the real picture – lenses of denial, selfishness, and judgmentalism – in hopes that we will like the new look.

Many times no matter what lens we put on the camera the picture doesn’t improve.  We look for the lens of hope but we seem to have misplaced it. That’s when we finally cry out to God to change the picture.

The issue is that we haven’t tried the only lens we really ever need – the lens of God’s Word. Every picture of life, when seen through the lens of God’s promises and commands, turns out exactly the way God created it to look.

Just look at the words of the Psalmist today. His cries for understanding of the picture of his life are changed into praise from his lips as he begins to see the picture of his life through the lens of God’s word. His pleas for deliverance and a change of scenery are transformed into singing about the Word of God because through that lens everything looks right. Everything changes when seen through the right lens.

God wants us to see the picture of our life from His perspective, as He created it to look. The only way to do that is to see it through the lens of His Holy Word the Bible. Every detail of our lives, every event, every interruption, every hardship, every blessing, is His design to create a masterpiece of faith. We will only start to see its true beauty when we see it through His lens. Let’s stop trying to alter the photo to fit our preferences. Let’s enjoy the beauty of what God is creating in us – the life of Jesus Christ.

Pastor John

Does He or Doesn’t He?

Connecting Points

Friday, February 15, 2013

Today’s Topic: God Knows ALL!

Today’s Text:  Psalm 119:168 (ESV) …for all my ways are before you.

It’s one of my favorite words in the Bible. It may very well be one of the least believed words in the Bible. That’s unfortunate, because it is a word that brings great peace and blessing to those who trust the God who said it. The word is all.

This week I began the yearly process of doing taxes. I have two filings to prepare – mine and a missionary friend’s. I began with his. On Tuesday I organized all of the materials, purchased the latest version of Turbo Tax, and loaded it into my computer. An evening dinner appointment postponed any further work until Wednesday.

I got an early start on my day off, and was making great progress until an idea came to me. In retrospect it was the Lord speaking to me. I began to investigate the options, and decided to use the chat feature in Turbo Tax to ask a tax attorney whether or not it was legal and ethical. After a 40 minute wait to get connected to someone, Gayle’s name appeared on my screen. I shared with her my idea, and she began doing research.

After another 30 minutes of conversation, she called me. We talked for 20 minutes, and during the conversation I discovered her interest in clergy tax law. Of all the representatives in their tax advice division, I got connected to the one person who loves doing minister’s tax returns. Not only did she have a solution to my issue, but gave me other non-solicited opinions and pieces of advice to help me on my personal return. By the way, my idea was correct, legal, and ethical, and not only did it save the missionary $500 but it will now save all missionaries in that organization as well because I called their ministry accountant and gave him the information.

All our ways are before Him! He knows and is in control of everything. EVERYTHING! Isn’t that what all means? So why don’t we trust it!

This morning, I chatted on Facebook with a friend from the Philippines. His desire is to become a teacher at the Bible College I visit, but he is short several credits from a public university to get his teaching credentials. When I asked him how much it would cost, he said the cost is $225 per semester. I told him I would pray for that amount for him. He immediately said he was going to register. I told him that would be a great step of faith. He then asked why, because had I not just promised him the money?

You see, he believes that when God said all He meant all. The fact that I would pray for it was his guarantee that the money would be provided. Where is my faith like that?

Now I’m not a proponent or even a minimal supporter of the prosperity Gospel, and neither is he. I do not claim to be able to name and claim, and I don’t believe there is any support to that philosophy in Scripture. But when the Lord gives us an unction to pray for something, and we are certain in our hearts that the Lord is the author of the request, is the delivery of the answer not guaranteed in ALL cases?

So chew on all of that this weekend, and ask yourself if you really believe in ALL God said.

Pastor John

Treasures and Words

Connecting Points

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Today’s Topic: MY HEART…MY WORDS

Today’s Text:  Luke 6:45 (NLT) A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.

It’s heart day. Valentine’s Day is all about the heart, and the expressions of love that flow from its treasures. But rather than talk about the traditional Valentine’s Day love, I want to share a story that came to me from one of my cousins. I have changed the names and locations in the story, but the lesson of faith and love it teaches is an eternal one – the treasure of our heart is revealed by our speech.

I have heard it said that out of the mouth flows the condition of the heart.  Today, on the golf course, my husband and I were paired with Gene and Nancy to make up our four-some.  They were a very nice man and woman who were not married to each other, but were good friends.  Gene’s wife was caring for a grandchild and Nancy’s husband was recovering from kidney cancer, so they joined each other and us, for a game of golf.  Gene and Nancy were both nice enough people and they were a pleasure to play with…..at first. 

For first few holes we all exchanged small talk…where are you from…how long have you been wintering in the south…family…that sort of interaction.   I had taken notice early on in our conversations of their language and by the time we made the turn to the back nine…my heart was heavy.  I think that I physically winced every time I heard an off-colored story or the name of the Lord taken in vain.  Some of this, I am sure, stemmed from a bad habit or from a bad case of “lack of vocabulary”. 

Earlier that morning, in my devotions, I was moved to pray that I would see people as Christ sees them, hear people as Christ would hear them, speak to people as Christ would speak to them and that my heart would feel things the way that Christ’s heart feels things.  Big prayer!  Little did I know that the promise that I had made to God would get a TEST – a big one.

After listening to this language for the better part of three hours, I found myself becoming angry with them.  I wasn’t happy, at all, with our “pairing”. Why did God have to put us with “them”? When I play golf, my husband drives the cart with our clubs on it and I walk – usually joyfully singing and having a bit of a “quiet time” all by myself.  These PEOPLE were ruining my day.  I was not showing disgust on the outside, but on the inside I was fuming. 

Then, I saw it!  Then, I felt it!  I was not honoring God with my thoughts or feelings.  I was not feeling as He feels.  So, instead of anger, my spirit was moved with compassion and a prayer for Gene and Nancy that someday they would know this Jesus whose name they were taking in vain.  It was a good lesson for me.

Luke 6:45 says, “ a good man, out of the treasure of his heart, brings forth that which is good; and an evil man, out of the evil treasure of his heart, brings that which is evil; FOR OUT OF THE ABUNDANCE OF THE HEART HIS MOUTH SPEAKS”. (emphasis mine)

I also was thinking that this verse is not just intended for off colored stories and cussing.  Have you ever had a day that has been full of fear, anger and frustration?  I have.  What comes out of our mouths, more than likely, will mirror our attitude or what is in our hearts.  We say things that are not constructive and maybe even hurtful to the people we love or to co-workers.

Let’s remember, the next time that we find ourselves in a SNIT!…

OUT OF OUR HEART………..WE SPEAK.

Proverbs 15:2       Proverbs 15:28    Proverbs 16:23     Proverbs 18:21    James 3:1-18

Thanks for the reminder, Cuz. I wonder what my test will be today?

Pastor John