Experiencing Perfection

Perfection Personified

Thursday, April 30, 2015

 Psalm 19:7-11 The law of the LORD is perfect…

Sometimes when on a trip it’s necessary to spend extra time at an interesting location where the sights and sounds can’t be fully experienced in just one day. That is exactly how it is this morning as I continue to stop at another of the many scenic overlooks in Psalm 19.

Have you ever seen perfection? I wonder what images just came to your mind right now as you contemplated your answer. I don’t believe I ever have. Even though there are probably things that appear to be perfect in this life, they are not.

When sin entered the world, every part of God’s perfect creation was corrupted and made imperfect. Paul says in Romans that all creation groans for redemption. Therefore, since perfection can only be produced by perfection, everything we have in the world today is imperfect. It may appear to be perfect on the surface, but somewhere at some level, even deep inside in its very basic molecular structure, it is imperfect. When evaluated under the microscope of God’s perfection, everything falls short.

I do, however, believe I have experienced perfection. In fact, I have perfection dwelling in me. I am far from being made perfect, but perfection is at work in me. God himself, in the Person of the Holy Spirit, resides in me, and He is perfection personified. His presence brings the experience of perfection to my soul.

The Sacred Scriptures, God’s Holy Word, is the expression of His perfection. Therefore the Bible is perfect, as declared in Psalm 19:7. It is exhilarating to consider the reality that the Holy Spirit of God, using the perfect Word of God, brings perfection into my life. And when perfection meets imperfection, something amazing happens. Life changes. We are changed.

Consider the practical and personal products of God’s perfection in us:

  • The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul;
  • the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple;
  • the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;
  • the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes;

I know it’s easy to just skim over things we read, but I urge you in the name of Jesus to go back and deeply consider the influence that perfection should be having on your life.  Let me help you.

  • reviving the soul; The word reviving means to return to the starting point. The perfection of God’s Word restores to us the joy of our salvation.
  • making wise the simple; in other words, those who are silly and easily seduced by other viewpoints are made strong and secure in Christ through the witness (testimony) of the Holy Spirit in us.
  • rejoicing the heart; the word rejoicing means to brighten up. This is significant. The only way to brighten up a heart that is darkened with discouragement is to fill it with what is right – the principles of God. We must stop letting the lies of culture and circumstances dictate our emotional state.
  • enlightening the eyes; the commandment of the Lord is pure – it is clear, and illuminates our eyes. Remember the old song, “I can see clearly now, the rain is gone?” The dark clouds of life’s circumstances disappear and life looks luminous when we view it through the clarity of God’s commands.

Spends some time today reflecting on these four things and making them personal to your present experience. Let perfection begin to impact your life.

Then, when you are ready to test your love for the perfection of God’s word, read the rest of the Psalm and see if it truly expresses the reality of your heart.

  • The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.

Go Deep in the Dark

Go Deep

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Psalm 19:1-2   The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.

The object of the game of football is to score points, and the fastest way to do that is to get the ball over the goal line for a touchdown. As a young boy I remember the neighborhood football games that reflected our desire to score lots of points. We had only one play. As we entered the huddle, the quarterback would simply say, “everybody go deep.” That meant that all the eligible receivers, which was everyone on the team, was to run as far down the field as possible and wait for the high arching lob pass to fall from the sky and try to catch it. The one or two times a game that it actually worked was motivation enough to try it over and over again.

I was reminded of that when I started reading one of my favorite Psalms – Psalm 19. I know I will be writing more from this Psalm tomorrow because the scenic overlooks for my life are numerous. But I stopped in verse two when the Holy Spirit revealed a simple yet profound truth to me. God wants me to go deep.

Look at the contrast presented to us in verse two.

  • Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.

You see, in the light we may see more things, but at night it is actually possible to see further. Now at first you may question that, but think about it from two different perspectives.

First, in the daytime, our eyes are filled with so many possible sights that our eyes flit to and fro as we try to take it all in. We are bombarded with multiple visual images. But at night, most of the distractions are gone, and we are forced to focus intently on what we want to see. It is in those moments of focus that we actually learn more.

Second, in the daytime, we have the opportunity to experience the most input of information. But at night, we have the best opportunity to grow in the depth of our knowledge.

Try this. It’s a sunny day today, at least where I live. Go outside and look up into the blue sky and see how far you can see. Right now out my window my eyes are attracted to the wispy cloud formations that interrupt the depth of the blueness as they float silently across the sky. They are approximately three miles high. Yet we focus on them, because beyond them is only blue, with no points from which to judge distance or depth.

Now, tonight, when it’s totally dark, go outside and look up into the sky. If it’s a clear night, you may still see a few clouds, but your eyes are not attracted to them because beyond them is a moon, and beyond it are the stars which are billions of billions miles away. Do you understand? You can’t see as much at night, but you can see further.

That’s what the Holy Spirit is teaching me from the first two verses of this incredible Psalm. We tend to be far too satisfied to live only in the daytimes of life, experience the abundance of speech being poured out on us from multiple sources. We read this devotional, then turn to another one, then follow a Facebook post leading to another story. We bombard ourselves with spiritual information. But is at night when God reveals the depth of His knowledge to us. It is in the dark times of life that He causes us to focus in on the greatness of His being and the workings of His hand on our behalf. It is when we look up into the expanse of the universe that we get the greatest view of the immensity of God.

Let us not be afraid of the dark. Let us open our eyes, look up, and as we see the tiny pinpoints of light that are so untouchable, let us remember that the God who created it has invited us to go deep and experience Him up close and personal.

That’s a spiritual touchdown.

Pastor John

God To The Rescue

God Came

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Psalms 18:19 He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.

I am a slowpoke…when you stop laughing I will finish the sentence…I am a slowpoke when I visit someplace I have never been before. My family used to get frustrated with me when we were on vacation. We would stop at various places to enjoy the scenery or a zoo or a park, and I would suddenly become this stop and stare person. I am a visual learner and when I see something I have never seen before I really take the time to soak it in. Kids would be wandering off to the next cage at the zoo, with Denise following them, and there I would stand, oblivious to anything else going on around me, just looking at every detail. I am especially bad when we stop at scenic overlooks where there are mountains, lakes, and rivers involved. The family is done looking when I have only taken in about 10 degrees of a necessary 180 degree visual sweep.

That’s exactly the way I feel when I read the 18th Psalm. There is so much to take in. But let me tell you what God impressed upon my heart today as I read it. This Psalm was written by David as a song he sang in praise to God for delivering him from the hands of his enemies and from King Saul’s plot to kill him. You can read the Psalm in its historical context in Second Samuel 22. David’s kingdom is under extreme duress. His own sons had rebelled against him and tried to overthrow him. All of the warriors of the tribes of Israel had left him to follow a man named Sheba. Only the men of Judah remained loyal to him, but they were extremely outnumbered. The Philistines waged war after war against him. But after God had shown himself faithful to the covenant He made with David and delivered Him from all of these enemies and more, David wrote this song. I was especially touched by verses 7 through 20, where we have the description of how God responded to David’s cry for help.

When my daughter was 2 years old she required heart surgery to repair a valve. Prior to the surgery they needed to draw blood from my precious little girl’s arm, and they used the opportunity to let a student nurse learn how to do it on a child. Bad move. They forced me to stand out in the hall behind a closed door because they said it would be easier for my daughter if I wasn’t there. All of a sudden I heard Rochelle screaming, “Daddy! Daddy!” The nurse could not find her vein, and repeated attempts only cause my daughter more pain and she responded with more screams for her daddy. It was excruciating having to stand behind that door and wait for it to be over. When the finally opened the door I bolted through and hugged my little girl, apologizing for not being able to rescue her. I knew she needed to go through the process of the pain to reach the end result, but when it was over, I ran to her.

That’s how God responds to us in our times of pain and suffering. He may wait to rescue us because He knows we need to go through the process to reach full maturity, but when His timing is right and perfect, He comes in the full power and splendor of His being. It may appear to us that God doesn’t care to get involved in our suffering, but that is a lie of the enemy. God is overseeing it all, and when He knows the time is perfect, He will rescue us with all of His eternal power. He doesn’t just do barely enough to rescue us – He uses every resource of His eternal being to come to our aid. Look how David describes God’s rescue effort:

  • God got angry because He really cares – The earth trembled and quaked, and the foundations of the mountains shook; they trembled because he was angry.Smoke rose from his nostrils; consuming fire came from his mouth, burning coals blazed out of it.
  • God came down and got personally involved –He parted the heavens and came down;
  • God came in a complete demonstration of His sovereignty –dark clouds were under his feet. He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind. He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him—the dark rain clouds of the sky.
  • God came in a complete demonstration of His glory –Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced, with hailstones and bolts of lightning.
  • God came in a complete demonstration of His authority –The LORD thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded.
  • God came in a complete demonstration of His power –He shot his arrows and scattered the enemies, great bolts of lightning and routed them. The valleys of the sea were exposed and the foundations of the earth laid bare at your rebuke, O LORD, at the blast of breath from your nostrils.
  • God came in a complete demonstration of His love –He reached down from on high and took hold of me;

When we cry out “Daddy, Daddy,” God hears us and in His perfect time and in accordance with His perfect will for us, He responds perfectly. He can do no less. All of the power and authority of heaven are coming to your rescue. Wait for it. You are about to experience the awesomeness of God!

Pastor John

Watch Your Mouth!

Guard Your Tongue

Monday, April 27, 2015

Psalms 17:3  Though you probe my heart and examine me at night, though you test me, you will find nothing; I have resolved that my mouth will not sin.

Will Rogers once said, “So live that you would not mind selling your pet parrot to the town gossip.”

In today’s Psalm, King David reveals his desire to guard his tongue and make sure his mouth doesn’t sin by speaking words that would reveal a selfish intent in his heart. As I journeyed through this Psalm, I returned to this not-so-scenic overlook. When I pulled into a parking place and started to look around, I saw nothing but desolation and destruction caused by words. I saw the pain and agony that my words – and your words – have caused in the lives of others. I saw the sin of speaking the words of man and not the words of God.

What do we talk about behind closed doors and behind people’s backs? When God probes our hearts and examines our thoughts, what does He find? Has He found purity and integrity in our words, or does He see us serving and satisfying self with what we say to and about others?

I wonder what the world would be like if all of us as God’s children would claim this verse as truth and put it into practice in our own lives? Wouldn’t it be the purest and most perfect prelude to heaven? Have we resolved to never sin with our mouths? Imagine the immensity of the spiritual harvest the church would experience if its people were practicing this principle.

  • Grace would conquer gossip.
  • Holiness would overcome hearsay.
  • Love would eliminate libel.
  • Reconciliation would reign rather than rumors running rampant.
  • Speech that strengthens and supports would supersede slander and scandal.
  • Joy would overflow where jeering and jealousy were common.

If only we would join the Psalmist in declaring that our mouths will not sin.

I believe that one key to taming the tongue is to evaluate what we are listening to. Someone once said, “It isn’t the things that go in one ear and out the other that hurt as much as the things that go in one ear, get all mixed up, and then slip out the mouth.” Are we tuned in to what God is saying to us or are we tuned in to what our flesh wants and needs?

In verse four of today’s Psalm David says, by the word of your lips I have kept myself from the ways of the violent. He was listening to what God was saying rather than what people were saying. Let me illustrate:

A naturalist, walking with his friend through the busy streets of New York, stopped suddenly and asked, “Do you hear a cricket?” “Of course not,” laughed his friend. “You could never hear a cricket with all this roar of traffic.” “But I hear a cricket,” persisted the naturalist, and turning over a stone, he uncovered the insect. “Did you actually hear the cricket chirping above the noise of the street?” asked his friend in astonishment. “Certainly,” said the naturalist. “I spend my time listening to nature, whether I am in the forest, the field, or the town. Everyone hears what he listens for. Watch.” Taking a coin from his pocket, he dropped it on the pavement, and each passer-by put his hand in his pocket to see if he was the one who had dropped it and began looking for the coin on the ground. “You can tell what is on people’s minds by what they hear and repeat,” he said. “Obviously money is important to these people, because it’s what they heard.”

What a lesson! If we are listening for the truth—for that which is stimulating, elevating, and inspiring, then we will hear it, even above the noise and bustle of this busy world, and above the roar of lies, tattling or gossip so commonly heard by many. And if our ears are attuned to scandal, backbiting and false reports, we will hear that, regardless of how loudly the principles of love, justice and truth may be proclaimed in our direction.

And what we choose to hear is what we will choose as the subject of our conversation.

Let us resolve to never sin with our mouths by listening intently to the things of God. And when He probes our hearts and examines us, may He find nothing sinful in us.

Pastor John

Choose the Right Perspective

I’m an Heir of All Things

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Psalm 16:5-6 5  The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.  The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. 

The sixteenth Psalm has been called the Golden Psalm. It is a prophetic Psalm that is all about Jesus. Paul and Peter both quote from this Psalm in sermons they preach in the New Testament as they declare the glory of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross. The Psalm declares the heritage awaiting Christ and the security God provided to His Son to endure all hardship and trial, even death itself. Jesus had complete confidence in the keeping power of His Father.

Those who are in Christ are able to claim the same heritage and security. We have been made joint heirs with Jesus of all things (The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ…Romans 8:16 – 17). Every promise of eternity that was realized by Jesus is also ours, because Christ is in us, the hope of glory. Look at what the Psalm declares:

  • In Him we find refuge (vs. 1).
  • In Him we find goodness (vs. 2).
  • In Him we are glorified because He delights in us (vs. 3).
  • In Him we find counsel and guidance even in the darkest hours of our lives (vs. 7).
  • In Him we find stability and security (vs. 8). In Him we find joy, peace, and rest (vs. 9).
  • In Him we find eternal life and will experience it in His presence forever (vs. 10-11).
  • If power is needed, then in Him we find unlimited power because He is omnipotent. If knowledge and wisdom are needed, then in Him we find infinite knowledge because He is omniscient. If peace and security are needed, then in Him we find perfect refuge because He is omnipresent and will never leave us or forsake us.

You may have noticed that I left out of the list the promises of verses five and six. They are my specific scenic overlook today. They are marvelous promises of what we have in Christ. They have become for me the healing salve that is placed on the wounds of worldly living. Whatever the hardship, trial, trouble, or disappointment, these promises are always true of my life and they cannot fail. But healing salve is only beneficial when applied to the wound. It is of no value if left in the cupboard. Oh how guilty we are of responding to life’s wounds according to the flesh rather than the Spirit. We wallow and wail in the wayside of waste when right across the road is a scenic overlook into eternity. Look at what’s waiting there for us –

  • The LORD has assigned us our portion and cup.I cannot help but think of the wonderful meals my mom would prepare for us when we would visit. In addition to having plenty of everything, and demanding that we take large portions, she went far beyond and made sure she prepared everything we ever loved to eat – cookies, caramel rolls, special salads, and pies! She assigned to us exactly what she knew we would love and enjoy the most. Similarly, our spiritual portions have been assigned to us by the One who knows us and loves us completely, and every portion is designed to bring the greatest experience of ultimate joy in His presence.
  • The LORD has made our lot secure. He is our eternal title insurance. He owns the deed to our lives. No one on earth or in the heavenly places can steal or buy back our lives from the eternal and all-powerful hand of the Father. But we are guilty in little ways of giving back to Satan and to the world what does not belong to them. Discouragement, outbursts of anger and frustration, and impulsive attempts at problem solving and fixing are all indications that we have not fully accepted the lot God has given us. When we are shaken we are not secure. We cannot be both at the same time.
  • The LORD has put the boundary lines of our lives in pleasant places. According to the words of Jesus, “We know the truth, and the truth has set us free.” Free to live in the boundless expanse of God’s grace.
  • The LORD has given us a delightful inheritance. We must remember from an earthly perspective that an inheritance is not experienced until after a death has occurred. We know it’s coming, but we also know that it only comes after a time of sorrow and grieving. We may seem morbid but we must admit that we have even made plans of what we will do with the inheritance once we receive it. In the spiritual realm, the death that provides the inheritance has already occurred – the death of Jesus. We may think that we have to wait to die to receive the benefits of the inheritance, when in reality the inheritance is already ours. Certainly the physical experience of heaven and reigning with Christ must wait, but Paul also said that we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing from on high in Christ. We need to start living like the inheritance is a delightful reality.

So stop pulling off the road of life into the wrong wayside. Choose the scenic overlook into eternity, and realize that it is your present possession. Why let the world shake your life, when you can rest in the refuge of the LORD? Everything that is His is yours. Enjoy it! It’s a delightful way to live.

Pastor John

Faith at Work

A Working Knowledge of God

Monday, April 20, 2015

Psalm 15:1  O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill?

Has this ever happened to you? I hope so, because otherwise I will feel really odd.

At least once a week I hop in my car at the office around the lunch hour, and start driving out of the parking lot while I ask myself, “Where should I go for lunch?” When I get to the exit onto the street I can go either left or right depending on the answer to the questions. Invariably I turn right without answering the question, and I keep driving, still not knowing where I am going. At every intersection I have options, but I pass each one by because I still haven’t answered the question. Finally I will pull into an eating establishment and just settle for whatever is there, because I didn’t make a decision about my destination before starting to move.

Pretty silly, right? Come on. You’ve done that, haven’t you? Please say you have.

Well, it’s pretty foolish to start moving without having a destination in mind. Today’s journey in Psalm 15 begins with a question that is based on a pre-determined destination. King David knows that he wants to dwell in the presence of God, so the question he asks is one which will help him to understand how to arrive at the preferred destination.

David’s destination of choice involves two types of trips – short rest stops, called sojourns, and long stays called dwelling. Whether he is on a short stop over to be refreshed or whether he needs an extended stay, David wants to make sure that he is welcome to stop in. I want to know the same thing. What is required of the person who wants to be assured that they are dwelling in the presence of Almighty God?

As I travel through the rest of the Psalm, I discover that the answers to David’s questions remind me of one of the spiritual principles I preached on yesterday in church – Trustworthy followers of Jesus have a working knowledge of the truth. It is so important for us to grasp this principle completely. Head knowledge of God, and intellectual assent to God’s truth is not faith. It is only when the knowledge of God and His Word is put into action in our lives that faith is validated. This is the whole premise of the New Testament book of James.

Psalm 15 describes for us what a working knowledge of God looks like:

  • He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart;
  • He who does not slander with his tongue and does no evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend;
  • in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear the LORD;
  • He who swears to his own hurt and does not change; 
  • He who does not put out his money at interest and does not take a bribe against the innocent.

Okay, time for another question. Do all of these things describe our lives right now? If not, what are we going to do about it? How will we start to show a better working knowledge of God? The promise for those who do is powerful – He who does these things shall never be moved.

Sometimes reading a little different version of the verses is helpful. Here’s what The Message says.

GOD, who gets invited to dinner at your place? How do we get on your guest list?  “Walk straight, act right, tell the truth.  “Don’t hurt your friend, don’t blame your neighbor;  despise the despicable. “Keep your word even when it costs you, make an honest living, never take a bribe. “You’ll never get blacklisted if you live like this.”

Now remember, these things don’t earn your salvation. But without them being a visible part of our lives, how will the world ever know that we have a working knowledge of God?

Or an even more profound question might be, without these principles at work in our lives, how do we know in our hearts that we are dwelling in the presence of God?

Pastor John

Don’t Be A Fool

No Longer a Fool

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Psalm 14:1   The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”

There is an increasing volume level to the voices of those who say there is no God. The noise is booming throughout the world. But there is something that concerns me even more than the loudness of a few who vocalize their opposition to God. It is the quietness of the multitude of people who on the outside appear to believe in God but in their hearts they deny His relevance to their lives. It is these people who pose the greatest threat because they are the greatest fools.

Look at Psalm 14:1 again. The greatest fool is the one who denies God in His heart. The vocal ones may appear to be the biggest threat, but the hypocrite is the biggest fool.

Now, for this truth to have any impact on our lives, we must make it personal. So we must engage in some Holy Spirit evaluation. Here is a simple guide to assist you with the evaluation. (Watch out – the first question isn’t so simple. As a matter of fact, none of them really are. But please read on.)

  • If I say I believe in God, what makes me different from the demonic angels who also believe that He exists?
  • If I say that God is real to me, then am I learning to trust Him with every detail of my life?
  • If I say I am a follower of Jesus Christ, do I live in such a way as to model my love for Him in every part of my life?
  • Do my thoughts, ideas, and attitudes support or contradict what I want other people to see about my belief in God?
  • Is the Holy Spirit enjoying the consistent atmosphere of faith as He dwells in me, or is their constant tension because my will is so strong?

No one likes to be called a fool, yet God calls people fools who do not sincerely believe in Him from their heart. The outward appearance means nothing to God. He searches the heart to find out what we really believe. Our thoughts and attitudes are the true indicator of what we believe, and it should scare us a little how many times we love and trust ourselves rather than God. In that moment, we are being foolish.

When the head knowledge of God brings forth the fruit of heart belief, then we will leave the fear-stricken realm of the foolish and experience the super-abundant peace of God.  This level of peace will be ours when the contradictions between the heart and our life-choices are removed through a sincere faith in Jesus Christ that produces holiness. Then, no matter what happens in us, to us, or around us, we will have no fear, because we know God.

King David declared it this way at the end of Psalm 14 – There they are in great terror, for God is with the generation of the righteous. You would shame the plans of the poor, but the LORD is his refuge.

While the world in its foolish disbelief plunges into terror and shame, we who truly believe in Christ will stand strong, for we know that God is with us, and He is our refuge.

Now go back and read the evaluation questions again. The Holy Spirit wants you to be convinced that what you say you believe is coming from a heart that sincerely believes. Don’t be satisfied to even be a little bit of a fool.

Pastor John