Reverance

“Blessed are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts! We are filled with the good things of your house, of you holy temple.” Psalm 65:4

We have access to God! I think sometimes we get dull to that fact. Back in the day, only a special group of people, called the Levites, could even get close to the Tabernacle. Even among those few only the priest could enter into the sacred room where God’s presence resided, and even they had to tie a rope around them just in case it was too much for them.

But now, thanks to Jesus dying on the cross, the veil had been torn. And what’s even more mind blowing, is that we are the holy of holies as Christ lives in us! Does our prayer life reflect the magnitude of what that means? Do we approach the throne with reverance and awe?

When I first became a Christian, some 30 years ago, it was popular in Christian circles to say, “Jesus is my best friend.” Some even had bumperstickers on their cars, and I think I even used to use that phrase. While I do believe an intimate relationship with Him is vital, I wonder if that somehow misses the holiness of God. Many times in the Bible, when God came near, people were thrown down to the ground. Again, I am not saying that we should not be in close communion with the Lord, but what I am saying is that we should remember the magnitude of Who it is we are talking to.

It blows me away thinking that I am even “brought near.”

I love the Voice translation… “You invite us near, drawing us into Your courts–what an honor and a privilege! We feast until we’re full on the goodness of your house, your sacred temple made manifest.

Spend some time in reverant prayer as you enter His courts. Enter His presence with praise and thanksgiving, wit reverance and awe, with humbleness and fear, with joy and gratitude. Submit all you are to Him–your mind, your body, your soul, your strength. Now feast on all the goodness of His house.

Life

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” –Jesus (John 10:10)

There is a quote running around social media supposedly from CS Lewis’ Screwtape Letters. Even though I don’t remember reading this from the book and Lewis may not have written it, I believe it is still worth pondering:

Satan: “I will cause anxiety, fear and panic. I will shut down business, schools, places of worship, and sports events. I will cause economic turmoil.”

Jesus: “I will bring together neighbors, restore the family unit. I will bring dinner back to the kitchen table. I will help people slow down their lives and appreciate what really matters. I will teach my children to rely on me and not the world. I will teach my children to trust me and not their money and material resources.”

The truth is there is an enemy who wants to devour you (1 Peter 5:8). He wants to divide and frustrate. He longs to take you out with fear and anxiety.

But then there is Jesus, who wants to give you life! And not just existing and making it through life, but life to the full.

Are you experiencing life abundantly? Where has the thief come in and destroyed your joy?

Spend some time praying against the enemies schemes in your life. Cast out doubt, fear, anxiety, depression, sadness, and despair. Replace it with God’s truth for you. Receive the abundant life He has for you.

Riches

“And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Phillipians 4:19

There are many bold claims like this in the Bible: “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart,” and “Ask and it will be given to you,” or, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want.” If we do not read them carefully we can come to believe that God will give us anything and everything we want. You want a new cadillac? Just ask for it. You want a million dollars? All you have to do is pray hard and believe.

You don’t have to live long to realize that God that is not your Spiritual Santa Claus. You have to realize the difference between needs and wants, and your desires versus God’s desire for you. Now what I am not saying is that God does not give you good gifts. On the contrary, He will give you everything you need, but just not always what you want. Our desires and wants can be dangerous, prone to selfishness and can lead us to consequences we don’t want. If I was given all of my desires, including the sinful ones, I would be in a lot of hurt.

The part of this verse I missed for years was the last part “His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” The “riches” in Christ are immense for those of us who believe and have given our lives to Him. “In Him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” Mercy, love, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control and the list goes on. Plus there is the promise of eternity in Heaven!

Spend some time in prayer aligning yourself with Him. Take all your wants and desires and place them at His feet. Ask the Lord to give you the true desires of your heart. Place all your trust in Him to supply your every need.

“To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen”

Content

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:11-13

It just dawned on me that Paul wrote this while he was in “quarantine” in jail. How fitting for what seems to be such an oppressive time.

For years I thought this last verse, “I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength,” was talking about conquering something like a race or a mountain climb. It was used several times growing up in sports, especially when our team was up against the impossible. But I never thought of using it for a time like this.

How content are you right now? Contenment does not give way to fear or anxiety or worry. It can’t be achieved by gritting your teeth, and it doesn’t abide by the charge to “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.” To be content is to be grounded in who you are and to trust, and not just intellectually know, the One who holds all things together.

God can be your source of strength during these times, not just to get you through, but to thrive in this time of quarantine.

Spend some time in prayer and ask the Lord to reveal where you are not content in Him. Confess to Him where you have used other things for strength to make it through. Ask him to help you find contentment in Him.

May the God of peace be with you.

Remember

“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious–the best, not the worst; I the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.” Phillipians 4:8

One of the things I have learned in a many years of walking with the Lord, is how easy it is to forget the good things of God. He can come through for me in the most spectacular way and then, moments later, I’m frustrated with something or lusting after something I don’t have. We are fickle beings.

Paul, who wrote this verse, came to Christ in the most spectacular way. He fell to the ground from the Lord’s presence. The Lord actually spoke to him and blinded him. Then scales fell from Paul’s eyes, and he could see again and was given a new name! Yet even Paul could forget. It is critical for us to constantly remind ourselves of the good things of God, especially in these times.

Remember the times where God has come through for you in a big way: times when you have sensed His peace and His presence, times when you have been awestruck by the power of His creation. Remember when you came to Christ. Remember His faithfulness, His unwavering nature, how everthing He says never comes back void. Most of all remember His love for you for He loves us with an everlasting love. Remember Jesus’s story of the prodigal son where the son blows all of the Father’s wealth, and yet when he decides to come back, the Father runs to him with open arms. Remember the Father’s love.

Remembering is so critical for us to guard our hearts from getting swept away with the world. When I was young in the faith, the big thing my youth leader pummeled into us is the idea of what you put into you mind is what comes out of your mouth and shows up in your actions. What are you putting into your mind?

Take some time to think through what you are filling your minds with through movies, magazines, social media, books, podcasts, television, or the news. If you feel a resistance to this exercise, maybe there is something in the previous list that the Lord is trying to convict you of.

Now spend some time “being transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Confess everything that you have put into your mind that is damaging or unhelpful. Remember all the good things of God and receive his love for you today.

What is man?

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him?…” Psalm 8:3-4

I woke up super eary this morning, for me, early enough to catch the sunrise. It was incredible! Birds singing songs of praise before the light began to show, almost as if they were anticipating the coming day. As the light began to break through their songs grew louder. As color filled the sky they began to move around with grace through the sky seemingly saying thank you to the Lord. 

I admit, I’ve caught probably about less than 20 sunrises (usually backpacking or fishing or hunting), and every time I remember being caught up in the beauty of everything coming to life. It can be a challenge here in Houston sometimes to find the beauty of creation through all of the concrete and power lines. Sometimes you have to close your eyes and sift through the sounds of cars driving by and air conditioner units buzzing and picture yourself somewhere else. 

I admit, I’ve caught probably about less than 20 sunrises (usually backpacking or fishing or hunting), and every time I remember being caught up in the beauty of everything coming to life. It can be a challenge here in Houston sometimes to find the beauty of creation through all of the concrete and power lines. Sometimes you have to close your eyes and sift through the sounds of cars driving by and air conditioner units buzzing and picture yourself somewhere else.

On the contrary when I go backpacking in the mountains of Colorado beauty slaps me in the face, and I get caught up into the majesty of creation and this verse pops into mind. The picture above is from the top of one of the highest mountains in the United States. From the top, you are surrrounded by the views of other mountains for miles, 360 degrees around you (the picture only shows you one part). It is a beautiful sight to behold and yet it is a sobering thought as well. Standing on top of such a great mountain makes you feel quite small and insignificant, and maybe a litte fearful. It really puts into perspective your place before such a great God.

And yet how easy it is for us here in the valley of these times to miss the granduer and might of our God. We spend way more time whining about not being able to get together with our friends or not being able to go to our favorite restuarant than we do thinking about the Lord. You can see it in your prayer life. How much of your prayer is spent asking for what you don’t have compared to the amount of praise and worship to the God who is more than worthy.

Spend some time giving thanks to the Lord and praising Him for who he is. If you are struggling for words open up the Psalms and let them assist you. Picture him on his throne and sit at his feet and place your whole life before him–your heart , soul, mind, strength, spirit. Place all you desires and wants at his feet and worship Him. He is more than worthy.

Tomorrow

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” –Jesus ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:34‬ MSG

I watched the news for the first time again in a long time, and I confess that my mind wandered into worry about our future. It is easy to do in these times.

As I was reminded of this verse, through a friend, my heart instantly released the fear and anxiety. It was as if it was shocked back to life. I began dwelling on all the good things of God–His love for me, His faithfulness, His restoration of my soul when I was in depression.

What is God doing in your life right now? Where do you see him working?

If you struggle to answer it may be because you are filled too much with yourself to see. Ask the Lord what is blocking you from seeing Him. Spend some time casting out all your fears, anxieties, pride, depression, doubt and whatever else the Lord brings up. Then, ask the Lord to open your eyes to see where He is working in your life. If you are struggling to find any evidence of His presence in your life then ask Him to show you where he is working in your church, your family, your community and your world.

I once had a friend tell me that I should always watch or read up on the news, so that I can be informed citizen. He wasn’t far off in his advice. I just believe that “our citizenship is in heaven”, and our tomorrow is much different than what the local or world news would have us believe.

“And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body”. Can I get an amen?

Sparrows

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them falls to the groung apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are numbered. Fear not, therefore, you are worth more than sparrows.” –Jesus (Matthew 10:29-31)

When many people read this, they have sort of a “Chicken Soup for The Soul” moment where they feel all warm and fuzzy inside, but I’m not sure that fits the context of this verse.

Jesus is talking here to the twelve apostles sending them out as “sheep among wolves” to preach the good news. Jesus is not just telling them to feel good about themselves that their hairs are numbered but warning them that they will be persecuted for their faith and to not fear for he has them.

Sometimes, when I read the gospels and the letters to the churches I get caught up in the fact that those must have been crazy times. It was the beginning of the Church and lots of crazy things were happening. But somehow, many of us resigned to the fact that God doesn’t move anymore like that and times are different. But I would argue that God still does move like that and these times are just as desperate if not more so as in many ways the Church is re-forming or is in desperate need to re-establish herself.

Nothing has really changed. Jesus is still sending us out to spread the news that His kingdom is at hand. When Jesus is saying, “Do not fear,” He is assuming we will be on the front lines, putting our lives and our reputations on the line for Him.

The problem is we live in a Christian culture that is pretty “easy.” No one really expects anyone to share their faith because no one else really does. We are not in threat of having our heads chopped off here or even put in jail yet somehow we hold back from sharing the gospel to our friends who are in desperate need of Jesus. Most of us sit at home and read this verse and feel all warm and fuzzy inside and that’s as far as it goes–we keep it inside.

Spend some time in prayer. Ask the Lord to show you how you have “quarantined” your faith. Ask him to give you the courage to step out and share your faith. Ask him to put in front of you a person who needs to hear the good news.

This is the perfect time to call your non-believing friends and ask how they are doing. It won’t take long before they will talk about the struggle. Don’t be afraid to share the good news of Jesus with them: how there is hope for them yet! Make it a goal to share your faith with someone this week. You can do it! Use these verses as they were intended–to give you courage to get out there.

Wake Up

“Yet this I call to mind and therefore have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” Lamentations 3:21-23

What do you wake up to every morning? Stress? Anxiety? Depression? Coffee?

Don’t worry, I’m NOT saying that if you are a Christian that you automatically wake up to God’s immense love for you and if you don’t you are maybe not a Christian. That would probably mean that nobody is a Christian. The truth is that I have woken up with all 4 of those things above; and you can include fear, loneliness, and despair to the mix.

What I am saying is that you do not have to wake up to any of those things. If you are in Christ then you can wake up to hope. But you have to choose hope. It’s not just going to wake you up and slap you in the face every morning. You have to come out of agreement with all that fear and anxiety and whatever else shouldn’t be there and “wake up” to the realities of God.

If you wake up to anxiety you need to “wake up” to the reality that the God who holds the world in his hands is in control. Psalm 94:19

If you wake up to fear you need to “wake up” to the reality that the it is the Lord who goes before you and is with you and He will never leave you or forsake you. Dueteronomy 31:8

If you wake up to stress you need to “wake up” to the reality that God will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

If you wake up to despair you need to “wake up” to the reality that the God of the universe is your helper. Psalm 118:13

If you wake up to depression you need to “wake up” to the reality that the LORD is close to the brokenhearted. Psalm 34:18

If you wake up to loneliness you need to “wake up” to the reality that the LORD is always with you. Psalm 16:8

If you wake up to coffee you need to “wake up” to the reality of bad breath and stained teeth.

What did you wake up to this morning? If it is anything other than the love and compassion of God then take captive those thoughts and make them obedient to the true reality of God’s immense love for you. Wake up people!

Mercy

“And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgement. Show mercy still to others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.” Jude 1:22-23 NLT

When all this pandemic began to hit, I was very skeptical. I saw and heard of others beginning to freak out and rush to the store and buy up toilet paper and canned goods. (I know of one friend who bought 100 cans of Wolf chili.) I confess that my response to all this wasn’t very great. I made fun of them, reveling in the jokes of many on social media and coming up with my own. That was until I read this from a friend…

Prayer from a Pandemic
by Cameron Wiggins Beim, of Washington

May we who are merely inconvenienced
Remember those whose lives are at stake.  
May we who have no risk factors
Remember those most vulnerable.  
May we who have the luxury of working from home
Remember those who must choose between 
preserving their health or making rent.  
May we who have the flexibility to care 
for our children when their schools close 
Remember those who have no options.  
May we who have to cancel our trips
Remember those that have no place to go.  
May we who are losing our margin money 
in the tumult of the economic market 
Remember those who have no margin at all.  
May we who settle in for a quarantine at home
Remember those who have no home.  
During this time when we cannot 
physically wrap our arms around each other,
Let us yet find ways to be the loving embrace
 of God to our neighbors.  Amen.

After reading this, I came to the horrible realization that those I had made fun of, in jest, they were simply struggling. My heart broke when I realized that some of my friends were gripped with fear. And even though I felt more solid and unwavered by the crisis at the time, there were many people sinking in despair.

My response missed the mark, and I spent some time confessing my sin to the Lord. Then I began reaching out and talking with people I knew were struggling and prayed with them and offered them hope. To my believeing friends who were waivering in their faith, I reminded them of their true identity. The fact that if everything crumbled tomorrow we’d be ok as our home is in heaven. To my unbelieving friends I offered this same hope–that they don’t have to be given over to fear but that there is more to this life.

Spend some time praying to the Lord. Beg for mercy where you have waivered in your faith, whether it was fear or pride or both. Ask the Lord to bring to mind those who are struggling who you can show mercy to.

I want to point out one more thing about the end of the verse in Jude. As you are showing mercy to others, you need to be careful not to get pulled down with them. I have a friend who feels like it is his duty to text me every scary update from the virus and I have to be careful not to join his fear. I have to remind myself, yet again, that my home is not here.