Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Meeting God in the desert

Psalm 63: 1-11 was birthed in the wilderness of Judah. David's son, Absalom viciously pursued his father, trying to kill him and take control of the throne. In the life-sapping heat, with everything on the line, instead of destroying him, the experience created within him an insatiable thirst for God. Read about his narrow escape from Absalom in 2 Samuel 15: 23, 28

Humanly speaking this does not make sense. Fear, stress, threats, danger, normally give way to high levels of toxic anxiety. David turns to God and earnestly seeks God in a dry and weary land where there is no water. Ps. 63: 1

What happened as he searched for God? He saw the power and glory of God Psalm 63: 2
He found the steadfast love of God to be better than securing his life. Psalm 63:3-4
As he meditated on God during the late hours of the night he found that God alone was his help. The threat of danger could not remove his joy. He simply rested in the shadow of God's protective wings and sang songs of praise. His secret was to cling to God Psalm 63: 8

Fully confident that God was with him, he could look at his enemies and confidently declare their defeat. Psalm 63: 6-11

Sounds like a fairy tale? Sounds like a polyannish view of life? Only if you have a limited view of God. How big is your understanding of God? A shallow view of God will weaken you.
The way to face the harsh realities of life is to seek God, cling to God while in the desert times of life; while the enemy is after you. It is then that you see the power and glory of God.

Lord, like David we are going through desert times right now. We are on the verge of giving up because of money pressures, sickness, family pressures, unemployment pressures and other fears. Forgive us for trying to solve our troubles without your power. We look to you; we cling to you. We are assured that you will help and uphold us. To you be all glory and praise. Amen

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Prayer for protection against temptation

Temptation is a battle that all Christians face. This is not an exaggeration. The following prayer was written by the great 16th Century reformer Martin Luther. Read this prayer and be strengthened by God's power to fight the good fight.

Dear Father,
Grant us grace that we may have control over the lust of the flesh. Help us to resist its desire to eat, to drink, to sleep overmuch, to be idle, to be slothful. Help us by fasting, by moderation in food and dress and sleep and work, by watching and labor, to bring the flesh into subjection and fit it for good works.

Help us to fasten its evil, unchaste inclination and all its desires and incitements with Christ upon the Cross, and to slay them so that we may not consent to any of its allurements, nor follow them. Help us when we see a beautiful person, or image or any other creature, that it may not be be a temptation, but an occasion for love of chastity and for praising Thee in Thy creatures. When we hear sweet sounds and feel things that please the senses, help us to seek therein not lust, but Thy praise and honor.

Preserve us from the great vice of avarice and the desire for the riches of this world. Keep us, that we may not seek this world's honor and power, nor consent to the desire for them.Preserve us, that the world's deceit, presences, and false promises may not move us to walk in its ways.

Preserve us, that the wickedness and the adversities of the world may not lead us to impatience, revenge, wrath, or other vices. Help us to renounce the world's lies and deceits, its promises and unfaithfulness, and all its good and evil (as we have already promised in baptism to do), to abide firmly in this renunciation, and to grow therein from day to day.

Preserve us from the suggestions of the devil, that we may not consent to pride, become self-satisfied, and despise others for the sake of riches, rank, power, knowledge, beauty, or other good gifts of Thine. Preserve us, that we fall not into hatred or envy for any cause. Preserve us, that we yield not to despair, that great temptation of our faith, neither now nor at our last hour.

Have in Thy keeping, heavenly Father, all who strive and labor against these great and manifold temptations. Strengthen those who are yet standing; raise up all those who have fallen and are overcome; and to all of us grant Thy grace, that in this miserable and uncertain life, incessantly surrounded by so many enemies, we may fight with constancy, and with a firm and kinghtly faith, and win the everlasting crown.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh

When White House press secretary Robert Gibbs announced in May that the Obama Administration had chosen to hold the Group of 20 summit in Pittsburgh, Pa., the press corps broke out laughing. It's tough to blame them. The meeting, which started today and includes top financial officials from the world's 20 largest economies, carries with it a hefty security burden.

One article I read says, “While the designation is certainly an honor, hosting the G-20 doesn't really have economic benefits. In addition to security concerns, the host pays a premium. To hold March's meeting of the G-20, London shelled out an estimated $131 million - a big number for any city to absorb, and more than four times the expected cost. With fewer than 4,000 people expected to attend the Pittsburgh summit, experts say the local economy should see a boost of only about $8 million. And while the U.S. government is covering many of the city's costs, the Pittsburgh city council had to temporarily shift $16 million in funding to cover outlays that they say will be reimbursed eventually.”

The fact that 85% of the world's economy is represented in this group of 20 nations makes it an important event for this region of the country. But we also know that a wisdom greater than the G-20 leaders will be needed to heal our broken world. Pray that Almighty God grants wisdom to them in this and future summits.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Atheist camp to give children 'godless alternative

According to the UK newspaper The Guardian, Richard Dawkins is helping to fund an atheist summer camp for children. No kidding. Imagine how exciting this will be—

Children will learn about how they were an accident—No, not mom and dad’s accident, but a cosmic accident! They will learn how life is meaningless! How there is no ultimate foundation for morality! And they will learn that love has no eternal significance, but is only a biological impulse compelling us to protect and perpetuate the species! How comforting. How pathetic.

On the other hand, these all do make for very scary campfire stories.

“But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”—Matthew 18:6

Friday, September 18, 2009

What People Expect From The Church

I am still here. I haven't been writing much lately. Since coming back from Jamaica, I have been dealing with many things on my plate.

I want to share something I have been reading and thinking about: Willow Creek Association of Churches recently published a brief survey called Focus: The top ten things people want and need from you and your church.

Their survey results show that there are 5 expectations people have of their church. I want to hear your comments. Are these expectations real in your life? Do you have similar expectations of FPC?

1. Spiritual Guidance
Help me understand the bible in greater depth
Help me develop a personal relationship with Christ
Encourage me to take responsibility for my own spiritual growth

2. Accountability and Impact
FPC helps me develop relationships that encourage accountability
Provide opportunities to grow spiritually through relationships with others
Empowers me to go out on my own to make a significant impact in the lives of others

3. Belonging
Helps me feel like I belong
Helps me in my time of emotional need
Provides compelling worship services

4. Ownership
Sets clear expectations about what it means to be part of the church
Inspires such a sense of ownership that the church becomes an important part of who I am

5. Serving
Promotes a strong serving culture that is widely recognized by the local community
Provides opportunities to serve those in need

So how does this square with your expectations of FPC? Also, why not pass these thoughts on to your friends in the church who may not get this and give them a chance to respond?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

For God Alone I Wait

While in Jamaica a few weeks ago planning the funeral service for my father-in-law, we were overcome with a range of emotions. We battled anger, deep loss, disappointment, fear, tiredness, and anxiety.

During a season of prayer and casting the full weight of the situation on God, we were led to an oasis of truth that completely satisfied our thirst. God knows your name; God knows where you are and what you are going through.

I need you to slow down, or better, stop whatever you are doing and read Psalm 62: 1-12. See what you think. Isn't this a refreshing word from God?

On God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken. Psalm 62: 1-2

The same ideas are repeated in Ps. 62: 5-7
Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.

We leaned with all our might on these precious words and they kept us going and continue to reshape how we deal with all the challenges before us even to this very moment. We are confident that every moment of our lives is before Almighty God. Our greatest need is for our soul to unplug from the drugs and stimulants of our time and simply plug into God and wait for him.

Are you anxious? Distracted? Frustrated? Bitter? Angry? Overcome by a spirit of unforgiveness? Then wait in silence on God and allow his powerful presence to wash away the junk of sin and fill you with unspeakable joy, repose, and peace.

Lord, grant to each of us a longing and thirst to know you and be satisfied in you alone. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, amen.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Deformity of Christ

The deformity of Christ forms you. If he had not willed to be deformed, you would not have recovered the form which you had lost. Deformed, he hung upon the cross. But his deformity is the source of our beauty. In this life let us hold fast to the deformity of Christ. Let us carry the sign of his deformity on our forehead. Let us not be ashamed of the deformity of Christ. Let us look with eyes of wonder at his deformity, for therein is the perfect justice of God. (From Augustine's Discourses on the Psalms)

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Our National Anthem

On Friday, Whitney Houston gave her first public concert in over 7 years on GMA in Central Park, New York City. We can only pray that God will use her voice to bring glory to his name, having brought her through years of drug addiction and near death.
I still think this rendition of the National Anthem is one her best performances ever! She sang this song at Super Bowl XXV in 1991.


Friday, September 4, 2009

Are we becoming a nation of Hindus?

This fascinating question is answered by Dr. Al Mohler president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He writes in response to a recent Newsweek article about the same subject. Here's a sample from his article:

"Those who argue that all religions are essentially the same reveal the fact that they know little about these very different belief systems. The worldview of Christianity is, for example, radically different from the belief structure of Buddhism (some forms of which may actually claim to resist the very idea of beliefs)..."

Do you agree with his conclusions? Should Christians in America be concerned?
Go here to to read the article

How to ruin a family

In his book, What’s so Amazing About Grace, Phillip Yancy tells about the history of the effects of a single sin on four generations. Daisy was born in 1898, the eighth of ten children. Her father was a mean, abusive drunk who kicked his wife out of the house. All ten children cried, begging their father not to put their mother out, but he wouldn’t budge. He sent her away, saying he never wanted to see her again. In time, most of the children were farmed out to relatives or went to live with their mother, but Daisy stayed with her Dad until she was old enough to leave home.

Finally, her dad “guttered out” and stumbled into a rescue mission where he had to “earn” his dinner by listening to a sermon. When the preacher gave the invitation, he went forward to accept Christ because it seemed the “polite thing to do.” But to his surprise, the sinner’s prayer took. His life began to change. He sobered up and began seeking out his children, begging them for forgiveness for the way he’d treated them. At first, they were suspicious of the old man, thinking he was just trying to get into their good graces so he could hit them up for drinking money, but to their surprise, he was sincere and they all forgave him. Everyone, that is, except Daisy. Like he’d said to her mother, “she never wanted to see him again as long as she lived.” Even though he lived just eight houses from her for 5 years, she never visited him and never forgave him.

Daisy swore she would never be like her father, and she never was a drunk, but she had the same unforgiving, abusive spirit. She was harsh with her six children and was verbally abusive with them—especially with Margaret. Margaret swore she would be different than her mother, and she was never abusive, but she was unbending and harsh with her four children, but was especially harsh with her son Michael, kicking him out of the house saying, “I never want to see you again…”

She got her wish. For twenty-six years, they never spoke. Michael doesn’t have any children, but he has gone from one relationship to another and Yancy says that he has said that he “never wants to see his wife again.”

Four generations. One sin. The son learned it from the mother who learned it from her mother who learned it from her father. Over a hundred years have passed and the sin flourishes and wrecks havoc in the lives of the old drunk’s descendants.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Safe and Secure

Last night our bible study group focused on the words of Jesus from John 10: 1-38. Jesus, the good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He knows his sheep, they hear his voice and they follow him.

Most important of all, Jesus says, I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. May father who has given them to me is greater than all and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. John 10: 28-29

How precious is the thought that our lives are forever secure in Christ. We did not choose Christ; he chose us. F. F. Bruce in his commentary on John says it this way:

"Physical life may be destroyed, but those who are united by faith to the Son of God, those who belong to the flock of the true Shepherd, can never lose real life, for he keeps it secure. God and Christ are together engaged to protect believers. Whom Christ protects, God protects; whom Christ keeps in his hand, God keeps in his. No one is powerful enough to snatch anyone or anything from the hand of God!" Amen