Monday Morning Preacher: Waiting

Waiting for the Lord.  It’s one of the hardest things to do.  We live in a fast-paced culture.  We want something, we can get it right away.  We want food, we can drive down the street and have it ready in a matter of minutes.  We can even have Amazon deliver something in a couple of hours, if necessary.  Needless to say, but we can have our needs met within a quick period of time.

But when it comes to God, He works on His timetable, not ours.  We want things to be dealt with right away.  We want our prayers answered immediately.  We want Him to overcome everything in a matter of minutes, or when we first pray something.  But then God comes through by telling us to wait.

God throughout the Bible has shown Himself as One who can make His people wait.

  • Abraham was 99 when he had Isaac.
  • Joseph was a slave and in prison for decades before becoming 2nd to Pharaoh and being reunited to his family.
  • Moses spent 40 years away from Egypt before God called him to lead his people out of slavery.
  • The Israelites waited 400 years to be saved from slavery, and when they left, they waited 40 years before entering the Promised Land.
  • David was anointed as God’s choice for king over Israel, but after being chased from the palace, he had to wait 20 years to be recognized as the true king.

Many people have a misconception of what it means to follow God and allowing Him to lead. Many think when God gives a promise, it comes true, right then, in the moment, or in the not too distant future.  But sometimes, God will 100% come true, but it just won’t be according to our plans, or our timeline.

So how do we act in this moment?  We don’t get frustrated and question God, we stay vigilant and keep trusting that He knows exactly what He is doing.  He is God, and we follow Him, not the other way around.  So let’s move forward knowing God will be leading the way, and what He says would happen, will come true.

Monday Morning Preacher: Broken

Yesterday morning, I felt like I dropped the hammer.  I ended the sermon asking a question, and the question was this:

Are you ready to humble yourself as David did so that God can transform you into who He destined you to be?

Here’s the deal: We can go through the motions with our faith.  We know all the stories.  We know what we should and shouldn’t be doing.  We can just sort of skate our way through life, doing just enough to be called a Christian, but not really going that extra mile.  But I need to say something that’s not going to be popular or win me any accolades:  That’s not what we were called to be.  That’s now how we should be living.  That’s not really true, honest, pure Christianity.  It’s only a shell of what it’s meant to be.

Every time we go to a church service, every time we open a Bible, every time we pray, it should impact who we are.  It should give us that passion and desire to change to be more like Him.

It should transform us.

But for God to transform us, we must be humble.  We must submit to Him.  We must be willing to let Him do the work.  I want you to picture a plate.  You are that plate.  When you go to church and listen to a message, it should shatter you into a thousand pieces.  And when you’re broken and shattered by the truth that God just laid on your heart, who puts you back together?  Do you do it or do you allow God to do it.

See, if you’re the one putting your life back together, how is it going to be done?  It’ll be put back so it looks like it was never shattered in the first place.  All those areas God wanted to remove, all those areas that needed to be altered or replaced are still there.

But if we allow God to do the work, we will be put back together differently.  We may not look, act, or feel the same as we did before, but we will be transformed into a beautiful creation.  We will be the men and women God wants us to be because we will be more like His Son Jesus.

Too many times, and I’m speaking for myself and from my experiences, I don’t humble myself to allow Him to do what needs to be done.  I hear something that cuts me to the core of who I am, I am broken and shattered by that truth only God can speak into our lives, and I choose to stay the same.  I choose myself, and my wants, and my dreams, and my passions, and my life, rather than laying it down so I can offer it to Him.

Honestly, I want it to stop.  I want to stop acting this way.  And I want all of you to join me.  When we are broken by the truth, will be lay ourselves down and ask God to use us, mold us, and shape us into a new creation, or will be just try to scrape by?  And what would happen if one church, no matter how large or small it is, would be full of everyone being willing to be repeatedly broken and rebuilt until we stop resembling the world, and begin to resemble our Savior?

My hope and prayer is that all of us, all people who call on the name of the Lord, become who we are destined to be, but that can only begin if we’re willing to be built and rebuilt by the Lord on a daily basis.

Monday Morning Preacher: Facing Giants

David and Goliath. It was the original underdog story.  The one, whether a Christian or not, knows and understands.  This is something that is spoken a lot of in sports.  The scrappy underdog that has to go up against the polished team with the elite players.  And for that one game, this lowly team gives a Goliath-sized effort, and takes down this assumed unbeatable juggernaut.

But in most cases, people miss the true point of the original story.  Some will look at it and say the moral of the story is this:  Even when things seem impossible, go and give it your all anyway, because you never know what’s going to happen.  Even if you lost 99 out of 100 times playing this team, this may be that one.  And while they’re close, they’re missing a key element.

The key element missing from this equation is God.  You see, while David was the one fighting, he was not the one who defeated Goliath.  God was.  God worked through David, and He had to work through David because no one else was willing to go.

  • You have King Saul, the largest man of all Israel, the champion of the people, because he was their king. He was the one who was a foot taller than any other Israelite there, and yet, he chose to cower in fear.
  • You have Abner, Saul’s commander of the army. He would be the next logical choice because a role of army commander is only given to one who is a superior fighter, a strategy expert, and above all, bravery in every situation.
  • Then there’s ever single other soldier in the field. Every single one of them, looking to their leaders cowering in fear, chose to do the same.

But then you have this young man of 15, smaller than all the rest at his age, bringing his brothers some food and making sure they’re okay.  He just hears what this Philistine says one time, and is enraged.  And he tries and tries to tell these soldiers to stand up and fight for their God.  That God will be with them and God will defeat their enemy.  And they all said no.

And so that’s why David did it.  He believed and had faith that his God would come through.  That by accomplishing this impossible task, it will prove God is above all.

So that’s the true point of the story.  Not that an underdog can overcome the odds, but our God is the God of the impossible.  And this God is within every believer of Jesus Christ.  And that same power is given through the same Holy Spirit that was running through David’s veins as he hurled that stone.

So the question for us is this:  What are you going to do with that power?  Are you going to trust it’s powerful enough to take down the giants of this world, or will we live as people of fear, afraid to wield it?  My hope and prayer is that we are people of faith.  That we trust God. That we trust that nothing is impossible for Him, and when giants stand in our path, instead of running and fleeing, we run to meet it head on.

Monday Morning Preacher: Forcing the Issue

Have you ever watched a show that had to do with time travel?  On these shows, if someone comes back from the past, they would refuse to explain what would happen to someone in the future.  And there’s a good reason for it.  If someone knew what the future would hold, and they didn’t like it, they would do everything in their power to try to alter it.  Unfortunately, in trying to make sure there would be a different outcome, they usually end up leading to what they were hoping to avoid.

In our passage from Sunday, David was already told the future.  He was anointed by Samuel to be king over Israel.  The only problem is: Israel already had a king in Saul.  One day David would be king, but there’s something else I want you to notice: David did nothing to force himself to the throne.

When Saul was looking for a gifted lyre player, and someone mentioned that David was one, where was he found?  In the fields with the sheep.  After Samuel came and pronounced that he will be king over Israel, David went back to his job in the fields.  He didn’t begin training.  He didn’t brush up and begin reading books of how to be king.  He took a step back and believed that God will act in His own time.

And so David waited in the fields, and God got to work.  It’s just amazing to think of how many gifted lyre players there were in all of Israel.  There were probably so many men and women who knew how to play that could be brought before Saul.  And yet, the one person they find is David.

And how important is it for David to be in the palace?  First, he would learn the etiquette of what it means to be king from Saul. There is a certain way one should hold himself when acting as God’s representative to the people.  David would also earn favor with Saul and the people.  We see immediately as David is brought into the fold that Saul loved him and made him an armor bearer.  This is not a small task.  David would be the one who would stand beside Saul while he planned for battle and then stood by as he executed that plan.  David would learn about strategy and also make a name for himself as a skilled warrior.  And third, he would find favor with the people.  This is what caused the downfall of Saul, and as we will learn later, David would become the champion of Israel by defeating Goliath, and in doing so, would be more popular than the king.

And all this was done by God’s hand. And I just want to mention what you don’t notice.  David pushing the issue.  He knew that not only was he God’s anointed, but Saul was God’s anointed as well.  If God wanted Saul gone from the throne, he would have to do it Himself, and David would never left a finger against him.

And this is an important lesson for us.  When we get a promise from God, do we step aside and allow Him to do His work, or do we try to bring it about in our own power?  I feel too many times, we try to do everything ourselves, instead of allowing God to be God.  Yes, He promised something, and when He does, it comes to pass, with or without our help.  The question is: Are we placing more faith in ourselves, rather than allow Him to be God and do what He has set out for us to do?

 

Monday Morning Preacher: Be Faithful

 

If there are two words that stuck with me as I wrote this week’s sermon, it’s “Be faithful.” When we read our passage from yesterday, David was anointed as God’s choice of king over Israel.  Some argued that he was somewhere between 10 and 15 years old when this happened.  However, did you know how long it took before he became king?  Twenty-two years.  In fact, the rest of our study through the book of 1 Samuel will be chronicling most of these years

This wouldn’t be the first time that people in the Bible would need to wait to fulfill the purpose of their lives.  Joseph was sold into slavery and reveal himself to his brothers for 24 years.  When Moses killed the Egyptian hurting a fellow Israelite, he fled for 40 years before being sent to rescue Israel for their captivity.

In many cases, there is always a hardship before the blessing.  Many people like to think that coming to God, believing in Him, and trusting in Him will cause all obstacles and all problems to be removed.  If this was the case, when God anointed David, David would have assumed the throne immediately.  All the people would rally around him and dispose of Saul, whom the Lord rejected.  But that’s not how it works.

Instead, there are times when the going is going to be rough.  And why is that?  So we learn a valuable lesson:  That God is faithful.  That when we are struggling with something that is so far beyond us and our abilities, God will be there and God will come through.  God made David a promise to become king, and it would take him through battles between him and Saul, with other nations, and even after Saul’s death, another claiming his throne, but in all cases, he would do one thing:  he would wait for God to remove the king and place him on the throne.

So as a church, we have had time when so many families have been struggling with one issue or another.  And right now, we may feel like we’re in the middle of a desert, all alone.  But there are two things that will help us get where we need to go: our love for each other and our love for God.

And all we need to do is to be faithful.  Be faithful to God. Be faithful to our church.  Be faithful to our mission.  If we continue to do what God has placed us here to do, if we continue to be faithful in the little things He is giving us right now, He will give us the opportunity to do greater things for Him and in His name, so this whole area can know that Jesus is Lord.

Monday Morning Preacher: Christmas

 

Today is Christmas, the day we celebrate Jesus coming into the world. It’s important for us to stop and reflect on the meaning of the season.  Between the parties, the ugly sweaters, and the gift-giving, the meaning of the season can be lost between everything else that is taking our attention.

But instead of just going through the Christmas story, I want to focus on the importance of this day outside of the typical manger scene.  Jesus came into this world in the midst of darkness – a darkness that we have caused to fall on this earth.  The world God created was perfect, but because of sin caused by Adam and Eve, our perfect world is now broken.

The crazy part is that God had a plan to restore us before He even created us.  Think about that for a moment. We sinned against God, and He knew it was going to happen, and He created us anyway.  He knew that He wouldn’t be able to exist or have a relationship with broken people, but yet, He found another way and that way was His own Son.

The only way to break the bondage of sin was through death – a sacrifice.  Something pure that all the sin could be passed to and then executed so that the person offering the sacrifice could walk away pure.  But not matter how many times an animal was placed on that altar, there would always be a need for another, and another, because we just can’t stop ourselves from failing God and breaking the commands He gave us.

And so God thought of this plan.  A plan to send His Son to be the last sacrifice to end the need of sacrifices.  By having no sin of His own, He would be able to take the sins, all sins of past, present, and future, upon Himself and redeem the world forever.  But only if we make the choice to have a relationship with Him.

So all this happened because God placed it into motion before the world even began.  And all I can say is how much more love does God need to show us?  What more could He do?  We sinned.  We failed. We walk away.  And God reached out and said, “It’s okay.  I have a better way.  I know what to do.  I’m going to fix this.”

And so as we reflect on Christmas, we need to remember one thing:  None of this would have happened if Jesus wasn’t born.  There would be no salvation if there wasn’t first a birth.  There would be no salvation if there wasn’t first a manger.  There would be no salvation if God didn’t love us in such a deep, remarkable way.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:6-8

So the question remains: what is your response to this gift?  Will you accept it or reject it?  And if you have accepted it, will you share it with those you love and care about today?

Monday Morning Preacher: Receive

 

The gift that Jesus has given us can only be accepted when we realize three things.

First, it’s a gift we didn’t pay for.  A gift is exactly that: a gift.  We don’t pay for gifts and when someone gives a gift they are not looking for something in return.  And so when Jesus died on the cross for our sins and called it a gift, saying we have the gift of eternal life, there was no expectation for us to pay for it.  No expectation for us to even ourselves with God because it wasn’t a loan.  It was simply a gift we do not pay for.  All we can do is accept it with gratitude.

Second, it’s a gift we cannot afford.  Even if we had the misguided thought of “Well, I know it’s a gift, but I want to pay Jesus back anyway,” it would be a waste of time.  There is nothing we can do, nothing we can offer, nothing we can give that would equal what God has done for us.  In fact, the debt caused from our sins is so great that it’s infinite.  As far as we go to repay it, it will only increase.  If it was possible to earn salvation, then Jesus wouldn’t need to die.  So instead, we must understand and accept our failings, and accept His gift with humility.

Third, it’s a gift we don’t deserve.  The Bible tells us, “The wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23). The only thing we deserve from our sin is judgment.  We deserve to be separated from God forever because of our actions in this world.  Fortunately, God loves us more.  He made a plan to bring us back, sending His Son to die on the cross that our fractured relationship with Him could be restored.  And because of this, we accept this gift with joy.

How we accept this gift is a cornerstone to our faith.  It’s something we cannot pay for, cannot earn, cannot afford, and do not deserve.  But all we need to do is rest, knowing that if we receive Christ, receive Him to become a part of who we are and influence every aspect of our lives; if we receive Him through belief, repentance, confession, and baptism, even though this gift overwhelms us, it is ours for the taking.

Monday Morning Preacher: Gift Return

Have you ever been given a gift for Christmas, or really for any occasion, that you couldn’t wait to bring back to the store and return?  Whatever it was, it was something you didn’t want, didn’t need, or didn’t have any use for?

This past Sunday, we talked about the gift of Jesus, and how there are many people out there who want to return Jesus back to God and not accept the gift He has come to give us.  And part of this is because Christians (collectively) have allowed poor theology to be accepted in the attempt to market Jesus to the world.

Some people come to Jesus with bad information about Jesus, and once making the decision to following Him, reading the Bible, and learning the truth about why He came, it feels like this bait and switch.  And honestly, I think we have all fallen into one of these traps at one point in our faith, or has taught something that is less than truthful.

One of these bad theologies is prosperity theology.  “Come to Jesus and if you have enough faith, He will give you everything you want,” I remember watching a show of a pastor saying to a student, “You don’t need to study for your final anymore, you just need more faith.  If you believe you can pass it, through God, He will help you.”  But throughout my life as a Christian, I have never gotten all my wants, regardless of how much faith I had in the moment.  All God promises is to supply your needs, but what we and God define as needs may not be the same thing.

Another bad theology: “Come to Jesus and life will be perfect.”  Is sin going to completely disappear from our lives?  How about the consequences of sin?  Will there be no more pain, sickness, or death?  That’s true of heaven, but it’s not true of earth.  As long as people live, we will all die at one time or another, which will cause pain to our friends and family.  So while Jesus promises to be with us through the pain and the suffering, He never said He would remove it completely.

How about: Just make the decision about Jesus and that’s it.”  Jesus is not a one-time decision that you make, jump in water, and have it not affect the rest of your life.  To come to Jesus is to change to be more like Him.  When you meet Jesus, you leave changed.  You cannot go back to the same lifestyle and the same way of living.  Sin needs to be dealt with, repented, and removed. Behaviors will need to change.  It’s not a one and done decision but a decision we make every day of our lives.

Why do we market Jesus by sharing the best part or the bare minimum?  Why not share all of who Christ is because He is all we need.  As Ephesians 4:20-21: That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.  We speak the truth about Jesus in everything. But doing this, we present a holistic picture of Jesus and what Jesus has to offer is so much greater than any way we can spin it.  The truth of Him is better than what we think people want to hear.

If we speak the truth about Jesus, I believe there will be no gift exchanges or returns.  People will be met by the One True God and their experience with Him will make them different.  It’s only when we get in the way of the truth with our schemes that they fall apart and want to trade Him in for something else.

Monday Morning Preacher: Unexpected

 

Even though it shouldn’t be, one of the big parts of the Christmas season is gift giving.  Whether we’re getting gifts or receiving them, it’s all a part of this time of year.  Some will place a great emphasis on the getting – getting something they have been hoping for many months.  For others, it will be the giving and watching the faces of those they love tear up the wrapping paper to get to the gift inside.

The problem is, when it came to Jesus, we got the gift we needed, not the gift we wanted.  So many people wanted to get a Messiah who would come down with power and authority from heaven and tear the Romans to pieces, but instead they got a baby in a manger of a noisy barn where animals were annoyed that there was someone laying on their food.

But this story is a story about two qualities about Jesus: His humility and His love for us.

Jesus could have come with a royal announcement.  He could have come with all the pomp of a coming king.  But instead, He came to the littlest town in Judah.  He came as a baby, the smallest human form we can be.  And when He came, it wasn’t announced to the chief priests and teachers of the law, but to shepherds.

And then there is His love.  John 1:1-2 tells us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” Jesus was there before the world was made. Jesus was there when the decision was made to create us.  Jesus was there when God realized by creating us, we would fail Him, and cause sin to enter the world and destroy His perfect creation. And yet, God chose to create us anyway, meaning that Jesus would need to sacrifice His life for us so we can have a restored relationship with God.

And so for all those people out there that say that God created us and stopped caring: They’re wrong because God never stopped caring. Before the world was created He found a way to bring us back to Him.  And so this Christmas season, come and see the one who has done so much for each and every one of us.  While we may think He’s far off, He has never been closer.  He has never stopped loving you.  And He was willing to lay it all down to come in a humble way so that our sins could be forgiven!

Monday Morning Preacher: Disciple

 

For today, I want to talk about the power of disciples.  Check out Ephesians 6:21-22.  It says:

“Tychicus, the dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord, will tell you everything, so that you also may know how I am and what I am doing. I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage you.”

Many times, when we get down to these last few verses in a book of the Bible, I know I can skip over it thinking it’s just some personal message to someone at the church and it’s no big deal.  Nothing really to learn here.  But looking at this specific passage, it has a very important message for us that we can learn about being a disciple.

Paul writes this letter to the Ephesians, but because of his current predicament, being in jail and all, he was not able to bring it to them himself.  And so Tychicus was sent in his place.  Tychicus was a person whom Paul trusted.  Why else would he had given him such an important letter to deliver to the Ephesians?

But sending tychicus with the letter would have given the Ephesians more insight into what Paul was saying. As we read the Bible, what do we do?  We try to understand Paul’s intent in writing what he wrote.  Why did he right it this way?  Why did he say it like that? etc. With sending Tychicus, a person Paul trusted, Paul probably either wrote the letter with him present, or after writing it, sat down and explained why he wrote what he wrote.  Paul would explain the letter to Tychicus in such a way that it would be like Paul was there with them to answer the questions the people may have about the letter.

And how was this possible?  Tychicus was Paul’s disciple.  He lived with him, served him, worked with him, traveled as he preached, and got to do ministry with this man who wrote most of our New Testament.  Being a disciple in many ways is to have another following after you who would teach, preach, and share Christ in the same manner, pointing everyone they talk to back to Jesus.

And this is the power of a disciple.  It’s to continue on the understanding of what it means to follow Christ.  The question we need to ask ourselves is this:  What would happen if we were all out disciples?  What would happen if we all followed Jesus in such a way that there will be a larger next generation to reach the masses?  What would happen if everyone who professes faith is actively seeking to make one more disciple?  This world would know Jesus more.  Christians would be a force to be reckoned with because we would all be moving towards the same goal of being more and more like Jesus.

My hope and prayer is that we are all disciples, being disciples by those who are further along than us, and challenging others who are ready to begin their faith journeys.