Be still…

It has been a while since I’ve posted here…Facebook, being my biggest medium to publish a thought on the go. I thought I’d dust off the old pastor’s blog and give put my hand to the work of unpacking some scripture. This morning’s choice: Psalm 46. Without further ado, let’s dig in to this wonderful love song to Yahweh-God.

Psalm 46English Standard Version (ESV)

God Is Our Fortress

To the choirmaster. Of the Sons of Korah. According to Alamoth.[a] A Song.

46 God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present[b] help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
    though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
    though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

Is God your fortress? That’s a question I have to pause and ask everyone. I honestly believe one of the biggest problems in the church today are the idols we have allowed into our doors without even realizing it. Here are some that I think have become our fortresses built on sand:

  1. Success: many pastors and parishioners both put a lot of weight on the worldly definition of success; they look for tangible and chartable statistical growth, how much money is brought in, how many attended Sunday School, etc., but the fact is, God’s version of success is in discipleship, and/in relationship to Himself. Anything else is just an idol.
  2. Busy-ness: We’ve turned busy-ness into an art-form. We let internal influences (activities, dinners, bake-sales, etc.) and outside influences (Sports, activities, shows, meetings) penetrate our walk. We let our kids’ activities dictate our Lord’s Day observance. God commanded a Sabbath be taken, not only for rest, but so that we could get our focus back on him, and share in the fellowship of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Shame on us for allowing anything to come between us and our God, Family time, and church-family time. If the cross does not cause you to sacrifice, then you do not know its power and meaning.
  3. Money: in today’s economy, this is a big deal. May I be honest with you? I’m in debt; partially because of school, but partially because I engage in buying things I really don’t need. Things have become my security blanket, money the tool to get it. Yet God does not want me to depend on Money, he wants me to depend on Him! Money is like sand in a sieve, I can never hold on to it, and if I do, it becomes like mud, sticky, and useless, and making tracks and dirtying my life in every sense. I should make God my rock, not this quicksand pit of money. God will never leave or forsake me, money is easy-come, easy-go.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
    God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
    he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

No matter what life throws at us, be it death, fire, famine, sickness, pain, or whatever else there may be, God shall make me an immovable city. He promises us peace beyond understanding , but we must do as He commands us: rejoice always, not be anxious, and pray and supplicate (ask/beg) Him in thanksgiving, letting our requests be made known to Him (Philippians 4:4-7). It’s like the bumper sticker says: know Jesus, know peace; no Jesus, no peace. He will make you immovable, courageous, and able to say “no” to anything that comes between you and Him, if you but trust in Him as your refuge and strength.

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
    how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
    he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the chariots with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

God is faithful! His works are well documented: in the Bible, throughout History, and in our own lives, we can see the mighty hand of God move. Hold fast to this! Some day, Jesus is returning, and, as Lebron James pointed out, will make everything right again, but we must hold fast to Him. Be still! YOU don’t have to do anything, make God do anything, because He’s already acting! Just throw yourself at His feet, submit to His design, and be still. He will guide your paths, He will make your paths straight (Psalm 119:105-112), and He will have the victory…just trust in Him to do it! No matter the external circumstances, God will allow you to endure, no matter the storms on the Horizon, God will allow you to weather it, and no matter the armies that surround you, God will prevail. Just Be still, and know that He is God!

Footnotes:

  1. Psalm 46:1 Probably a musical or liturgical term
  2. Psalm 46:1 Or well proved

 

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This week’s Bible Study: The Word of God

Some thoughts on this week’s Bible Study:

2nd Timothy 3:10-17
Following sound teaching, discipleship, and scripture is a recipe for a deep-rooted, meaningful relationship with God. Many approach Him when they need things, or when they want thing. God is one’s best friend in a pinch! And yet when trouble comes, it’s a cycle, “I need God” followed by “Where is God?” Scripture helps us learn to lean on God when the storms come, when the trials and tribulations (Which we are promised) are raging outside our door. If we learn to read and study the Word of God, and we can do so when things are going well, we will be able to weather any storm that hits. Paul says it is all “Breathed out” by God, meaning that it is inspired, directed, and imagined by God Himself; it is profitable, meaning it will add to our success, whatever God decides to use that for; “it is good for teaching,” that we may learn, and, in turn, teach God’s word as we begin to know and understand it; for “reproof,” meaning for disapproving false teachings and ungodly practices and customs; “for correction,” meaning it doesn’t just point out the problem, but offers the solution, and the correct way to live one’s life; and for training in righteousness, that we may learn, by its teachings and standards, to live the right life that God has set aside for us; for “training in righteousness” that the follower of God “may be complete,” it is part of the manifold relationship with God, the way for Him to impart His will upon our lives, the standard by which we deal with all life’s problems, and the banner we raise in persecution and trouble; and, lastly, that the follower of God may be equipped for every good work, so that We have the ability to see the world, and all our fellow people through the eyes of God, and be able to respond accordingly to their needs and the needs of the Kingdom of God all around us!

Tuesday: Isaiah 55:1-13

The Lord’s word is a place of refuge, to fill the hungry soul, to quench the thirst of the parched soul, and to give satisfaction where none other can be found. The word of God is life to the one who hears with a willing and open heart! It is a reminder of God’s steadfast love, and bears witness to His enduring love and faithfulness. Seeking the Lord where He may be found, in His word, is a foundation of rock that we may use to build our lives, to help the wicked turn from their ways, to capture our unrighteous thoughts, and turn them to the one who can change our hearts, for when we do, God will grant us pardon. For the ways and thoughts of God are not ours, and we must abide and trust in Him over our own thoughts and way of doing things. God’s ways are best, higher than our own, so it is imperative we trust Him! He always knows and seeks what is best! God’s word goes out, like water on a field, and brings forth fruit to the soil, the heart, that is good. It does not emptily go out, but always provides a return, bearing fruit for God’s perfect purpose. God’s way is the way of peace and prosperity, if we but follow it.
Wednesday: Romans 10:1-21

The law of God by itself cannot save, and was never meant to. It is to point out unrighteous ways, and gives us a standard by which God’s righteousness is shown. It points us toward our sin, but, more importantly, the need of a savior. It is by confession of Jesus Christ as Lord over and savior of our Lives that we may be saved, ad by His Grace and Mercy alone! Our righteousness cannot save us, because it is always lacking! Our works cannot save us because we can never make up for the sin we committed, but Jesus Christ, who is the fulfillment of the law of God, the one perfect man in all of History, died at the right moment that we may be called sons and daughters of God, and so that we can become the people God is designing us to be through His divine Word and Holy Spirit! Our confession of sins, and Jesus Christ as Lord opens the door for Jesus to come in and change us from the inside out; in recognizing the need for a savior, and crying out to Him for rescue gives Him the opportunity to save us! Through His word we gain the faith and promises to maintain that faith, we just need ears to hear it!
Thursday: Jeremiah 23:23-32

God is near to us. He’s not in some lofty place watching us from afar, but close to us always. There is nothing we can do or say that is hidden from God, and nowhere we can go that is hidden from His sight. Some claim to speak for God, and speak lies. Some follow them, as Paul says, because they have “itching ears” and these speakers give them what they want to hear. Yet if we twist God’s word, if we speak what is not spoken in God’s word, or if we listen to one who does the same, we endanger ourselves! It is the word of God that speaks to the heart of the one whom He has called, it is a catalyst for change, both for the believer, and the world around Him. It is the one who speaks, and the one who hears and faithfully keeps the word of God in the lordship of Jesus Christ that is righteous! We need to keep the word of God as sacred, and not bend and twist it to suit our own needs.
Friday: Matthew 7:21-27

It is not enough to know the word. We must know the one about whom the Word is spoken. Jesus is called the Word of God in scripture. He is the perfect fulfillment of the Old Testament. It is through a personal relationship with Jesus as both Lord and Savior of our lives, not teaching, not miracles, not tithing, and not evangelizing, that we are saved. Otherwise, we are just spinning our wheels, and risk hearing the words uttered from His lips “I never knew you.” The ones who Hear him and follow and obey them have a strong foundation that can’t be shaken! Upon His word, and living according to His will and words, we have an unshakable foundation that can outlast any storm. But if we seek to do it our way, our world will crumble around us, one way or other. Put your hope in the only place where it belongs, upon the solid Word of God. He is the rock, the cornerstone of the foundation, and upon Him you will never fall or fail!

A few questions for you

Question (From one who can be viewed, possibly, as a Zealot). What does your facebook/twitter/instagram account say about you? Is it hardly used (and therefore says little?), or heavily used? If it’s heavily used, what is the main preoccupation of it? I think our pages say a lot about what we value the most. For some, it’s family, for some it’s friends, for some it’s food, and yet for others, it’s politics, gossip, slander, and/or drama. While some of these are good things, and others, of course, not so good, what is posted says a lot about you. Now, before you say “don’t judge me,” look at your feed. What do you see there? What is preoccupied in your daily posts? If that is not you, it is what you’re broadcasting to everyone else.

For me, as a believer, most of what I post (though some time goes to family, and other things), I noticed my main preoccupation is with God. While it’s not always as evident in my personal life, this is what I value most. And, as a believer, this is exactly what I believe I SHOULD value most, my relationship with God goes before all things. As I type, I ask myself “Is this what Jesus would be pleased with?” as I delete things (which I do often), I ask “is this glorifying to God, am I representing Him well? Will His name be praised by my posting?” As a believer, I Must ask myself these questions, and everything I do and post, from my family, friends, personal beliefs, and anything else, must be saturated in my faith, and it must breath out the aroma of Christ. If not, I’m just blowing smoke, and wasting time (which I do quite often). I will follow Jesus with all that I am, and, in all things seek His will and His Glory!

Temptation

shut-the-door-on-temptation Do you struggle with temptation? If we’re honest with ourselves,temptation is one of the biggest struggles any of us face.Our temptation is that thing, or things, that keep us chained down from a full walk with Jesus, our security blanket covered in spikes. I know I struggle daily with mine. I take comfort, though in knowing Jesus can relate. In my study this morning of Luke Chapter 4, I discovered something about Jesus’ temptations.

1: Bread. It was the immediate need. Jesus had fasted for 40 days, and was hungry, so Satan presented Him with an obvious need, and yet Jesus, who wanted the bread (was tempted suggests that it was something that gave him pause) refuted Satan by keeping to the word of God. Maybe your needs have been dangled in front of you? Money, stuff, people, friends, lovers….the enemy knows it all, and knows you intimately. Stand upon the Word of God, because these are all traps to make you feel safe and secure, but ultimately divert you from God’s plan.

2. The Kingdoms of the Earth. Satan knew that Jesus’ mission was to come and claim the world for the Kingdom of God, but, should the proper methods not be taken, it would be null and void if Jesus strayed from the path. Jesus, the Savior, could have the heart of all the kingdoms of all the world, His desire, if He would just forsake His mission and worship Satan. And yet, again, when faced with what He wanted, He stood upon scripture. What are the desires of your heart? God has an intention to give you RIGHT desires, and RIGHT timing for the fulfillment of these, but if you run ahead, not trusting in Him, the enemy will pervert them, drawing you away from God’s plan for your life. Stand on scripture!

3. This last one has always perplexed me. From atop the Temple, Jesus was tempted (using scripture, of all things) with the ability to have angels rescue Him if He chose to throw Himself from the top of the tower. It was a test, so to speak, of God’s devotion to His son. This is a test all of us wonder about “Does God have my back?” When facing tests and temptations, I always ask God for rescue, for help, especially when I’ve done it to myself. Sometimes, God is faithful and sends rescue. These are the times when I truly and genuinely need help. Other times, I am delivered to my sin because I deliberately seek after it, even using scripture to justify myself. Jesus’ words ring true here also “You shall not put the Lord Your God to the Test.” Standing on Scripture, Jesus again beats temptation, and is ministered to by God.

IF you’re struggling this morning (And chances are, if you’re breathing, the enemy has SOME dirt on you), know that you’re not alone. Jesus, too, was tempted. He knows your struggle, and He is with you. Like Him, stand upon Scripture. Like Him, trust in the Lord your God, and seek Him in truth. (Luke 4:1-13)

From Hebrews 4:

14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Dear Fellow Christians

Dear Fellow Christians,

What extra gods do you have in your house? The Israelites, after leaving Egypt, worshiped a golden calf, returning to the ways of bondage, and I propose that once Jesus frees us, many of us do the same thing. Perhaps your god (emphasis on “g”) is an elephant or a donkey, as I’ve seen the followers of the gods of politics bash one another when there should be brotherhood in Christ. Maybe it’s a rectangular box that controls your every waking moment, always in your hand, always sending you messages that you have to answer. Maybe it’s a guy, or a girl, and it’s something that constantly pulls you away from God, and you always have to run back once it proves to be a false god. Maybe your gods are your kids, or your job, or your house, or your stuff, or a bottle, or an herb, or a pill, or objects that won’t love you back, but greedily take all your time, energy and resources? Whatever the case may be if you’re devotion lies in anything but the Living God, your house may have an infestation of gods too small to do anything but devour you.

Psalm 115:

Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory,
for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!

2 Why should the nations say,
“Where is their God?”
3 Our God is in the heavens;
he does all that he pleases.

4 Their idols are silver and gold,
the work of human hands.
5 They have mouths, but do not speak;
eyes, but do not see.
6 They have ears, but do not hear;
noses, but do not smell.
7 They have hands, but do not feel;
feet, but do not walk;
and they do not make a sound in their throat.
8 Those who make them become like them;
so do all who trust in them.

9 O Israel,[a] trust in the Lord!
He is their help and their shield.
10 O house of Aaron, trust in the Lord!
He is their help and their shield.
11 You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord!
He is their help and their shield.

12 The Lord has remembered us; he will bless us;
he will bless the house of Israel;
he will bless the house of Aaron;
13 he will bless those who fear the Lord,
both the small and the great.
14 May the Lord give you increase,
you and your children!

15 May you be blessed by the Lord,
who made heaven and earth!
16 The heavens are the Lord’s heavens,
but the earth he has given to the children of man.
17 The dead do not praise the Lord,
nor do any who go down into silence.
18 But we will bless the Lord
from this time forth and forevermore.
Praise the Lord!

I’m DONE!

I’M DONE MAKING EXCUSES. *Ahem* I will say it a little less loud. I am done making excuses. As a Minister, may I make a confession?

I am not the Spiritual man I should be. I hit the snooze alarm for two hours during the time I set aside for prayer. I read my bible, daily, yes, but it is mostly for research and very little is for personal gain. I pray throughout the day, but I don’t take time JUST for God; my prayer happens during the times I’m already on the go. None of these things, in and of themselves are very bad, but I make excuses that it is good enough. I tell myself “I am all right, I can do this on my own, I am a pretty good guy.” Those are all excuses to keep God from penetrating the deepest parts of my heart.

So I am done. I’m fed up with it. I’m giving my whole life to God, not just the bad parts, because when I keep even the good parts, they become corrupted without His presence. So I am done. I’m moving forward instead of sitting still, or crawling at a snail’s pace. Every day in the morning before the kids get up, I am doing my prayer and devotional time. I am going to pray for my household, my church family, and for my town, county, state, and nation. I’m going to wait on the Lord for answers, and I’m going to let Him guide my paths, because I am a poor navigator. I’m going to get in shape apart from round (yes, he’s convicted me of that during my prayer time too), and I will need help with that, because I find a reasonnot to, and they’re good reasons. Excuses are done. God is the Lord of my Life, and I will follow His lead, and not my own. I am laying it all down at His feet, and doing it His way. And Oh, the sweet freedom that brings!

From Philippians 1:18-30

Yes, and I will rejoice, 19for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. 25Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, 26so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.

27Only let your manner of life be worthyh of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, 28and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. 29For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, 30engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

Ideal vs. Real Thing

As a young man, I thought I was in love. I was devoted to this girl, did everything for her, spent nearly every day with her, thought I would marry her. The fact, though, was that the reality of her was not who I fantasized her to be. The truth is, I was more in love with the idea of who she could be, rather than who she really was. I’m not trying to make this a post bashing anyone, but to prove a point: sometimes, we idealize something or someone and then, when we sever ties, blame that something or someone when we were the ones who left.

And many people treat the church the way I did the girlfriend of my youth. We idealize, romanticize, and then get demoralized when the reality does not match our ideal. The truth is, we never truly loved the church where it was at; we loved it where we thought it should be, and when it did not match our expectations, we left it. I know, because once upon a time, I did too.

The fact is, the church is a beautiful mess. And why is that? Because it’s full of beautiful, messy people, all sick with sin, all needing the same savior to heal them. And guess what? Healing is not an instant change, It’s a lifelong journey to be more and more like Christ. You see, we want the church to conform to our image, but the fact remains we’re supposed to be conforming to the image of Christ. It’s not the church’s fault that so many people are leaving, as messy as it can get, it is still the bride of Christ. It’s my fault, and the fault of all who left without understanding that reality is always different than the ideal, and that the church is not a social club for saints, but a hospital for sinners, and hospitals can be messy places.

From Luke 5:

29And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. 30And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 31And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”