The Great Encourager

I have been sitting on this thought for a while pondering it.  Where do we get our encouragement from?  I know I have friends that encourage me, friends that I know I can call on to pray for me.  In times of trouble and trials, like now with all that is going on in the world, we certainly need encouragement to keep going and stay the course.

God has given us His Son, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit as encouragers.  One of my favorite movie scenes is from Facing the Giants by the Kendrick brothers.  The team is at a point where leadership from within the team is lacking and the coach is looking for players to step and lead.  The team has a defeated attitude before the game has even begun.  So he puts the strongest player to the test, a player that he sees leadership potential in.

Facing the Giants – Death Crawl Scene

Just like the coach we have Jesus and Holy Spirit speaking to us encouraging us to keep going, reminding us that He is with us in the boat or whatever situation we are in.  Jesus, the one who rebukes the winds, makes the blind see, heals the lame so they can walk again, we have access to Him directly.  We have to rely on His strength and give him our best, not perfection because He knows that is not possible for us, but our best, our whole heart, our everything.

In Jesus we have the great role model on how to deal with trials.  In Gethsemane, Jesus sweat blood and cried tears, He asked for strength from God at His most dire moment, and God sent angels to strengthen Him.

He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. Luke 22:41-44

I have been listening to Hillsong’s King of Kings a bit lately, the words are awesome but some strike me in particular.

To reveal the kingdom coming
And to reconcile the lost
To redeem the whole creation
You did not despise the cross
For even in Your suffering
You saw to the other side
Knowing this was our salvation
Jesus for our sake You died

We may not always have the other side of a trial revealed to us, but Jesus sees that other side and He is with us right by our side as we walk each day, each moment, each second.  God is not surprised by anything that happens.

In time of need, cry out to Jesus and He will present Himself.  The Holy Spirit is present and available, Jesus is our great intercessor.  Trust in Him and He will lift you up.  Surround yourself with Godly people and God will work through them.

The LORD also will be a stronghold for the oppressed, A stronghold in times of trouble; And those who know Your name will put their trust in You, For You, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You.  Psalm 9:9-10

I sought the LORD, and He answered me, And delivered me from all my fears. They looked to Him and were radiant, And their faces will never be ashamed. This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him And saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him, And rescues them. Psalm 34:4-7

I encourage the friends I have because I need the encouragement as well.  But I pray that Jesus would speak through me, because He can speak better words than I could ever speak.  These days we can certainly be a light in a dark place.  But call on Jesus, let Him strengthen and encourage you.

King of Kings (Live) – Hillsong Worship

I hope this encourages you to stay the course and keep going.  If there is anyway I can pray for you, email me, I would love to pray for you.

The Greatest

Like most Americans, I watched the Super Bowl yesterday and before the game they honored the 100 greatest players of all time.  Which as a fan of the game was pretty cool.  Even to see guys that played and coached the game well before my time.  During this when they were showing Jim Brown, I thought, how cool would it be to be honored in the top of whatever you do.  Being honored as the top doctor, lawyer, project manager, etc, fill in the blank.

Jesus talked about being the greatest.

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”  He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.  Matthew 18:1-5

To be fair, these greatest couldn’t have been the greatest without the help of their teammates and some of these guys are humble in their personality.  But in order for us to be the greatest in God’s eyes we must truly humble ourselves and approach God and our Christian walk with child like faith.  The great thing is we have the best team mate anyone could ask for in Jesus.

Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him. “What is it you want?” he asked. She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”  “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?”  “We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.” When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Matthew 20:20-28

In order to be great we must have a faithful servant’s heart.  We become great when we put those around us ahead of us.  We must also learn to carry other’s burdens.  When we learn to have child like faith, then we’ll be on the way to hearing “Well done good and faithful servant.”  Being held in high esteem by our Lord and Savior will far outweigh the accolades of this life.  Its not the easiest road to travel but what Jesus has done for us and prepared for us is far greater than what this world can ever offer.  The things of this world will one day fade away.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  Matthew 6:19-21

Jesus traded His place in Heaven temporarily to live as a man on earth to experience life in the flesh so He could identify with the things we face, so we can have the opportunity to be with Him in Heaven for eternity.  He bled and died a horrific death for fellowship with us to close the gap between us and the Father.  He paid the ultimate price for the sins we commit.  Our slate is clean because the The Father loves us so much He sent His one and only son to die for us.  We need to get low so one day we can be raised up.

Hillsong – Touch the Sky

Do you long to look into the Gospel

I’ve been reading and wrestling over 1 Peter 1 over the last week or so, coming off the back of a youth retreat I was part of at our church where the theme was Holiness.  Specifically I have been reading over and over verses 10-12

10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, 11 trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.

It talks about how the prophets studied with intent the sufferings of Jesus and the glory to follow.  Matthew Henry writes,

Jesus Christ was the main subject of the prophets’ studies. Their inquiry into the sufferings of Christ and the glories that should follow, would lead to a view of the whole gospel, the sum whereof is, That Christ Jesus was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification. 

But the part that has caught me was the end when Peter talks about how Angels long to look into the same message of the Gospel.  Angels are in the presence of God and they long, they set their heart upon, looking into these scriptures.

So if the angels long to look for these things, shouldn’t we?  I have found that the more I study scripture, the more I want to study scripture.  I want to know more about God’s love for me.  Like the church of Philadelphia I want to know God’s Word so I can keep it.

I attended a talk on Acts last night and the speaker covered the Bereans in Acts.  Luke writes in Acts 17,

11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. 12 As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.

When we read scripture do we just read through superficially or are we reading with intent like the Bereans?  Do we read and dive into scripture fervently with anticipation and eagerness?  Do we wrestle with God’s Word and not let go until He blesses us?  I find more and more when I ask God’s Holy Spirit to be present when I study He shows up.  Its not always the message I was expecting, but God has a way of speaking through His Word and Holy Spirit the message you need at that moment if you are open to it.  God’s Word is powerful and very much alive.

Waiting Here For You – Christy Nockels

Fear of Falling

Lately I have been listening and reading quite a bit about trials, the troubles we face in life, not purposely seeking it out but I think it is God speaking to me through these messages.  I have also been reflecting on past events and I realize more and more the difficulties of walking in step with the Jesus and how truthful it is when Jesus told the disciples that they would face troubles and how James writes about when we face trials.

I have to admit I do have a fear of falling away as some of the followers of Jesus did.  I have a fear that the time I spend in the “crucible” of life is and will be too overwhelming and I won’t be able to follow in full obedience to Jesus.

But then I remind myself, where would I go, to whom would I turn?

I have to continually remind myself that Jesus is working for my good.  As painful and difficult things may be I am being refined and made holy so I may someday enter into His Holy presence for eternity.  I am thankful for His Holy Spirit who guides me and leads me.  I was reminded a while ago that as a new parent at the hospital you have access to all the nurses to help care for the baby while at the hospital, but as soon as you leave, you’re on your own.  But we as believers aren’t on our own, we have the the Holy Spirit with us.

I just finished listening to Sadie Robertson’s talk at Passion 2020, which I highly recommend listening to along with the other speakers, and she spoke about John 21.  After Jesus rose from the grave He appeared to some of the disciples who had gone back fishing after not having Jesus around.  But He cared for them I think in a couple of incredible ways.  I never really saw this before but He first met their physical needs by feeding them, they had been fishing all night and I imagine were quite hungry.  Then He met their spiritual needs by affirming His love for them, specifically Peter, who publicly denied Jesus.

At the end, Jesus tells Peter to follow Him, the task of tasks! Which we are called to do as well.  He even told Peter the death he would face yet, Peter followed Jesus and became one of the first and greatest proclaimers of the Gospel, even with all of his “baggage”.

I pray you and I will not fall away.  I pray we will be like the church of Philidelphia, I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. Revelation 3:8, Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth. Revelation 3:10.

Waymaker – Leeland

 

Identity

We started studying the Beatitudes this morning in Bible Study and when we got to verse 5, Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God, the question was asked, “how do we become peacemakers when we have such hot topics of discussion in our world today?”  

It occurred to me that we, as a society, culture and people, tend to tie our identities, who we are, to our ideals and beliefs, whether political, religious or societal.  We can’t let our differences in belief overshadow the fact that we are all still human, people and most important of all created by God in His image.  There’s nothing wrong with disagreeing with others on ideals and beliefs, but we have to remember to love the person and not necessarily the idea.  We can be promoters of peace by remembering that the person is more important that the issue.  Forming or maintaining the relationship is more important than burning a bridge.

Paul tells us in Romans 10:12-13, For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Paul tells us a couple of chapters later in Romans 12:16 and 18, 16 Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.  and 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.

Granted, it is incredibly difficult to live at peace with everyone, even Paul had a disagreement and went separate ways from Barnabas.  But striving to be at peace with everyone takes a lot of humility.  I don’t believe it means we will agree with everyone we come across all the time, we’re people with a bent towards sin and selfishness, but we should put aside those selfish desires and strive to seek God’s will and wisdom in these situations.  If we humble ourselves and seek His wisdom and understanding, God will show up and reveal Himself and His will to us.

I believe humility is the key to this and the rest of the beatitudes, recognizing who we are in relation to God and understanding He is much bigger than we are and one of our goals is, as a pastor I listen to says, to enhance His reputation for His glory and honor, and until we get humility right we’re going to struggle with the rest.  You never know, in some of these discussions, you may be a great opportunity for the other person to see and hear about Jesus.

Lord Jesus, clothe me in compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Let me put on Love.

Lord, search my heart and examine my mind. Give me strength to turn from sin and wicked ways.

Lord, sanctify me, purify me entirely, remove the dross from me so I may dwell in your presence so others may see you in me.

Who You Say I Am – Hillsong Worship

More

I’ve seen this a couple of times over the last week, “More of Jesus”.  Once in our sermon on Sunday and again the Passion 202 Conference glimpse video.

Passion 2020 : A Glimpse

We also spoke about it in bible study Sunday morning, understanding the fact that if you want more Jesus, you have to give up other things.  There is sacrifice in being a follower of Jesus.

In my morning quiet time, I am reading through the book of Ezekiel and there are a few prophecies that are spoken through Ezekiel where God promises His destruction and wrath on different people groups and it ends with God saying “Then they will know that I am the Lord”.  It struck me this morning, what a bad way to know God.  Granted, sometimes we have to go through hard times and difficult things because of our sin in order to so to speak be re-centered with God or to even allow God to reveal Himself.  But these people in Ezekiel had voluntarily walked away from God and trusted in things other than the Him and because of that He was going to remind them who He was, and still is today.

God has good and awesome promises for us of we turn and follow Him.  There’s an awesome side to God, a caring and loving side to Him.  I’m not trying to discount the consequences of sin and the fact that God will allow bad things to happen if you trust in things other than Him, but God wants great things for us.  He created us for fellowship with Him and Jesus died on the cross in order for us to have that fellowship, that intimate fellowship, Koinonia, with Him.

In listening to Christine Cain’s talk from Passion 2020, she talk about the fear of missing out.  BTW, she gives an awesome talk at Passion, the link is below.  We live in a world where so much is accessible to us, we can change our mind like the wind changes directions when we see something that looks a little better or buy whatever we want at the push of a button.  But if God has things so awesome for us, we should have no fear of missing out.  Why would we want anything else but Jesus and to know Him more.

I want to know Jesus more because in His presence I can have hope and peace from the chaos of the world and be fulfilled by His love and not material things of this world.  What I struggle with is being focused on the things in my circumstances and not Him who creates my circumstances.  I worry about what my circumstances will lead to instead of what Jesus, my Good Shepherd, who walks with me through my circumstances, will lead me to.

When you come looking for me, you’ll find me. “Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.” God’s Decree. Jeremiah 29:13 (The message)

Passion 2020 – Christine Cain

Brian & Jenn Johnson – More of You Less of Me