Friday, June 29, 2007

Good morning -

How have we been affected by "the spirit of Babylon"? I couldn't help but wonder as I read these words in Jeremiah:

"Babylon has been a golden cup in the hand of the LORD, Intoxicating all the earth. The nations have drunk of her wine; Therefore the nations are going mad." (Jeremiah 51:7)

Lest we dismiss these words as applying to an ancient time of judgment, almost identical words appears in the prophetic book of Revelation:

"For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the passion of her immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed acts of immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich by the wealth of her sensuality." (Revelation 18:3)

The spirit of Babylon is a pervasive force that has influenced all the nations and rulers of the world; it is very much alive in the world today. Ample evidence can be found today in the fact that nearly all the nations of the world are drawn into a continuing conflict in the region of ancient Babylon. What's not so easy to discern is how the spirit of Babylon affects us personally.

The spirit of Babylon exalts self while paying homage to the enemy of God. It is subtle religiosity that becomes a clever substitute for the genuine truth and power of the One true God and His Son, Jesus. It is holding to a form of godliness while denying its power (2 Timothy 3:5). It is a powerfully deceptive force that can be identified only by the most discerning.

The best way to avoid the deceptive counterfeit is to strongly embrace that which is genuine. The Apostle Paul states that those who succumb to end-time deception are those "who they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved." (2 Thessalonians 2:10). Notice that the deceived are not those who KNOW truth but rather those who LOVE it. Familiarity with truth is dangerous ground; it is only passionate love for it that will safeguard against deception.

Fall in love all over again today; return to the first love that you found at conversion, and to the truth of the Bible that led to conversion. Devour God's Word as you seek His direction today. Rekindle passion in your prayer conversation. Reconnect with those you love in the faith, because they are His living word in the world. Keeping in step with the genuine Spirit of God is the best safeguard against the dangerous spirit of Babylon.

Seeking to fan into flame a passion for my first love,

Pastor Steve

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Good afternoon -

I watch the events in the Middle East with a great deal of interest. The turmoil there is unprecedented, but has there ever been a time when peace and stability characterized the region?

For reasons that God alone knows, He looks upon the tiny Jewish nation and its people with favor. God's sentiments are well expressed through Jeremiah:

"Thus says the LORD of hosts, "The sons of Israel are oppressed, And the sons of Judah as well; And all who took them captive have held them fast, They have refused to let them go. Their Redeemer is strong, the LORD of hosts is His name; He will vigorously plead their case So that He may bring rest to the earth" (Jeremiah 50:33-34)

The Kingdom of God will come when God has finished all of His work with Israel. When all is done He will ultimately "bring rest to the earth" (put an end to war and conflict through the leadership of His Son, Jesus).

Now, lest we feel that God is unfairly impartial to the Jews, we need to be aware of the fact that every human being has an opportunity to be an "adopted Jew". Nowhere is that possibility better described than in Galatians 3:29: "if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to promise." As an adopted member into this special family, you can lay claim to God's promise through Jeremiah: "Their Redeemer is strong, the LORD of hosts is His name; He will vigorously plead their case So that He may bring rest to the earth"

Perhaps you've felt unfairly treated by family, friends, co-workers, or employers. Maybe life hasn't seemed fair and you're wondering if anyone notices and will ever care enough to plead you case. Your Redeemer, the Lord of hosts, will vigorously plead you case and work on your behalf until the earth ultimately finds rest at the coming of the Kingdom. You have the strongest legal defense team of all!

As members of the family of God we often find ourselves oppressed and even captivated by evil times and circumstances. Yet our Advocate is strong and vigorous in His work on our behalf. He is actively working through our lives and circumstances as His plan moves forward to establish His Kingdom on earth. Our lives are intricately tied to His plan for His kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.

An incredible plan is underway in the world, and we share in that plan. Discover all that you can of it, and join in the great adventure. All is not as it seems from the viewpoint of the world.

Rejoicing in the unfolding plan,

Pastor Steve

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Good morning -

History records that it was a sermon that touched off a great spiritual awakening in America. It was preached by a man named Jonathan Edwards and was entitled, "Sinners In the Hands Of An Angry God". This fiery message about God's impending judgment struck a responsive chord with many in the 1740's and had a major impact on the course of America's history.

The message of God through Jeremiah the prophet was often about coming judgment, a subject that was none too popular. Throughout biblical history we find that God has often acted in righteous judgment, and yet today there is a strange silence on the subject. Much is said and taught about God being a God of mercy but little if anything is said about the fact that He is a holy God who acts in judgment.

Perhaps the most sobering passage in the Bible on this subject is 2 Peter 3:9-13: "The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells."

Nowhere else do we see the dual themes of God's mercy and judgment weaved together more intricately. They are both inseparable qualities of our Creator, and yet far greater emphasis is placed on His mercy these days. From the perspective of today's emphasis, God appears to be a kindly white-haired man who would never harm a flea, much less consign people to the judgment fires. Yet in our age, as in any age, there is behavior and lifestyle that is not pleasing to Him but the call to repentance is rarely heard. Can God truly be pleased with all He sees today?

Lest I sound too self-righteous, let me assure you that there is plenty in my own life that causes me concern. I find too common of a kinship with the lethargic, lukewarm believers in Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22), among other things. But regardless of the condition of the messenger's own household, isn't there a responsibility to warm of danger to the unprepared?

It's not been my personal desire to unsettle or alarm you with today's thoughts, but rather to call you - and myself - to balanced introspection according to God's truth. This moment that we have right now is a sheer act of grace from our Creator. Let's use it to carefully consider our lives in light of the truth we learn from Peter, and from the great prophets throughout the ages.

Enjoying today's grace with an eye on accountability,

Pastor Steve

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Good morning -

Let's be honest; being famous is appealing. Who wouldn't want to be a well-known personality whose legacy would be well-noted for generations to come? The ultimate validation of our lives would be our highly-visible impact on the lives of others, and the world ... or would it?

Jeremiah the prophet spoke some interesting words from the Lord to a man named Baruch:

"But you, are you seeking great things for yourself? Do not seek them" (Jeremiah 45:5)

It would be one thing to have greatness thrust upon us - which could be a gift from the Lord - but to actively seek greatness is a pursuit completely contrary to the will and plan of the Lord. The disciples of Jesus, the great "pillars of the church", were confronted by Jesus for arguing among themselves as to who was the greatest (Mark 9:33-34). As Jesus pursued the path of a servant his followers pursued the path of greatness.

There is no more striking description of the path we are called to pursue than is found in Philippians 2:

"Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:5-10)

The most famous One of all chose the most unlikely path of all; that of a lowly servant. Rather than seeking the fame that ultimately is His, He chose instead humble servant hood. And his example is the pattern that we are called to: "Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus". The lifestyle of a Kingdom citizen is in showing preference to the needs and interests of others; it is making their agenda our agenda - a difficult if not impossible task, humanly speaking.

Jeremiah's question is posed to us today: "But you, are you seeking great things for yourself? Do not seek them" (Jeremiah 45:5). No matter how elusive, are we seeking fame and success according to the world's definition? Is our own agenda of importance our priority, or are we pursuing the Kingdom agenda of Jesus through the lifestyle of a lowly servant? It's all about motive, and there is only One we can clearly see motives. May He see only pure and humble motives within each of us today.

Trying to put myself down so that Christ can be raised up,

Pastor Steve

Friday, June 22, 2007

Good morning -

If God were to audibly speak to you, what would He say? I'm sure each of us would like to think it would be something pleasant, but what if it were not? Would we pay close attention if He pointed out areas of sin and disobedience?

Jeremiah the prophet was approached by a remnant of Jewish people left after King Nebuchadnezzar had taken the nation into captivity. They wanted to hear the Lord's word:

"Please let our petition come before you, and pray for us to the LORD your God, that is for all this remnant; because we are left but a few out of many, as your own eyes now see us, that the LORD your God may tell us the way in which we should walk and the thing that we should do." (Jeremiah 42:2-3)

That's a pretty dangerous request! To ask God to reveal to us how we should live and what we should do involves a willingness to actually do what He says.

"Then Jeremiah the prophet said to them, "I have heard you. Behold, I am going to pray to the LORD your God in accordance with your words; and I will tell you the whole message which the LORD will answer you. I will not keep back a word from you." Then they said to Jeremiah, "May the LORD be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act in accordance with the whole message with which the LORD your God will send you to us. "Whether it is pleasant or unpleasant, we will listen to the voice of the LORD our God to whom we are sending you, so that it may go well with us when we listen to the voice of the LORD our God." (Jeremiah 42:4-6)

The story has a sad ending because these very people failed to do as God instructed, in spite of their claims.

Several people came to Jesus during his earthly ministry and professed a desire to follow Him. Usually the terms were greater than they were willing to accept. They wanted to follow according to their own terms. It makes me uncomfortable to consider that the same might be true of me: that my discipleship is largely based upon my own terms (which would really not be discipleship at all).

Many if not most of us are eager to hear the voice of the Lord, but to truly hear is to heed. God's word to us is clear and complete in His written Word. The true test is not how much we understand and know, but what we do with what He says.

Seeking to walk according to what I've read and heard,

Pastor Steve

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Good morning -

It's a question that people have been asking down through the ages: Is there a word from the Lord? There is an intense interest in knowing if there is an authentic word from the Creator to our generation. That drive has led many people to look in all the wrong places for that "word": mysticism, pantheism, and the occult, to name a few.

An important political leader once asked Jeremiah the prophet that very question:

"Now King Zedekiah sent and took him out; and in his palace the king secretly asked him and said, "Is there a word from the LORD?" And Jeremiah said, "There is!" Then he said, "You will be given into the hand of the king of Babylon!" (Jeremiah 37:17)

The word of the Lord is not always pleasant, but it is always of the utmost importance. The Lord YHWH is intensely interested in His people and actively seeks vital communication with us. But as surely as the Lord wants to communicate with us, so does the enemy. It requires the utmost discernment to determine the authentic voice of the Lord from the enemy's counterfeit voice.

The Lord will never speak contrary to His written word. Many people have been caught up in demonic deception because they did not weigh "the voice in their ear" against the written word. A solid understanding of God's word and ways from the written word is the surest safeguard against such deception.

There is a human tendency to want something definitive to validate God's presence and our experience. Jesus warns that the yearning for such signs is an evil craving rather than a mark of genuine spirituality (Matthew 12:38-40). But still we want to hear the voice of God.

We have far more of God's voice within than we may realize. The dynamic presence and work of Holy Spirit within us provides more than adequate voice, teaching, and guidance (John 14:16-26, 16:7-15). We need only attune our senses to be aware of that which is within.

"Is there a word from the Lord?" Like Jeremiah, we can confidently respond, "There is!". That word today, however, need not be a word of judgment but a word of hope and comfort for all who seek. A precious gift of Jesus is the internal presence of the Helper, providing an authentic voice of the Lord amidst a world of deception and evil.

Listening for the voice within and within the word,

Pastor Steve

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Good morning -

Most of us wouldn't dream of burning a Bible but there are those who would consider it a service to mankind to do so. Surely any government leader who would do so would be the recipient of the extreme disfavor of God.

"Then the king sent Jehudi to get the scroll, and he took it out of the chamber of Elishama the scribe. And Jehudi read it to the king as well as to all the officials who stood beside the king. Now the king was sitting in the winter house in the ninth month, with a fire burning in the brazier before him. When Jehudi had read three or four columns, the king cut it with a scribe's knife and threw it into the fire that was in the brazier, until all the scroll was consumed in the fire that was in the brazier. Yet the king and all his servants who heard all these words were not afraid, nor did they rend their garments." (Jeremiah 36:21-24)

God had directed Jeremiah to write the words that He spoke to him. They were stern words of judgment upon a disobedient people, yet the offer of grace was extended to all who would repent. The narrative of King Jehoikim's actions spiritual condition is evidenced by his actions: he heard the words read and then cut portions of the scroll and threw them into the fire until all was eventually burned up. There is not the slightest hint of repentance or remorse; he simply coldly and callously heard God's word and then chose to destroy it rather than respond to it.

Before we completely dismiss Jehoikim as a totally vile and spiritually dead ruler, we do well to pause and consider the Jehoikim that is potentially within us all. Whenever we choose to be unresponsive to God's word we are a bit of a Jehoikim. James 1:22-24 says,

"But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was."

The Bible demands a response from all who read it. No book is more radical or dangerous. It calls us to die daily to ourselves in order to live. I don't know about you, but that makes me uncomfortable. The choice, then, is to read and heed or neglect and reject. Uncomfortable as it makes me, I would far rather undergo the pain of shaping and molding than to be comfortable on the path to destruction.

Seeking to submit to the shaping of His Word,

Pastor Steve

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Good morning -

It's the great Christian paradox: we live in the world but we are not to be of it (John 17:15-16). How do we live a Kingdom lifestyle while living in the world?

Many of God's words to Jeremiah were directed to the Jewish people about living in exile in a foreign land. They had incurred the wrath of God because of their disobedience and were taken away into captivity in Babylon. While they were there God gave these instructions:

"Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease. Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare." (Jeremiah 29:5-7)

It seems that we also are exiles in a foreign land as we await the Kingdom of God, and so these words have significance for us: build houses, plant gardens, marry, raise children, actively seek the Lord's favor upon the land of our exile. Basically, live normal lives while never forgetting the most important perspective: our true allegiance is to the government which is to come; which exists in part invisibly today.

Amidst our lives "in exile" comes a great promise: "For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD YHWH, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you." (Jeremiah 29:11-12)

We are on a progressive path set before us by the Lord, regardless of the setbacks that we seem to face. The Lord has the ultimate plan for our welfare and future; a plan filled with hope and possibility. His invitation to us is to come to Him, and call upon Him, and pray. He assures us of an audience; He will listen.

I've had plenty of moments of doubt and concern about my immediate future at times in life. I've lost jobs and faced setbacks, as so many of you have. Yet I'm reminded that the ultimate plan of God has never changed or been compromised or threatened. God's words through Jeremiah remind us that His ultimate plan is the building of character that enables us to live today as citizens of the kingdom to come. Regardless of how today's circumstances may appear, be assured that they fit in to His plans for your hope and future.

Anticipating the working of the plan amidst today's activities,

Pastor Steve

Friday, June 15, 2007

Good morning -

I wonder how popular it would be for a pastor or Christian leader to declare that the United States is destined to be conquered by Al Qaeda? I think I already know the answer: such comments would be met with ridicule and the bearer of such bad news would be subject to public humiliation and hatred. But what if he was right?

Jeremiah the prophet was called to such an unpopular task:

"In the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah the son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying-- thus says the LORD YHWH to me--"Make for yourself bonds and yokes and put them on your neck, and send word to the king of Edom, to the king of Moab, to the king of the sons of Ammon, to the king of Tyre and to the king of Sidon by the messengers who come to Jerusalem to Zedekiah king of Judah. Command them to go to their masters, saying, 'Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, thus you shall say to your masters, "I have made the earth, the men and the beasts which are on the face of the earth by My great power and by My outstretched arm, and I will give it to the one who is pleasing in My sight. Now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, My servant, and I have given him also the wild animals of the field to serve him. All the nations shall serve him and his son and his grandson until the time of his own land comes; then many nations and great kings will make him their servant." (Jeremiah 27:1-7)

Declaring that Israel and Judah would be conquered by Nebuchadnezzar was not good news. And, as is often the case, the tendency is to "shoot the messenger" of bad news. Chapter twenty-six records that Jeremiah narrowly escaped death because of a previous message of judgment. We learn later in the book of Jeremiah, and from history, that he was not so fortunate.
Standing for and declaring God's word can be unpopular and even dangerous, but the priority remains regardless of how it is received:

"preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths." (2 Timothy 4:2-4).

Let me challenge and encourage you to "stay the course", regardless of how you are received. It is not uncommon to be praised one minute and ridiculed the next for how we live and speak. Regardless of the tide of popularity, stay faithful and strong. God's word remains, no matter how it is received, and so do those who stand on it and declare it.

Seeking to stand strong in uncertain times,

Pastor Steve

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Good morning -

Some things just take time. In our high-speed, high-tech era we expect instant results from simple plans and formulas. That mentality runs contrary to spiritual realities. Note these words from Jeremiah:

"The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah (that was the first year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon), which Jeremiah the prophet spoke to all the people of Judah and to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, "From the thirteenth year of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, even to this day, these twenty-three years the word of the LORD has come to me, and I have spoken to you again and again, but you have not listened." (Jeremiah 24:1-3)

God had spoken to Jeremiah and Jeremiah was faithful to declare His message for a period of twenty-three years, and yet without response. Sadly, seventy years of exile and hardship resulted for failing to respond.

As I read Jeremiah's words I realized that I've served in pastoral ministry for approximately the same time that Jeremiah emphasized one message to one group of people. By comparison, I've pastored in a variety of places as I've sought to faithfully share God's message, but my perseverance pales in comparison to Jeremiah's. To stay in the same place for that period of time and declare the same message to an unresponsive people requires supernatural strength and perseverance.

It's somewhat of a well-worn statement but true nonetheless: God calls us, not to results, but to faithfulness. God alone is in the "results business" and even at that will not force His will upon the unresponsive. His work bears fruit according to His plan and timetable, not ours.

I've seen or been involved in many worthwhile ministry pursuits that had indication of the presence and blessing of God, and yet there were few visible "people responses". Some would label these efforts as failures because the numbers weren't there. If that is the criteria for "success", then Jeremiah, Noah and many of the great people of faith were failures. Yet they are commended, not because of the results, but their faithfulness.

You are likely involved in some ministry or service that you felt called to, but the results may not be as you expected. Perhaps you have faithfully served for a long time in the same way with little results. The world might label your efforts as unsuccessful and might even label you as a failure. The Lord's evaluation is different than the world's so, "Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary." (Galatians 6:9). Whether in this age or the age to come, we'll see the Lord's good results in His good time.

Looking in faith to the faithful One,

Pastor Steve

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Good morning -

We are rarely without options. I'm convinced that people who make bad choices aren't aware of the options before them so therefore they make bad decisions based upon seemingly-limited options.

God has always placed options before all of us. They are summarized well in Jeremiah:
"You shall also say to this people, 'Thus says the LORD, "Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death." (Jeremiah 21:8)

Our first parents had options in the Garden of Eden but, unfortunately, we've been paying the consequences of a poor choice ever since. Now, before we shake an accusing finger we need to remember that we also face life and death options, as Jeremiah points out to us. But the choices may not be as simple as they sound. After all, we might ask, who would choose death when they have the option for life?

It's not just about making a one-time decision; that really would be too easy. Sadly, too many people believe that it's as simple as accepting Jesus, getting their ticket punched, and waiting for the Kingdom to come. That's too much like an insurance decision: decide, sign on the line, pay, and then forget about it until you need it. It just doesn't work that way.

The Apostle Paul said, "I die daily" (1 Corinthians 15:31). Did you catch that? "I die DAILY".

Romans 12:1 says, "Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship." Being a living sacrifice isn't so easy. Someone once commented that the problem with a living sacrifice versus a dead sacrifice is that a living sacrifice has a tendency to crawl off the altar.

I don't think any believer would deliberately choose the path of spiritual death but the seemingly small daily choices can have that cumulative effect. Deciding not to commune with the Lord in prayer today, or to read a passage of Scripture, or to have some interaction with another member of the Body of Christ are all decisions that place us on the "way of death". We may not die spiritually today per se but such decisions potentially move us in that direction.

The small things in life are what truly make up the big picture. We can admire the performance of a professional athlete, but unseen to the spectator is the mundane and tedious routine of regular practice and exercise that facilitate professional performance. And so it is in the life of a Kingdom citizen: the outward evidence of spiritual maturity is the cumulative effective of daily choices in discipline.

Seeking to die today in order to live,

Pastor Steve

Friday, June 08, 2007

Good morning -

It's not one of my proudest moments. I was driving in my car and shaking an angry fist at God. I had been a pastor for only a short time, and I don't even remember what I was angry with God about, but I was angry enough to vent my frustration. I vaguely remember other cars around me on the busy street that was the scene of my indignation, and I can only imagine what their reactions must have been.

That scene leaves me with remorse, but I'm relieved to know that even a great prophet like Jeremiah had such moments:

"O LORD, You have deceived me and I was deceived; You have overcome me and prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all day long; Everyone mocks me." (Jeremiah 20:7)

It's pretty strong language to accuse the Lord of deception. I'm certain that Jeremiah didn't really believe that, but his comments give insight into very human frustration and anger such as any of us are prone to.

I can appreciate Jeremiah's dilemma when he says, "But if I say, "I will not remember Him Or speak anymore in His name," Then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire Shut up in my bones; And I am weary of holding it in, And I cannot endure it." (Jeremiah 20:9). When God calls us to be His representative, turning away isn't an option. His word in our lives becomes like a burning fire that cannot be quenched; keeping it to ourselves results in the ultimate case of heartburn:).

Let's face it: the journey of faith has some very frustrating moments. There are times when God seems silent, and other times when God seems totally unfair. Turning away and living the life of an agnostic is appealing, but then His call and word are too real to ignore. We ultimately choose to hold on in faith regardless of whether the journey makes sense.

I'll dare say that at least one person reading this is frustrated and confused at the way of the Lord; maybe enough to be seething in anger or discouraged and disheartened enough to contemplate giving it all up. If that's your experience today, you're in good company with great people of faith such as Jeremiah and Elijah. Even the strongest person of faith has such moments, so hang on in faith if that's where you are today. It will one day make sense, but maybe not even in our lifetime.

I don't think I've shaken an angry fist at God since that infamous day years ago, but I'm sure I have in my mind many times since. I'm glad for His grace and forgiveness and His willingness to keep me on the Kingdom path in spite of myself.

Grateful and humbled,

Pastor Steve

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Good morning -

I've learned that irrigation is a big deal where I live in the southwest. Rain is rare and thus trees and other vegetation are dependent upon irrigation for their very survival.

Jeremiah reminds us that, "Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD And whose trust is the LORD. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, That extends its roots by a stream And will not fear when the heat comes; But its leaves will be green, And it will not be anxious in a year of drought Nor cease to yield fruit." (Jeremiah 17:7-8)

The word, "trust", stands out to me as I read Jeremiah's words. To trust is to be totally dependent upon. Total dependency upon the Lord places us in a position to be watered and nourished and to withstand the heat and drought. The problem that I see is that it is too easy to "lean a little on" rather than fully trust the Lord. We have so much to provide us with security that trusting in the Lord is more of an option than a necessity.

Earlier in chapter 17 the Lord says through Jeremiah, "Thus says the LORD, "Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind And makes flesh his strength, And whose heart turns away from the LORD." (Jeremiah 17:5). Such words sting, but they challenge us to consider who and what we trust in. Trusting in the plans, systems, and securities of mankind as well as our own abilities and understanding is much too easy. Most of us are insulated from severe hardship by secure jobs, reasonable salaries, and creature comforts. Our choices consist of WHAT we will have to eat rather than WILL we have anything to eat.

A healthy tree has deep roots that extend down to the nourishing and refreshing waters; growth has been oriented toward nourishment. So it needs to be in each of our lives: deliberate growth needs to be toward our source of help and strength. And that growth is largely dependent upon the choice that we make to actively seek out the Lord through prayer and Bible study and interaction with the people of God.

May your "roots" be deep and well-connected through trust in the Lord who abundantly supplies nourishment and refreshment.

Pastor Steve

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Good afternoon -

We've probably all heard it said, "you are what you eat." I've never been quite clear about what that means, but I'm especially troubled when I've eaten fruit and nuts:). I suppose the real meaning is that healthy food makes for a healthy person and vice versa.

It seems that Jeremiah the prophet developed a "sweet tooth" for a particular type of food, and so should we:

"Your words were found and I ate them, And Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart; For I have been called by Your name, O LORD God of hosts." (Jeremiah 15:16)

For most of my life I've respected the Bible as God's Word. That respect led me to regularly read it, more out of duty and obligation than genuine enthusiasm. One of the greatest discoveries of my life has been the sense of joy and fulfillment that I have found in realizing that these words provide true daily nourishment. I've gone from obligatory reading to real feasting. Granted, there are passages that I read and wonder how they will really impact my life, but then I don't fully understand the process of digestion when I eat a meal yet I know I'm nourished.

Approaching God's word not only from the perspective of "what does it say?", but also from "what does it say to me?" can make a tremendous difference. If His word is truly living and active (Hebrews 4:12) then it will leap from the pages of the Bible into out hearts and minds and provide all the nourishment that it can uniquely provide.

You really are what you eat - physically, mentally, and spiritually. There are numerous Bible passages that remind us to carefully select the food that we serve our mind, and nothing is more important than choosing the best nourishment of all that God has selected for us - His Word.

May you find both joy and nourishment in a rich feast of God's Word today.

Pastor Steve

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Good morning -

It's just not fair; the wicked prosper and good people are often oppressed and mistreated. More than once I've questioned God's fairness, and apparently I'm not the only one to do so:

"Righteous are You, O LORD, that I would plead my case with You; Indeed I would discuss matters of justice with You: Why has the way of the wicked prospered? Why are all those who deal in treachery at ease? You have planted them, they have also taken root; They grow, they have even produced fruit. You are near to their lips But far from their mind." (Jeremiah 12:1-2)

Jeremiah's words have a familiar ring to them. We've all considered the same questions ourselves. The injustices of life perplex and trouble the soul of any godly man or woman. But dare we be as honest as Jeremiah?:

"But You know me, O LORD; You see me; And You examine my heart's attitude toward You. Drag them off like sheep for the slaughter And set them apart for a day of carnage!" (Jeremiah 12:3)

"You know what I'm thinking, Lord, so I might as well say what I'm thinking: give 'em what they deserve!" That may sound a little too honest but you and I both know that we've contemplated such thoughts. The soul of a righteous person cries out for justice in an unjust world. And justice will one day come:

"if they will really learn the ways of My people, to swear by My name ... they will be built up in the midst of My people. But if they will not listen, then I will uproot that nation, uproot and destroy it," declares the LORD." (Jeremiah 12:16-17)

Slow as it may seem from our perspective, God's justice is certain and destined to ultimately be carried out. A kingdom perspective reminds us of this important fact: "For the earth will be filled With the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, As the waters cover the sea." (Habakkuk 2:14)

Stand in the hope of coming justice amidst today's injustice. Let the "righteous indignation" within move you to the most responsible action of all: sharing the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ. And when we are prone to be discouraged over life's injustices, praying the words of our Lord are the most reassuring: "Your kingdom come".

Looking for the ultimate justice amidst today's injustice,

Pastor Steve