Won’t Get What I Want

Have you ever thought about what you want from God? I know that I have. I know that I have little right to tell God to do things for me, but I also know that God’s Word tells me that He loves me and wants to work in me. I want Him to work in my life. I want Him to love me in that “agape” way that the Bible talks about. I want that love to be constant and unchanging so that I know that He will always receive me. I don’t think that these desires violate what the Bible says that God does in our lives. In fact, I think that it encourages these desires.

Here is a second question that I have regarding what I want from God: am I approaching Him in a way that puts me in a place to receive those things that the Bible encourages me to seek? In other words, am I coming to God in a way that gets me what I so desperately need and want?

God’s Word declares two general paths that people take to get these things from God: the path of legalistic ritual or the path of grace filled relationship. Consider these words from Paul:


Gal 3:10 — Gal 3:11

10 For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.” 11 Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “ The righteous man shall live by faith.”


There is a warning in this passage: as good as the Law is, it won’t get us what we want. We want forgiveness. We want love. We want to know that God is committed to us and receives us. Some people try to get these things by being “good enough”. They follow the rules set down by their church, their family, and their community so that they will be “good enough”. The problem is that it never is good enough, is it? There are always more requirements, more expectations. How frustrating! Yet, it is what the Apostle Paul warns us in Galatians: “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.” In other words, we shouldn’t be surprised that following the rules is both unfulfilling and self-defeating. The Law is designed to be that way. It only shows us what we don’t do. It doesn’t give us confidence in what God is doing.

Paul also declares the other way to God: faith! What is faith? Faith is our response to grace. Grace makes promises. Faith believes those promises. Faith acts based upon those promises. Faith trusts those promises. In faith, our relationship with God is not based upon achievement or any type of merit. (How could I ever be good enough to earn love? That’s not what the Bible reveals love to be.) In faith, our relationship to God is based upon His wonderful promises to us. This is grace.

Which way do you and I approach God? If we try approach number 1, I am afraid that we will always be frustrated. We will be frustrated because there is little hope in legalistic rituals. In those, there is only a sense that I can never measure up. However, in approach number 2 we discover great hope: God loves me because He said so. I didn’t earn it. I don’t even fully understand why, but He has promised it. I can trust Him! That is what I want to do. I want to come to God in faith. What about you?

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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God, Big Enough for the Little Things

I have a horrible habit in my prayer life. It isn’t that I don’t bring my requests to God. It isn’t that I don’t believe that God can answer my prayers. My habit is that I routinely decide which needs are too small to bring to God.


1 Peter 5:6 — 7

6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7 casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.


This encouragement from Peter always catches me. It doesn’t catch me because of the call to humility. Anyone who has heard the teachings of Jesus know His opinion on pride. However, here in 1 Peter he connects it to how we pray in a profound way. In the midst of talking about prayer and exaltation, Peter urges us to cast all our anxiety upon God. He doesn’t tell us to bring God just the big stuff. He doesn’t say to take to God just the “spiritual” stuff. Peter tells us to bring all our anxiety to Him – every single thing.

I know the usual response. It usually goes something like this: “I pray for others. I pray for the needs of my church and community. I pray for my family. But, I don’t pray for myself much because my needs are little compared to others. God needs to take care of those bigger needs. I can manage these small things.” I don’t want to be too hard on us for trying to be humble in our praying, however I believe we have missed the point. We have missed that we aren’t actually expressing humility when we say such things. We are making the love and expansiveness of God smaller. We are missing that He loves us so much that He wants to know what is on our heart. We are losing sight of what it means for God to be omnipotent = He is so powerful that He can work in the smallest of our problems!

So, instead of shielding God from our little needs I propose we do something truly humble – bring Him every single one of them! Let’s acknowledge our complete dependency upon Him. Let’s embrace a love that wants to know every need of our heart. Let’s marvel in a God like Him. He is so great that He loves you and me. He loves us in our smallness. He loves us in our brokenness. He is always faithful. So, when you think of humility don’t try to make yourself smaller. Make Him bigger. Make Him your everything. Make Him your strength. Make Him your confidence. Make Him your answer. He is big enough for even the little things.

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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He is Worth It

screenshot_20180129-1947071157359149.jpgThere are a couple of ways to measure what we value. The first way to measure what we value is what we are willing to pay or sacrifice to get it. The other way is how does what we value stack up to other similar items. Consider those that love Apple devices. The average iPad is between 200-300 dollars. The similar Android device is half that price. The iPhone 8 is between 600-800 dollars. The comparable Android device is a third of the price. Now, ask that Apple user if they are willing to pay that amount. The answer will be yes. Then ask them if they would take a free Android device. Can you guess the answer? It will probably be a snarky, “Yeah, I can use it as a brick to lift up the corner of my bed – it’s a little low.” That’s value. They love their device. They will pay the price and they won’t give it up.


Psalm 84:10 For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand outside.
I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God
Than dwell in the tents of wickedness.


That’s God to us. The Psalmist declares that He would be willing to be a door keeper at God’s house than dwell in the tents of wickedness. That’s quite a cost – stand outside the house of God as a ceremonial guard rather than enjoy the party! Wow. What value! He also says that he would rather spend one day in God’s courts than a thousand outside. No exchanges. Nothing else is acceptable. When compared with all other opportunities, God is worth more. That is value.

God’s people are clear in their declaration: God is worth it. He is worth any sacrifice. He is worth giving our heart solely to. Because of that worth, giving and sacrificing for Him is joy. It is the joy of value. We get to be with Him. We get to walk with Him. We get to follow Him. He makes it joy. Do you know this joy? Do you know His value? He is worth it.

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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Softening a Hard Heart

I’m pretty sure that no one wakes up and says, “I want to have a callous heart.” Nor do they say, “I want to rebel against the good that God has planned for me.” Yet, we’ve all done it. How did we get there? Can we get back?


Romans 1:21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.


Sin. We all know that we do it. Our regrets would tell us that even if we didn’t see it in the lives of those we sin against. The book of Romans was given by God to tell us 2 things about that sin. First, it tells us the reality of sin. Second, it tells us how to be set free from sin. In Romans chapter 1 the Apostle Paul identifies a progression for us. Notice how it progresses: not honoring God as God, guessing about life and what is good, and then the heart grows dark. From there, Paul describes all the foolish and hurtful things we do in that situation. Ouch! So, we start ignoring God’s instructions (not honoring God as God). Then we start acting as if good and evil are up to interpretation or debate (futile speculations). Finally, once we start justifying our actions with futile speculations our hearts close down. That is the process that turns incidental sinning and mistakes in hard-hearted rebellion.

That’s what happens to us if we follow the habits of sin. Consider God’s prophet Jonah. You would think that a prophet of God would be immune from such habits, wouldn’t you? However, we see Jonah rebelling against God’s plan for his life. He runs. He is persuaded (by a giant fish!) to obey God outwardly. However, we see that his heart is still hard to the heart of God by his response to the success of his preaching. The city repents, and he is angry that God will forgive! In fact, he tells God that the work of God in the hearts of the people is EXACTLY why he ran away. He still doesn’t want God to do what God has promised to do! That is a hard heart.

How can we avoid going down the same path? How can we avoid being called a child of God and yet act like His enemy? Consider which of these (if not all) of these habits we might need to apply to our lives.

Image result for softening a hard heart1) Don’t trust your feelings to follow God. Trust His Word to reveal who you should be.

2) Seek to know and embrace God’s character and not just some rules to live by. Knowing God is about knowing who He is (what He is like, what He values) rather than knowing about Him (His attributes, His rules)

3) Make your chief joy about knowing and serving Him rather than serving or pleasing yourself.

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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Promises Get Us Through the Day

When God says something, do we believe it? I don’t mean when He declares right and wrong. I hope that we would say of course we believe Him there. I am talking about believing what He says that He will do in us. Do we believe it?

Peter says, “2Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; 3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4  For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.” (2 Peter 1:2-4)Image result for trust

Consider that a moment. God’s divine power has given to us, “everything pertaining to life and godliness.” We have at our disposal everything we need to live the life God has designed for us. We have what we need to be godly. He has given it to us in Christ! As we know Him more He reveals the steps that we will take.

In fact, Peter declares that God has given us, “precious and magnificent promises.” When I feel that I don’t measure up the idea that God has promised to make me like Himself is a great comfort to me. Why? The comfort comes in the promise. It comes knowing that the God who has called me also has made promises to me. If I acknowledge that the Bible declares God to be good, then I will believe that He will keep His promises. He will keep even His promise to make me into the man that He has created me to be.

Promises are precious things. We know this by how angry we get when people don’t keep their promises to us. We are hurt when they back out. When we think about God, do we consider His promises? Do we hold them as precious? Do His promises give your life hope and make how you see the future brighter? Do we understand that He thinks that His promises are precious too? They are precious enough to keep! He will keep His promises to you and me. Trust in that – our God keeps His promises.

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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Know His Love

Image result for the love of God at ChristmasThere is just something about Christmas. I don’t know if it is the lights or the time with family or if it is the feel-good movies, but it seems that so many people are talking about love this time of year. They aren’t talking about infatuation or romance like they do in February. They talk about love as a commitment to bless the people in their lives. They talk about love as valuing and holding close those that are precious to you. The whole world (in my part of the world) talks about sharing that love to others through acts of benevolence or kindness.

Yet, I think of all the people who don’t know that they are loved. They feel lonely or isolated. They feel insignificant or worthless. They do not understand how much they are loved by others – and especially, God.


Consider this prayer of Paul the apostle, “14 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ… 18 [that you] may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:14-19)


Paul was praying for his Christian family in Ephesus that they would understand some important truths. Those truths led to this prayer – that they would know the great love of God found in Jesus. He loves them. He loves them to such great measure that Paul uses building terms to express its greatness: length, width, height, depth. 4 directions, that is how great the love of God found in Jesus is for us!

So, let me ask you – when was the last time you really let the greatness of God’s love in Jesus wash over you? When did you let yourself feel truly secure in that love? When did that love motivate you, comfort you, empower you, or help you walk through a valley?

Let me encourage you this Christmas – God does love you. He loves you. He doesn’t just sit looking at you with a sour expression because you don’t measure up. He isn’t wondering if He could have done better. He loves you. Let Him love you like Paul says that He already does. His love for you is high. It is wide. It is long. It is deep. Rest in that!

May your Christmas be bright!

Pastor John

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Do We Have to Choose Between the Manger and the Cross?

Image result for the manger and the cross

During the Christmas season we think about Jesus coming as a baby. There is wonder here. There is a miracle. Yet, do we sometimes we get stuck in Bethlehem and the manger? He was born for a purpose. He was born not to simply be adored. He came to save. Let us never forget it.

 

 

 


Luke 1:49-50 49 “For the Mighty One has done great things for me;
And holy is His name. 50 “And His mercy is upon generation after generation toward those who fear Him.”


I think about Mary… When she found out that she was pregnant, she went to visit her cousin Elizabeth. What was on her mind? We aren’t told if she asked her cousin about baby stuff or being a mother for the first time. What we are told is their opening exchange. It isn’t just softness and light. They are focused on God, His goodness, and His power. Mary’s long statement is called, “The Magnificat” in m

 

any Bibles. It is a statement of praise regarding the work of God. Mary is focused on the good

 

ness and power of God. She declares that God is doing amazing things both for her and for all who would come to God.

Oh how I wish that Christmas for me could be about both. I don’t want to miss the wonder that comes when we think of the God of the universe becoming a little baby. At the same time, I don’t want to forget that even from a little baby our Jesus came with a purpose. He came to save.

 

What about you? How do you keep the balance between the manger and the cross? Is there something special you do?

Something to think about,

Pastor John

 

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