A Firm Foundation, Part 4

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There are many stories in the Bible that show what happens when you your faith and trust in God. Usually someone overcomes impossible odds, or does something seemingly bizarre to succeed. Of all the stories, there is one that sticks out to me. Every time I read it, I am pretty amazed at the faith of all the people involved. The story is found in 2 Chronicles 20, and is about King Jehoshaphat battle against the Moabites, Ammonites, and Meunites.

The story goes that the three nations decided to invade Judah. Upon hearing this news, “Jehoshaphat was afraid and turned his attention to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah.” (2 Chronicles 20:3, NASB). Jehoshaphat sought God’s help to prevail against the oncoming foes. He knew that their army was massive, and his was not, and it look as though everything was coming to an end for him and the people of Judah. God responds to the prayer of the people and their king by saying, “Do not fear or be dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours by God’s. tomorrow go down against them. Behold they will come up by the ascent of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the valley in front of the wilderness of Jeruel. You need not fight in this battle; station yourselves, stand and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.” (2 Chronicles 20:15-17, NASB). So Jehoshaphat marched the army to wear God had directed them, with choirs singing “Give thanks to the Lord, for His lovingkindness is everlasting” (2 Chronicles 20:21, NASB) leading the way. While they were praising and marching, the 3 armies turned on each other and killed themselves. When the Judean army came to the valley, all of their foes were dead. They then spent 3 days collecting the spoils of the “battle” an on the forth day they worshiped and thanked God for His provision.

Can we trust our foundation this way? What would it look like if, when God tells us something, we listen. The people of Judah were told they would not have to fight, they simply had to listen. They trusted God to not give them up. We can trust God too. He knows what is best for us. When we build our house upon this foundation, we can find peace knowing that our best life is ahead of us. This doesn’t mean it will be easy. I think that is a very human understanding of what “best” is. We think that so long as we have $1,000,000 in the bank, we will be fine. But God never tells us that. In all honestly, when He was here on earth, He lived as a homeless man with nothing but the clothes on his body. Just because we have nothing, does not mean we are not living a good life. Trust in the Lord because He is our foundation, our rock, and our salvation.

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 21-24

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A Firm Foundation, Part 3

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There has been a hymn on my mind this whole week while talking about Jesus being our firm foundation. This hymn is called How Firm A Foundation. But I came across it today during my devotional time and thought I would share a little about this hymn. I know it’s not Sunday, but it fits with the theme this week!

Each of the four stanzas are reflections of a promise made in the Bible. The first is Isaiah 41:10, “Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My right hand.” (NASB). This is a promise that God is delivering to the people of Israel through Isaiah to let them know that He is with them. The author of this hymn took this promise and brought it to the followers of Jesus. It starts by telling us that Scriptures are our foundation and what more can God tell us, since we found Him in Jesus. God strengthens us when we center our lives around Jesus. And since Jesus is our firm foundation, it makes complete sense.

“How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?”

The second promise is Isaiah 43:2, “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.” (NLT). God is furthering His promise to the people of Israel. He is telling them that since He has redeemed them, He will stay with them through all of their circumstances.

“Fear not; I am with thee. O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God, I will still give thee aid.
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, And cause thee to stand,
Upheld by My righteous, Omnipotent hand.”

The third promise comes from Paul’s writing. “And [the Lord] has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore , I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NASB). The promise being made here is that we should rely on Christ. We often get caught up saying, “If only I could do _______, it will all be better.” But there’s a problem with that statement. We can’t do anything. We must fully rely on the power of God and acknowledge that we are nowhere near His greatness. Paul says that he will boast in his weakness, so that the power of Christ can be shown. If people know that we are weak, when we overcome, who deserves the credit? You or God?

“When through fiery trials Thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, Shall be they supply.
The flames shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.”

The final Scriptural promise in this hymn is Hebrews 13:5, “Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” (NASB). This promise is the same one that I’ve been talking about all week. Jesus is with us, and he isn’t going anywhere. God’s promises can be trusted because He stands firm and will not fade away. So build your life upon His promises, and see how much better you life becomes!

“The soul that on Jesus hate leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.”

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 19-20

A Firm Foundation, Part 2

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Yesterday I talked about Jesus being our firm foundation, but I didn’t really talk about what that means. What does it mean to be firm? I think we all have an idea, but looking at the definition made me realize, that’s exactly what Jesus is. The definition for firm is “securely or solidly fixed in place”. Knowing from Hebrews that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (13:8, NASB), I think firm is exactly the right word to use.

But there is more to being firm, the way Jesus is, than simply being able to stay the same. It also requires that He is able to last forever. If we turn to Isaiah 40:8 we read these words, “The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever” (NLT). This is a great statement for the power of Scripture, because this says that it will last forever, but how does this apply to Jesus? In John’s Gospel he writes, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory…” (John 1:14a, NASB). That’s how Jesus stands forever. The word of God will last forever, and Jesus is the Word made flesh! Even after he is long gone, we still know his name today. How many other people can say that? And how many of those people are still speaking today? The answer is 1.

Ok, so Jesus is a forever thing, that’s great. We all get it, but if you’re anything like me, I didn’t quite understand how good of new that was. Then I read a psalm. It was one I knew, and had read before. But what makes this psalm stand out is that it has a message that gets stated, over and over, 26 different times! God wants us to understand it, and Jesus is the one that brings it to us. The psalm says “His faithful love endures forever” (Psalm 136, NLT). FOREVER! Not for a short while. Not even for a long while. His loves lasts forever!!!!!! How can this be, unless the person doing the loving lasts forever. We can trust Jesus because he is forever kinda guy, and will love you and me forever.

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 18

A Firm Foundation, Part 1

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This weekend my church is starting some new programming. We’ve decided to do a one day vacation Bible School. Our theme for the day is going to be “Jesus is our Rock!” So I thought I would try to get into that subject this week. Today we are going to start with Jesus’ own words in Matthew.

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sad. The rain fell and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell — and great was its fall.” –Matthew 7:24-27, NASB

This passage comes at the end of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus had spoken many great truths to the Jewish people in his message, and knew that it was now up to them to decide what to do with it. He wanted them to know that unlike many others (sometimes called false prophets), he, like God, doesn’t change. You can rely upon Jesus to stay the same no matter what is happening. The comparison of the wise and foolish man is to compare the two choices the people had with his teaching. They could either take it and live lives based on good, unchanging foundations. Or try something else, that is quite possibly going to fail.

Jesus offers the same choice to you and me. He hasn’t changed in the last 2000 years, and he isn’t ever going to change. The Bible says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8, NASB). With someone who is that predictable and true, how could we not trust Him. I know that it gets hard. We have our own thoughts and opinions, and there are times that they contradict Jesus. I think this is where we have the hardest time trusting Him, because we say “This seems right to me”. Anytime I’ve ever followed my own opinion verses what Scripture says, I’ve always ended up wrong.

Jesus is our rock and firm foundation. When we build our lives upon Him, we won’t be disappointed. I’m reminded of what God says in Jeremiah,” For I know the plans that I have for you, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11, NASB). With plans like that for us, we should probably follow Him since we tends to lead ourselves away from welfare and hope.

We will be looking at more ways God promises to be our firm foundation throughout the week. Let this song be our song for the week.

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 17

True Worship: From the Archive (8/15/13)

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As a worship leader I am constantly asking myself, is this worshipful or how can people worship with this? Sometimes this question gets pretty hard to answer. Our job is to create an atmosphere of true worship. But with so many ideas out there for what worship is (especially traditional vs contemporary), it gets pretty hard to answer what is true worship. So let’s look at what the Bible has to say.

“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24 NIV). This comment made by Jesus was a statement to help the Samaritan woman at the well understand worship. She says earlier that the Samaritans worship on the mountain, but the Jews say they have to worship at the temple in Jerusalem. However, Jesus says both are wrong. Instead he says that we must worship in spirit and truth. So what does that mean? To worship in truth is to worship with the knowledge of who God is, including what He has done for us and our relation to Him. I believe that in order to worship in truth, it is important to remember that God is God and deserves all glory and praise and I am nothing, and deserve far less than He has given me. To worship in spirit means to allow the Holy Spirit to work and move within you. When I first started worship leading this was the second hardest thing for me to used to (the first being “stage fright”). I think it was so hard because worshiping in spirit means that we let go of control on worship and let the Spirit move us as appropriate.

Going along with worshiping in spirit, true worship must be directed by God. “I know, O Lord, that a man’s life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23 NIV). If we are not even worthy to guide our own lives, what would make us think we should control something designed to praise God above all? This is why lots of prayer is needed for those that plan worship services. We must be in tune with God and know what He wants from His people. It is also important to let God guide your personal worship time. Don’t go into it thinking “I really like this psalm, so I’m gonna pray it,” rather sit for a few moments in silence listening for God to direct you.

The final act of true worship I would like to discuss comes from Paul’s letter to the church in Colossae, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:2 NIV). Lots of people might think “well duh”, but think about it for a moment. How many times at church do we only go because we like the music, or the pastor, or people around us. Now these are all important things to look at when it is time to choose a church, but it is not the reason we come to worship. We come to worship, so we can worship the one true God, the maker of Heaven and earth. If we focus on the things around us though, we become susceptible to idolatry. And that, my friends, is something we must shy away from (Exodus 20:4).

So the main focus for worship is to connect with God and give Him glory and praise. If something else becomes your focus, I encourage you to spend time in prayer over it. God does not what you to worship something other than Himself (Exodus 20:3). So focus on Him, and thank Him for all He has done for you.

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 14-16

Seek and You Will Find

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When God says things multiple times, He’s probably trying to make a point. You see this many times, with many different topics, but they all have one thing in common; they lead to a deeper knowledge of Him. Today I wanted to talk about seeking God.

It all started while I was praying through the Psalms the morning. “And those who know Your name will put their trust in You, For You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.” (Psalm 9:10 NASB). I started to wonder what it meant for God not to forsake us if we seek Him. The Hebrew word (‘azab) used here, translated forsake or abandon, is what really caught my interest. It’s common usage and connotation is to simply abandon a person or object or anything else, but rather to abandon something held dear. This verse says to me that the people that seek God won’t be left by Him, but that He actually hold them dear to Him. When we are seeking God, we are drawing nearer to Him and making Him happier.

The next passage that came to me is found in Matthew. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8, NASB). I think this is especially important when times are hard to see God. It’s always easy to see Him when times are good, but when times are bad it gets a bit harder. But God says that He tests the righteous and the wicked (Psalm 11:5), so my must persevere and seek Him through the hard times. He is there for us to lean onto, to take refuge in. He isn’t going to let us down. We just have to look through all the smoke and the fog and find His glorious face shining right back at us. I’m not saying this is easy. When times are tough, even tragic, most people turn away from God and blame Him for doing this to them. But something God says, over and over as well, is that He is there for us. All we have to do is seek Him out.

The final passage I came to was, “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13, NASB). The last part I think is what we all seem to miss, “with all your heart”. It doesn’t mean that we can spend 10-15 minutes a day doing a quick devotion or reading a short passage of Scripture, or saying a short little prayer before your day starts. Yes, God can be seen there, but we can never truly find Him like He is calling for us to do. We must devote our time and energy into this. This is the foundation to living with worship as a lifestyle. But I think we get in this trap because of the culture we now live in. Information is at our fingertips (literally if you have a touchscreen smartphone or tablet). We can find anything we want with a couple clicks of a mouse, and a few words on a screen. God doesn’t work that way. There is no way to instantly download God. We have to spend time searching for Him.

If anything came out to me today it was that we, as a culture, have to be more intentional about seeking God. It’s not something that we can do quickly or randomly throughout our days. We have to set time to focus on Him and dig into Scripture and prayer. We must seek Him, because that is the only way we will ever find Him.

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 9-13

I Have A Dream

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I thought that since this is Martin Luther King Jr Day today, we should all have a listen to his most famous of speeches. It is a good reminder for today’s time that we should treat people as Christ would treat them, even if we disagree with them. Take a listen to this speech and ask, what is God telling you for today?

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 7-8

Nothing But The Blood

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“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight…” Ephesians 1:7-8, NASB

This wee’s song is Nothing But The Blood. In my church we will be singing the version that Matt Redman made, but it is actually based on a hymn. Both songs ask the question “What can take away my sin?” This is a basic question we face when we realized we have sinned. People tend to decide that they can get rid of their sin by “doing good”. Others believe that it was by making sacrifice that we get rid of our sin. But the answer lies on the Cross. The refrain of the hymn says this:

“O, precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus”

This song tells us that Try as we might, nothing can remove our sin from us but the blood of Jesus. The blood that was poured out for all mankind as a means to remove sin. God did this for us. There is nothing we can do, nothing else will satisfy the need of salvation. God died on the Cross for us, and that is the only way we can be saved of our sins.

This week’s set:

  • O Praise Him (David Crowder* Band)
  • Open They Eyes of My Heart (Paul Baloche)
  • Nothing But The Blood (Matt Redman)
  • Give Us Clean Hands (Charlie Hall)
  • Here’s My Heart (performed by David Crowder)
  • God of This City (Bluetree)

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 6

I Lift My Hands!

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I came across a video today (below posted as “The funny video”) that is poking fun at raising hands in church. He is talking about the difference between a “hand raising church” and a “non-hand raising church”. Don’t get me wrong, I thought it was hilarious, but it got me thinking about something. All churches should be hand raising churches! Paul wrote to Timothy, “In every place of worship, I want men to pray with holy hands lifted up to God, free from anger and controversy.” (1 Timothy 2:8 NLT). Lifting our hands is an expression of worship, not one that someone has lost their mind. Or on the other side, they did lose their mind and gave all of themselves in worship of their Heavenly Father!

I have to admit that hand raising was something that I never understood, even when I first started leading worship. Then I tried it. I will never judge someone who lifts their hands in worship again, or any other symbol of praise (shouting, clapping, dancing, etc). I would suggest, if you haven’t before, lift your hands in worship. You can do it right now. Praise God with your hands lifted high. It is truly an experience I wish everyone would have, and not sit there and think others are silly for doing it. I was that way, but never again. We were made for worship, so let’s give our all in worship.

The funny video:

On a more serious note (Louie Giglio from Symphony (I Lift My Hands):

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalms 3-4

A Popular Misunderstanding

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LOVE the book of Colossians. It is most certainly one of my favorite books in the whole Bible. I would recommend reading it, if you haven’t, and do some good study on it. I may do a study on it soon here on The Heart Man. But my love of Colossians is not what I’m wanting to talk about today, I just wanted to lead with it (you’ll see why in a moment).

I overheard a conversation going on today (about politics) and there was a statement made that went something like this, “This is really a religious issue. I don’t see why they are letting their faith interfere with making law. The separation of Church and State forbids that kind of behavior.” (This isn’t exactly what was said, but it still gets the point across.) Statements like this get me upset, not because of disagreements on politics, but because it represents the idea that my faith belongs at Church on Sunday morning and nowhere else.

Paul writes in his letter to the Colossians about becoming a new person in Christ. “So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you…”(Colossians 3:5, NLT). Paul is saying to us, “Remember all those things you used to do before you encountered Christ? They made you dead, and Christ made you alive. Stop doing those things and focus on what God want you to do.” He even writes earlier, “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” (Colossians 3:1, NASB). We are new! We are not the same as we were before, and we cannot go back!

The thing that bugs me the most is a misunderstanding over the separation of powers. I believe that people are well-intentioned, but have a problem understanding historical context. Historical context is when we read something from a different time, and try to understand what the text is saying within that time period, not ours. This is something we have to do constantly when studying the Bible, which is why there are misunderstandings on Scripture as well. But back to government! The separation of powers came up from two things. First, the thirteen colonies were seeking to break away from England. At the time, the King was not only the head of government, but also the head of the State Church. This lead to much religious persecution, which is why many of the colonist came to the “New World” in the first place. The second misunderstanding is that the first amendment gives freedom of religion. Many of the colonies (future states) had established a certain denomination as their State Church. However, the view was that this was inappropriate for a land to have religious freedom.

So a separation of powers, does not mean that we cannot vote based on religious beliefs. Based on Paul’s writing, that’s exactly how we should be voting. Christ has made us new, so before voting we should have a little WWJD moment. The other problem that arises during these types of discussions is that the people who oppose us, we mistreat because we disagree.

Paul urges the Church to “…put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;… Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.” (Colossians 3:12, 15, NASB). Paul is speaking to the Church about other church members, but I feel that this could be simply applied to our relation with people of other faiths. Show everyone compassion despite disagreements. We must treat others like they are people, just as we would want them to treat us. Pushing the Bible on people, who don’t want it, only drive them away from the Gospel. Instead we should live our lives as God commands us, and let that be our testament to Jesus Christ.

I disagree with several things going on in the world. But I will never condemn someone simply for believing differently than I do. We will never have problems, until you start having a problem with me believing the way I do. That’s the way we are called to live. Live as Christ taught us to live. Love everyone, even the people we disagree with. Let love overflow your heart, just as Christ did. That’s the call of a Christian lifestyle. We must keep true to our beliefs, we cannot compromise them. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t love those we disagree with. The call of the world to keep our faith to Sunday mornings is exactly what the Enemy wants. He doesn’t want God’s people living like God’s people, because it hurts his cause.

So stand up for your beliefs. Don’t ever let someone tell you that your Christian life should stay at Church. Christ made you new! We are no longer dead in our sin, but we are alive in Christ. Do you know who can change this world? People who are alive, not dead. And the Enemy does not want to see that change, because then he loses.

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 2

 

PS I’m very sorry if this makes no sense. I’m really scatterbrained at the moment. Plus I was super excited to open up Colossians today. Please forgive me if you can’t follow this post.