Strength and Shield

The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.
[Psalms 28:7 ESV]

Oh Lord,
You are my Strength.
You are my Shield.
In You I am found safe and secure.
In You I am on firm footing.
In You I shall never to be moved.
And thus I praise You,
oh Lord,
for many would assail me,
Satan’s torments crash against me as the waves of the sea.
Sin is constantly enticing me to turn away from You.
On my own I am weak.
On my own I would surely succumb to the evil one.
On my own You are not glorified.
But You ARE my Strength.
You ARE my Shield.
And thus I am here to praise You.
My heart exalts.
My heart is over-joyed.
For You help me,
and You shield me.
You place a hedge of protection around me.
And there is nothing and no one that can snatch me out of Your hands.
And so, as I begin this new day,
may I ever remember You as my Fortress,
and say with confidence and boldness,
Satan, bring it on.”
To You, oh God, be all glory and honor and strength and praise.
In Jesus name I pray,
Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Understanding Repentance Rightly

I am working through a devotional series in my YouVersion Bible app called Acts of Repentance. The first two days were great, but day three really bothered me and thus I wrote a correction for them.

Day 1 focused on Psalm 51 where David is writing following his affair with Bathsheba and subsequently being called out on it. The devotion gave a list of four things we should do: (1) Acknowledge our sin, (2) Ask for forgiveness, (3) Ask for renewal, and finally, (4) Ask God for help to use your sin to teach those who are engaged in sin and are in need of repentance. I thought that list was helpful.

Day 2 focused on Luke 13:1-8…
There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure.

The take away from this devotion was: (1) What fruit are you bearing in your life currently? (2) What sins do you need to repent of in order to start bearing the kind of fruit God desires. Once again, helpful.

But now, day 3…

From 1 John 1:5-10
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Here’s the beginning of the devotion that followed this text:
Repentance results in forgiveness. We repent and God forgives. Repentance and forgiveness are not difficult concepts. Repentance is our action and forgiveness is God’s reaction to us out of His perfect love for us.

NO, NO, NO!!!

What this is saying is that forgiveness is dependent on our action. True, we need to make a confession of our sin but repentance is not something we do in order to curry favor with God so that we can be forgiven, but rather repentance is something we do BECAUSE we are forgiven. Repentance is something we do to honor God because God is worthy. When we make repentance a work, then God’s grace is taken out of the picture. Remember the woman caught in adultery? The Pharisees wanted to stone her for her offense but after Jesus silenced the crowd he turned to the woman and said, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” The forgiveness came first and the call to repent came next. True, there was no confession on the woman’s part (at least nothing that was recorded) but the point is that Jesus didn’t wait for her to clean up her life first.

God acts first. We respond.

Thus the devotional should have read:
Forgiveness results in repentance. We repent because God forgives. Repentance and forgiveness are not difficult concepts. Forgiveness is God’s action and repentance is our reaction to God because of His perfect love for us through Jesus Christ.

There, that works. I wonder of the author of this devotion will humbly accept my correction 🙂

The Pastor -|— 

Eyes

“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light,  but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! [Matthew 6:22-23]

I wanted to share this devotion with you that I read today through my YouVersion Bible app. Check it out:

“The Lamp”

Our natural eyes are given to us to help us function and communicate in the natural world, but they have another purpose; to help us perceive the beauty and glory in the natural world that bear witness to the nature, character and purposes of God the Creator. We all know that natural eyes, if they are blinded or otherwise defective, can block or distort the light that is intended to guide us. This is true in the spiritual world as well.

One way this happens is when, as Romans 1 explains, we exchange divine glory for natural glory, and things such as female beauty, affection and sexuality take on an exaggerated importance to us because they have been separated from other things which are supposed to be part of the male-female relationship, such as genuine love and covenant. Romans 1 goes on to explain how we can even be “given over” (essentially, addicted) to increasingly wicked behavior, because our “bad eye” has distorted our perspective.

The way out is to reverse the exchange we have made through repentance, acknowledging God and making a conscious choice to value divine glory over natural glory. Only then will our “bad eyes” become “good eyes” again, allowing our bodies to be filled with light instead of darkness.

I read this and thought of the song lyric, “Be careful little eyes what you see”. The eyes are indeed the windows to the soul and ones that will pollute your soul in a big hurry. And when we are polluted, we exchange the glory of God for that which is not beautiful. It’s only a false beauty that will wear out and grow dim. Only the glory and beauty of God will never dim and never disappoint. Only the beauty of God will draw us in and hold our affections. Natural beauty begs us to return and through sin we are more than happy to acquiesce.

So…

Keep your eyes fixed on the beauty of God.
~ Running to His Word
~ Dwelling in His promises.
~ Gazing on the cross of Jesus.
~ Reflecting on your sin and God’s forgiveness of said sin.
~ Spending time with other believers in worship.
~ Studying God’s word.
~ Filling your thoughts about the glories of God.

Basically, keep yourself so busy with God that your eyes don’t have time to let in false beauty that is of this world. Look at everything through the lens of faith and give glory to God our Father; beholding His beauty.

Holy God, give me eyes so I can see Your beauty and not exchange Your beauty for that which will fade. And where I have failed; where I have exchanged Your beauty for natural beauty, grant me faith and strength to repent. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Touching the Word

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That is my bookshelf in my tiny church office. This used to be a badge of honor; all those books up there (many of which I haven’t read), but today I hardly notice them. It’s a rare moment that I even look at this with the intention of looking for particular book. Nowadays, I either consult my Kindle library or search Google. Part of me wonders why I even keep these books anymore.

When I attend conferences I will still browse the bookstore but rarely will I buy anything. If I find a book I like I search for the Kindle version on Amazon and then add it to my wishlist to buy later. If there is no Kindle version then I am force to discern how bad I really want/need the book. I remember not so long ago going to these conferences and coming home with tons of books, but no more.

And then there’s my Bible.

For the most part, I am reading my Bible through my YouVersion Bible app on my phone or my tablet. I do use my paper Bible in worship and in Bible study, but generally I go to the electronic version for my Bible reading, but sometimes I just need to hold a paper Bible and read. It’s not that it’s more holy or anything but in a weird sort of way I feel closer to the Word when I can actually touch the paper.

Is that strange?

And so I keep a paper Bible always close at hand. I am actually trying to recondition myself to use it more often and only use my Bible app if I absolutely need to or if I want to quickly share something on social media.

And so…

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…I’m off I go to read;

touching the Word of God;
listening to the pages
and feeling a little “old fashioned” (but that’s OK).

Technology can greatly improve many things but it can never replace the paper Bible. I’m OK with ebooks and downsizing my former badge of honor in my tiny church office but I hope our world never gets to the point where paper Bibles are obsolete; found only in museums under glass.

The Pastor -|—

Mountains

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The mountains before me, oh God, look treacherous and dangerous and daunting and overwhelming. Seeing them I almost want to pull off the road and head in the other direction.

But You, oh God, are bigger than the mountains. 

So,

help me to know You better,
teach me Your ways,
and guide me in YOUR Truth.

Grant me patience as the climb gets tough and the way becomes dangerous. Grant me strength when the mountain screams at me, “You can’t do this”.
Grant me courage when the mountain threatens my security.

You are the God of my salvation and on You I will wait all the day long.

The mountain is there, oh God, but in You may I find peace; for it is Your will that I want to follow and obey.

All honor and glory and praise and worship be to You, forever and ever. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Holy Parenting (Ephesians 6:4)

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I claim no expertise in parenting but rather, I claim a strong desire and passion to raise my children to know and love God through Jesus Christ. And that is why I am so drawn to the above verse. I am constantly thinking about ways to be a good example but also thinking about what my children are seeing in me. Children are going to learn about God from their parents. Hopefully they learn a lot at Sunday school and Bible camp and vacation Bible school, but children will learn about loving and living with God by watching their parents.

So parents be mindful.

But not just parents. Church, be mindful. The children are watching you too. Whether you have children or not, they are watching you. When you are in worship; children are watching you. When you are interacting with others; children are watching you. Whether you like it or not you are being recorded by a child’s built in video camera in their brains, so be mindful.

But one of the biggest misconceptions in parenting is that as parents we need to be their child’s “best friend”. Children don’t need that. They have plenty of people to be best friends with. According to scripture, children need parents that will discipline them and teach them to know the Lord.

Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him. (Proverbs 13:24 ESV)

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t share this verse in order to advocate beating your child. This verse is about a parent’s God-given responsibility to discipline a child when they go astray. How a child is to be disciplined is something for another blog post. But here, parents are not called to be best friends. Parents are called to raise their children to walk the narrow path; disciplining their children out of love not anger.

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6 ESV)

And a parent may actually do this but see their child stray from the faith. If this happens, be patient, you have planted a seed. So don’t lose heart. Keep training them in the way they should go. How this training goes will vary from parent to parent but the common thread is, don’t be their best friend, be a faithful example of the Christian life. Love your children but even more than that, love God.

I have said this a number of times but it bears repeating:
The best thing a parent can do for their child(ren) is to love God more than them.

That right there says a lot. Love God above all things and all people and as a parent, you will do fine 🙂

Father God, parenting is hard work. Grant Your Spirit that parents and other adults may have the wisdom it takes to pass the faith on to the next generation. In Jesus name, Amen

The Pastor -|—

Suit Up (Ephesians 6)

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Suit up, Christian:
~ Belt of truth
~ Breastplate of righteousness
~ Shoes – readiness given by the Gospel of peace
~ Shield of faith
~ Helmet of salvation
~ Sword of the Spirit

I guarantee that you have nothing in your wardrobe that comes close to this. Nothing that can clothe you to face the Devil’s schemes. Nothing that can prepare you for battle like what God gives you through faith in Jesus. So suit up with what God gives and be strong in the strength that only God gives.

And then, according to the author of Ephesians, pray and keep alert. Don’t become complacent. And also make supplications for all the Saints as we fight the fight of faith; as we do battle in this fallen world.

There is much persecution going on in the world for Christians and it is only going to get worse. But if you have suited up in the armor of God, there is nothing to worry about. And praise be to God for that.

Mighty God, may we stand strong in your strength and may the strength we show bring You glory. Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Love and Obedience (John 14:15)

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http://bible.com/59/jhn.14.15.ESV

It has been a John 14 kind of day as this chapter has been stuck (in a good way) in my brain and heart.

I was out visiting this morning; bringing communion to a couple members at a nursing home and assisted living facility out of town. During the course of the communion service I read from John 14 (since it has been on my mind today) and verse 15 struck me so I tried to make some mental notes on the fly. When I got home, I immediately created the above image through my YouVersion Bible app on my tablet and reflected on this some more. A few thoughts about this verses came to mind:

~ Obedience is a joy because of the one you are obeying.
~ Obedience is trusting the person you are obeying.
~ Obedience is not something to avoid consequences.
~ Obedience comes naturally because of the one whom you love.
~ Obedience out of love is not demanded but freely given.
~ Obedience out of duty is not love.
~ Obedience out of love is not about you but rather the one whom you love.

This is really a beautiful verse in the midst of a beautiful chapter. The love of Jesus should lead you to freely and joyfully obey all that God has commanded. For the one you truly love, you want to please, not because of fear of punishment for disobeying, but because you don’t want to hurt the one whom you love.

Just throwing this out there for you to ponder and reflect on.
Go…

The Pastor -|—

It’s Coming

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The YouVersion Bible app now has an option to make these cool scripture images. So upon installing the update this verse came immediately to mind after a long and trying day. The only problem with this picture is that the image is not nearly glorious enough. The only appropriate picture would be too blinding to look at, but hopefully you get the point.

May God bless your night and whatever “sufferings” are plaguing you right now, give them to God and wait; your glory through faith in Jesus Christ is coming.

Good night.

The Pastor -|—

Bible reading

Are you looking for a New Year’s resolution? Call it a plan. Call it a goal. Whatever you call it consider reading your Bible. The link below is the one I use and I love it.

http://bible.com/r/O
M’Cheyne One Year Reading Plan

If a one year plan is too much right now, read through a book of the Bible and go from there. The YouVersion app I use has a lot of different plans.

Whatever you do, though, get into your Bible and read and listen. This is God’s story of salvation for you. And this will be the best book you read all year (and ever).

Happy New Year!

The Pastor -|—