Meanderings of a Minister


Be Strong in the Lord

The Easter celebrations are over.  The family has returned home or you have returned home.  You have been back at work for a week.  The decisions you made to be more faithful have been tried.  How do you keep the momentum going and maintain the growth that has started in your heart and in your walk with Christ?

While a different setting, David dealt with similar issues when he wrote Psalm 27:

The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread? When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh, My adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell. Though a host encamp against me, My heart will not fear; Though war arise against me, In spite of this I shall be confident. One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the Lord And to meditate in His temple. For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle; In the secret place of His tent He will hide me; He will lift me up on a rock. And now my head will be lifted up above my enemies around me, And I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord. Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice, And be gracious to me and answer me. When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “Your face, O Lord, I shall seek.” Do not hide Your face from me, Do not turn Your servant away in anger; You have been my help; Do not abandon me nor forsake me, O God of my salvation! For my father and my mother have forsaken me, But the Lord will take me up. Teach me Your way, O Lord, And lead me in a level path Because of my foes. Do not deliver me over to the desire of my adversaries, For false witnesses have risen against me, And such as breathe out violence. I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord In the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.

First, David believed that he did not need to fear anyone or anything that opposed him because he believed God to be more powerful than his enemies.  God is more powerful than the enemy within and the enemies without.  He did not let the fear of failure, loss, or even war cause him to fear to the point that he took his eyes off of God.  We must not allow our fears and failures to take our eyes off of God either.

Second, David continued to hold the Lord and worship before his eyes throughout his life.  He was constantly reminded that, even if his enemies would prevail, he would spend eternity in the house of the Lord in Heaven.  If his enemies did not prevail, David would dedicate himself to worshiping at the Tabernacle.  We need to have this confidence as well.  If you have repented of your sins and surrendered your life to following Christ for the rest of your life, then heaven is your ultimate destination.  Until then, nothing can separate us from Him and from the privilege of worshiping Him.

David hungered to learn from God.  He wanted to know God.  He wanted to understand God’s character so that he could become more and more aware of and convinced of God’s love for him.  You and I have a privilege that David did not have.  We have the whole Bible to read and study and use to understand God and His plan for our lives.  In order to keep the momentum going with the decisions we made during the Lenten season and Easter, we must make the study of and obedience to God’s word a constant priority.

Lastly, David was honest with his frustrations as he went along.  He said that he was concerned to the point that he would have despaired if he did not believe that he would see the goodness of God in the land of the living.  David said he was really close to despair, but he was reminded that, even when he was not faithful, God still is.  You and I have that promise as well.  Jesus is coming again to get His children.  When things are hard here, we must keep this future deliverance in mind.  We must let that encourage us not to give up, give in, or give out.

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What You Do With Your “Free Time” Shows Your Heart

Vacation

As I write this article, I am sitting in a condo at Grand Lake in Northeastern Oklahoma.  We arrived last night and will spend the week here prior to a very busy Summer of ministry that will begin when I return on Friday.  Friday night, our church will host a 5K to raise money for a trip to Haiti we will take later in the month.  On Saturday, I will be at the Harley-Davidson shop to hand out water to the Harley Owners’ Group that will gather in Liberal.  On Sunday, I will preach and then leave for Children’s Camp for the week, return to preach again on the weekend, and then head off to another camp only to return for a week and leave for Haiti.  Because of all of this activity, my family and I decided to take a trip to relax and charge up for the busyness ahead.

So what do we do while on vacation?  Many would say that they would want to just relax and not think about anything and not worry about anything and just make their time about focusing on them and their family.  I understand this sentiment, but I also wonder what it means to truly desire the things that are above and not the things that are here on earth.  What would this look like on vacation?

First, while vacation may be seen as a time to break our normal routine and open up more time for play, relaxation, family, etc., what is we took this opened up “free time” to connect with God more than we normally have time to do?  Jesus said, “No man can serve two master, for he will love the one and hate the other or he will serve the one and eschew the other.” (rough translation).  If Jesus is truly the love of my life and that which I am building my life on, then shouldn’t I WANT to take the extra time to connect with Him?

The extra “free time” of vacation also gives me more of a time to help my family connect with each other and with the Lord.   If vacation is a time just to get away from everything and connect with family, then what am I teaching my family about what is really important in my life?  What am I teaching them about what to set their hearts on?  Is it any wonder that my generation grew up thinking that the ultimate goal of life is retirement and the days of not having to do anything I don’t want to do?  Is it any wonder that, even in the church, people work at teaching, singing, and serving for a time and then want to back away and let others do the work?  Jesus said that we are to work while it is day because the night is coming when no one can work.  Let’s not hasten the night.

Additionally, extra “free time” can be spent, not only connecting me more with Jesus, my family more with Jesus, but could actually be a time when I could prepare myself to have more to pour out to others on vacation and when I return.  A little time spent in more focused reading, prayer, contemplation, or planning, can be time that prepares us to be of more use when we return to the place of ministry God has placed us.  That’s assuming that we believe we have been saved, not just from sin, but to a life lived for Him.

I hope you have a chance to go on vacation or take some time off this Summer, but hope that this time off will be of more value to than just going somewhere to have some fun, make some bills, and return more tired than when you left.  I hope that you are able to Raise Your Gaze to things above…even on vacation.



Stopping Before the End

Stop

Just this morning, I was reading God’s word and came across a verse that I actually memorized years ago and quote often.  As I was thinking on this verse, I realized something I had never seen before.  Let’s see if you can see what I had overlooked time and time again:

 2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. [1]

 Did you notice what I missed?  We often use this verse as an antidote or polemic against being timid, ashamed, or afraid of anyone that would oppose us or God.  We often use this as this verse as the stick to beat ourselves up with, but we fail to see that how to accomplish this monumental task is actually included in the verse.

How are we to resist being afraid, timid, ashamed, silent, or compromising the gospel?  Simply put, God has given us His Spirit and that Spirit brings power, but also brings discipline.  In Acts 1:8, Jesus told His disciples, “but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” Acts 1:8[2] He promised them power, but not just any power.  He did not tell them they would be able to accomplish anything they could dream up or imagine.  This is the way this verse is promoted among the health and welfare, prosperity movement.  He said they would receive power to be His witnesses.  When would they receive the power?  When the Holy Spirit came upon them.  We know that this happened in Acts 2, at Pentecost.  We also know from 1 Corinthians 12 that this happens to every single believer at conversion.  This means that God has given us His Spirit of power to witness to Him, His Kingdom, and the shortness of time until its consummation.

There is one other part of this verse that we miss and don’t often want to talk about.  He has given us a Spirit of discipline.  What does that mean?  Put simply, it means that God has given us a “self-controlled and properly prioritized mind”.[3]  In other words, God has given us His Spirit to cause us to have a heavenly mind and a focused earthly body and life.  Both of these things will help to make sure that we do not give in to fear or intimidation.

But, how does this work?  Good question.  In order for scripture to do us any good, we have to know how to live it out and not make it a mental exercise or a surrogate experience.  When we have our minds stayed on Christ, we do not have to give in to the fear that someone might posit an argument that will cause us to be uncertain about God, His Kingdom, His Word, or His Church.  When we have our lives rightly focused through the disciplines or prayer, Bible study, fellowship with other believers, sharing the gospel with a lost world, and ministering to the needs we meet along the way, we don’t have to worry or fret about standing up for Christ “when the time comes” because we will be doing so now.  When we are saying no to sin and yes to Christ as Lord of our lives, we needn’t live in fear that we will be put to shame or rejected by God because we know that it is Him at work in us.[4]

Our problem is that many of us, if not all of us, hate discipline, and don’t witness, so we miss out on the greatest part of this verse.  We live fear instead of fearlessness.  We live in doubt instead of discipline.  We live perplexed instead of in power.  How will you live out the power of God and the disciplined life God has given you this Christmas season?


[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995.

[2] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995.

[3] MacArthur, John F., Jr. The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006.

[4] See Philippians 2:13