The same God who created all things and made you in His image…
Is the same God who delivered Israel from bondage in Egypt.
Is the same God who exiled His people in judgement.
Is the same God spectacularly described in Ezekiel 1.
Is the same God who looked upon the water and made it blush at a wedding feast in Cana.
Is the same God spoke red hot scorching words to the Pharisees.
Is the same God who touched the hand of the leper.
Is the same God who created the waves then walked upon them like a road.
Is the same God who wept at the death of His good friend and then called him back to life.
Is the same God who drank the full measure of His Father’s wrath for our sin.
Is the same God who died and defied the shackles of death.
Is the same God who now rules and reigns in the Heavenlies.
Is the same God who will return to reclaim and restore what is rightfully His.
The Alpha and Omega – The Beginning and the End.
Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
This morning I was reading from the Puritan prayer and devotion book, “Valley of Vision.” I came across a prayer that was very unsettling. It brought great injury to my flesh and greater fear to my heart. I warn you, dear pilgrim, do not casually passover this admonishment and don’t read it unless you are willing to be antiquated with it. You must be willing to accept the heavy strike of the rod.
“Let me lament for forgetting daily to come to thee,
and cleanse me from the deceit of bringing
my heart to a duty –
because the act pleased me or appealed to reason.
Grant that I may be salted with suffering,
with every exactment tempered to my soul,
every rod excellently fitted to my back,
to chastise, humble, break me.
Let me not overlook the hand that holds the rod,
as thou didst not let me forget the rod that fell
on Christ, and drew me to him.”
I read this prayer over and over. It was terrifying. Through it, the mighty blow of conviction was brought upon my back. My heart was purged of my sinful pride and slammed to the ground and crushed like a stone. The void left in my heart was filled with the fear of the Lord – the same God of Ezekiel’s vision.
In my fear of the Lord, my heart is so deceitful that I was tempted to turn to the flesh as Adam fled to cover himself after he fell. We fear and flee discipline. Then as I continued this devotion, I read two passages:
“Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.” (1 Cor. 6:18)
“Do not be idolaters a some of them were … We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did.” (1 Cor. 10:7a-8a)
Again, “the rod excellently fitted to my back, to chastise, humble, break me” fell upon me. This time it was not a blow of conviction because there was no sin… yet. It was a blow of correction to keep me from being lured off the path by temptation of the flesh – Divine protection.
Having done His mighty work, the Spirit of that same God lovingly whispered to my soul;
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
“Let me not overlook the hand that holds the rod,as thou didst not let me forget the rod that fell on Christ, and drew me to him.” The hand that holds the rod is the loving hand of a good Father, “for the LORD disciplines the one He loves, as does a father the son in whom he delights.” (Proverbs 3:12)
If Christ did not accept the rod for our sin, there would be no hope. All would be darkness and chaos. But he did, and the grace of God poured forth from His wounds to redeem and restore that which was lost. If only we would believe in that same God.
Lord, fill me with the light of your truth found in your Word every morning and again before I rest. The darkness and lures of the world will lie to me all day. Sanctify my mind in your truth. That I may be filled with light and walk by grace through faith in the only Savior who saves.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)
In Jesus’ Name
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I used to think that Facebook was my problem.
Surfing the newsfeed experiencing a new emotion with every little swipe of my thumb, I’d get a little hit of dopamine. It felt great in the moment.
Over time I recognized that I had a problem. So, when I went overseas in August I deactivated my Facebook account and did not re-activate until nearly two months later. At present, I rarely check the platform. Yesterday, I logged in for the first time in a week to check messages and I decided to scroll the timeline. Not much has changed. I got bored after about 5 minutes and went on about my afternoon. Addiction defeated, problem solved right?
Last night I was alone at the ranch while Kat and the kids were at her folk’s house. Usually, I’d be outside doing something but the weather was nasty. So, I was stuck inside the house. I had some choices to make. I could watch a movie, I could catch up on news on my iPhone or I could sit down and try to finish a book called “Hearing the Spirit” by Christopher Ash. All decent options.
I rarely watch TV, so I crossed watching a movie off my list easily, no problem. I scrolled the news and read the paper earlier in the day. No need to do that. Reading a book was the most profitable activity I could do as the day drew to an end. Simple enough. Let’s read! I prepared to sit and read for an hour before going to bed.
At some point between making a hot cup of Rooibos tea, sitting in my easy chair and opening my book, I picked up my iPhone to check on the weather. Then, I began reading the news.
The battle was on!
I realized that the instant gratification and the dopamine release of scanning news on my smartphone had won over the delayed gratification and long-term benefit of reading a book. Like a naughty child, I took the culprit (my iPhone) to the other room and put it down. Problem solved!
I went back to my comfy chair and picked up my book. Then, I thought, “What if Kat calls with an emergency?” My phone is in the other room, I’d miss the call. I’d better keep it with me while I read. I got up and retrieved my iPhone from timeout. In the short walk from the other room where the phone had been to my chair, I decided to check the weather again. After all the wind was howling and it may freeze tonight. A few moments later, I was watching a news video on some media channel. I had been ambushed! It was an inside job!
It’s always an inside job!
My problem isn’t my iPhone or Facebook or Apple News. My problem is my heart. If I am honest, the dominant characteristics of my desires are worldly. Yes, I have a few Godly desires. But the shimmering allure and distractions of the world draw me away from God. There is nothing wrong with smartphones, social media or reading the news. However, when self-centered passions, instant gratification and ruling desires overshadow my desire to know God, my life becomes disordered and worldly in nature.
Worldliness is being devoted to affairs, activities and concerns of temporal existence over our spiritual lives. A life rooted in worldliness leads to emptiness, frustration and sadness.
As I prepared to pray this morning, I was lead to James 4 (Warning Against Worldliness). I read the passage and something changed. A light clicked on in an old forgotten room of my heart.
Worldliness and disorder ooze their way into our prayer life like an infection. We know the passage; “You have not because you ask not…” I hear many Christians (myself included) throw it in conversation or prayer when a need arises. In response, we say, “Amen and Amen!”
Is that what James 4 is about? We don’t have because we don’t ask?
You ask and do not receive, because you ask WRONGLY, to spend it on your passions.” James 4:2b-3 ESV
We ask wrongly for the wrong things because we have yielded our hears to worldly passions. Therefore, our disordered prayers are rooted in worldly desires deep in our hearts dressed up in a veneer of “Christian lingo” and out of context Bible passages. God does not answer prayers that run counter to His nature and His revealed will in scripture.
Why do I pray for more stuff in my life to distract me from God? Because I’ve allowed worldly desires to ambush my pursuit of God.
How worldly is your prayer life?
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The following originated from an email I sent to my fellow team members at Christ Chapel on January 8, 2018.
Good morning team,
On December 31st, I set about my morning bible reading asking the Lord to give me a passage of scripture for the new year. Up to this point, I had been journeying through the Psalms. At eventide of 2017, my foot set upon the golden shores of Psalm 16.
As I considered the entirety of this magnificent passage, I discovered a treasure I could hold in my heart at dawn of a new year…
“In your presence there is fullness of JOY.” (Psalm 16:11)
Unbeknownst to me, Pastor Ted Kitchens would announce on Sunday that the staff’s “theme” for 2018 would be ‘JOY’!
I too thirst for Joy! We all do. It’s been tough and trying year for many of us, and the only prescription is more Joy!
As I studied Psalm 16 again today, I couldn’t help but reflect on Jesus’s words in John 15: 1-11 (the True Vine). I encourage you to set both passages side by side and ponder them. One can’t help but be awe struck by how God has woven his word together. So, I pulled a couple threads I hope will encourage your heart as we embark on our voyage this new year.
Where do we begin?
Begin with the end in mind: Joy!
“in your presence there is fullness of Joy….” – Psalm 16
“that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be full (or complete).” – John 15
How do we find this ‘Joy’?
Set the Lord before and abide in Him – the Vine
“I have set the Lord always before me…” – Psalm 16
“Abide in me (Christ)….” – John 15
By intentionally yielding our will in humble obedience, we enthrone Christ in our hearts to rule and reign. In turn, we yield fruit (which brings the believer Joy to the Father’s delight!). We are running to our Father shouting, “Father, father, look! Look at this beautiful fruit that you planted in my garden!” And the delight of the Father’s smile begets Joy in the hearts of his beloved children.
Can we find Joy apart from Christ?
The answer is ‘no’.
“I have no good apart from you.” – Psalm 16
“apart from me (Christ), you can do nothing” – John 15
So, Where do we end?
End with the beginning in mind: Joy!
Everyday – “I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord’… in your presence there is fullness of JOY!” (Psalm 16)
His Joy… our fullness of Joy!
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I look to you today for guidance, contentment and strength. You are my only hope and comfort in this dark world. I am bound to you, Lord. Each moment brings me closer to meeting you face to face.
Your cross shakes me from my icy pride. You broke the shackles of sin and death.
Help me be a good husband, father and minister – a faithful servant, full of the joy of your spirit; a man of peace…..
Formidable yet good.
This is my prayer today.
In Jesus Name, Amen.
Meditation – Psalm 8:9
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