412:  Leaving Your First Love

412: Leaving Your First Love

The first of Jesus’ seven letters to the churches in the Revelation reveal more about each of us than we often care to admit.  The letter to Ephesus has this chilling assessment from the Lord:

“Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love” (Revelation 2:4).

Ouch.  In spite of this church standing firm against heresy and faithfully persevering under great trials, the Lord holds something against them.  He is hurt, angry, almost unforgiving.  He must feel rejected and forgotten.  Why?  Because the church in Ephesus, the early church, the church that still had members that knew the Lord personally had left and forsaken the very one they claimed to love.  He said, “Nevertheless I have this against you, (what) that you have left your first love.”  And that first love was Jesus.

Do you remember what it was like when you first came to Christ?   Do you remember the joy, the exuberance, the passion and full commitment you felt towards Him?  Do you remember the promises you made in sheer gratitude for what He had done for you?  Do you remember any of this?

Now look at your life.  Are you still as passionate?  Are you still giddy in love with Him?  Are you closer to the Lord today than in any other time in your life?  If not, you’ve done more than simply plateaued.  You’ve left and forsaken your first love.  And in doing so, the Lord now has something “against” you.

If I were you, I’d not rest until I made this right with Him.  Do you know how?  If not, then keep listening.

The following is a study on Jesus’ letter to the church at Ephesus, Revelation 2:1-7.

To download the slides to this message, click – HERE

Download this episode (right click and save)

404:  Do You Enjoy God?

404: Do You Enjoy God?

When it comes to worship, some of the most profound words are those of Jesus to the Samarian woman He met at Jacob’s well in the city of Sychar (John 4:5).  It was here that Jesus gave us clear instructions on the type of worship the Father seeks.

John 4:23-24 – “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true (one who cannot lie, real, genuine, sincere) worshipers will worship the Father in spirit (human) and truth (reality, the essence of a matter); for the Father is seeking (to look for, search, strive to find) such to worship (to kiss, adore, fall or prostrate before, pay reverence) Him.  God is Spirit (Holy Spirit), and those who worship Him must (what must be done from duty) worship in spirit (human) and truth.”

Which, as usual, raises a few questions.

What is worship?
What’s the difference between worship and true worship?
What is true worship like internally?
What is true worship like externally?
And what does true worship look like today?

One last thought, in the Westminster Shorter Catechism, the first question goes like this:

Question:  What is the chief end of man?
Answer:  The chief end of man is to glorify God, and enjoy Him forever.

Did you catch that?  We glorify by enjoying Him forever.  So, do you enjoy God?  Do you love your time with Him?  Is that time the highlight of your day?  Do you know how to worship Him in spirit and truth?  If not, then keep listening.

The following is a study on John 4:23-34.

To download the slides for the message, click – HERE

Download this episode (right click and save)

big_lines

            podcast-25-25

 

401:  How Life Changes in a 100 Yard Swim

401: How Life Changes in a 100 Yard Swim

In John 21, we have the account of Jesus revealing Himself to a few of His disciples while they were fishing.  As soon as it was revealed to John that it was Jesus on the shore, he said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” (John 17:7).  And in perfect Peter style, he overreacted and jumped into the water to swim to Jesus.

But by the time he swam the 100 yards to where Jesus was, something happened.  You can see it in Peter’s demeanor.  You can almost feel his reluctance to approach Jesus.  Why?  Maybe Peter was afraid Jesus was angry with him for his denial in the courtyard.  Or maybe Peter was ashamed he had drawn the others away and gone fishing, back to their old life, like nothing important had happened these last three and a half years.

Or maybe Peter hadn’t forgiven himself for his denial of Jesus.  Maybe he was ashamed.  Who knows?


Change is Not Always for the Better

But something changed.  Not just with Peter, but with all the disciples.  They had excitement and passion that can only come from belief while on the boat.  But once ashore, it seems more like calm reservation.  In fact, John goes out of his way to tell us what the disciples weren’t thinking.  It was his way of trying to explain the strange way they approached Jesus.

John 21:12 – Jesus said to them, “Come and eat breakfast.”  Yet none of the disciples dared ask Him, “Who are You?”—knowing that it was the Lord.

There are life lessons to be learned in these fourteen verses.  Profound lessons.  Are you interested?  Then keep listening.

The following is a study on John 21:1-14.

To download the slides for this message, click – HERE

Download this episode (right click and save)

big_lines

            podcast-25-25

 

Is Your Heavenly Father Like Your Earthly Father?

Is Your Heavenly Father Like Your Earthly Father?

In my devotional time today in Proverbs 5, I discovered some words of wisdom I would like to share with you:

Proverbs 5:1-2 – My son, pay attention (listen carefully, give heed, obey) to my (not the world’s) wisdom; lend (extend, stretch out) your ear to my (not the world’s) understanding, (why) that you may preserve (watch, keep, guard) discretion, and your lips may keep knowledge.

The Proverbs are all about wisdom, understanding, and knowledge.  And the key to living in these blessings is to forsake the wisdom of this world, which is moronic (mōría) at best, and embrace the wisdom that only comes from God (1 Cor. 3:19).  It’s a daily choice, sometimes an hourly choice, we can make.

So how ’bout it?  Are you up for the challenge?

And one more:

Proverbs 5:21 – For the ways (path, journey of one’s life) of man (each man, you and me) are before the eyes of the LORD, and He (the Lord) ponders (to make level, to weigh, to guard or watch carefully) all his (each man, you and me) paths (goings, the circle of a camp).

Did you catch the meaning of this proverb?  Our life’s journey, our life’s choices are laid out before the Lord.  Nothing is hidden from Him.  He sees all.  Everything.  Good and bad.

Is that a good thing that nothing is hidden from God?  Or not such a good thing?  That depends on your view of God as your Father.


What is Your Heavenly Father Like?

There are two ways to look at this proverb.  And they are basically determined by our perception of what God the Father is like and how we choose to interpret the word, ponder (pālas).  One way is to focus on the part of the definition that means “to make level, to weigh.”  The image would be of a large legal scale, with our actions on one side and God’s righteousness on the other.  We would then see God as a great Judge with a mighty hammer waiting for us to cross the line, to do something disappointing to Him, something embarrassing to His character.  And once the scale becomes unbalanced towards our sin and not His righteousness, WHAM! – down comes the hammer.  In essence, “All our lives are before the Lord and He is waiting, just biding His time, until we mess up.  And when we do, geez, out comes His iron fist.”

This is a picture of an abusive father who is head over a dysfunctional family.  This is not what our God is like.

The other way to view this proverb is to focus on the other meaning of the word, ponder.  That would be to “guard or watch carefully.”  Now we see the Father as a caring, careful Parent who wants to make sure His beloved children are safe, protected, and not somewhere where they could get hurt.  He’s waiting everyday at the bus stop for them to arrive home.  He’s sitting in the stands watching every soccer game they play to make sure they don’t get hurt.  He’s hands on, proactive, and always involved.  And our blessing comes from knowing our lives are always “before the eyes of the Lord.”

This is a picture of a good father who lovingly leads a wonderful family.  And this, my friend, is what our God is like.

Rejoice today that your life is hidden with Christ (Col. 3:3) and the very hairs on your head are numbered (Matt. 10:30), and not simply counted.  And know how much your loving Father can’t keep His eyes off you— His beloved child.

Rest in that today.

big_lines

            podcast-25-25

 

The Focus of Our Faith

The Focus of Our Faith

The context of Psalm 3 deals with David’s great betrayal at the hands of his own son, Absalom, whom he dearly loved (2 Sam. 18:33).  Absalom had driven his father from the holy city, Jerusalem, and was seeking to usurp his kingdom and take his life.  David’s guilt as a failed father towards his rebellious son must have been unbearable.  Adding to that the guilt of his own sin with Bathsheba and the murder of his close friend, and her husband, Uriah the Hittite (2 Sam. 11:15), may have caused David to feel Absalom’s actions were justified, a fitting penalty for the sins of David’s past.

The future looked bleak.  There was division within his own family.  To regain his kingdom he would have to wage war against his own son, forcing him to repay evil for evil to the one he loved.  God was grieved and David was unsure as to what to do.


Our Focus

There is much for us to learn about God and our own problems in this psalm.  Note, for example, what happens when we, like David, focus on our problems and what others say about our situation:

Psalm 3:1-2 – LORD, how they have increased who trouble me!  Many are they who rise up against me. Many are they who say of me, “There is no help for him in God.”

But now, the focus has shifted from what is before us to our God and all He has promised.  You can almost feel David’s faith begin to grow:

Psalm 3:3-4 – But You, O LORD, are a shield for me, my glory and the One who lifts up my head.  I cried to the LORD with my voice, and He heard me from His holy hill.

As Corrie ten Boom once said, “There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still.”

David realizes God has not abandoned him.  He has cried out to his Lord, our Lord, and his voice had been heard.  God was still on His throne and He still loved his son, David, no matter how desperate the circumstances.  The same truth applies to each of us when we get our focus off our problems— the immediate, the overwhelming, and focus instead on what lasts— the Eternal, the Lord, the Sovereign One.

And the result of that change in focus?  No more fear.  Rest and peace in the face of turmoil.  Confidence in Him and Him alone.  “God’s got this. I’ve nothing to fear.”

Psalm 3:5-6 – I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the LORD sustained me.  I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around.

After all, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31).  Great question.  Answer, no one.  Not even Absalom.

This thought brings great courage to David.  God is not finished with him yet.  Today and tomorrow are just setbacks.  But God’s plan endures to all generations.

Finally, that confidence is expressed in action.  David, and each of us, find our prayers going from “Help me, please, for I am dying” to “Arise, O Lord” and do what You promised to do for your children.

Psalm 3:7-8 – Arise, O LORD; Save me, O my God!  For You have struck all my enemies on the cheekbone; You have broken the teeth of the ungodly.  Salvation belongs to the LORD.  Your blessing is upon Your people

Did you get that? “Your (God) blessing is upon Your (God) people.”


The End from the Beginning

One final thought, did you notice all of God’s actions are recorded in the past tense (have struck, have broken)?  That’s right.  For the child of God, we can rest in faith knowing what God has promised to do has already been done in the eyes of the Lord.  His Word never changes.  If God promises to do something for us, in faith, it’s already done.  It’s finished, established, completed, done.  Time is a construct of man, not of God.  He sees everything, past, present and future, in real time.  Scripture calls that seeing “the end from the beginning” (Isa, 46:10).  We simply have to rest, by faith, in the completed work of the Lord even though our eyes may see, for a time, something quite different.

David saw Absalom’s rebellion and his kingdom, the one promised to David by the Lord, ripped from his hands.  But not God.  None of that surprised Him.  God knew how all of that was going to turn out and His knowledge of the future was not based on changing circumstances, but on what He had promised David in the past.  What was currently happening, in God’s eyes, were merely details.

So we should also live our lives with the same focus on Him, with eyes of faith, seeing the truth of what God sees and not what our circumstances cause us to fear.  The promises our faithful God has made to each of us are true, and will come to pass, regardless of how dark and bleak our circumstances may seem today.  And living in the reality of this faith, to “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7), will give us the peace and assurance in Him that will help us know our Lord sustains us and gives us the confidence to proclaim, even in the midst of the battle, “I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around” (Ps. 3:6).

Psalm 3:8 – Salvation belongs to the Lord, Your blessing is upon Your people.

The “Your people” also include you and me, those chosen in Him “before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4).  And His blessing is upon His people.  Take a moment, stop fretting, and rest in that.

Pray for the Lord to open your eyes today to see the wonder of His grace and sovereignty in all things (Ps. 115:3) and to teach you how to live like children of the Most High God (Rom. 8:17).  Which, as incredible as it sounds, you are.

Praise be His Name!

big_lines

            podcast-25-25

 

379:  The Cost of Christmas

379: The Cost of Christmas

When we think of the cost of Christmas, most of us think about how much it is going to cost us and how long before we pay our credit cards off.  But that’s the horizontal cost.  The cost of presents that feel good for the moment but have very little lasting value.

There’s also a vertical cost to Christmas.  And that cost was paid by the Son of God who “emptied Himself and took on the form of a slave” (Phi.2:7), the lowest of men.

What did Christmas cost Jesus?  You’d be shocked, surprised and humbled to know.  He exchanged the praise and adoration of angels for the spittle of men.

Want to find out more?  Then keep listening.

The following is a study on Philippians 2:5-8.

To download the slides for this message, click – HERE

Download this episode (right click and save)

big_lines

            podcast-25-25