Posts Tagged ‘sovereignty of God’

Joshua 22:1-9

The Eastern Tribes Go Home

I apologize for missing a daily post yesterday. However, Elena and I are currently in the middle of spending four days and three nights in a cabin in the mountains above Pigeon Forge, TN. It is about a 3 ½ hour ride from our home in Lyman, SC. Eastern Tennessee is a mountainous region at the southern tip of the Appalachian Mountain chain. This area of the Appalachian chain is known, of course, as the Great Smoky Mountains. Because of the height and frequency of the mountains here, they get this bluish smoky hue to them. And our mini-vacation up here has been a surprisingly, amazing spiritual experience that was unexpected when I booked the cabin about six weeks ago. Sometimes, we just need to stop the hamster wheel and get off and just catch our breath.

 

All of this time here was God-ordained and God-enforced. There are several reasons that I say that. First, before we left home, my wife, the wonderfully in-touch with God spiritual woman that she is, asked me to come up with a devotional that we could do together as a couple while we had this time alone away from it all. Second, there is just the sheer beauty and majestic of the Smoky Mountains. Third, we chose on Thursday not to do any sightseeing and just enjoy the cabin – not just a place to leave our stuff while we were off sightseeing and then just come back to the cabin and sleep.

 

To talk about the first thing which is my wife’s request that we do a devotional together while we were out of town together. Because of busy schedules back home and all the things that we are into back there in Lyman through church, my secular job, and through my doctoral program studies, we honestly only have time to do our individual Bible studies (my blog each morning and Elena having devotional time via text with her gal pals). Then, it’s off to our individual days – my job, Elena with community outreach ministries and administrative help at the church and her duties as a housewife at our home. Then, its back home for time to chat for a little while. Then, it’s me down to the cellar of our house to work out lifting weights and aerobic exercises in an attempt to reduce the weight I carry around that is over and above my ideal weight. It’s Elena cooking up one of her wonderful dinners that, in part, has put the weight on me! Just kidding. Then, it’s me off to my study to do my daily ration of reading for this semester of my doctor of ministry program. Then, it’s Elena to clean up the pots, pans, and dishes from dinner and then settle on the couch to watch TV as I study. Then, it’s me back in the living room with Elena to watch about an hour of TV together before it’s time to go to bed. Rinse and repeat. The cycle begins again the next day. Often our weekends are jampacked with things to do, including an occasional visit to see our almost 1 year old granddaughter and to visit my daughter and son-in-law. Life is just busy right now. Though I am not complaining about that, it just is. We thrive on our ability to still be fully active and engaged in a busy lifestyle. We know that it will come to an end someday because we are at that age where we are watching our parents being debilitated by the ravages of aging.

 

So, this flippant idea of getting away not to our favorite place (a beach anywhere, any place) but to a mountain retreat was unique. Then, add to that my wife yearned for us to have devotional time together as a couple made this trip even more unique. We don’t have time for that usually. It was an important request. I think it was a God-ordained request. The initial problem that I had as the husband in our relationship was what to pick as a devotional for us to do together as a couple. The Lord put it on my heart for us to do an examination of the Lord’s Prayer. When we first started leading a small group about five years ago, we started with a study of the Gospel of Matthew. During that process, I had put together an analysis of the Lord’s Prayer. So, God put it on my heart to pull it back out for my and Elena’s devotional time together while are here. We have spent the last two mornings going over the Lord’s Prayer. What we must remember as I had learned five years ago is that what we call the Lord’s Prayer is really not a prayer in and of itself. It is Jesus’ instructions to us on how we should pray when we pray. Breaking down the Lord’s Prayer into 8 phrases and really studying them is a real eye-opener. So many times, we recite the Lord’s Prayer without thinking as it has often become this robotic thing we say without even thinking about the words. Breaking it down into its phrases will really teach you a lot about the honor, respect, humility and dependence upon God with which we should approach our Father when we pray:

 

  1. Our Father
  2. Who Art In Heaven
  3. Hallowed by Thy Name
  4. Thy Kingdom Come
  5. Thy Will Be Done On Earth as it is in Heaven
  6. Give Us This Day our Daily Bread
  7. Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us
  8. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.

 

We really had some vibrant discussions around these eight phrases in the Lord’s Prayer and we walked today remembering how we should approach God (first three phrases) and how we should act in relationship to God (second five phrases) when we pray. It is a reminder of the order of the relationship – God then us and how we are dependent upon Him. We sometimes forget this fact when we pray and treat God as if He is our buddy or as if He is a vending machine. The Lord’s Prayer is our blueprint for how we should pray. I am glad that Elena was influenced by the Holy Spirit to request that we do this devotional time together as a couple. It was so good to have these conversations one on one (not in a group of friends or in public church setting) about God and how we should approach. We would not have had this time if we had not chosen to take time out, to have a time of rest, to have a time of peace. It was unique in our experience together as a couple. But it required taking time out to stop.

 

The second and third thing that is striking is that we are here in the beauty of the Smoky Mountains and the time alone with my wife. God enforced my appreciation of this beautiful place by its sheer magnitude as well. Up here in the mountains way above the valley where Pigeon Forge lies below the internet in this cabin is OK for internet surfing but if you have to do higher level things liked signing into your company’s VPN to run network resources, forget about it! It does not have the consistent signal strength or horsepower to fuel remote computing. So, I finally had to tell all the folks that I deal with in California and South Carolina on my job was that all I could do was answer emails. If they needed me to doing anything in our ERP system, it was going to be impossible. So, for the first time in almost a decade when on vacation, I actually took the day off. Elena and I then decided, too, that we weren’t going anywhere. We had a jacuzzi on the back porch and back porch with a beautiful view. We turned the thermostat on the jacuzzi down to 58 degrees so that the heater would not turn on and we had cool water to sit in. We were like let’s just sit here and relax in the cool water and look out at the mountains all day. Snacks are in the cabin. Cold drinks in the fridge. And outdoor furniture to sit on when we wanted to take a break from the water. A restroom right inside a few steps away. No crowds to deal with. No lines to stand in. Just being. Just doing nothing but observing God’s creation and having long conversations that we rarely have time for anymore. It was throwback to when we were dating back in the Rock Hill, SC days when we lived in the same building of the same apartment complex. We used to have long conversations there and just observing the nature just outside the deck at Elena’s ground floor apartment. We could not have asked for a better day to do this. It was beautiful day outside. The weather in the region took a break from the 90 degree temps/75% humidity that we have been suffering through in the South. The temperature yesterday was in the low 80’s and very low humidity for once. We just enjoyed the beauty of what is God’s creation in a low pace, low impact way. We could not have done this without stopping and resting. Just stopping. Combine that we our discussion of the first three phrases of the Lord’s Prayer about remember who God is when we pray and the beauty of the scenery. It was a highlight day for our marriage. We could not have done this without stopping.  Just stopping.

 

These are the things that I thought about this morning as I read through Joshua 22:1-9 where the eastern tribes get to go home. After all the hustle and bustle of conquering the promised land, suffering and sweat and tears of war. It was time to go home and rest. God will call His people back to the business of being God’s people but for right now it was time to go home to rest and reconnect with those who are important to them – their families – and to reconnect to the land that was theirs. With that in mind, let’s read through it now together:

 

22 Then Joshua summoned the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh 2 and said to them, “You have done all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded, and you have obeyed me in everything I commanded. 3 For a long time now—to this very day—you have not deserted your fellow Israelites but have carried out the mission the Lord your God gave you. 4 Now that the Lord your God has given them rest as he promised, return to your homes in the land that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you on the other side of the Jordan. 5 But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you: to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to keep his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.”

 

6 Then Joshua blessed them and sent them away, and they went to their homes. 7 (To the half-tribe of Manasseh Moses had given land in Bashan, and to the other half of the tribe Joshua gave land on the west side of the Jordan along with their fellow Israelites.) When Joshua sent them home, he blessed them, 8 saying, “Return to your homes with your great wealth—with large herds of livestock, with silver, gold, bronze and iron, and a great quantity of clothing—and divide the plunder from your enemies with your fellow Israelites.”

 

9 So the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh left the Israelites at Shiloh in Canaan to return to Gilead, their own land, which they had acquired in accordance with the command of the Lord through Moses.

 

In this passage, we see that, before the conquest of the Promised Land had begun, these tribes were given their land on the east side of the Jordan River. However, before they could settle down, they to first promise to help the others tribes conquer the land west of the Jordan. They had patiently and diligently carried out their duties. Joshua commended them for doing just that. At last, they were permitted to return to their families and build their new cities and towns. It is not God’s intention for us to be working all the time. It is His intention for us to have times of rest and peace. It was ordained in this manner from the beginning of the universe, when God Himself rested after creation.

 

As for me, the takeaway is the synchronicity of this passage with what Elena and I are doing here in the Smoky Mountains. We so needed this. We so needed yesterday especially. We needed time to reconnect with God. We needed to observe His grandeur. We needed to study together on what our proper relationship with God is individually and as a couple. We needed time to worship God together in this beautiful, serene, secluded place to remember who God is what our relationship to Him is. We needed the time together to reconnect with each other as a couple. We needed time to just talk with no appointments on the calendar. No places we had to be. No things we had to do. No study. No work. No thing. Nothing to do but spend time together. Reconnecting with each other in the most important relationship of our lives – marriage. We need to take the time to just stop. Just stop. It was time to rest. It time to unplug and just be together in God’s great creation. And be thankful. And be humbled before God.

 

When we leave here, there will be new battles to face. New things to have to be done. We will face the day to day monotony of living the 21st century life. But sometimes you have to stop. Just stop. And see God and worship. Just stop and see each other. Just stop.

 

 

Amen and Amen.

Posted: June 19, 2017 in Book fo Joshua
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Joshua 10:16-27

Joshua Kills the Five Southern Kings

 

Remembering God’s hand in your life and how he is in control is necessary for us when we are going through the trials and tribulations of life. We must be reminded it of sometimes, too, when we are going through the mundanity of life of working for a living, paying bills, and repeating the cycle over and over. I am reminded of God’s power in my life every time I think of the path of my life over these past 13 years. It makes me think of that song by the 80’s one-hit wonder band, Naked  Eyes, “There is Always Something There to Remind Me”.

 

The first thing is how He orchestrated my meeting my wife of the past 7 years. The odds of us ever meeting a decade ago was admittedly astronomical. I had been living in and around the Greenville, SC area from the time I was 14 years old until I was age 44. I had no plans of leaving. Greenville, SC was home. It was then and still is now my favorite town in the world. However, in order to continue expanding my career at age 44, I could no longer restrict my job searches to the Greenville area. I had to be willing to move anywhere in the country to further my career. So, at age 44, after two failed marriages, I was ready to move to a new town just to give it a shot. No longer was I having to satisfy the woman in life by remaining in the Greenville area. I was free to move anywhere I wanted to. And, although it was scary, I accepted a job offer in Charlotte, NC. Although, depending on where you go in Charlotte, it is was only an 1 ½ hours – 2 hours away from Greenville, it might as well have been a foreign country. Although I had been to uptown (in other cities this is called downtown) Charlotte a few times in my life and to Carowinds several times, I did not know Charlotte hardly at all and did not know anybody or have any friends that lived there. It was a new exciting and scary experience. What are the odds that within a year of my moving to Rock Hill, SC (a southern suburb of Charlotte), Elena, coming off the end of her own second marriage, would move into the same building in the same apartment complex with me. It took awhile for her to get her wings as a new bird in this single life. But we finally met. That was a God orchestrated thing. To think where we have been and where we are and where we are going, together, it was definitely the hand of God that orchestrated our being together as a couple. It is mind-boggling to think that just 2 ½ years before we met, we would never even thought of our meeting each other, much less living in the same apartment complex just up and downstairs from each other. Now, we have been a couple for nearly a decade and been married for almost 7 of those years. Mind-boggling. Different decisions by us about life and/or careers, and we would have never met.

 

When I think of how God arranged our lives to meet and the odds against us meeting #1, getting to know each other #2, and staying together after I accepted a job in California #3, her deciding to move to California to be with me #4, choosing Livermore to live in #5 (amazing miracle by itself), a church event door hanger “randomly” being the only door hanger placed on a door in our building at our apartment complex in Livermore inviting us to Livermore Alive Community Church #6, attending that church and meeting the pastor and his wife that became so instrumental in our walk with Christ #7, that going to that church was preparation for our return to South Carolina #8, the post office in Duncan being closed and my wife having to go to the Lyman post office instead (which is right across Greenville Highway in Lyman from LifeSong Church. I mean if our town’s post in Duncan was not closed when she arrived and then Elena opts for nearby Lyman’s post office, we would not have found LifeSong Church, the church we are so ingrained at now. That’s miracle #9. At LifeSong, we have flourished in our walk with the Lord to the point that we fully believe that we are called to ministry and we live it everyday and every way that we can and are preparing for the day when God will send us forth as a full-time ministry couple wherever that may lead – it may lead to LifeSong itself or us being sent to another location. That part has not yet been revealed. But we fully believe that He will reveal. Just look at the preponderance of evidence of His hand in our lives. The odds are astronomical for us even being together as a couple much less being a passionate Christ following couple ready to be used by Him. The odds are just freaking astounding. If you do not believe that God’s is still in the miracle business, try explaining my and Elena’s life together. It is full of the hand of God even when we weren’t looking.

 

When I get down and blue about things and wonder where God is, sometimes I just have to sit down and just think about my and Elena’s journey over this past decade. If that doesn’t bring awe to my mind about the power of God then something’s wrong with me. I am sure some atheist would discount it all as random events but, to me, there is no denying the hand of God in this brilliantly connected string of events. There are multiples of these so called “random acts” that are just simply God doing what He do! He is the grand orchestrator of His people’s lives. There’s no denying it. All these facts of our lives can be nothing less than God’s hand.

 

When I think of Joshua in this passage encouraging his troops about the hand of God on their shoulders and how they should be strong and courageous, it brought forth memories of how God has had His hand on my shoulders all this past decade. Let’s read Joshua 10:16-27 together and then I will tie all this together after we read it now:

 

16 Now the five kings had fled and hidden in the cave at Makkedah. 17 When Joshua was told that the five kings had been found hiding in the cave at Makkedah, 18 he said, “Roll large rocks up to the mouth of the cave, and post some men there to guard it. 19 But don’t stop; pursue your enemies! Attack them from the rear and don’t let them reach their cities, for the Lord your God has given them into your hand.”

 

20 So Joshua and the Israelites defeated them completely, but a few survivors managed to reach their fortified cities. 21 The whole army then returned safely to Joshua in the camp at Makkedah, and no one uttered a word against the Israelites.

 

22 Joshua said, “Open the mouth of the cave and bring those five kings out to me.” 23 So they brought the five kings out of the cave—the kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish and Eglon. 24 When they had brought these kings to Joshua, he summoned all the men of Israel and said to the army commanders who had come with him, “Come here and put your feet on the necks of these kings.” So they came forward and placed their feet on their necks.

 

25 Joshua said to them, “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Be strong and courageous. This is what the Lord will do to all the enemies you are going to fight.” 26 Then Joshua put the kings to death and exposed their bodies on five poles, and they were left hanging on the poles until evening.

 

27 At sunset Joshua gave the order and they took them down from the poles and threw them into the cave where they had been hiding. At the mouth of the cave they placed large rocks, which are there to this day.

 

Here in this passage, we see that placing a foot on the neck of a captive was a common military practice in the ancient Middle Eastern cultures. It symbolized the victor’s domination over his captives. These proud kings had boasted of their collective power back in Joshua 10:4. But against a God who can suspend the laws of nature (sun standing still in Joshua 10:12-13) and his favor given to the Israelite armies, they were soundly slaughtered and defeated. God is superior to any earthly army. With God’s help, Israel won the battle against the armies of the 5 southern kings. Such a triumph was part of God’s daily business as He worked with His people for victory. Joshua told his men to never be discouraged or afraid but rather be strong and courageous because God would give them victories over all their enemies. The same God will help us with our present and future needs. Reminding ourselves of his help in the past will give us hope for the struggles we will encounter in the future. David says in Psalm 110:1, “The LORD says to my lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” Be strong and courageous.

 

The thing that I have to take away from today’s passage is that God is with His people. When I get worried about what’s next or what is happening to me right now, all I have to do is remember how God has guided me, guided Elena, guided us to the shores that he wants us to land on. His hand in our lives is so super-evident to me that it gives me great confidence that God will continue to do so and all that I must do is trust in His power. Sure, it’s easy to get discouraged when we look at what’s immediately in front of us sometimes. However, we must take a step back and look at just what God has done in the totality of our time as Christ followers. He has guided us through dark times. He has set us up on the mountain tops. He has allowed challenges to chisel and form us into new creatures. He has matured us by everything that has happened to us. Each step, for Elena and me, has been preparation for what He has in store next. And just look at what He has done so far. That gives me strength and courage. That can end a day of self-pity and discouragement and give me strength and courage. He is still in the miracle business. Just look at my and Elena’s last decade. He keeps His promises. See His guiding hand in your life and take heart and take courage.

 

Amen and Amen.

Joshua 10:1-15 (Part 1 of 2)

Israel Defeats the Southern Armies

Tomorrow, at my church, I begin teaching a thirteen (13) week series that is a walk through the New Testament in general and through each of the 27 books. Tomorrow will be an overview of what we are going to try to accomplish in the class. The overriding theme that I want to come out of tomorrow is that the New Testament and the whole entirety of the Bible is not just some fantasy made up for our benefit. It is the real deal. It is real people. It is real events. It is historical. It can be checked and verified. It is not fiction made up to support a religious movement. It is the theological history of God’s people from Abraham to the cradle, to the cross, to the church, to the world, to the end of time. What I want people to realize and, that realization giving our faith so much more power, is that we have a reasonable faith. We have faith that is based on real people, real events, that played out in the history of mankind. That’s the beauty of our Christian faith is that it is historically based on facts that can be verified. No one in Christianity is asking you to believe is some fantasy of mystical creatures and such. It is the real deal. Jesus, it is commonly accepted the world over and can be verified by extrabiblical sources that He actually existed – not just some made up dude for the Bible. He really existed. All of the facts and circumstances of the New Testament (and the Old as well) are grounded in the history of mankind, and specifically, the Middle East.

 

Like I had said to many people, the Christian faith is a reasonable one that is based on historical facts that can be verified extrabiblically. I can get you to see that our faith is so much more based on reason than any of the world’s other religions. We are not asked to believe in any fanstastical figures like in Hinduism. We are also not forced to swallow contradictions within the holy book of our religion as Muslims are with the Koran. We are not forced to remove ourselves from life to attain oneness with some blank fabric of the universe as with Buddhism. And so on and so on. I can show you how our faith is superior and most internally consistent faith on the planet. I can take you 95% of the way to faith in Jesus Christ with the historiocity of the Christian faith. But, that last 5% is where the miracles come in. The miracles in the Old Testament and the miracles of the New Testament require you to make that last 5% walk alone without any assistance from anyone. You must decide if you believe, really believe in God.

 

That is the crux of the controversies over the miracles of the Bible. It comes down to whether you believe in God and that He exists. The thing that I always have to come back to is the beginning of the universe. Atheists who believe that God does not exist and those who believe in God must start their debate there. Those who do not believe in the existence of God believe that the universe has its own laws that function consistently eternally. That, too, I accept, however, I see it as God having set those laws in motion to be eternally true from that point on. Beleiver and non-believer alike can agree on the cause and effect nature of the universe. However, atheists will suspend their own belief in that rule when it comes to the moment of the creation of the universe. They say that it spontaneously erupted from itself. What caused that? Therein lies the difference. I can still believe in God’s eternally played out cause and effect rules of the universe as it was him that caused the effect. It was Him that was the cause and the universe beginning was the effect.

 

Thus, that is what we have here in this passage. Do you believe that there is a God? If not, you can spend all day debunking this as literary device and not a reality. If you believe that there is a God, then, the one who created the laws of the universe can equally suspend those laws without there being collateral damage elsewhere in the universe that He created. So, here we find a test of faith. How much do you believe in God? Is it nice and tidy until you get to the miracles? Do you discount the miracles as a believer? Or do you plain out have faith that they happened? Here’s one of the tests of your faith here in Joshua 10:1-15, this morning. Do you believe it happened or do you try to explain it away or call it a literary device? Do you blindly accept this without thinking? Do you believe it because you believe in a God that created the universe by His hand and His mind that can suspend the laws of nature that He created at the points that He wants to so as to demonstrate His favor to His people?

 

Let’s read the passage again this morning together with an eye toward that crux of a question about whether we believe in God’s miracles or not:

 

10 Now Adoni-Zedek king of Jerusalem heard that Joshua had taken Ai and totally destroyed[a] it, doing to Ai and its king as he had done to Jericho and its king, and that the people of Gibeon had made a treaty of peace with Israel and had become their allies. 2 He and his people were very much alarmed at this, because Gibeon was an important city, like one of the royal cities; it was larger than Ai, and all its men were good fighters. 3 So Adoni-Zedek king of Jerusalem appealed to Hoham king of Hebron, Piram king of Jarmuth, Japhia king of Lachish and Debir king of Eglon. 4 “Come up and help me attack Gibeon,” he said, “because it has made peace with Joshua and the Israelites.”

 

5 Then the five kings of the Amorites—the kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish and Eglon—joined forces. They moved up with all their troops and took up positions against Gibeon and attacked it.

 

6 The Gibeonites then sent word to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal: “Do not abandon your servants. Come up to us quickly and save us! Help us, because all the Amorite kings from the hill country have joined forces against us.”

 

7 So Joshua marched up from Gilgal with his entire army, including all the best fighting men. 8 The Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them; I have given them into your hand. Not one of them will be able to withstand you.”

 

9 After an all-night march from Gilgal, Joshua took them by surprise. 10 The Lord threw them into confusion before Israel, so Joshua and the Israelites defeated them completely at Gibeon. Israel pursued them along the road going up to Beth Horon and cut them down all the way to Azekah and Makkedah. 11 As they fled before Israel on the road down from Beth Horon to Azekah, the Lord hurled large hailstones down on them, and more of them died from the hail than were killed by the swords of the Israelites.

 

12 On the day the Lord gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the Lord in the presence of Israel:

 

“Sun, stand still over Gibeon,

    and you, moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.”

13

So the sun stood still,

    and the moon stopped,

    till the nation avenged itself on[b] its enemies,

 

as it is written in the Book of Jashar.

 

The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. 14 There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the Lord listened to a human being. Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel!

 

15 Then Joshua returned with all Israel to the camp at Gilgal.

 

In this passage, we see that there is a moment where the earth stopped turning giving the appearance to us earthbound inhabitants that the sun stood still in the sky. There are extra-biblical references to this event, as well, from traditions in all parts of the world. According to the research that I was able to find is that legends of a longest day are found in Egypt, Greece, and other ancient lands. And among the American Indians, South Sea islanders, and others in the Western Hemisphere are legends of a longest night—which would indeed make sense, seeing how these peoples lived in the opposite hemisphere. God performed a stupendous miracle, causing the sun to delay its “setting.” God stopped the motion of the earth. There are objections to this explanation, based on the physics of motion, but the God who created the world and established natural laws is perfectly capable of compensating for any collateral complications. We may not have a scientific explanation of how God performed this miracle, but He did. While we may not fully understand how this “long day” occurred, a miracle does not have to be scientifically proven—just accepted. Joshua prayed, and God supernaturally provided the light necessary for Joshua’s army to win its battle. The lengthened day was indeed unlike anything ever seen, but in Joshua’s mind the greater miracle may just have been that God listened to him and answered such an amazing prayer.

 

Do you believe in God responding to prayer with miracles? I think that answer comes to whether you believe in the miracles of the Old and New Testament or not. It is that simple. If we believe the miracles to be explainable, then God does not interact with His people here on earth. If we believe that the miracles are literary devices, then, the God we believe in really does not care about us at all. It comes down to faith. Do you believe in a big ol’ God that wants to have interaction with His creation? Do you believe in a God that answers prayers and responds with miracles? Do you believe that God can heal a person with cancer when all indications are that they are going to die within months? Do you believe in a God that can bring people together from far off places such as Florida and California and Georgia and North Carolina and numerous other states to a small little suburban town in the Greenville-Spartanburg, SC area called Lyman, SC at a church called LifeSong Church and bring them together at just the right place and at just the right time with just the right people to impact the Lyman-Duncan-Wellford suburban tri-cities for the Lord in ways that have never been seen before in this area. The way that He has orchestrated that is an amazing miracle. Every step of my journey with Jesus is not a bunch of coincidences. It is the hand of God guiding me to this place at this time with these people.

 

It comes down to how big your God is? If you don’t believe that there is God, then, this blog is meaningless to you. If you believe there is a God but don’t believe in the miracles then you don’t believe that God is mighty and that He is creator. But if you believe in a God that is Creator. If you believe in a God that created all that we see, touch, feel and smell, then you can believe that He can control the universe that He created. If you believe that then you can believe that He can make miracles in your life. He can change you through Jesus Christ. He can perform miracles in your life. Why?

 

BECAUSE I BELIEVE IN A BIG, BIG, BIG, MIGHTY, MIGHTY, MIGHTY GOD WHO CAN DO ANYTHING!

 

Amen and Amen.

Deuteronomy 29:1-29 (Part 4 of 4)

Moses Reviews the Covenant

There are mysteries that we do not understand and never will on this side of eternity. Death is one of them. Proverbs 27:1 tells us, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” Death can come to us or those we know and love at any time. We may walk out of our house or apartment this morning and never return to it. Our next breath is never guaranteed. Death, to us, can seem random at times and uncontrollable.

 

Why is that my stepson when I was married to my second wife was taken from us at age 16 in a car accident while Billy Graham continues to live and is now the ripe old age of 98? Why is it the young man that would have been my brother-in-law was killed in a car accident at age 23, two weeks before I married his sister, my first wife?  Why is that my mother was taken from me when she died at age 70, some seven years ago now, but my wife’s mom is 85 and her dad is 92? Why is that my mom suffered some before she died but essentially she went downhill so fast that there was no lingering on. Yet, my wife’s dad is suffering in the throes of dementia and has been nursing home bound for three years or more. Why does he linger on but yet my mom went quickly? Why do some families have to deplete their life savings on end times medical care while others die within in 6 months of needing nursing home care? Why do some live to near 100 years old and others are taken in the prime of life? Why do some families endure multiple tragic deaths and other families are never touched by tragedy? These are all mysteries of God, our Sovereign God.

 

Other mysteries include how did the universe get started? Was there nothingness but God before created the universe? How big is the universe? Is there only life on this planet and if so, why only here? What was the purpose of creating a vast universe if there is only life here? If there is humanoid life elsewhere in the universe, did Jesus come to each planet that sustains life so that there is salvation for every humanoid life form that has a soul? When the Bible says that there will be an end to all things, is that only for Earth? Will he end the universe at the same time he ends everything here? Will there be only heaven after the end of the universe?

 

Another mystery to me is about heaven. How crowded is heaven since it now contains all the souls of persons who are God’s chosen through faith in God that have ever lived in all of human history up through this very moment that have died? That’s a whole lot of people. Mathematicians estimate that there have been at least 200 billion people born and that have lived any amount of existence since the beginning of man’s existence on this planet. Currently only 7 billion of those are currently living. That means that 193 billion have died. Let’s be optimistic and say half of those who have died ended up in heaven. That’s close to 100 billion souls that currently occupy heaven and the number is growing every day. Is there room for all those souls? Will we have our current bodies in heaven? Will we know our loved ones in heaven? Will we be aware of the reality of hell while we are in heaven? Will we be aware of the passage of time in heaven or since we no longer are bound by the decay of time of the temporal world, will we not know or even care about the passage of time? Do our loved ones in heaven have awareness of our continued existence on this side of eternity? Does my mom look down on me daily to see what I am doing? Do they not have time for that because they are praising God for all eternity? Is there more to do in heaven than doing the same thing, praising God on his throne daily?

 

Another mystery is why was I born in this era of temporal time? Why is that I am here right now? Why is that I am me and you are you? Why is that I was born in the United States in the 21st century to such excessive privilege never known by man in human history while other souls that are of equal value to God and not any different from me except for the unique personalities they have compared to me were born in desperate poverty in a third world country? Why do some teenage girls in India never have a chance other than to be captured and sold into sexual slavery while my young granddaughter will most likely have every opportunity to become the fullest extent of who she can be – maybe a doctor, a lawyer, a beautiful actress, or whatever!

 

Other mysteries are about life itself? What gives us life? Cells multiply and divide throughout the universe and they do not become thinking human beings. What is that spark that makes a woman’s egg and a man’s sperm become human life? We can explain all the physics of fertilization and how the cells multiply but what makes that little fertilized egg in a woman’s womb become a human being? What is it makes that egg divide and multiply? What is that makes those cells develop life? What is that intrinsic moment that life begins? Once the spark of life begins at conception, what is that force that makes it grow into a child with a brain who becomes a baby aware of his own existence and its separateness from those who gave it life and who grows and grows into a adult human being? What makes me, me and you, you? Why am I inside this body and this moment at this time with these 7 billion people? Why do I view the world as I know it from inside this body?

 

Another mystery is less dignified but not any less profound. What is the purpose of ticks? What is the purpose of fleas? What is the purpose of roaches? There are so many creatures on earth that seem to have no purpose at all in the keeping the planet functioning.

 

Other mysteries include like why in the world would someone choose to be a Gamecock fan! LOL! Just kidding with all my University of South Carolina friends out there!

 

Seriously though, If you sit down long enough and think about these things, even as Christ followers, it will blow your mind! As Christ followers, we know where we will spend eternity but these are mysteries that are mysteries than cannot be explained on this side of eternity and they can blow your mind!

 

That was the thing that came to mind today when I read Deuteronomy 29 for final time before moving on to the next passage, as we will tomorrow. Today my focus was on v. 29. So, let’s read the chapter again this morning with a focus on:

 

29 [a]These are the terms of the covenant the Lord commanded Moses to make with the Israelites in Moab, in addition to the covenant he had made with them at Horeb.

 

2 Moses summoned all the Israelites and said to them:

 

Your eyes have seen all that the Lord did in Egypt to Pharaoh, to all his officials and to all his land. 3 With your own eyes you saw those great trials, those signs and great wonders. 4 But to this day the Lord has not given you a mind that understands or eyes that see or ears that hear. 5 Yet the Lord says, “During the forty years that I led you through the wilderness, your clothes did not wear out, nor did the sandals on your feet. 6 You ate no bread and drank no wine or other fermented drink. I did this so that you might know that I am the Lord your God.”

 

7 When you reached this place, Sihon king of Heshbon and Og king of Bashan came out to fight against us, but we defeated them. 8 We took their land and gave it as an inheritance to the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh.

 

9 Carefully follow the terms of this covenant, so that you may prosper in everything you do. 10 All of you are standing today in the presence of the Lord your God—your leaders and chief men, your elders and officials, and all the other men of Israel, 11 together with your children and your wives, and the foreigners living in your camps who chop your wood and carry your water. 12 You are standing here in order to enter into a covenant with the Lord your God, a covenant the Lord is making with you this day and sealing with an oath, 13 to confirm you this day as his people, that he may be your God as he promised you and as he swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. 14 I am making this covenant, with its oath, not only with you 15 who are standing here with us today in the presence of the Lord our God but also with those who are not here today.

 

16 You yourselves know how we lived in Egypt and how we passed through the countries on the way here. 17 You saw among them their detestable images and idols of wood and stone, of silver and gold. 18 Make sure there is no man or woman, clan or tribe among you today whose heart turns away from the Lord our God to go and worship the gods of those nations; make sure there is no root among you that produces such bitter poison.

 

19 When such a person hears the words of this oath and they invoke a blessing on themselves, thinking, “I will be safe, even though I persist in going my own way,” they will bring disaster on the watered land as well as the dry. 20 The Lord will never be willing to forgive them; his wrath and zeal will burn against them. All the curses written in this book will fall on them, and the Lord will blot out their names from under heaven. 21 The Lord will single them out from all the tribes of Israel for disaster, according to all the curses of the covenant written in this Book of the Law.

 

22 Your children who follow you in later generations and foreigners who come from distant lands will see the calamities that have fallen on the land and the diseases with which the Lord has afflicted it. 23 The whole land will be a burning waste of salt and sulfur—nothing planted, nothing sprouting, no vegetation growing on it. It will be like the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboyim, which the Lord overthrew in fierce anger. 24 All the nations will ask: “Why has the Lord done this to this land? Why this fierce, burning anger?”

 

25 And the answer will be: “It is because this people abandoned the covenant of the Lord, the God of their ancestors, the covenant he made with them when he brought them out of Egypt. 26 They went off and worshiped other gods and bowed down to them, gods they did not know, gods he had not given them. 27 Therefore the Lord’s anger burned against this land, so that he brought on it all the curses written in this book. 28 In furious anger and in great wrath the Lord uprooted them from their land and thrust them into another land, as it is now.”

 

29 The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.

 

In this final verse of the chapter, we see that God has secrets that He has chosen not to reveal to us. There are many possible reasons for His withholding His full knowledge and His full qualities to us. First, our finite minds may not be able to fully fathom the infinite aspects of God’s nature and the universe (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Second, some things of His infinite nature and the infinite, eternal realm in which He operates are just not necessary for us to know on this side of eternity. Third, there are some things God is withholding from us to discover as we mature in knowledge as a human race collectively so that we would be able to handle the discovery. Fourth, God is simply so far superior to us in every way that it is impossible for us to know everything that He does – even when we are heaven, for we are created beings even in heaven and He is the Creator. The created will never know more than the creator.

 

This verse shows us that, although God has not revealed all knowledge of all time to us, and that He has not revealed everything that there is to know about obeying Him, He has told us enough to get us through the existence of our lives. He has told us enough that we can handle on this side of eternity. He has told us enough. Thus, our disobedience comes from an act of will, not a lack of knowledge. Through God’s Word, we know enough about Him to be saved by grace through faith and to serve Him. We must not use our limitations about knowing the fullness of the nature of God to reject His claim on our life.

 

As well, because we, as Christ followers, have the knowledge of our limited nature and limited range of understanding of things eternal on this side of eternity, there are just some things that we must accept that we will never know about God until we get to heaven. There, we will understand eternal things as we will no longer be bound by temporal limitations. But, for now, we must trust in God’s sovereignty even when the lack of understanding is so painful.

 

Like when a son or brother dies too young in a car accident. Like when one parent dies after a short illness while another parent lingers on for years and years before death. My dad would often have a saying that he would pull out when he could not explain something. He would simply say, “that’s life, Mark. That’s life!” There are just some things that God has ordained to happen that we cannot understand on this side of eternity and we must simply trust Him on those things, even if it is painful not to have the answers. His ways are higher than our ways, as Isaiah 55:9. It is just like sometimes we wonder why the cross is what gives us a chance at salvation. Why is that Jesus dying on the cross gives us a chance to be reconciled to Him. It is because God said so. It is because God said that He poured out His wrath toward you and me for all our sins on Jesus on the cross. He sacrificed His Son in this way because He said that was what He was doing. By pouring His wrath on Jesus, we are spared. We are made clean. Our penalty for sin has been paid. This was the whole point of the cross and it was because God said that was the purpose of it. There is a mystery about that event that we have to take on faith. Those are far from God will not understand the purpose of the cross of the cross until they are led there by the Holy Spirit.

 

God is so far above us that there are mysteries of Himself that He has not revealed to us and we must trust that He has revealed enough to us to get us to the cross and to eternity. We must trust Him with the rest.

 

Amen and Amen.

DEUTERONOMY

Last Friday, Elena and I had to sign our names like at least 20 times when we closed on the purchase of our new home. We had to sign this document and that document. We had to sign the mortgage itself between us and the bank. We had to sign the deed and numerous other documents that defined what we could and could not do as it relates to the parties to the sale, the real estate agents, the lawyers, and the bank. It was all rather blindingly confusing and fast. Although the closing attorney tried to explain everything to us, it became a blur of documents to sign after a while. I am sure that all these documents are required because at some point in the history of real estate transactions did something to cause the need for each of these documents. It’s kind of like those warning labels on things. The warning label was required because some idiot caused the need for warning label. For example, you know those silica gel packs that you often find in shoes (what purpose they serve for new shoes I am not sure), they always have a warning written on them, “Do not eat”. I look at those gel packs and think, “why in the world would anybody want to eat that? That’s a stupid warning!” However, at some point, somebody must’ve tried to eat the silica gel packs, got sick, and sued the manufacturer of the shoes. We encounter many situations like that everywhere.

 

So, I assume that all these documents that we had to sign were to limit our ability to sue others, others’ ability to sue us, establish the rights and obligations of all the parties involved in the sale and also the rights and obligations of us and the financial institution that holds our mortgage. Most certainly, when it comes to the mortgage, most of the rights are given to the financial institution because they are the ones that are taking the biggest risk – lending us a six figure amount of money to purchase a home. The bank has the advantage in the mortgage. We are the ones that have to execute certain acts throughout the life of the mortgage to retain the right to continue owning our home. If we fail to execute those acts, the bank can foreclose on our home and kick us out of it and sell it off. Thus, we have to do what the bank says so that we can live in our home. If we do not satisfy the bank, the mortgage, a kind of covenant or contract between us and the bank, gives them the right to take our ownership away from us. The mortgage is definitely slanted in the bank’s favor. It is kind of like a treaty between a conquering nation and an conquered nation at the end of a war. It definitely gives all the advantages to one party over the other because they won the war. You have a victorious party that grants certain rights to the conquered and restricts others. It requires the conquered party to recognize the superiority of the victorious party in the relationship.

 

It was that idea of there being a superior party, the bank, over us, my wife and me, as it relates to the home and property that we just purchased. When it comes to that house we live in, we must recognize the bank as the superior party. They are the ones that loaned us the money. We are subject to the bank when it comes to the ownership of our home. The mortgage establishes that relationship and defines the bank as the superior party and it tells us what we can and can’t do financially and legally with regard to our home. It is that idea of a covenant between a superior party and an inferior party that comes through loud and clear as we step into our next book, Deuteronomy. Let’s take a quick overview today before we get started:

 

Overview of the Book of Deuteronomy

 

The genre of the book of Deuteronomy is not much different from that of Exodus. It is Narrative History and Law, although there is a Song from Moses just after he commissions Joshua. This song describes the History that the Israelites had experienced. Moses wrote Deuteronomy approximately 1407-1406 B.C. The key personalities are Moses and Joshua.

 

Moses wrote this book to remind the Israelites of what God had done and to remind them of what God expects of them. The name literally means “Second Law”. Moses gives “the Law” for the second time.

 

  • In chapters 1-4, Moses reviews some of the details of the past history of Israel such as the Exodus and the wandering in the wilderness. He then urges that they obey the Laws of God.

 

  • Then, in chapters 5-28 Moses restates the Ten Commandments to the Israelites. Moses explains the principles and instructions for living a Godly life as God’s chosen nation. These include how to love the Lord, laws of worship, laws regarding relationships (like divorce), and also the consequences and penalties if these laws are broken.

 

  • Chapters 29-30 there is a move to commit themselves, as a nation, and to stand apart unto God. This consists of not only knowing the many laws that God has commanded, but also obeying them and placing God first.

 

  • Finally, in chapter 31 through 34, we see the first change in leadership in Israel. Moses, the one who has been leading them the entire time, hands over his authority to Joshua, and commissions him. Moses blesses the tribes, which reminds us of Jacob blessing his sons almost 450 years earlier. In the last chapter, God shows Moses the promise land, although he cannot enter it, after this, Moses the servant of the Lord dies on Mt. Nebo.

 

The book takes almost the form of a contract between a superior nation (God) and an inferior, conquered nation (the people of Israel). The following outline represents a fairly widely held consensus of the shape of the book as a covenant document:

 

  • The preamble, which provides the setting in which the Great King presents the covenant text to the vassal ( 1:1-5 ).
  • The historical prologue, which recounts the past relations between the two contracting parties (1:6-4:49).
  • The general stipulations, which present the basic principles of expectation of behavior that underlie the relationship (5:1-11:32).
  • The specific stipulations, which provide interpretation or amplification of the general stipulations, usually in terms of actual cases or precise requirements (12:1-26:15).
  • The blessings and curses, which spell out the results of faithful adherence to or disobedience of the terms of the covenant (27:1- 28:68).
  • The witnesses, that is, persons or other entities to which appeal can be made as to the legality of the covenant instrument and to the commitments made by the contracting parties ( 30:19 ; 31:19; 32:1-43 ).

 

In light of the indisputable connection between form and function, it is safe to say that the concept of covenant lies at the center of the theology of Deuteronomy. Covenant, in turn, by its very definition demands at least three elements: the two contracting parties and the document that describes the purpose, nature, and requirements of the relationship. Thus the three major rubrics of the theology of Deuteronomy are Yahweh, the Great King and covenant initiator; Israel, the vassal and covenant recipient; and the book itself, the covenant vehicle, complete with the essentials of standard treaty documents.

Thus, the takeaway that I have after reading through all the summaries of Deuteronomy this morning and yesterday, as I was preparing for this blog, is that God is the sovereign king and we are his subjects. He has made covenant with us that establishes our relationship with Him that we might come into his presence through keeping his covenant requirements. He is a holy God and the Law is the way in which we are to be holy just like Him. Deuteronomy also shows us that it is impossible for us to keep the law 100% of the time for 100% of our lives. The covenant establishes the consequences of our failure to keep the Law.

 

Deuteronomy also reinforces the concept of grace in my mind. It reminds me of our need for Jesus. Deuteronomy points out to us that we are insufficient to maintain the Law perfectly all the time. Thus, Deuteronomy teaches that we are convicted by our inability to be perfect all the time. Just like with our mortgage, it does not matter how many years we pay our mortgage on time each month, if we fail to make a payment and continue in that delinquency, the bank can take our house away. It is the same way with God, it does not matter how many good deeds we do, if we fail to keep his law perfectly throughout all of our life, He will condemn us to hell. When we sin, we fail to keep the law. When we sin just one time (no matter how good we have been previously), we are done. God can come in and take our heavenly house away. We are done. We are convicted. We are delinquent on our mortgage with God.

 

Just as the bank does not want to go through the hassle of enforcing its rights under our mortgage agreement when we are delinquent, the bank will give us a grace period to catch up on that payment. In that situation, they have every right in the world to come down hard on us for missing a payment or paying late. The bank knows it and we know it. All parties know that they have the right to come down hard on delinquency. However, banks will give you time to cure the breach of the mortgage.

 

It is kind of like that with God. He has every right to come down hard on us and send us to hell based on the fact that we are totally incapable of keeping his laws. We are sinful. We have sinned. It makes us delinquents. We are convicted for having transgressed God’s law. It is evident to all parties and we know it ourselves. However, God gives us grace. The grace comes from Jesus Christ. He is the cure to our breach of God’s law. He makes us compliant with our mortgage with the superior party, God. He gets us back current with God. He cures our delinquency for us. It is through the grace of Jesus Christ that God does not enforce His covenant-given rights to condemn us. When God sees us after salvation (after we have taken advantage of grace), He sees the purity of Jesus. He does not see our delinquency. He treats like a bank treating us as if we have never made a late payment on our mortgage. He wipes off the delinquency off our eternal credit report. We are made whole.

 

Deuteronomy reminds us of the power of Jesus’ grace and that it is a gift to us and not something that we can do ourselves. We are sinful people deserving of punishment but He has given us, given us, grace through Jesus Christ.

 

Amen and Amen.

Luke 10:17-24 — Today, we move on to a new passage, Luke 10:17-24. We will spend a few days here as well.

Jesus spent a pretty extensive speech in the previous passage about what to expect and how to react to it when spreading the gospel message. Somewhere between Luke 10:1-16 and Luke 10:17-24, the seventy-two are sent out to prepare the way for Jesus. At Luke 10:17-24, the seventy-two return to Jesus. The disciples are excited. They had expelled demons by invoking Jesus’ name. They were on a spiritual high. They were pumped up.

You know this feeling. If you have ever participated in one of our church’s Thanksgiving Meal Giveaway, you know this feeling. You have participated in a Holy Spirit move.

You know this feeling. You have been witness to someone accepting Jesus Christ as their Savior.

You know this feeling. You have just witnessed the most amazing church service where people let loose and praise the Lord like it’s nobody’s business while at the same time you see that their country is one that suffers from desperate poverty.

You know this feeling. We, as Christ followers, have often seen the power of the Holy Spirit move through us, seen Him act in others and in situations around us, that inspire wonder and awe on our part. When this happens, we feel special. This is how the returning 72 felt. They were walking in the clouds. They felt they had been witness to the power of God and they reveled in the moment. Everything Jesus had promised had played out right before their eyes. As humans, though, we can easily mess things up. Pride can sneak in. We can sometimes take pride in the accomplishments that we see in the name of the Lord and begin to take credit for what happens as if it were something that we had done. Notice that the disciples said, “the demons obey US…” Notice that. The disciples are claiming that the demons are obeying them, rather than the Holy Spirit who is working through them.

Jesus handles this situation with His usual grace and charm. He wanted them to know that they should be excited to see what God can do. They should be excited that their faith allowed the Holy Spirit to work through them. He wanted them to know, “see this is what you can do when you have an all-in kind of faith, that totally sold out to me kind of faith”. Jesus wanted them to know that it is this kind of faith that can conquer anything. So, Jesus celebrated the victories with them. However, He also used the victory as time for additional teaching. He warned them about taking personal pride or credit for that which is of God. The demons were driven out by the Holy Spirit acting through the disciples not because of any special thing about the disciples. Their only qualification was their willingness to be sent. He warned them to remember, basically, to give credit where credit is due, to God. We are the vessels and not the contents. Our names are registered in heaven simply through accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior and being willingly submitted to Him and whatever He sends us to do. There’s an old saying that “Jesus does not call the qualified. He qualifies the called.” We must remember that any power that we have has been granted to us not anything that we are ourselves. God uses so many different kinds of people in so many different kinds of ways, there is no common thing that we can learn to acquire the power of God. It is something that He grants us when we are submitted to Him.

We can easily become prideful for the successes that we see in the name of the Lord. The church I call my home, LifeSong Church, in Lyman, SC has been extremely successful over these 7 years of its existence. It has grown from a handful of people meeting in Pastor Jeff’s living room to now where we have 700-800 people on our campus each weekend. It would be easy for us to take pride in that. But as Pastor Jeff tells us as the staff that the success of our church has nothing to do with him as lead pastor or any of us as staff. The growth of our church is, he says, a testament to the fact that the Holy Spirit knows what He is doing and not us. The only credit we should take is that we are willing and submitted to Him and earnestly wish to do His will. There is a reason that our church has grown so rapidly. It is the power of the Holy Spirit. That’s it. Yes, we are to work hard and be witnesses and develop systems and processes to make our jobs easier and our work more fruitful, but that is simply the window dressing for what the Holy Spirit does all on His own. Don’t get me wrong, we must have all of our systems and processes in place so that we can indeed not have to think about mundane things and can consciously participate in the Holy Spirit’s move among us. Our systems and processes should be so well oiled that we don’t have to think about our systems and processes – they just work. That is so we can be fully engaged and watch what the Holy Spirit does and assist in any way that He calls us. We cannot take credit for what He does but we can be there as He does it. Humble servants we must be and watch God in His Sovereignty work.

With the phenomenal growth of our church over the past 7 years, we can also easily take pride in the fact that “we get it and you don’t”. We can look at other churches in our area and see them struggling but yet we are growing and say we get it and you don’t. My church is better than your church. Sure, we can see that there is something special going on at LifeSong and be thankful that we happen to be at this place at this point in time with these people doing what God has called us to do at this place at this point in time, but it is not because we get it and you don’t. It is because God has chosen this church at this moment in time at this place with these people. Our only qualification is our willingness and our submission to the power of the Holy Spirit. What is happening at LifeSong is not about how cool our worship is, not about the cool names we give our ministries, not about how talented our leadership team is, not about how special we are as a team, but rather, about God Himself, about the power of the gospel message in its purest form. The only credit that we can take is being willing to serve Him, being willing to share the gospel in His Name, being willing to love as Jesus loved, being unpretentious about who can come to our church, remembering that we are all sinners in need of forgiveness. Humble servants we must be and watch God in His Sovereignty work.

Father, in heaven, I thank you for your providence in which you have guided and directed me to be at this church at this moment in time with these people doing the work that you have called us to do at this time in this place. Help me to always remember that you are the One who makes everything happen. I am just the vessel but you are the content. Help me to always remember that the credit for miracles that we see in the lives of people that cross our doors is not because we are the coolest church in the area or because we have the corner on the market of salvation, but rather it is because of the pure and simple power of you. It is because you through the Holy Spirit change people from the inside out not because of the snazzy building, or the cool music, and the awesome names of our ministries. It is you, Lord. It is you. Help me to remember that you are Lord and I am just your servant with a willing heart. Help me always to give the glory to you for you are the Sovereign Lord. Amen.