Posts Tagged ‘trust’

Joshua 6:1-27

The Fall of Jericho

My favorite song right now is “Do It Again” by Elevation Worship, the worship band for Elevation Church, the multi-site and one of the top 10 fastest growing churches in America with campuses across the Charlotte, NC area. It is has that great combination of great lyrics and great music. The opening stanza’s lyrics to the song go like this:

 

Walking around these walls

I thought by now they’d fall

But You have never failed me yet

Waiting for change to come

Knowing the battle’s won

For You have never failed me yet

 

The idea of this opening stanza is that sometimes we wonder why we are doing what we are doing for the Lord. Sometimes it’s hard to see the end game. It’s an idea that is close to my heart right now as I spiritually struggle with what the future holds. In the song, I see a group of Israelites on like the fifth pass around Jericho on the fifth day. They had walked around Jericho four times on four different days now. They are on the fifth pass on the fifth day. They still have tomorrow single pass around the walls of Jericho. And then there are the six passes on the seventh day where nothing will happen before that fateful seventh pass when it is time to shout, to blow the horns, and for the walls to fall and for the hand to hand, house to house Battle of Jericho to begin.

 

It kind of reminds you about playing football back in school. You have the two a day practices in the August heat with no game on the immediate horizon. You are busting your butt doing drill after drill and all the exercises, all the wind sprints, the suicides, the hill climbs, the stadium step climbs, the dreaded six inch drills, the high step running through the tires, the one on one blocking drills. The two-a-day practices in August are more about conditioning than they are about installing an offense and defense and about running plays. It’s about breaking down your pride and pushing you to your physical limit. All of it is done so that when the game is on the line in the fall that you have the stamina, the heart, and the willingness to follow instructions to win the game.

 

In both situations, the fifth time around Jericho with much behind you and much ahead that does not necessarily produce immediate results was a test of the soldiers’ willingness to follow God. Just as the August two-a-days test your willingness to lay it all on the line for the team, we are faced with those situations ourselves at times. I remember in football, there were always people that quit during August two-a-days. Those that wanted the glory of game day without the hellish work of the August two-a-days. Imagine being the soldiers at Jericho. I wonder if any of them quite on the fifth day – thinking it stupid that soldiers should have do this silliness of walking around the city of Jericho in the hot weather of spring and/or summer in Palestine. What’s the point of it. Why can’t the walls just fall down after one pass? Why must we do this day after day with no results. Why can’t we just attack the city now? What is God waiting on?

 

Walking around these walls

I thought by now they’d fall

 

 

For me, I am walking around the walls thinking by now they should have fallen so that I can go into Jericho and begin the fight. Why is it that God gave me the passion, the desire, and the calling to go into ministry but yet nothing has happened? Walking around these walls. Why have the walls not fallen? Why has there not been any opportunity for my to have my entry into the “city” of full-time ministry.

 

Some have suggested that I plant a church if there is nothing opening up for me in established churches. Yes, that’s certainly an alternative. But someone once told me that you should have a burden for a certain people group or location of people to plant a church. He said that you needed to have that burden be so great on you that you can do nothing else but to go that people and/or location and plant a church. You ache for those people and their lostness. I wish that were the case for me. I wish that I had that burden. Maybe I will someday soon. Maybe, I will encounter a people and a place that God just strikes me down to the core to go to them. But maybe right now, God is testing my resolve to follow Him. I am on the fifth pass around Jericho. I still have tomorrow’s single pass and the next day after that there is the 6 passes before the all important final and seventh pass. I think that we all have had times in our past where we have gotten on spiritual highs and dedicated ourselves to be better Christians. Then, something happens where it gets too hard and we quit. Sometimes I think God puts us through spiritual two-a-days like in August preparing for the high school football season.

 

To continue with the football analogy, what if you have made it through two-a-days in August and you haven’t quit. But now it’s football season and you must endure classes all day during the week and then practice after school 4 days a week. Those after school practices can test your resolve too. Three hours of intense work after you have already been in school all day. Then, after you go through all that work during the week, you are not a starter yet. You must put in all that work but you are not a starter on Friday night. That can test your resolve to your team. You put in all the work but you do not get to play under the lights with the stands filled with fans. It’s like walking around the walls of Jericho on that fifth day. You are putting in the work but no results yet. You are doing the work but nothing is happening.

 

It’s that idea of following through on God’s direction even when you do not see immediate results is what struck me this morning when I read this 6th chapter of Joshua this morning. How often do we give up on God’s call on our lives when it gets difficult or when there are no immediate astounding results? That’s what I want us to have in mind as we read it together now:

 

6 Now the gates of Jericho were securely barred because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in.

 

2 Then the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. 3 March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. 4 Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. 5 When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have the whole army give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the army will go up, everyone straight in.”

 

6 So Joshua son of Nun called the priests and said to them, “Take up the ark of the covenant of the Lord and have seven priests carry trumpets in front of it.” 7 And he ordered the army, “Advance! March around the city, with an armed guard going ahead of the ark of the Lord.”

 

8 When Joshua had spoken to the people, the seven priests carrying the seven trumpets before the Lord went forward, blowing their trumpets, and the ark of the Lord’s covenant followed them. 9 The armed guard marched ahead of the priests who blew the trumpets, and the rear guard followed the ark. All this time the trumpets were sounding. 10 But Joshua had commanded the army, “Do not give a war cry, do not raise your voices, do not say a word until the day I tell you to shout. Then shout!” 11 So he had the ark of the Lord carried around the city, circling it once. Then the army returned to camp and spent the night there.

 

12 Joshua got up early the next morning and the priests took up the ark of the Lord. 13 The seven priests carrying the seven trumpets went forward, marching before the ark of the Lord and blowing the trumpets. The armed men went ahead of them and the rear guard followed the ark of the Lord, while the trumpets kept sounding. 14 So on the second day they marched around the city once and returned to the camp. They did this for six days.

 

15 On the seventh day, they got up at daybreak and marched around the city seven times in the same manner, except that on that day they circled the city seven times. 16 The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the army, “Shout! For the Lord has given you the city! 17 The city and all that is in it are to be devoted[a] to the Lord. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent. 18 But keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them. Otherwise you will make the camp of Israel liable to destruction and bring trouble on it. 19 All the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the Lord and must go into his treasury.”

 

20 When the trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so everyone charged straight in, and they took the city. 21 They devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys.

 

22 Joshua said to the two men who had spied out the land, “Go into the prostitute’s house and bring her out and all who belong to her, in accordance with your oath to her.” 23 So the young men who had done the spying went in and brought out Rahab, her father and mother, her brothers and sisters and all who belonged to her. They brought out her entire family and put them in a place outside the camp of Israel.

 

24 Then they burned the whole city and everything in it, but they put the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron into the treasury of the Lord’s house. 25 But Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies to Jericho—and she lives among the Israelites to this day.

 

26 At that time Joshua pronounced this solemn oath: “Cursed before the Lord is the one who undertakes to rebuild this city, Jericho:

 

“At the cost of his firstborn son

    he will lay its foundations;

at the cost of his youngest

    he will set up its gates.”

 

27 So the Lord was with Joshua, and his fame spread throughout the land.

 

The first thing that comes to your mind when reading this chapter/passage is the question, why? Why did God give Joshua all these complicated instructions for battle? I think there are several reasons. First, God wanted it to be undeniably clear that the battle’s outcome would depend on Him, and not upon Israel’s weapons and expertise. To support this claim, it is why priests carry the Ark of the Covenant, not soldiers, lead the Israelites into battle. Second, this strange military maneuver was a test of the faith and resolve of the Israelite people in following the Lord’s instructions completely.

 

That’s the thing. So many times in life we are quitters. We don’t want to put in the work necessary to achieve our goals. We sometimes quit sports teams when we are young because the practices are too hard and we don’t get to start on game day. It takes dedication to the team to put up with the hard hitting practices during the week to then sit on the sidelines waiting for your opportunity to get in the game. You have the heart and the passion for the game, but it’s just not your time to start. What if it takes three years for you to become a starter? Are you willing to continue to work at it till it’s your turn. Are you willing to continue walk around those walls on the fifth day with still more walks to come before the big chance to show what you’ve got?

 

Sometimes, God tests our resolve to follow Him. If He is going to entrust us with much, He wants to see how obedient we are going to be on that fifth trip around Jericho with still much more to come before He grants us the right to join the fight, to jump in the game. Sometimes, you and I find ourselves in spiritual dry places where nothing seems to be happening. We pray and pray and God seems not to hear us. We do and do and work and work but God does not reward us. We keep putting in the effort but nothing seems to come of it. Are you in that place? Are you in a spiritual desert where you feel like you are just going through the motions and you see no results? You can either quit on the fifth time around Jericho or you can keep going. If we quit on the fifth time around Jericho, we will miss that miracle on the seventh time around on the seventh day. How many miracles have we missed because we gave up on God, we gave up on prayer, we gave up on doing what He called us to do, because it was too hard, too mundane, too little immediate results.

 

The thing that keeps being drilled in my mind by God here lately is “keep plowing the field in front of you.” Sometimes we have to keep our land to the plow and till the land for many months before we see crops grow. Sometimes God wants to make sure that we are going to keep our hands to the plow before He reveals the fruit and the harvest. When we get into full-time ministry there are going to be times where the pressure’s on and there is no way out of making the tough decisions, no way out but doing what is unpopular but what is godly, no way out but to follow God instead of following public opinion. He wants to see how dedicated we are in the trusting department before He entrusts us with the souls of the sheep.

 

Are you in dry place? Has God not answered your prayers? Has the miracle you asked for not yet come? Are you studying the Bible but not getting anything out of it? Is your prayer life hit a place where it just feels empty? Is what you are asking God for not coming? Are you a single mom just trying to keep your head above water and there’s no end in sight to the responsibilities of both parents that you are carrying by yourself? Are you praying for your grown child to find their way in life so you don’t have to worry about them anymore but there is no change in them? Are you a couple who has been trying to get pregnant for five years but nothing has happened yet?

 

Keep plowing the field. Keep trusting. Keep praying. Sometimes God breaks down to the point of giving up on Him so that we will know that what He gives us as the answer is truly a God thing. Sometimes, He pushes the envelope with us to see how strong and how long we are willing to trust Him. We are temporary and God is eternal. Sometimes, his clock is different from ours. Sometimes, we have to just keep plowing the field til the miracle comes. Sometimes we have to keep walking around Jericho the fifth time, the sixth time on the sixth day and then the first six times on the seventh day before the miracle come on that seventh trip around. Sometimes we have to pay our dues on our football team before we become a Friday night starter. Sometimes we have to pray for years before our prayers are answered. In the process God has taught us to trust Him and not ourselves.

 

Walking around these walls.

I thought by now they’d fall.

But You have never failed me yet

BUT YOU HAVE NEVER FAILED ME YET.

 

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 21:21-35

Victory over Sihon and Og

If you look through the Old Testament, the victory spoken of here in this passage is mentioned over and over again by the Israelites going forward. It was their first victory that established them as real player in the ancient Middle East. Israel was not an established nation at this point, but this victory started it all. It is kind of like that first major victory for a football program that is trying to either establish itself as relevant for the first time or re-establish itself as a relevant program after years in the doldrums. For my favorite college team, the Clemson Tigers, that victory was the 2011 game against Auburn. It was that victory combined the victory over Florida State the following week and Virginia Tech (on the road) were signals that Clemson was back. After 20 years in the doldrums of mediocrity since the glory years of 1977-1991, you have to go back the Auburn game in 2011 that re-established the Clemson program as one on the national stage. Since 2011, Clemson is 61-12 including the first five games of this, the 2016 season. When you look at just since 2012, they are 51-8. If you tighten the window up since they lost to Florida State in over time in the third game of the 2014 season, they are 28-2. Not too shabby for a football program that once coined the term Clemsoning, which meant either wilting and getting blown out in big games or losing to a lesser team inexplicably. Sure, Clemson has laid a few eggs in the 12 losses during the past 5 ½ season but for the most part they have been the model of consistency. They were a couple of special teams plays away from winning the whole smash last year, the national championship.

 

It is amazing to me that the program has gone from being thankful for a big victory occasionally to now where we are complaining about how we are winning. So far this year, the Tigers have struggled at times on offense and have not played a complete ball game, yet. Though they have not executed to their level of talent for a full game yet, there still 5-0 and ranked 3rd in the national polls. How times have changed. During the seasons of the mid-90s through 2007, we would have been dancing in the streets for a 5-0 start to the season. But now, there is an expectation of perfection. Instead of mediocrity, there is an expectation that we will pursue excellence. Instead of hoping to win big games, the Tigers now expect to win big games. More times than not, now, they do. But it all goes back to that Auburn game in 2011 where we dominated a team that had won the national championship the year before (a team that we had lost to on a missed FG in overtime the year before). Getting over the hump started at that game. Behind the scenes though of that victory was a coach with a vision that Clemson could return to its former glory. Coach Swinney had been recruiting hard, establishing a culture of hard work, collecting good coaches and putting the building blocks in place for long-term success. He has built the program into a consistent winner and it started way back in the dark days of 2008 and it did not start really showing benefits until that Auburn game in 2011. That’s where the program turned the corner.

 

It was that breakthrough victory that started something big for Clemson that I thought of when I read of this first big victory in the taking of the Promised Land in Numbers 21:21-35 and how it was a breakthrough for the Israelites:

 

21 Israel sent messengers to say to Sihon king of the Amorites:

 

22 “Let us pass through your country. We will not turn aside into any field or vineyard, or drink water from any well. We will travel along the King’s Highway until we have passed through your territory.”

 

23 But Sihon would not let Israel pass through his territory. He mustered his entire army and marched out into the wilderness against Israel. When he reached Jahaz, he fought with Israel. 24 Israel, however, put him to the sword and took over his land from the Arnon to the Jabbok, but only as far as the Ammonites, because their border was fortified. 25 Israel captured all the cities of the Amorites and occupied them, including Heshbon and all its surrounding settlements. 26 Heshbon was the city of Sihon king of the Amorites, who had fought against the former king of Moab and had taken from him all his land as far as the Arnon.

 

27 That is why the poets say:

 

“Come to Heshbon and let it be rebuilt;

    let Sihon’s city be restored.

 

28

“Fire went out from Heshbon,

    a blaze from the city of Sihon.

It consumed Ar of Moab,

    the citizens of Arnon’s heights.

29

Woe to you, Moab!

    You are destroyed, people of Chemosh!

He has given up his sons as fugitives

    and his daughters as captives

    to Sihon king of the Amorites.

 

30

“But we have overthrown them;

    Heshbon’s dominion has been destroyed all the way to Dibon.

We have demolished them as far as Nophah,

    which extends to Medeba.”

 

31 So Israel settled in the land of the Amorites.

 

32 After Moses had sent spies to Jazer, the Israelites captured its surrounding settlements and drove out the Amorites who were there. 33 Then they turned and went up along the road toward Bashan, and Og king of Bashan and his whole army marched out to meet them in battle at Edrei.

 

34 The Lord said to Moses, “Do not be afraid of him, for I have delivered him into your hands, along with his whole army and his land. Do to him what you did to Sihon king of the Amorites, who reigned in Heshbon.”

 

35 So they struck him down, together with his sons and his whole army, leaving them no survivors. And they took possession of his land.

 

Here, we see that the Israelites have their first breakthrough victory as a nation. You might point back to the defeat of the Egyptians but that was all God. They were simply witnesses to miracles of God. They actually did not have do anything themselves. In their first attempt at taking the Promised Land, they were the first to act out what was the term that used to describe Clemson in big games, “clemsoning”. They choked and retreated from the spotlight. Just as the culture of Clemson football has changed since the hiring of Coach Swinney, you can see that the culture of the Israelites has changed, at least for now, here. They are ready for the battle and there is no apparent cowering away from the spotlight. The difference. They have a trust in God now that they did not have before.

 

Each of us has our “big games” in life. There are moments in time where we have to show what we are really made of. Those stressful situations where you have to come up big and make the right call in life. There are those situations where there seems to be no apparent victory in sight and every choice that we make is fraught with down sides and negatives. Here, in this passage, God assured Moses of victory even before the battles began. God wants to give us victory over our problems and tough life choices and situations. But, first, we must believe in Him and His power. We must firmly believe that God will deliver us from our sins and the deep dark pits in which we find ourselves at times. We must trust Him to help us as well. It is one thing to believe and the next step is to take His hand and trust Him. Put your hopes and dreams in His hands and submit to what His Holy Spirit guidance tells us to do. It is one thing to believe. It is another to trust. The final step is to take action on what the Holy Spirit tells us to do. When we do that, He will guide us to victory.

 

And when we do these things for the first time, the three phrases of believe, trust, act, we will have our watershed moment where we finally get it. Where we finally have the victory we seek. Where we have that breakthrough in our walk with Christ. That’s when we start growing up. Some time down the road, you will be able to look back at that moment as the 2011 Auburn game of your life, that breakthrough moment where you won in all three phases of the game – believe, trust, act – for the first time. In football, it takes victory in all three phases of the game – offense, defense, and special teams – to come out victorious. Though football teaches life lessons, it is not real life. In real life, we must connect in all three phases of God’s game – believe, trust, act. When we do that the first time, like the Israelites, we will have victory. And, we can point to that moment as the game changer. We can point to our 2011 Auburn game of our lives where we turned the corner and became not a relevant football program but a relevant Christian – one who believes, trusts, and acts. When we can fully believe in the might of God, trust in His provision regardless of circumstance, we are freed up to act upon His callings on our life without cowering away with excuses. That’s when you’ve turned the corner. That’s when you are positioned for eternal success. Look back, what was your Auburn game, that moment that you turned the corner? What was your victory of Sihon an Og where your Israel started becoming a nation? It all starts with belief, trust, and action – the three phases of the game.

 

Amen and Amen.

Matthew 17:24-27 (Part 2)
The Temple Tax

There are stories that I hear from fellow church members through the years how the Lord has provided for them financially at just the right time and in just the right moment, when we are obedient in our giving to honor Him – when we tithe. My friend, Candice Brevard, going on her first mission trip is given a gift of money to finish paying for her trip as they were loading up the church van to head to the airport. When I was trying to clean up my credit of some bad debts seven years ago, I was able to negotiate lowered payoffs for these debts and all of it worked out to be exactly the amount of annual bonus at work less my tithe. My friend, Anthony Weston, has his story of how a neighbor made it possible for his mission trip without the neighbor directly giving toward his mission trip. There are people who have had no idea how they were going to follow God’s call to full time ministry or to full time mission work, but God always makes a way for them. There are many other stories out there about God being on time in the nick of time in just the right amount for those who are obedient to Him with their lives and with their finances. The thing is that most of us do not trust God with our finances and do not trust that when we follow Him obediently that He will make a way for us. So, let’s re-read the passage:
24 After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma temple tax came to Peter and asked, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?”

25 “Yes, he does,” he replied.

When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. “What do you think, Simon?” he asked. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own children or from others?”

26 “From others,” Peter answered.

“Then the children are exempt,” Jesus said to him. 27 “But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.”

How much do you trust Jesus? Apparently, Peter did. We do not read anything after this about Peter balking at what Jesus said. We hear nothing else from this scene. So, two things happened by deductive reasoning since the scene ends here. Peter did what Jesus told him to do and the tax was paid. Peter was obedient and there was provision. Jesus recognized the need and made provision. Jesus knew the need was an honorable one and He made a way for the obligation to be satisfied.

That’s the thing that I think we need to chew on today. Many of us do not really trust God with our lives and we definitely don’t trust Him with our money. First, let’s talk about trusting Him with our lives. Many of us trust God up to a point in this area. However, have you really trusted God with your future? Sometimes, God calls us to do the unusual, the out of the ordinary. Sometimes, He may call us to open a soup kitchen and make that our life’s work and walk away from a good paying job to do it. He may call us to move 800 miles away to plant a church in a spiritual dark part of the country where only 2% of people attend church regularly. He may call you to leave a cushy job and leave your sons or daughters behind when you do that. He may call you to full time ministry when you have built a career in a different vocation for many years. He may call you to move to another continent to work to free young girls from the sex slavery trade even though you have never had exposure to that type of thing before in your life. He may call you simply to go on a one-week mission trip to Africa, Central America, South America, or Asia. How much do you trust Him? Do you believe He will provide a way? Do you really trust God? Do you trust Him enough not to listen to friends who want you to stay in your comfort zone and theirs? Do you use excuses for why it can be done instead of trusting that it will be done. Do you find reasons for not doing what God called you to do because it is just easier not to. It is easier to do the easy thing. John F. Kennedy once said,

“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.” (from speech at Rice University, September 12, 1962).
God does not call us to the easy. He calls us to the challenges that need to be faced in the name of Jesus. He calls to do the difficult things because they need doing. He calls not to the easy things but to the hard things. He called Moses to free his people from the mightiest empire on earth at that time, the Egyptian Empire. It was not easy. It was hard. It took 10 plagues and leaving in the middle of the night. It took miracles. Through it all Moses trusted in the Lord. Sure, he had his times of doubt but He always bottom line trusted in the Lord. God calls us to serve our fellow man not because it is easy but because it is hard and because it needs doing. Through serving our fellow man we get to tell them of Jesus. When we do what seems impossibly tough, we learn too to depend on the provision of God. Isn’t that what He really wants from us is to fully depend on Him. When we step out of our comfort zones where we are king and into the unknown we learn to put God first because He is the only way that we are going to accomplish what He called us to do. The story in this passage abruptly ends because Peter obeyed even though it sounded far-fetched and beyond reason. But because of Peter’s obedience, the provision was there. God orchestrated someone losing a coin near the shore. God orchestrated the fish finding and swallowing the coin. God orchestrated the timing of Peter’s line in the water at the same time the fish with coin was swimming by. He made the moment happen. He created the intersection. He will make provision for us as well when we trust Him with our lives. He will make a way for us when we fully trust Him and follow His calling on our lives.

We also have to learn to trust Him with our finances as well. So many of us get it backwards from the beginning. We learn to spend, spend, spend. We never learn to put God first in our finances. From the beginning we place our needs over our obedience to the Lord. We go to church and we hear about how we should be obedient to the Lord in our finances. We give our $20 that we have left over from the weekend in our wallet and we call that tithing. That is not tithing unless you make $200 or less per pay period. We give God our leftovers. We do not trust to live the tithing lifestyle. We want more toys. We are taught that whoever has the most toys in the end wins. We spend more than we make in most cases. Then, our obedience to the Lord in our giving becomes a far off concept. We pat ourselves on the backs when we actually do give instead of most weeks where we do not. Why did we not learn at an earlier age that spending less and saving more is God-ordained. Why did we not learn to live off of 90% or less of what we make? Man, I have my first grandchild due in July of this year. From the beginning, I am going to teach this blessedly awaited child to save and to tithe. I want her (notice I said her – trusting the Lord on that one!) to learn that just because you make it does not mean you spend it. I want to grow up learning the blessings of obediently tithing from the beginning so that she does not have to suffer with the consequences of disobedience in our lives. I want her to make the right choice to learn to live on 90% or less than what she makes from the beginning. I don’t want her to have to carve out the painful overspending so that she can get to a place where she can honor God with the first 10% or more of her money. There is a peace in the obedience to the Lord in our finances. When Elena and I decided to quit running the rat race of having more and more and newer and newer and started paying off all our debts there is a peace that comes. You learn that newer and newer is not always better and better. You learn satisifaction with what you have. You learn that the Lord will honor and bless your obedience when you are not so caught up in having the next greatest thing. It’s all just toys. It’s all just temporary. Honoring God with our finances is a path to peace and a path to understanding the eternal ways of God. He will provide for us. We don’t need newer, better, faster, if we have our relationship in order with God. There is no more of a deep core way to start your path to living a life that is God honoring that to begin with your finances. It is the basic thing of life – how we spend our money. If as children we learn to set aside 10% or more to honor God, man, how much easier our life will be and how more of a basic way to make God honoring a part of your daily life than that! Let us commit as adults to teach our children this. Let us commit as adults to begin to arrange our lives in this way so that we can work our way to honoring God with the first 10% or more of our income. When we learn to honor God with our finances, He gives us peace and He blesses our understanding of the fact that we honor Him. I know there are those who make honoring God with your money about this investment-payback scenario but the real payback is not in financial blessings that He gives us but rather is not being a slave to our money and seeing our money as a way to honor God. We must trust God on this one. The blessings are not always financial but rather in the peace that passes all understanding, the peace of knowing you are honoring your Creator. We must trust Him. We must be like Peter. We hear the command and we obey. The scene ends. No other information is needed. We trust. We obey. We depend on the provision of God…with finances, with our very lives, and our life’s work.

There is an old hymn that says it best. It was written by John Sammis in 1887 and part of it goes like this:

But we never can prove
The delights of His love
Until all on the altar we lay
For the favor He shows
For the joy He bestows
Are for them who will trust and obey

Trust and obey
For there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus
But to trust and obey.

Trust and obey is what Peter did. The coin was there. May we do the same with our lives and with our finances. Amen and Amen.

Matthew 8:23-27
Jesus Calms the Storm
Picture if you will a 12 year-old boy on a slalom water ski being pulled behind his father’s boat. Back in my pre-teen and teenage years, this was Saturdays in the Summer. My best friend from those years, Donnie Garrison, and I would ski any chance we got. Just find my Dad or Donnie’s Dad and get the boat on the water. We became really good at it. Not professional but really good. No two skis for us. It was slalom all the way. Man, could we get air when we jump the wakes. Time of your life, huh, kid? We would ski for hours on end every Saturday. And the best part was coming back to our beach cove at Donnie’s property which was our base of operations on Saturdays. When we would come back from a run, Daddy would drop each of us off so that we could show off coming for a landing and see if we could make to shore without stopping and just hop off on land. Then, the next guy. Afterwards, Donnie and I would argue over who had the best run and the best landing. Great times.

Man, those memories come flooding back in HD picture quality when you allow yourself to think about them. The reason I bring up those summers of skiing every weekend on Lake Hartwell is that it brings back one memory as clear as day. Picture, if you will, my Dad pulling us along for another Saturday on the lake. This time we all decided so see how long we could take it. From the Garrison’s cove near Stone Creek Cove on Lake Hartwell down to the Hartwell dam is about a 7 mile ride by boat. It we could make it there and back, we would have slalomed 14 miles. If you have ever water skied, you know how much pressure slaloming puts on your lower back so this was an endurance test. Picture if you will, as we get down to the dam and get as close as we can before the roped off area in front of the main part of the dam, we make the turn to head home. As we look north back toward where we came from, we see a storm cloud approaching of fierce proportions. Picture if you will racing back to our home cove some 7 miles away by water. Picture if you will the heavens opening up and lightning flashing everywhere. Picture my Dad flooring the boat motor to get back to our cove as fast as possible. If he stopped it would take 10 minutes to get me and my friend Donnie and I back into the boat, pick up the skis and the ropes, and then to get back up to full speed. We had no time. Lake Hartwell was white-capping because of the storm. I was a great slalom skier back then, but this was work to stay upright. Lake Hartwell was like an ocean that day…deep pits between waves, white caps, wind blowing hard. Rain was hitting me hard and felt like little bee stings all over the front of my body. Add to that, we were getting tired from the long run. There was pain along the way that made me wonder if I was going to make it back to our home shore, but through it all though I trusted my Dad to get me back to our cove so I could drop the rope and slide into shore for a perfect landing!

That leads us to our Scripture passage for today. Let’s read:

23 Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24 Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” 26 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. 27 The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

There are three striking features in this passage. The first is that Jesus was sleeping during this furious storm. Why was he sleeping? The second thing is that fear had taken hold of the disciples that they did not think that would make it back to shore so much so that they cried out to Jesus. Finally, it is striking too that Jesus with a few words or less spoke and calmed the storm. The Scripture passage demonstrates to us that we must have faith to fully experience the power of God through His son, Jesus Christ.

The first point that I mentioned was that Jesus was sleeping through the storm. How could he sleep through a furious storm? Well, first off, Jesus was tired. Likely tired as any minister is after busy day of preaching, counseling, meetings, etc. Jesus was living his life in a human body so he got tired and needed sleep like the rest of us. Yet, in the midst of a raging storm, he continued to sleep. In his very core, He knew that He was secure. He had faith in the Heavenly Father to guide his human life through the storm. As I mentioned earlier, about water skiing through a torrential downpour, I had faith that my Dad was leading me to safety. Same here. Jesus knew His Heavenly Father was going to take care of him. Jesus also knew that he had the power of God at his hand. Jesus was living what he preached. Serenity in the face of the storm. Do we react to storms in this way? Do we have the serenity to allow us to have peace and comfort through the storms of life? Don’t you think too that Jesus’ sleeping through the storm was to see how his disciples would handle it? Often storms of life are not of our own making. Often storms of life are forced upon us. Storms being forced upon us can be a factory shutdown where we lose our job by no fault of our own. Storms can be an unwanted divorce. Storms can be a husband’s or wife’s affair. Storms can be an unplanned pregnancy. Storms of life can be the unexpected death of a loved one or a close friend. Storms of life can take many shapes and forms in our lives. Can we handle it as Jesus taught us? Can we trust that God will guide us through the storm such that we can find rest, peace in the storm?

The second point that is interesting is that the disciples were distraught to the point of fearing for their lives. These guys had been hanging around with Jesus for a while at this point, but yet at the first sign of trouble they were just like the rest of us. They forgot what they had been taught and were ready to give up. In my earlier illustration, you know that I could have easily let go of the rope and let myself drop into the rough waters and wait for my Dad to swing around and come get me out of the water. In a sense that would have been like giving up on what my Dad was trying to do – get us back to our cove as quickly as possible. Isn’t that what the disciples are doing here? Their fear of the storm overcame them. Their fear overcame their faith. They had little faith that they were going to make it through the storm. They feared that their expectations were not going to be met. In their humanness, they wanted the boat. They wanted the calm waters. They wanted to reach the other shore dry and none the worse for wear. They had little faith that even if they were tossed into the water that there was purpose in it. They did not have faith that God would see them through the storm whether it was in the boat or not. They got so distraught that they came to Jesus and woke him and asked him to save them lest they drown. Jesus reminds them that they should have had faith in Him. He asks them “why are you so afraid?” In other words, in today’s language, “Yo dudes, why are you so afraid…you got me right here…You know I got your back.” Isn’t that the way it is with us. We shout and scream at the storm for upsetting our personal plan for the way things should be. We work ourselves through our own choices, our own dependence on ourselves, that we ultimately get to the point that we cannot control our world anymore. We cry out to Jesus to save us from the storm. Jesus was there all along. We know of his power. We ignore the power that faith in Him can give us but yet we focus on ourselves and work our lives into a frenzy of seeking our own solutions. What happens when we come to the realization and come to the back of the boat and ask Jesus to save us from our storms? He is immediately available. He has been there all along. Why do we ignore Him? Why can’t we, from the beginning, go sit with Jesus in the back of the boat and know that He is there. Knowing that He is there will calm the storm in us and help us weather the storms of our own making or the storms that are forced upon us by others.

The final point that is interesting here is that with a couple of words the storms go away immediately. Jesus, in some translations of the Word, says, “Peace. Be Still!” And the heavens dried up and the clouds dissipated immediately at his command. The waters became calm immediately. This passage reminds me that Jesus is the Son of God. He had the full power of God. The elements of the earth obey his commands as He is their Maker. The disciples were astonished that the storm went away in an instant. Apparently, there was no gradual dissipation of the storm as we are often used to with storms. He said those few words and BAM! The storm was gone as if it had never existed. If Jesus and the disciples had lived their human lives in today’s world, the disciples would have said, “Whooooaaaa! Dude, did you see what He just did. It was like…. Then, he said, “Chill out!, to the storm”…and then it was like….whoa!” This Scripture passage points out that Jesus was truly the Son of God. He has control of the elements. He can control any storm. This gives me great confidence in my Savior. He can help me through anything. He can calm the storm in my life or he can calm the storm in my soul. He is my source of strength. He is my defender and my shield. As Philippians 4:12 says, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation!” I know that no matter what situation or season of life that I find myself in, God is right there. He is in my boat. He leads me into the situations I need to be in. He leads me to greater dependence on Him when I trust Him. Just as I trusted my Dad to lead me back to our cove on Lake Hartwell without question. I knew my Dad was doing the right thing for me. I trusted that. When we trust God with the very fabric of our lives, He will lead us to where we need to be. He will bless us for having depended on Him. He will show us a happiness and joy we’ve never known on a human scale. Just as the disciples were in awe of His control of the physical elements of the world, we will be in awe of the changes that he will wrought in our lives.

Do you have the faith? Can you trust in Him? Can you let go of your control of your life? Can you give it all over to Him…not just the parts that are convenient to give up? Can you give it ALL up to him? Can we trust God with everything, every aspect of our lives? Our marriage? Our children? Our jobs? Our money? Our time, talents, and resources? Sure, God does not want us to ignore the storms of life. He gave us brains to plan and execute. In prayer, we seek His guidance on how to plan and execute, but bottom line is that we must learn to depend on Him for the way through the storm. Bottom line is that He will teach us things that we need to know in the storms. Bottom line is that in the storms we learn dependence on Him. How freeing is it when we trust in the Lord totally and completely. There is joy that comes from that. There is peace that comes from that. He’s always right there in the boat with us, guiding us, directing us, toward the safe shores of home. He’s got this! Let us trust that! Let us know that! Let us live that!

Amen and Amen.

Luke 21:1-4 — Yesterday, we talked about how we must rewrite Scripture to avoid shining the light of the Bible on our own shortcomings when it comes to giving unto the Lord. Today, we will talk about honoring God with our finances and trusting Him with the results.

How do we honor people in our lives? We give them awards. We give them special recognition. We give them gifts. When we do this, we are saying you are important to me. You are worthy of the praise that I am giving you. Men, how do we honor our wives? We remember anniversaries. We shower them with flowers. We also honor them by opening doors for them. We honor them by telling them that they are beautiful. We honor them by giving required answers such as, “No darling, that dress does not make you look fat!” We honor them by taking them on romantic getaways for the weekend. We honor them by providing for their needs and making them feel secure. We do so many things to honor our wives and to let them know that they are important to us.

What if? What if we gave them some flowers we found in a trash can on our way home on the day of our anniversary, or her birthday, or some other important occasions. What if for a romantic weekend getaway we gave them a weekend at a Days Inn in Duncan, SC (no offense to Duncan. I live there and I am proud of my town but its not romantic getaway place for sure). What if you went out with the boys on a Friday and showed up at home at 10:30 telling your wife that its time for your date with what time’s left in the evening? What if…? You get the picture. Giving your wife your leftover time, giving your wife your leftover gifts, giving your wife just what you can scrounge up is not the secret to a happy marriage.

I use this illustration to point out that if you wouldn’t dare to treat the lady in your life in this manner, why then do we treat God this way. He is supposed to be the most important thing in our lives. We are told to put God first in our lives. We are told to love God with all of our mind, heart, soul and strength. Our love affairs with our wives are supposed to be symbolic of the way we are in love with God. We are to love God and put Him first in our lives. We are to love God and put Him first in every aspect of our lives. We are even supposed to put Him ahead of our spouses. All of us buy into this concept. I believe it to be true. If you do not get your relationship with God right, if you don’t put Him first in everything that you do in life, none of the rest of your life works properly. None of our relationships work right when we put something above God. However, there is alway a but, as the old saying goes. Why is it that we treat God like a left over pork chop in the fridge when it comes to our finances. We rewrite Scripture so that we can ignore his command to give him a tenth of what we make at least.

We give Him the leftover $20 bill from our Saturdays out on the town. We give Him the leftover $20 from our Saturdays at Death Valley or Williams-Brice. We give Him the leftover $20 after we pay for the Jet Ski. We give Him the leftover $20 after we pay for the house that we cannot afford. You get the picture. Your wife would not stand for you just giving her hand-me-down gifts of your leftover time so why do we treat God in this way. We should shower Him with praise and no place is this more evident than giving Him praise in our finances. Let us give Him praise by arranging our lives where we live off of 90% or less of our income so that we honor Him. If you stand and give praise to the Lord and say Amen when you hear that He knitted you together in your mother’s womb, but yet say it is your talents and your money, then are saying that you do not believe that He gave you your talents. Let us praise Him with the full honor and glory that He deserves in every area of our lives. Let us give Him praise by honoring His Word and accepting all of it as valid to our lives.

Do you trust God? Apparently, most of us don’t when it comes to our finances. We feel like we are throwing our money away when we give it to God. There is no obvious benefit to it, many of us think. How can I pay for all the things that I have to pay for and still give to this black hole for which I see no return on my investment. Have you ever thought that it is all the things that you have to pay is the reason that there is this constant state of emergency when it comes to your finances. When you give to the Lord through your local church, it has nothing to do with bankrolling the pastor team’s lifestyle. It has nothing to do with funding church outreach, church programs, etc. It has everything to do with trusting God. Do you trust God enough to take Him at his Word. This is one area of life that God invites us to test Him. In Malachi 3:10, He says it. The Lord said, “”Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the LORD of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.” He says this after He curses Israel for having robbed Him by not bringing the best of the best as an offering to Him. When have lived our lives for our things that we want and have only leftovers for God, there is a lack of trust there.

I know this for a fact in my own life. Chasing the American Dream of having what everyone else has regardless of my financial situation left me in such a bind that I could not make ends meet even when I was making good money. It wasn’t until my wife suggested that I clean my credit up and get all my debts paid off. Although it was just her concern for my credit that motivated that fateful conversation, it was the Holy Spirit at work in our lives. Slowly but surely over the years we began paying off my debts and worked our way into tithing. Now, talk about a change in perspective. When we give God the first fruits of our labor, it changes your perspective on things. We no longer care if we have the finest house, finest car, we have found peace in living off much less than we make. There is peace in that. That is the blessing. It is the peace in knowing that we are obeying God. It is peace in knowing that we have never done without when we have trusted God with the tithe. It is peace knowing that we are not leaving a legacy of debt to our children. It is peace knowing that we don’t have to have the latest and greatest (because guess what, within six months it’s going to be replaced by the newest of the latest and greatest). Giving God the first fruits of your money changes your perspective toward things of God rather than things of this earth. It gives you a new perspective on helping others rather than acquiring new debt. The devil wants us broke and overextended. Because when we are broke and overextended, our mind is not on God. Our mind is not on others. We are caught up in the me factory of endless payments. We are then ineffective.

Do you trust God with your money? He invites you to honor Him with your money. He says test me in this. He says test me in obedience to His Word. Do you trust God? Do you honor God?

Luke 12:22-34 — Today, we move on to Luke 12:22-34. We will spend a few days here….

There is a disease sweeping America. It is bigger than cancer. It is bigger than AIDS. It is bigger than heart disease. It is bigger than car accidents as killers. It is probably the leading cause of death in America, maybe the world, but no doctor can cure it even today with our might in medicine. All doctors can do is treat its symptoms with pills that make us forget this disease temporarily. What is you ask? I thought we knew all the major diseases that kill us. Is there something knew that popped up that we do not know about? My friends this disease is worry. No doctor can treat is root cause only its symptoms. It is a self-inflicted disease from which there seems to be no escape.

There is an old saying about some people that we know. It says, “They worry about what they are going to worry about tomorrow.” Although most of us are not that bad, we do worry about things all the time. Small children worry about who’s playing with their toys. Teenage girls worry about what the other girls have said about them. Teenage boys worry about whether they have a girlfriend or not. Grown ups escalate the worry elevator in that we worry about how we are going to pay the bills, how we are going to send our kids to college.William Marshall in his book, Eternity Shut in a Span, gives us a funny illustration on worry. He wrote, “For several years a woman had been having trouble getting to sleep at night because she feared burglars. One night her husband heard a noise in the house, so he went downstairs to investigate. When he got there, he did find a burglar. ‘Good evening,’ said the man of the house. ‘I am pleased to see you. Come upstairs and meet my wife. She has been waiting 10 years to meet you.'” It is a funny illustration, but it so true. We often miss the glory that is our lives for worrying. You name it. We worry about it. We obsess over details and miss the big picture.

Have ever thought about why we worry? It boils down to a lack of faith in God. When we worry, we take God off His throne and put ourselves there. Overcoming worry will require us to do three things.

First, we must pray. Worry is a possessive disease. When we worry, it means that we are holding back on something from God. If you obsess about your finances it means that you have not given them up to God. When we pray and I mean earnestly pray. Not some perfunctory dinner table prayer that has no investment of your soul. I am talking about going before your Father in heaven in prayer. Earnestly seeking His guidance requires us to earnestly pray to Him. When we hand our worries over to God, it is freeing to us. It opens our mind our soul to what God will say to us. Not some prayer while you are driving down the road in your. Laser focused prayer time where it’s just you and God. True prayer, when it’s just you and God, it is about submission to your Father in heaven. It is like crawling up in your earthly dad’s lap when you were a little kid and telling him about your fears. Romans 8:26-27 tells us, “n the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; 27and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” When we earnestly sit down or kneel to pray, He understands the groaning of our soul. Give your worries to the Father in heaven. He is big enough and wise enough to handle what you throw at Him in prayer.

Second, we must gain perspective on our problems. Sometimes, it helps to write out what the problem is. Putting things on paper sometimes helps us put things into perspective. It helps us to identify sometimes what the real problem is. Once we do that, we can identify ways to fix it. As a writer myself, I know that sometimes the greatest ways God speaks to me is when I sit down to write. God speaks to us in these ways. When we just let something roll around in our mind and heart, the problem sometimes become bigger than it really is. If you are not big on writing, find a trusted friend and simply articulate to them what you are worrying about. A trusted friend can help you, like in writing, identify what the core problem is. Sometimes God speaks to us through the wise counsel of a trusted friend. It is then we can identify the issue and make a plan to correct the problem or solve the problem. Sometimes there will be multiple steps to solving a problem. For example, if you finances are in shambles, they are not going to be solved by a single step. It will require a multi-step process. Any long journey begins with the first step. However, keeping a problem bottled up inside you and attaching unreasonable emotions to them will escalate problems to physical health issues and even mental health issues. Gain perspective on your problems and allow God to speak to your through your pen your through your friend.

Third, and most importantly, we must trust God. We must trust that He is bigger than any problem that we have. We must let Him be on the throne. He is God after all, not us. When we worry, we usurp His power for ourselves. When we worry, we make ourselves God. When we worry, we belittle the Creator of the Universe. Certainly, God expects us not sit and do nothing and look skyward for manna from heaven. We must do our part when God makes it clear to us what we should do and we must go do it. If we are in debt over our heads, we must do what God tells us to do to get out of debt – there will be sacrifices to be made, struggles to be had when God tells us what to do to solve a problem. We must do our part. We must do the hard work and heavy lifting that is needed to solve some problems. However, what I am talking about is the basic trust that God will guide us. When we worry, it is as if we do not trust God. What I am talking about is having peace in our heart even in our darkest hours. Even when it seems that the world is falling down around us, we have the peace that passes all understanding. Sure, it is our nature to worry. Last year at this time I was going through a major crisis at work that almost cost me my job. I will admit. I am usually one of the calmest people around. I typically have this blind faith that God has my back. Some people usually say that I don’t worry enough. But in this crisis, I worried like you wouldn’t believe. I obsessed over it. I lost 10 lbs over it (I do not recommend this as a weight loss program…sad part is that I can report that I have gained all of it back). I forgot the premise that God is God and Mark is Mark. There is a God that is ruler over me and a God who I am in submission to. We must trust God. We must have child-like faith that He has our back. When we worry we take His job away from Him – the job of being the Almighty! In trusting God, we will find peace. In trusting God, we will find answers. In trusting God, we establish the proper relationship in our lives. God is King and we are His subjects. God is our Daddy and we are His children. Do you trust Him? Really trust Him to have your back? Do you trust Him with every area of your life? What are you holding back that you want to keep as your personal kingdom? What you worry about is the areas of life that you have not submitted before His throne. What is your worry province? Are you still leading a rebellion against God in some areas of your life? Give it all to Him. Trust Him with all areas of your life. Hold nothing back any longer.

Father help us to trust you in all areas of life. Help us to find the peace that passes all understanding when we finally give up the fight to keep our little kingdoms of worry. Help us to really start praying to you and not just lip service prayers. Help us to talk to you earnestly and openly about our struggles. Help us to identify why we worry and help us to find ways out of our troubles. Help to finally trust you as the Magnificent Father that you are. Help to realize that you are Creator and that You are bigger than any problem I face. Help us to crawl up in your lap daily with our troubled hearts. Amen.

Tomorrow, let’s visit seeking the kingdom of God first and all else will be added.

Romans 15:14-22 — In this passage, Paul basically tells the church at Rome that he cannot come visit them because they are doing so well that he has more important things to do. He didn’t mean this as a slam but rather a compliment. Paul had more urgent matters to tend to — to preach the gospel where the name of Christ has never been heard. It has been heard in Rome and they were flourishing. Paul was needed elsewhere.

He is saying here that hey you’re doing OK so I don’t need to visit you just now. Paul needed to go where the challenge was greater and there was a greater need. He felt that the church at Rome was in good hands. He needed to be where there was nothing. He needed to build up churches where the gospel was unknown. By implication for us, it can be said that we need to know when our work is done and its time to leave. We need to know when God is leading us to something new, something urgent, and not be afraid to leave our cocoon.

This message kind of reminds you of when you know its time to leave your current job and seek a new one. There comes a time in most jobs where you feel like you have done all you can at this time and its time to move on. It’s time for a new challenge. For example, when Steve Spurrier was at University of Florida from 1990-2001, he had the world by the tail, he won 8 division titles, 5 conference titles, and 1 national championship. However, he left it all and took on a new challenge in the NFL and that eventually led him to the University of South Carolina. The new challenges were greater than the need to maintain excellence with the Florida Gators. He has done so much more meaningful work at USC than he could’ve ever done in maintaining the program at UF. We all have opportunities in life where it is necessary to leave a good situation where everything is known and everything is neat and tidy. Sometimes it is necessary to break out into the unknown and find the new challenge. Sometimes it is time to step into what God has been preparing us for.

For some that looks like a friend of mine. She has been a ER nurse for 14 years and is very good at it. She has no reason to leave. She could stay in the job and her employer would be happy as clams with that. She is good at what she does. However, she has been called by God to teach her skill to others and to minister to others through home health care. Paul could have visited Rome but He was called to do what God prepared him to do. This friend has been prepared for the next phase in God’s plan. She can do more for Christ by teaching a new crop of nurses how being a Christ follower makes her job a ministry and also to minister to others in home visits one on one in a way she could not in the ER. The ER was not wasted though. The intense nursing required in the ER has taught her much and it will be used in this new phase of God’s plan for her life.

For me and Elena, this idea looks like this. We love LifeSong Church with all our heart. If we had our way, we would never leave. We love this church and the way it touches the community and the world around us. We love serving there in the ways we serve. I help with the financial accounting and budget processes at the church (because of my secular work background). Elena and I work together as leaders in our church’s community outreach ministries. Elena carries most of the workload there and she loves it. We are leaders of our life group and being part of the Christ following growth that is happening there. All of our friends are at LifeSong. 90% of our friends are members of this church. We could stay there forever if we had our own way. It is known. It is safe. It is good. There would be no shame in staying there.

But, as you know, I feel called to be a pastor. It is been a thought always in my mind that we are called to be God’s servant in reclaiming a dying church, to re-awaken what has fallen asleep. We could stay here at LifeSong and be very happy and participate in doing many good things for the kingdom. Sometimes though God calls us to finish the preparation time and step into that which He has been preparing us for. We can’t miss the opportunity when it is time. Paul could not go to Rome because he had urgent work to do spreading the gospel in places where it had never been heard. He COULDN’T miss that opportunity that God laid on His heart. He knew Rome would be fine until a later visit. We must seize our God-ordained opportunities when they arise. We must seize the opportunities to serve the Lord in the way He has ordained for us. When we are called to do what God has called us to do, Elena and I must recognize the Spirit’s leading and go where He leads us. We must fight the urge to stay in the known, the comfortable, and trust that God will sustain in what is unknown, uncomfortable, but yet where God intends us. Our time in Livermore Alive Community Church in California was training for being at LifeSong back home in South Carolina. LifeSong is our training for what’s next in God’s plan for our lives. We must trust in Him to sustain us for what’s next and not be afraid to step into it. We must go wherever God calls us and wherever He needs us to serve. We can’t be afraid to leave what is established and working and is a well oiled machine to do the work of the Lord that needs doing.

Just like Paul, he could have gone to Rome and had a great visit there for several months or years but Rome was already flourishing. God called him not to the flourishing but to those who did not know Jesus. Sometimes, we as Christ followers are not called to serve what is already working well but to serve where we are really needed, where the trail has not been blazed, where souls need re-awakening, where dying churches need to meet Jesus again. We all have our safe places in life, but the real rewards come from when we take on new challenges. We can stay in the safe place and be fine, but sometimes God calls us to do the challenging, the difficult, and we may fail by human standards but the success comes in the obedience to God.

Father, I know that these lyrics belong to Hillsong, but I offer them as my prayer today. Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders. Let me walk upon the waters wherever You would call me. Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander and my faith will be made stronger. Help me to trust that You will sustain us in whatever you lead us to do. Help me to never be afraid to leave my boat where everything is known and safe and step out into the waters of the unknown and keep my eyes on You following wherever you may lead us. We are willing. We have been preparing. We love you, Lord. Amen.