#P5: No hearing…no faith

Pastor's Five P5 logo“Faith comes from hearing and hearing by the word of Christ.” Romans 10:17, NASB

A pastor friend recently said to me, “That man loved his mother…all the way to hell.” That is a strong statement worthy of considering… and to consider it as we ought, I need to provide some context.

He and I were discussing the “manners and politeness” of Southerners…how we work in our manner of life (as a generalization) to not offend. In the case above, a man questioned his own mother’s salvation experience, but rather than offend her (potentially), he skirted the issue and asked general questions and gave generalized truths. He did not want to offend…so he did not directly ask or directly say “Mom, I love you but good isn’t good enough. You must be born again.” “Kind of sure” or a “hope so” salvation is not enough.

The end result, a deceased mother and no assurance of her eternity…because he was polite and loved his mother and did not wish to offend.

Jesus said that He did not come to bring peace, but a sword…to set a father against his son. Jesus was not hosting a Jerry Springer episode, rather, He expressed that the truth of the Scriptures are offensive by nature. The gospel, by its nature is offensive because it assaults our self-sufficiency and drives the point in our heart that we are not good enough for relationship with God on our own.

As I’ve considered these words from my pastor friend, I am increasingly resolute on “offending,” not for the sake of the offense but for the sake of eternal life and the glory of the King. See, if I really loved “mom” (you insert your person there), then I’d care more about his/her salvation than about my prideful sense of need for approval.

Jesus is WORTH IT and Worthy of my life and any amount of scorn I might endure for the sake of His mission.

Shalom. CA

#P5: The Lord favors those who…

Pastor's Five P5 logo“He does not delight in the strength of the horse; He does not take pleasure in the legs of a man. The Lord favors those who fear Him, those who wait for His lovingkindness.” Psalm 147:10-11, NASB.

Monday afternoon, I was watching a livestream of the TGC 2015 Conference. One of the speakers made the statement regarding heaven that the glory of heaven is not that we will see our relatives or get to debate with the Apostle Paul and ask him about a statement in Scripture…but that God is in heaven. I tis God that makes heaven. As I have contemplated on that in recent hours, I am reminded of our own selfishness and self-sufficient thinking. We…yes we…have a tendency to look to ourselves for help and hope well before we look to God. We even develop errant theology that supports this citing verses from 2d Opinions, “God helps those who help themselves.” We have gone so far as making our great reunion with Holy God in His Heaven…about meeting people WE know and discussing OUR questions with the biblical writers.

This morning, the point is driven home. God does not delight in the strength of our horses. He is not looking at us and saying, “Wow! look at how well prepared my son is! He has an awesome education, experience, or resume. He has amassed a small fortune in his retirement. He can do ANYTHING he wants for me now!” No dear friends, this does not impress God nor is it the source of His delight.

We OUGHT to do well in business. We OUGHT to be good stewards of our money. We OUGHT to seek opportunities that develop us to our fullest potential. At the same time, we MUST keep it all in perspective. God does not glory in what we’ve done but He empowers it. It is He that is the source of our strength and His glory is manifest when we recognize it and live in humble submission before Him! God’s favor is toward the man who trust Him. God’s favor is toward the man who relies on Him. God does not show favor toward man because of our strength, but because of our reliance on Him.

A pastor friend, in fact my pastor, once told me…to “not read my own press clippings.” IOW…people will say nice things about you or speak of how you helped them, etc. People will write about your abilities…and you may be polite but remember always that you and I are nothing apart from Him and He alone is the source of our strength. Once we forget it…or start to believe the things others say…we find ourselves wanting and lack and wondering, where the power went.

Shalom, CA.

#P5: Blessed be…

Pastor's Five P5 logo“Blessed be the Lord, my Rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle.” Psalm 144:1, NASB.

I considered twice before posting this verse since our “cultural sense” struggles with the concept of violence and the picture that Jesus was not an eternal hippie!

Then, I relented and meditated on this verse. It is a beautiful praise to God.

David was a warrior. His skill set (which was admirable) included great skill with weapons and great courage of heart. He was first in battle, and walked toward danger when others stood fast or retreated. He faced down a giant Philistine and cited God’s faithfulness and character as his greatest weapons, not a stone in a sling…while at the same time, he took up a stone and used it to slay the giant.

David praised God for all of his abilities. His ability to fight, his courage in battle…all because of God. For David, apart from God there was nothing and he was nothing. He was thankful and gave ultimate credit consistently to God for all of His empowerment.

David was not at all a braggart though he often recounted his accomplishments and cited God as the source of his success. There is a model in there for us.

Blessed be…the God who gives us life and the ability to succeed and to earn and to conquer and to win and to serve. In truth, if you can do anything…it is because God made it so. To Him be glory.

#P5: He knows…

Pastor's Five P5 logo“You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thoughts from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before, O Lord, there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O Lord, You know it all….And in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.” Psalm 139:2-4, 16, NASB.

As I meditated on God’s Word here in Psalm 139, I was reminded of just how expansive the Lord’s knowledge of our lives truly is. He knows everything. Every thought. Every word in our mind…everything. He sees every action, from when we sit to when we rise up…everything. He observes every glance…He evaluates every motive…everything.

Furthermore, God is not waiting to see what we do in any moment. He exists above and outside of time so He knows our end from the beginning. He has carefully ordained every moment of our lives. He has assigned purpose for us as part of His people. Our purpose is interconnected with others’ purposes. And He knows how we fulfill it and how we feel about it. PERFECTLY.

What does God know about us that we wish He did not know? Where our eyes have been…what our heart has longed for that is in direct opposition to His plan…what we said or thought to say and just did not speak it (as if not verbalizing takes away the evil intent of the heart.)

Christ was not only perfect in every action, but also in every intent of the heart. Perfect. No blemish. No unwanted or unwelcomed or unworshipful thought. Perfect. And He gave His life in our place that we might be redeemed and secured for God. Furthermore, God knew of our sin…both before and in the midst of our “saved” lives. And Jesus died for us anyway, knowing our imperfection and our unfaithfulness to the commitment to follow Him in Salvation.

Our response? Overwhelmed. Grateful. Peace. If not, it can be.

Shalom, CA

#P5: …in His ways.

Pastor's Five P5 logo“How blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walk in His ways.” Psalm 128:1, NASB.

In the United States, over 80% of the people self-identify as ‘Christians’ “. That is a huge number! But what does it mean? What does it mean to be a follower of Christ?

Jesus said if we loved Him, we would keep His commandments. The inverse is also true…if we do not keep His commandments, we do not love Him. The same relationship appears in our text today. Fear the Lord and walk in His ways. One cannot rightly claim to fear/revere/honor/worship/ live under His Sovereign rule and protection while simultaneously refusing to walk in His ways. The two are inextricably linked.

Walking in the ways of God is not a burdensome chore that we must endure…causing us to miss out on all the pleasurable blessings of life. (That is what the ‘rules’ crowd thinks). God has not withheld any good and profitable thing from us. In fact, even in the THOU SHALT NOT passages of Scripture we find a gracious provision of God seeking to guide us away from destructive habits that destroy.

The point from my meditation this morning…is that we should be honest with ourselves. We should boldly say, “I REFUSE to obey God or follow His commands because I do not fear Him!…if of course we believe our choices reign supreme. At least in the honesty of our statement, we would discover the gravity of the confession. To say such things is HUGE and places within us the reverential fear of God’s judgment against our foolishness.

Does this mean that a man who sins does not fear the Lord? Not necessarily as we know that the reality of sin is a narrative in all of our lives that brings us shame (if we are followers of Christ. 1 John 1:8). At the same time, to walk (have a lifestyle of) in sin MUST mean that in our hearts we do not fear the Lord since it is the heart that informs our activity.

Life and lifestyle is a choice. It is a choice that is informed by the heart. If we fear the Lord, we walk in His ways. If we walk in our ways apart from the Lord, then we do not fear Him.

So, today…fear the Lord.

Shalom, CA.

#P5: O God, do it again…

Pastor's Five P5 logo“Restore our fortunes Lord, like streams in the Negev.” Psalm 126:4, NIV.

In this song of ascents to God, the psalmist begins by remembering in praise how God had restored His people from captivity in such a mighty way that even the nations recognized God as the sovereign deliverer for His people (v.2). Then the confession, “The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad” (v.3).

Now the next verse caught me today, possibly because of the way it is rendered in the NASB translation: “Restore our captivity, O Lord, as the streams in the South.” I found it curious that there would be a praise song of ascents that asked God to restore ones captivity. It reminded me of the writer of Proverbs asking God to not give him more than he needed in the moment that he not become proud and forsake his dependence on God. As I read different scholar’s opinions on this rendering…as well as how numerous translators dealt with the word…I found that most (if not all) concluded that the meaning here speaks of restoring one’s deliverance, rather than one’s captivity. I think in the end…the product is the same…”God show yourself strong among your people again and make a great name for yourself again…even quickly!”

Many times, we ask God for comforts in our lives that are really about us rather than Him. We petition Him for blessing but our request is self-focused rather than on and for His glory. God knows the needs of our hearts and He instructs us to bring our burdens to Him. He loves us and loves hearing from us so I am not arguing that this is a bad practice in itself; rather, I am saying that the heart motive and objective is the key consideration. Why do we want more blessing? Is it so that we may be a greater blessing to God and to others or that we can become more independent? If our goal is to diminish our dependence on God, we are sinfully and woefully on the wrong track.

The psalmist here notes that even those on the outside acknowledged God’s power when He delivered the captives before. They asked God to do it again. Yes it was a blessing to the released people, but it was glorious to the Name of God…which is the objective of the people’s prayer in this instance.

Furthermore, the request is for a “flash-flood” of God’s power. “God, as the streambeds in the Southland go from dry to overflowing in a moment, even so, show your power again.”

This is a bold and humbling prayer. God, the streams are dry. Overflow their banks. God…the nations have forgotten your Name again…”blow it up with power!” Many “western” Christians find prayers like this uncomfortable or illogical. But isn’t this the same God that opened a tomb so that we could see that death could not hold down our Savior?

Do you pray for God to manifest His Name in such a powerful way as to restore your joy and to magnify His Name among the nations? Should you? WIll you? How? When?

Shalom, CA

#P5: Who’s Missing

Pastor's Five P5 logo“Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave.” Matthew 28:1, NASB

Today (Saturday) is the Sabbath in the events of Passion Week/Holy Week. Late yesterday, Jesus was hurriedly entombed. It was the day of preparation for the Sabbath. Sabbath began at Sundown and today the Jews would worship. The disciples must not feel like worshipping. Their hearts are broken. Their minds are racing. Their grief is overwhelming. Their day is chaotic. 

At Sundown today begins the first day of the week. Overnight the women will prepare spices and anointing oil in hopes of reopening the grave and properly anointing Jesus’ body. They will work through grief-stricken tears as they prepare to revisit and hopefully (though not realistically) they will find a way to get into the tomb. 

The women go to find a dead body of their beloved Lord. WHat struck me as I meditated this morning…none of the disciples went. They heard Jesus say that He would be handed over to die and would rise again on the third day…but they are not in the procession of people waiting to see. They are not there. 

Toward the end of winter, it is a tradition in our country for people to gather in their best clothes to see a groundhog come out of his hole…just to see if he sees his shadow and get thereby determine if winter will be protracted by 6 weeks. There is a party and huge crowds. 

No crowds outside Jesus’ tomb…even among those He told, I will rise again the third day. Some went…to see a body. Others did not go. 

What they found was… (Well, Sunday’s comin’). 

If God can use people like this to change the world, He can use us…because we are people with a faith like this that I’ve described. We’ve heard the promises of God but we struggle to accept them as such. We know in our head but you cannot tell it with our feet and hands. 

God strengthen our faith. 

Shalom, CA.