#P5: Walk before the Lord

Pastor's Five P5 logo“I shall walk before the Lord in the land of the living…What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits toward me? I shall lift up the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord.” Psalm 116:9,12-13, NASB

The psalmist reflects on his great rescue…not that he rescued himself for no one can do that; rather, he reflects on his own desperation and how God picked him up and saved him to the everlasting.

The question then beckons, “How should I respond?” A dead man who is revived should simply live. He is to live faithfully before the one who made him alive. The psalmist reminds us as much. I will LIFT UP the cup of my salvation. (I read this as praise and proclamation, bearing witness to the new life and our Life-giver). CALL ON the Name of the Lord (Prayer, fellowship, relationship with God). PAY MY VOWS to the Lord. (At salvation we vow to take up our cross. We vow to yield control of our lives to Him. We vow to walk in obedient worship. NOTE: The same language is used often of OFFERINGS to God through the Temple. I believe that is the focal point here as well.)

We walk before Him in this way, until He calls us home. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His godly ones” (v.15).

In response to our salvation, God gracious actions that resulted in our lives, we can only respond one way that honors Him: We must walk before the Lord.

Shalom, CA

#P5: Unceasing Praise

Pastor's Five P5 logo“From the rising of the sun to its setting the name of the Lord is to be praised. The Lord is high above the nations; His glory is above the heavens.” Psalm 113:3-4, NASB.

Praise is not optional. It is not one of the things that Christians consider doing in the right circumstance. Christians praise God because He is God! He is praise worthy and praise wanting. He is deserving of unceasing praise.

Unceasing praise transcends immediate circumstances because it considers circumstances in context. Sure, my radiator hose blew but I have a car and I have the money to fix it, or I have the health to ride a bike! Sure I have cancer, but I have lived a long life and I have a hope in eternal life by God’s grace! These are the “contexts” that make the circumstances acceptable and provoke us to praise.

God is not like us. His Kingdom is not like that of the nations. God is far above us and His glory is beyond even the heavens and all they contain. He is worthy, worthy, worthy!

Praise without ceasing.

This kind of praise I am speaking of is more than song, but it may involve singing. It is more than rehearsing the goodness of God but it may involve that. It is an unceasing and boundless penetration into every aspect of our lives. It drives our actions. It informs our attitudes. It controls our generosity. It motivates our compassion. This kind of praise is just as evident in our activity as it is in our prayers. It is just as relevant in the workplace as it is in the worship-center.

Praise without ceasing.

This kind of praise is provoked as we consider the “big-ness” of God and the fact that He is mindful of us. He loves us. He cares. He is concerned. He desires our fellowship. He deserves our worship.

Praise without ceasing. Praise. Praise. Praise.

Shalom, CA.

#P5: Thankful?

Pastor's Five P5 logo“O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His lovingkindness is everlasting. Let the redeemed of the Lord says so, whom He has redeemed from the hand fo the adversary and gathered from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.” Psalm 107:1-3, NASB.

Thankfulness. It seems like a simple descriptive word, yet it is missing in most of the vocabulary in our blessed society. I don’t mean to seem critical, but I am simply making note of an unscientific observation.

What I have observed is that those who have been “delivered” from dire circumstances tend to be most thankful. The more recent the delivery, the more thankfulness they project. By the same token, for those living in comfort or only with distant memories of God’s deliverance…they seem to focus on what they “don’t have” rather than on what they do.

Consider that for just a moment since it is affirmed throughout the psalm here and, if we listen carefully…even in our own lives. It also illuminates the reason for some of the distress in our lives.

There is a cycle the psalmist rehearses of captivity, stress, lack of provision, and danger that repeats itself. In the midst of these crises…the people call out to God who radically delivers them and becomes their boast, even if only for a season.

Now we are faced with a choice and I think this is the reason for the psalmist’s rehearsal of God’s great deliveries. We can rehearse our own rescues constantly so that we maintain thankful hearts…or we can become pompous and God will bring us to a place of desperation…so that we will return to Him and acknowledge Him as we ought.

The next time your car’s AC isn’t working…try to remember when you had no AC…or had no car! Remember the sense/feeling/emotion of when that changed and how thankful you were. Go back to that place before you simply pray for more comforts…or worse…complain that God has forgotten you.

This past week I had my fridge worked on for the third time and second time in less than a month. It would not defrost. Frankly it aggravated me a bit since I was forced to walk “ALL” of our food to the outside fridge in the garage and store it there until the inside unit was fixed. Yep…it barely fit. And I lost a whole bag of lettuce because the inside unit did not maintain temperature. O THE SUFFERING WE MUST ENDURE! (tongue-in-cheek.) I caught myself becoming frustrated and chose instead to remember that I have 2 fridges…and my friend in S.Asia had none until we bought him an apartment sized unit. He would likely never fill it up for his family..and I had two. My choices: remember and be thankful or expect God to bring suffering so that He can deliver me…giving me a fresh experience to be thankful for.

Shalom, CA.

#P5: Watch…BATTLE STATIONS!

Pastor's Five P5 logo“For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward. Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.” 2 John 7-11, NASB.

I received some heart-wrenching news this past week. A family that I have known for more than five years of my ministry in Pensacola has fallen under the deceiver’s sway and embraced the false religion of the JWs. (I know that is not politically correct. I am a pastor, not a politician.) I was sent a letter that they wished to disassociate with my church and never to be contacted again. I am working through my “God response” to this but I have been labored in my spirit and warring in my flesh for days now…seeking answers from God and taking mastery over my own “fix it” nature.

I have looked for someone to blame. I have blamed the family since they have not chosen to stand faithfully with the church and their confession of faith. I’ve blamed my church. Perhaps if our Life Groups had been more aggressive in connecting. Perhaps if we had embraced reconciling them during their long periods of absences.

I’ve blamed myself. I have ministered to this family NUMEROUS times through the years, at points of crisis. I’ve sent birthday cards, had Facebook chats, visited family members in crisis. Why didn’t I do more? How can a shepherd ever be comfortable losing a sheep?

Some of my associates would simply say they were never saved. They were never with us. Perhaps. I don’t know hearts. What I do know is the battle is not up until they take their last breath. Until then, there is hope.

I think I have found the place where my “blame” is rightly placed, though the responsibility to go to war for souls is not removed from me and from my church. Satan is a great deceiver and has used this false cult of a religion that denies the deity (God-ness) of Christ to cull vulnerable sheep from the herd and draw them into the butcher’s pen.

I have come up with a hundred responses of how to protect others in the future…how to seek to win these back…but they all have a common theme and it is for me and for my church and ultimately for every believer.

BATTLE STATIONS! We are at war with the devil. He is killing people we love and deceiving them into becoming killers of others through their naive propagation of false religions. We, the church, must not be complacent or patient or lax in our approach. We are called to war. If we do nothing, there will be, in this family alone, a half-dozen children and others who will spend eternity in hell…suffering for their own sins when forgiveness is only as far away as repentance.

WAKE UP CHRISTIAN! They are dying. We would not sleep as criminals broke into our homes and stole the lives of our children or our neighbor’s children. How can we sleep soundly when far more is at stake! Their spiritual death is eternal! This matters! Grieve with me and fight with me. Our Lord defeated the devil. He has no power…only sway in the hearts of others as he deceives. Fight him.

The names of these naive souls are at the forefront of my mind. I grieve. We must not lose others. 7 in 10 people in my neighborhood are in their exact same position. 7 in 10 of your neighbors. 7 in 10 kids at our partner schools. 7 in 10 Walmart shoppers. 7 in 10 of your co-workers. Most people you know are marked out for destruction and our King has ordered us to battle.

We must fight in His power until the last soul is won or He calls us home.

#P5: Take care what you ask for

Pastor's Five P5 logo“They quickly forgot His works; They did not wait for His counsel, but craved intensely in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert. So He gave them their request, but sent a wasting disease among them.” Psalm 106:13-15, NASB

God’s ways don’t always seem right in our eyes. We have within us a desire to make our own decisions and we have an elevated view of our own wisdom. We think we are wise…even wiser than God. We’d not be comfortable saying as much…but we testify to it through our actions.

The psalmist reminds that God had promised to provide for His people according to His abundance and plan. He gave strict instructions about Manna and Quail and the like. But the people thought better. They desired more. They chose a path that seemed right to them…and their loving and merciful God gave them exactly what they asked for along with the disease and destruction that accompanied it.

They did not want the consequences. They wanted the benefit and expected that God would bring no consequences, but God works on a different agenda. He is not seeking to make us comfortable but dependent and trusting. He seeks for us to rely on Him for everything and He delights to provide us all that we need and all that is helpful to our purpose.

When God says “tithe” and live on the 90% remaining, He does so because it is best. When He says forgive always, He does so because it is best. When He says to fear Him and worship Him only, He does so because it is best. When he says to war against the idols of our hearts, he does so…because it is best. When we choose to rebel and do as we think is best…which is necessarily BETTER in our minds than God’s plan, we assert that we are wiser and more good than God.

How could a loving God not bring consequences in order to train us better? How could He not show us the error in our ways. To do otherwise would be to affirm our rebellion and to desire that we live less than abundant lives.

I love the cycle of this psalm. The psalmist also reminds us that God is faithful to His covenant and quick to forgive when we respond to His chastisement with repentance.

Shalom. CA.

#P5: Splendid and Majestic

Pastor's Five P5 logo“Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord my God, You are very great; You are clothed with splendor and majesty…” Psalm 104:1, NASB

The psalmist reminds us here in this psalm that God is not like us. We are created beings and He is the Creator. He is purposeful in creation, making differing terrain for the purpose of provision for all creatures, including us. He commands the heavens and places the earth on its axis and provides the sun and moon according to His desire for the seasons. He causes water to come forth from the earth and binds up the boundaries of the seas according to His wise plan. Everything exists according to His greatness and for His pleasure and according to His wise purpose.

I wonder at times if we are not handicapped by our own pursuit of education. [Now I have several degrees so I am not anti-education in the least]. For some, the pursuit of education is born out of a hidden motive of explaining away the splendor and majesty of God. If we can create a narrative that makes us great and “mother nature” the creator by chance of the universe…then there is no need to bow before God. This is faulty thinking! It is born out of a sinful self-interested nature that exalts the creature and diminishes the Creator.

What is certain…is the fact that God is not defined by us…He is self-defining. He is God. He alone. None other. None! Only God can reveal what truly happened before we were there to witness it. Further, He has revealed this to us, according to His gracious nature…so that we would KNOW without doubt that He is not only God…but He is our splendid and majestic God who is in no way ever less than Sovereign.

Consider Him. Drink in the magnitude of that truth…and WORSHIP.

Shalom, CA.

#P5: No Limits

Pastor's Five P5 logo“For as high as the heavens are above the earth, So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.” Psalm 103:11-14, NASB.

Our mercy toward others is limited. We tend to show greater grace toward our own children, but by in large, we struggle to be merciful like God. We forgive to certain limits  but then we buy into the lie that we must protect ourselves from being abused or taken advantage of…so we begin to hold others to account. We declare, “No more! I will not fall for that again!”

We also tend to paint God with the brush “dipped” in the paint of our own character. We make God like us…rather than allowing God remake us in His image.

God is not like us. He has limitless mercy. He removes our sin from us to an infinite degree when we repent. He treats us with unending compassion. He knows that we are not God. We are not. We are not perfect and on our very best day, our behavior still falls short of God’s plan.

The comparison that David makes in v.14 is illuminating. In the same way we are compassionate toward our children (knowing their age, lack of experience, immaturity, personality makeup, etc) we tend to extend greater mercy. We know who they are and how they are…so we forgive. In a more perfect way, God knows us too.

As we apply that, we ought to implement two ideals. First, if God knows all and sees fit to forgive a repentant soul, how can we assert that the sin is so great that we cannot forgive? God has every right to demand perfection and execute unmitigated justice toward a sinner…yet He responds to repentance with forgiveness. How can we assert the right to do otherwise? We cannot, unless we assert that we are greater than God Himself.

Second, based on the mercy we’ve received, we ought also to be merciful. Find someone who lacks mercy, you’ll find someone who does not value or comprehend the mercy God showed him.

Choose mercy. CHoose it. It is your choice. It is well supported and directed by God. And when you don’t choose mercy, have no fear…God will forgive and restore to you another opportunity if you repent and run to Him for mercy.

Shalom, CA.