Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Different Way

One of my favorite songs is "A Different Way" which states in the chorus that "no matter what road you may be walking come to Jesus today and you'll leave a different way". Our personal worship should indeed change the way we leave so that every time we come to God we leave different.

Reading recently in Ezequiel, I found an interesting note in chapter 46 and verse 9. It reads "But when the people of the land shall come before the LORD in the solemn feasts, he that entereth in by the way of the north gate to worship shall go out by the way of the south gate; and he that entereth by the way of the south gate shall go forth by the way of the north gate: he shall not return by the way of the gate whereby he came in, but shall go forth over against it."

God instructed the people to leave through a different gate. I thought about this some and I asked myself "why would someone choose the north gate to come into the worship area instead of the south or east gate?" The obvious answer to me was that it was closer to their house. Most often, we take the easiest route. If we have to choose between walking 15 minutes or taking a 2 minute car ride, in most cases we will opt for the car ride. I don't think there's anything wrong with that, but that attitude of ease-first ought not enter into our relationship with God. Sometimes going God's way takes more time and is less convenient. But I don't think that's why God told them to take a different gate in leaving. 

Possibly they chose the gate of entry because that was the gate that was assigned to their tribe. We won't see the true needs of those around us until after we have seen God for who He is and then seen them in their true condition. Perhaps God required them to leave by a different gate so that they would have to see (personally) how the rest of the people were doing. Though it is true that we need to see the needs of those around us, I'm not sure this is the answer either. 

Perhaps it's as simple as this: God knew that they needed to leave changed and the best way He could remind them of their need to change each and every time they came into His presence was to have them leave a different way than the way they came in. I pray that you'll leave your time of worship different today and that the difference will last all day long.

No matter what road you may be walking come to Jesus today and you'll leave a different way.

Friday, October 14, 2011

An altar to God

In 1 Samuel 14, we find that the people of Israel had just experienced a great, miraculous deliverance in battle. Once the battle was over, Jonathon decided to taste some honey because he was faint. He did this unwittingly, not realizing that his father (King Saul) had commanded that no one eat. Seeing that the honey gave Jonathon strength and feeling their own need for some sustenance, the people began falling on the spoil and killing and eating the meat with the blood. This was a transgression and sin against God. Saul demands that a stone be brought for the people to kill their animals and prepare the meat in accordance with the law and not to eat the blood with the meat.

In the 2nd part of verse 35, we read that Saul went on to build an altar to the Lord and then it states that this was his first altar that he built to the Lord. The Bible doesn't declare with certainty how long Saul had been king at this point, but we do know that it was at least for a while. Chapter 13:1 tells us that he had been king for 2 years when he began to assemble his army that went with him in chapter 14.

This brings to mind some questions:

1) Why was this his first altar? Since Abram left Ur of the Chaldees, the people of Israel were always identified as people of the altar. Every place they stopped, they would build an altar to God and establish the place of worship. Why then did Saul wait at least 2 years into his kingship to establish his own personal worship with his God? Did he not realize the importance of being on the same side as God? Did he not remember the stories of the children of Israel as they came through the wilderness and found God to fight for them and drive the people out of the land?

2) Did he intend to build an altar earlier but just never got around to it? It is certain that he was an extremely busy man. Anyone in a position of leadership understands well the truth that there are never enough hours in the day to do everything that needs to be done each day. Perhaps he simply put it off until he cleared his schedule a little.

3) Why was this "need for God" so much greater than previous problems that he faced? Shortly after being anointed king, he had to call the people to go to war to save one of the tribes. It would seem like this would have been a pretty good situation for the first altar. We are talking about the well-being and life of his people.

We know he built the altar because he needed to hear from God and get God's answer to some questions he had. I find that at so many points in this "decision-making process" he suffered from a lack of truly spiritual vision. Let me explain what I mean by this, his "vision" only saw his need when it dealt directly with himself and what he perceived to be the most important thing, the obedience of the people to his command.

Not only was he "egocentric" in his vision, but he was impulsive in his decisions. In chapter 13, we read that Samuel delayed in coming and Saul decided that it was important for him to take a responsibility on himself that did not belong to him and offered the sacrifice in the place of the priest. In chapter 14, we read that he was required a fast of everyone so that "he could be avenged of his enemies".

We also see that he sometimes did what he thought best and rationalized the results instead of just obeying the Lord. We see this in chapter 13 (the offering of the sacrifice) and chapter 15 (the Amalekites). I think it is safe to say that Saul made several grave errors that eventually cost him the kingdom. But where did all these errors start? Didn't we read earlier that he was a very humble man. Once he was anointed, he didn't go home and trumpet the news. In fact, when Samuel came to present him to Israel as the king, he was found hiding among the stuff. So, how did this humble man who started his reign listening to and obeying the word of God come to this point? How did he fall so far?

I think it all points back to the few words at the end of 1 Samuel 14: 35. This was the first altar he built to the Lord. For whatever reason, he let his reign start and proceed (for at least 2 years) without establishing his OWN personal worship to his God. He just sort of figured he could handle it okay.

How often are we guilty of the exact same thing? Oh sure, we don't build a physical altar of stones like they did in that time, but we certainly DO build altars every day in our lives and ministries. I wonder if sometimes the altar that I am building is actually built to my own ego, to my own reasoning, or to my own (little g) god. How often am I creating (for myself) my own problems in some future time?

Saul's problem in chapter 15 was not that he tried to do God's work, it was not that he saved the best animals for sacrifice to God, nor was it that he spared the life of the king. His problem started way back yonder when he didn't build his first altar to God. Hyde® tools says on their website (www.hydetools.com) "for a better finish, start with Hyde." It could be said this way, "for a better finish, start right". The problem manifested itself because he didn't start right. When the results of the problem were finally seen, it was too big of a problem for him to fix.

The encouragement that I find from this passage is to make sure I have built my altar "before I need it" as I never know when I'm going to need to hear from God in a special way. Each and every day, I must establish my own personal altar of worship with my God. I can't rely on the altar of my pastor, my parents, my friends, or my family. My altar must be my own. No other altar will do. The good news is that God wants to meet with me and will do so if I will come to Him.

So, I leave you with this question: How is your altar with God? Do you have one? Have you used it lately? Don't wait to check on it later. Take a few minutes right now and make sure everything is ready for worship.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

God Still Blesses Obedience

Last week, I actually allowed myself to wonder if I shouldn't keep my tithe and offering and double my tithe payment next paycheck so I could finish a couple of projects around the house. I knew that this is not what the Lord would have me to do, but I still thought about it. I was convinced that this was the only way that I would be able to get the work done.

Reluctantly, I gave my offering on Sunday and reminded the Lord that I had needs wondering how I was going to meet them. The main job that I needed to finish was grading and gravelling the 15 ft. strip in front of my yard. This project was going to cost more than I had to spend and would take several hours (if I had help) or several days (if I did it myself).

I called the city of Auburn on Friday afternoon after the office had already closed and left a message with the roads department and asked them to call me on Monday so I could request a truckload of gravel.
Promptly, per request, at 7:00 AM Monday I received a call from the roads division of the City of Auburn. Explaining what I had need of, the city representative informed me that the area in question was not an "easement" but was actually a "right-of-way". As such, Eric (from the City) said that he would be by that afternoon to see the area.

At 8:00 On Tuesday AM, a tractor, backhoe, and gravel truck showed up at my house and they got to work. It didn't cost me anything and it saved me countless hours of weeding and grading.

God is so good. Please pray for Eric. I am going to be sending him a "thank you" letter this week along with a Gospel tract. Please pray that he will read it (the tract) and be saved, if not already.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Serving God in the harvest

Thinking about the harvest time that is now upon us, I was reading 1 Chronicles 9 last night. I came across something that made me take notice. The passage in question is listing all of the people who had a part in the temple worship and their responsibility. I was amazed to see the name of Shallum in this list.

You may be wondering who Shallum was, well to be honest, I was too when I first read it. Reading the rest of the verse, we see that he was the great-grandson of Korah. Of course, we know that Korah was the one who lifted himself up against the leadership of Moses in the wilderness and led the rebellion that resulted in him losing his life.

I often thought (growing up) that his entire family died with him, but here we see evidence that this was not the case. Looking back to Numbers 26:11, we read that "Notwithstanding the children of Korah died not". I can imagine that people looked down on them and held against them the fact that their daddy was responsible for the death of many, himself included. I know that children can sometimes be harsh in their criticism and ridicule.

Irregardless of what was said to them or what they felt about what had only recently transpired, we see in Korah's kids a desire to go on serving God and not letting the sins of their family keep them from the present and future that God had reserved for them.

Now, many years later, we see Korah's great-grandchildren faithfully serving God in the place God has set for them. There were 11 psalms written by the sons of Korah (Psalms 42, 44-49, 84-88). Some of his sons were porters in the temple. Others were keepers of the doors. They all had a place and they were all in their place doing the work of God, and God was using them in a big way.

Praise God that he graciously allows us to serve. When we dedicate ourselves to serving Him, we often find that He blesses us and uses us (in spite of our frailties) in ways we could never have dreamed possible. If serving God was only for those who came from good families, there are not many of us that would be accepted.

I'm praying that God will give us a great harvest as we serve Him in the only work that REALLY counts for eternity.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Good American

On the way home from church yesterday, my son Andrew was telling me about his class at church. It is fun to see how a little mind works and what details stick out in this memory. Without knowing what the story was ahead of time, it was very hard to know what Bible story had been taught.

His description was as follows: We learned about the man that was beat with a bat and then thrown into a pit. Then the Levi came by and saw that he had blood and said "Oh yuck. He has blood." Then he walked away. Then another guy came by and said, "Oh no, he has blood" and he walked away from the pit. Finally the good American came and helped him. He did this because he was American and he was good.

Of course, the story is supposed to be the Good Samaritan and although he got some of the details wrong, I'm glad that he loves hearing Bible stories and is always excited to share what he has learned with me.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


Have you ever felt like there was way too much going on all at once in your life? I sure have. Sometimes, with the responsibilities of parenthood, work, ministry, and marriage relationship you can feel a little worn-out just trying to keep up. With all the things that make one tired, I can't think of anything that works harder against alertness than travel. By the time we have settled into our seats on the plane, I am already fighting sleep (and usually losing).

Reading in the Gospel of John chapter 4, I find that Christ also got tired from travelling. That in itself is amazing to me. Think of it, Christ (the creator of the universe) got tired during His travels. He truly was tempted in all points like we are, yet without sin. I find even more amazement in how Christ coped with his fatigue.

So often, my response is to find an isolated place and try to get some rest. That is not at all what Christ did. the Bible tells us in verse 6 "Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour." To completely understand what is happening here, you need to study the oriental culture. Much like many cultures throughout the world still today, the well was a central part of the town. It was the place where all would go for water. It was a place that the women would go to daily for the water needs of their household, as they washed dishes, clothes, cooked and cleaned.

To sum it up in a few words, Christ went to the place where people gathered when he was wearied. He chose rather than to seek out some obscure, remote location for rest to follow the leading of the Spirit and go where someone was going to need spiritual water.

The passage also says that "he must needs go through Samaria". Christ never did anything on accident. He always had a purpose in the steps he took. He went that way and rested there (at the well) because He knew there was a need coming His way.

As I go through the day, I am praying that (even when tired and weak) that I will allow God to speak and guide me to the place where there is a need. Christ did this and a lady was saved along with countless others. Later in the passage, it tells us that "they (the men of the city) went out of the city and came unto Him." In the end, many believed because of the word of the woman and many more for the word of Christ.

It's okay to be tired, just don't let your tired keep you from doing something for God.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Vision of a Child

Mark 9:35-37 And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all. And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them: and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them, Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me.

Luke 18:16-17 But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.

Beginning on January 15,1945 and for the next 27 years on both radio and television, Art Linkletter reminded us that kids have a unique perspective on things (One that would be good for us to adopt many times). Kids have a unique ability to cut through the hype and fancy layers and get to the root of the issue.

Yesterday, while playing with my kids (Andrew and Renee) my son presented me with just such a moment. He and Renee were drawing with chalk on the patio and called me to come look at what they had produced. Looking at my son's drawings, I guessed at what they were but got it wrong. My son informed me that it was "sad balloons". Jackie and I asked him why they were sad and he replied that they were sad "because no one had told them about Jesus yet".

Even though the theology might be a little off (balloons being saved), I'm glad the message has resonated in his heart that without Christ there is and can be no joy. We teach them Bible verses and sing Bible songs about joy only coming through a relationship with Christ. How precious and innocent a statement.

I believe that we, too, would benefit from such a viewpoint. Without Christ, there can be no peace or joy. This doesn't only apply to salvation and eternal peace, but also to our daily walk with God. If we, as believers, attempt to live as if God is not Lord in our lives, the best we can hope for is unhappiness.

Thank God for a simple child-like faith and an equally simple point of view.