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August 6

Tuesday, August 6th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Blind Faith vs. Faith in the Unseen.

I know there are people who struggle to have faith. They are pragmatic in their approach. Like Thomas they won’t believe unless they see. Unless they see something tangible, or unless they can touch it, they find it hard to believe.

There are also those who have blind faith. Like someone who dives off a cliff or a rock into a body of water without first checking out the danger, they leap. They leap into the unknown and call it faith. I prefer to call that blind faith. It is my contention that an uninformed step is not really faith at all.

There are also those who cannot see yet believe. I’d like to think I’m in this camp. I have not seen God and yet I believe. I have not physically touched God and yet I believe He exists. I’m certainly far from an expert in all of this and being able to logically and adequately convey my thoughts is not a strong suit of mine. But I am aware that God is bigger than I can imagine and He owes me nothing. Even though He wants my praise, He does not depend on it. He is totally capable of being God without my approval.

Solomon’s prayer of dedication sums it up well. “Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, how much less this house I have built.” (2 Chron.6:18) God is so much more than I can think or imagine. He cannot be contained by a building or in a building. His presence and power is endless. His existence is far beyond my understanding. But I believe. That is not a blind faith. It is a faith rooted in truth. It is rooted in having “seen” Him. I’ll stand with the person who said, “Because God is great, He will be sought; because God is good, He will be found.”

“Father, You have made yourself known. Not by sight or touch, but by actions. My trust is not a giant leap into the unknown. It is a step into proven waters. May my faith continue to grow.”

June 19

Wednesday, June 19th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Highs vs Lows.

I’ve been there. So have you. We’ve all been high. We’ve all been low. We’ve all been to the mountain top. We’ve all been to the valley. Sometimes in close succession. I’ve known what it is to complete a task, relish a victory, enjoy a feeling of euphoria, only to have that followed by a giant crash.

Sort of like Elijah. His story in I Kings 18-19 shows the highs and lows that often come to one who is faithful and obedient to God, especially when the “odds are stacked against you.” In chapter 17 Elijah comes on the scene with a prophecy of a drought and his time with the widow. But his biggest challenge was in chapter 18 where he challenged the prophets of Baal. After that victory and the rain falling which broke the drought, Jezebel threatens Elijah with death.  Elijah runs and then proceeds to have a pity party about being the only one left. He wants to die. An angel wakes him and tells him to eat. Again the same. Then God speaks.  But He wasn’t in the strong wind. He wasn’t in the earthquake. He wasn’t in the fire. He was, however, in the whisper.

The point for this devotion is not in how God speaks. It is actually two-fold;

  1. Elijah went from the thrill of victory (Mt. Carmel) to the agony of defeat (Jezebel and fear) in a heartbeat.
  2. God will “speak” to us on the mountain top and in the valley. He may appear silent but He’s not. He may choose the silence and despair of the valley to “speak” His loudest.

Don’t despair if you find yourself on the mountain top one minute and the valley the next. More often than not a valley follows a mountain top experience. Listen for God’s “voice.” Sometimes that is when He speaks the loudest.

“Father, I know there will be highs and lows. Help me to never get too high or too low so as not to hear your voice. Please keep me receptive to you no matter where I’m at.”

June 7/Weekend Extra

Saturday, June 8th, 2019

I’m back from my time away so hopefully I will be more consistent here. I wrote this yesterday (Friday) morning but didn’t have a chance to post it.

My title for this devotion is Overwhelmed vs Underwhelmed.

I think one of the traps that is easy for a Christ-follower to fall into is familiarity. Familiarity with God. More specifically, the presence and power of God. Like the saying says, “Familiarity breeds contempt.” Not hatred but a laissez-faire attitude. Kind of like “Aw shucks” or “Been there, done that, seen it.”

This hit me as I read I Kings 8. In verses 10-11 it says the priests came out of the Holy Place and “a cloud filled the house of the Lord.” A bit later in verse 27 Solomon prays and says, “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house I have built.”

Now take a moment to read Psalm 86.  Pay particular attention to verses 8-13.

How can I/we read those passages and not take a “gut-check” to see how I/we respond to God’s presence? In worship? In my Quiet Time? In my daily walk? Am I overwhelmed as Solomon and David were? Or am I underwhelmed? Has my awareness of His presence become old hat and unexpectant?

“Father, please guard me against being underwhelmed. Help me to always be aware of your greatness and the power of Your Name. I would much rather be overwhelmed and speechless than underwhelmed and empty.”

April 10

Wednesday, April 10th, 2019

My title for this devotion is White Noise vs Holy Noise.

One last post that links to the previous two (April 8 & 9). I’m convinced we are a “noisy” people. I know I am. Very seldom is it silent. When I study or read I need it quiet. Little noise. No distractions. No music except maybe Classical as background noise because I don’t understand it. 🙂 Other than that? Noise. More noise. Much noise. In most cases the louder the better.  Working out? Music. Driving? Music. Jigsaw puzzles? Music.

Tragically, I seldom escape the noise. Except when I cycle, it is noisy. It is hard to hear from God when it is noisy. How can I hear? It would be hard for Him to get through the drums, guitars, and metal. That is why. what I call my Quiet Time (QT), is so essential.

To quote Tripp:

God is using the wait to do in and through me exactly what He has promised. Through the wait He is changing me. By the means of the wait he is altering the fabric of my thoughts and desires. Through the wait He is causing me to see and experience new things about Him and His kingdom…Waiting on God is restorative. (p.143)

I like that last line: Waiting on God is restorative. I know some friends who are going through a rough patch right now. Not their marriage but life. Not coincidentally, I read Psalm 9:9 this morning: “The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.” Powerful verse for them. For me also. But I’m also convinced that I need to shut down the white noise in order the hear the “holy” noise-the voice of the Father. I know He speaks through the whirlwind and the storm (Job 38:1 and Nahum 1:3), but for me silence in golden.

“Father, speak to my heart, my soul, my mind. As I yield to you and in the quiet, squash the noise-the noise of my life-and let me hear You and You alone. Be with my friends as they navigate the negative noise, and let them hear the “Holy” noise.”

February 19

Tuesday, February 19th, 2019

My title today is Wisdom of God vs Wisdom of the World Or Two Wisdoms: Pick One

One of the hardest things to admit as a young pastor was “I don’t know it all.” When I came out of Bible college, I believed I had the answers. After all, I’d been schooled for 4 years on what to think(but not how to think). But I digress. 🙂 I was basically told, “They (the world/unbelievers/other denominations) will say this (fill in the blank), so you say this (fill in the blank). There was only one problem: the world, etc was not asking those questions anymore. To my way of thinking now, it was like taking a 1960s approach to church life in a 2019 situation. There is a disconnect. So I had to finally resign to incompetent and incomplete learning and START ALL OVER AGAIN. But how? I didn’t know how to think! So I approached God’s Word with a childlike innocence and said, “Please teach me.” That eventually meant leaving the comfort of my denominational breast; of forging friendships with others outside “my camp”; of losing contact with colleagues with whom I no longer agreed on points of doctrine; and never again visiting my alumni. (There were other reasons also).

In his book, A Shelter in the time of Storm, Paul David Tripp brings out something interesting. He writes:

Proverbs says it very well: ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.’ I like John Calvin’s paraphrase of that: ‘There is no knowing that does not begin with knowing God.’ There can be no better place to go to school than to the University of the Lord and there could be no better course of study than the way of the Lord.” (p.125)

“Sin reduces us all to fools…it makes us believe we are wise.” Tripp (p.126)

The need for wisdom is evident-in my life, in yours-every day. A daily prayer for wisdom is not a bad place to start each day; as one goes through the day; as one reflects on his day. Wisdom is a necessity.

“Father, help me to be a seeker of wisdom. Actually, help me to be a seeker of You. As I know You, add wisdom. Fill me with a love for You. Please give me Your wisdom-wisdom that encourages others; teaches others; discerns right and wrong.”

I am not into promoting my other blog on this site but if you would like to see the back story to this post, please check out this post on my other blog. Check here to for an update.

February 6

Wednesday, February 6th, 2019

I read today from Psalm 62. Verses 5-8 say, “For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.”

We often hear “you can be whatever you want to be.” We grab onto that and have plaques and catchy sayings and even make it a statement in a movie (Back to the Future: “I told you. Set your mind and you can accomplish anything.”) Only…it’s not true. I wanted to be a professional baseball player but I didn’t have the ability. No amount of dreaming would bring that about. Same with basketball. Love of a sport does not translate into success in a sport.

So many pursue what is only a pipe dream. I’m not saying it’s wrong to dream, but let’s face it: a 5’1″ overweight boy will never be a world-class sprinter not matter how much he trains, no matter who he gets to train him. No matter his dream of being an Olympic runner. The tragedy is when people put all their eggs in one basket and come up empty. Then what?

That’s where the previously mentioned Scripture come in. There really is only one shelter, one refuge. Try as we may we will not find a shelter/refuge in anything this world offers. Sadly, what has been designed for entertainment has taken on our escape drug. What has been designed to keep us alive (food) has taken on a dominant force in many lives. The story goes on.

Truth: we can run; we can hide; we can chase; we can dream; but here really is only one true place of shelter, only one reliable stronghold. Only one place of refuge when the storms hit.

“Father, be my shelter. Be the place I run and hide. Your Word says you are my fortress, my salvation, and my glory. Let me run to you when everything is breaking loose; when I run out of options; when I’m seeking refuge from the storm.”

January 31

Thursday, January 31st, 2019

Psalm 52:9b says, “I will wait for your name, for it is good, in the presence of the godly.”

Waiting has never been a strong suit of mine. But here the psalmist says he will wait for the name of the Lord. I’m not sure what that means; I’ll have to look it up and study it further. Psalm 27:14 says (twice), “What for the Lord.”  What does that mean? Why? In his book a shelter in the time of storm Paul David Tripp writes about that. He says:

When your hope is in the Lord, when you are getting your inner sense of well-being and security from him, when he is the reason you continue even when things are hard, then you are building your life on something reliable and sure. (p.118)

He then further delineates what it means to wait (and I’m going to make this personal):

  • I have placed my hope in the ultimate source of everything that’s wise, good, and true.
  • I have placed my safety in the hands of the One whose power is immeasurable.
  • I am getting comfort from One whose love is boundless.
  • I can be secure in the reality that he rules over all things.
  • I can live with confidence because I know that every one of his promises is true.
  • I can be hopeful even in weakness because I know His grace is sufficient.

 

No wonder waiting is such a good thing. A suggested thing. A recommended thing. The benefits of waiting far outweigh the disadvantages and inconvenience of waiting.

“Father, teach me to wait. Not just say it. Live it. I know that opens a whole can of worms, but if it takes waiting to satisfy my hunger and thirst for you, so be it. Wait with me.”

January 27 (Sunday Extra)

Sunday, January 27th, 2019

One of the very common themes of New Morning Mercies was vertical vs horizontal. On this very cold Sunday morning as we will soon gather for worship, my thoughts go there.

We live in an age of abundance. The Western world is filled with people wealthy beyond their dreams (although they will continue comparing themselves to others with more). We are certainly more wealthy than millions of people in Third World countries. We also live in an age of seemingly “Christian” everything. Camps, schools, radio, TV, etc. And yet, we have a vast majority of people who are absolutely, 100% miserable.

I think it comes down to vertical vs horizontal. On this day set aside for worship, what will we worship? What will I? Better yet, WHO will I/we worship? It is said of David he was a “man after God’s own heart.” We see him as flawed. He was. He was human. But even then he sought God’s heart.

When Jesus was in Mary & Martha’s house (Luke 10), Martha got all bent out of shape because Mary wasn’t helping her with tasks. Jesus said, “You are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.” What was that? It was choosing to be with Him. It was choosing to pursue Him, to listen to Him, to sit at His feet.

On this day of worship, will I sit at His feet? Will I listen to Him? Will I pursue Him? Will my focus today be vertical or horizontal? What will be my “this one thing?”

“Father, may my pursuit today be You. Let me focus be horizontal not vertical. May you be my one thing.”

Weekend Extra

Saturday, January 19th, 2019

Supposed to have another big snow event later today. Bummer. But life goes on. I have no control over the weather; only my response to it. In this weekend extra I’d like to write about something familiar.

I’ve been reading Lies Men Believe by Robert Wolgemuth. Lie #3 is “I Can earn God’s favor” spurred my thoughts this morning. If you know your Bible at all, you know there was one group of people Jesus had very little tolerance for. It wasn’t whom many of us would turn away from; it was the religious leaders. Pharisees in particular. Ironic then that Nicodemus (Nic) came to Him to talk. But Jesus minces no words either. “You must be born again.” How’s that for a fine “How do you do?” No beating around the bush. No soft sorry. No mercy. What was required of him was and is required of us all. In spite of status. In spite of “religiosity.” In spite of so-called piety. He slammed home at the Pharisees’ arrogance. Now…I can give Nic the benefit of the doubt that he was different from the others. He sought out Jesus. There was something in him that saw Jesus as someone different. I think it shows by his actions at the cross. But he was also a secret disciple (until that moment). Gotta wonder how he pulled that off-hiding his loyalty for 3 years.

Anyway, Jesus’ words were for him and for us. No man comes sinless and good enough. God is holy; I am not. God is sinless; I am not. Nic needed a rebirth; so do I. My sin nature is no different than his. God is holy; he cannot stand sin; therefore, I’m not good enough to earn his favor. Nic wasn’t. I wasn’t. Neither is anyone else. Theologian? Nope. Pastor? Nope. Lifelong student of the Bible? Nope. Those who believe in complete sanctification? Nope. Nobody. I’ve come to a very staunch conclusion over the years. It is this: my standing before the Father is not determined by how I’m doing, but by what Jesus, the Son, has done.

That settles it. I cannot earn God’s favor. I can only receive His unconditional love. Nic found that out. John 3:16. That verse still stands as a beacon of and to that truth.

“Father, salvation is mine, not by merit, but by your Son’s blood and your unmerited favor. Help me to not forget that and try to impress you or anyone with my religiosity. I simply come to you as a sinner in need of grace.”

Weekend Extra

Saturday, January 12th, 2019

It’s snowing to “beat the band” this morning. Our first significant snowfall this year, maybe in two. Meeting together in worship tomorrow is still up in the air, although I believe we will. I was looking forward to preaching this weekend on “My One Thing.” I still may but that largely depends on the snow and the roads. Lots of rural roads in Owen County. So I had a little extra time on my hands and decided to do this weekend extra.

Psalm 24:3-4 says, “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.” Coming into God’s presence is not something to be taken lightly or flippantly. The holiness of God “demands” that I approach Him with reverence and awe. My hands, my heart, my speech and my very soul are to honor Him.

Another thought. One of the questions I’m often asked is this: is it wrong to have doubts? Or to put it another way: “Is doubt sinful?” I’ve told people it is not wrong to doubt as long as those doubts are honest and lead to seeking answers. Doubts because of culture/home life/friends say so is not honest.

G.C.Morgan once wrote: “Doubts are by no means sinful. The limitations of our finite minds must create problems for us at times. You get a perfect illustration of this in the prophecy of Habakkuk…He declared them to God, which proved his faith and gave God the opportunity to answer Him.”  (p.30)

I tell people if you have doubts take those doubts to God. Don’t pretend. Don’t act as though you don’t have them. He wants to hear from you. Honest doubts/honest questions get honest answers.