Prank Called by Worry

Worry is like an unwanted sales call, an untimely bill, an annoying interruption in cell service. It doesn’t seek permission, doesn’t give advance warning, and stays longer than you want. It cares not for whatever else has filled your day and will take all your brain and heart space.

How do you close the door when worry knocks? How do you hang up the phone when worry calls?

Micah gives an answer in 7:7, “But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.”

I said this Sunday and it bears repeating: there must be “but as for me” times in your life. Some will be bigger than others. However, if you’ve determined that worry has to be gone, that it is a sin you are no longer willing to tolerate (I have), then I’ll share with you what I’m doing.

I’m memorizing Micah 7:7. Sounds simple I know. Just yesterday, worry called–interrupted an otherwise pleasant drive down Highway 70. And when it did, I answered with Micah 7:7. I prayed out loud, “But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.” Worry left.

I’m not trying to be trite or dismissive. I’m simply saying that worry is no match for God’s word–and that I’ve got to learn how to answer worry’s call. I’m not sure I can ever avoid worry’s calls–perhaps one day they will come less and less. I do know how to answer them.

Will you join me? Answer worry with God’s Word.

Spying, Lying and Dying

And Joshua the son of Nun sent two men secretly from Shittim as spies, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.” And they went and came into the house of a prostitute whose name was Rahab and lodged there. And it was told to the king of Jericho, “Behold, men of Israel have come here tonight to search out the land.” Then the king of Jericho sent to Rahab, saying, “Bring out the men who have come to you, who entered your house, for they have come to search out all the land.” But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. And she said, “True, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. And when the gate was about to be closed at dark, the men went out. I do not know where the men went. Pursue them quickly, for you will overtake them.” But she had brought them up to the roof and hid them with the stalks of flax that she had laid in order on the roof. So the men pursued after them on the way to the Jordan as far as the fords. And the gate was shut as soon as the pursuers had gone out. (Joshua 2:1-7 ESV)

Rahab lied. There’s no way to sugarcoat it. She hid the spies and lied. This brings up a troubling question. Why is she celebrated in Scripture? Does God encourage lying? Somehow Rahab made it into Hebrews’ Hall of Fame of Faith:

By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies. (Hebrews 11:31 ESV)

Rahab wasn’t celebrated for lying. She was applauded for her faith! James weighed in on Rahab’s act of faith:

And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? (James 2:25 ESV)

Rahab believed. To be sure, her faith wasn’t perfectly executed. Though she lied to hide the spies, once the king’s men had left, she went up on the roof and had a conversation with them. Notice her faith:

Before the men lay down, she came up to them on the roof and said to the men, “I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. (Joshua 2:8-9 ESV)

She knew that Jericho was theirs before they knew it. What they were spying out, she had figured out. What they hoped would happen, she saw as having already happened.

They spied.

Rahab lied.

God died.

That’s right. Hebrews 11 looks back on the faith of Old Testament heroes. Hebrews 12 looks into the recent past to the death of the ultimate Hero–Jesus Christ.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV)

Jesus died for deceitful spies. Jesus died for Rahab’s lies. And Jesus died for your sins, too. Do you believe him? Do you trust him? He’s not looking for perfect faith–he’s simply looking for you to place your trust in Him. He’ll perfect you, strengthen you and make you knew.

You are the “joy set before him.”

It May Be Friday…

Expectation is a powerful thing.  Consider this research article from the Huffington Post:

In the study researchers from the University of Turin in Italy gave patients intravenous injections of morphine on two consecutive days to help with the pain associated with dental work. On the third day the same patients underwent similar procedures but were given an injection of saline they believed to be a powerful painkiller.

The results are astounding. Patients given the placebo reported a much higher pain tolerance than you would normally find when given morphine. Think about this for a moment. The placebo was more effective than morphine in treating pain. In this case, the body’s own dispensary of natural painkillers served as a better treatment protocol.

Moses and his people experienced the power of expectation. They spent an enormous amount of time and money sewing, building and assembling the tabernacle. Its one purpose was worship. They expected God to show up. As a matter of fact they gave so much that Moses had to instruct them to quit giving! Once it was built, notice what happened:

Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the LORD was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys. (Exodus 40:34-38 ESV)

God showed up! Notice that God didn’t show up because the people expected him; God showed up and because the people expected him, they worshiped. There were people other than the Hebrews who saw the tabernacle. Only the people of God saw God’s glory!

It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming.

What are your expectations for worship this Sunday? Do you expect God to meet you there? The Hebrew people were guided by worship. “Throughout all their journeys” they followed the cloud. When the cloud moved, they moved. When the cloud settled, they settled.”

It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming. Prepare your heart today for Sunday. And worship expectantly.

William Carey, the “father of modern missions” from the late 1700’s/early 1800’s said, “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.”

Backing Down or Stepping Up?

It’s Wednesday and I’ve decided to include an excerpt from a book I’m reading. This week it’s Counter Culture by David Platt.

Elizabeth Rundle Charles, commenting on Martin Luther’s confrontation of key issues in his day, says:

It is the truth which is assailed in any age which tests our fidelity. . . . If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christianity. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proven, and to be steady on all the battle fronts besides is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.

Here’s the question to ponder: where are you backing down when you should be stepping up?

5 Symptoms of a Contagious Christian

contagiousIn 2014 fear struck West Africa and the rest of the world with the outbreak of the ebola virus. Officials scrambled to get a handle on this monstrous disease. Thousands died as the virus spread quickly. The ebola virus is spread through direct contact with blood or bodily fluids. The danger lies in the reality someone isn’t contagious until they begin to show symptoms. By then it is often too late. They have already infected another person.

What if Christianity were that contagious. What if the news reports of West Africa and Western North Carolina included stories of how Christianity was spreading rapidly, thousands being converted as they come into direct contact with other believers. What “symptoms” are necessary for Christianity to once again be an outbreak? Here’s my list:

  1. Passion.  So they took his advice, and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus. (Acts 5:39-42 ESV) The apostles rejoiced that they were beaten for preaching the gospel!
  2. Compassion.  And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9:35-36 ESV) Jesus was touched to the spleen (the word “compassion” is derived from the word “spleen”) by the harassed people around him.
  3. Mission.   And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:48-49 ESV) Jesus looked at his earthly mom and dad and told them he had to follow his heavenly Father. He was a boy on a mission even at the age of 12.
  4. MessageAnd I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:1-2 ESV) John Newton stated this succinctly, “Although my memory’s fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.”
  5. Method.  To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. (1 Corinthians 9:22-23 ESV) There was a method to Paul’s madness. Every effective ministry has an effective method. While the message never changes, the methods must change.

If you were examined by the Center for Disease Control for being a contagious Christian, would you have all the symptoms?

A Prayer for Saturday

From The Valley of Vision, a book of Puritan prayers:

My God, I bless you that you have given me the eye of faith to see you as Father, to know you as a covenant God, to experience your love planted in me; for faith is the grace of union by which I spell out my entitlement to you.

Faith casts my anchor upward where I trust in you and engage you to be my Lord.

Be pleased to live and move within me, breathing in my prayers, inhabiting my praises, speaking in my words, moving in my actions, living in my life, causing me to grow in grace.

Your bounteous goodness has helped me believe, but my faith is weak and wavering, its light dim, its steps tottering, its increase slow, its backsliding frequent; it should scale the heavens, but lies groveling in the dust.

Lord, fan this divine spark into glowing flame.

When faith sleeps, my heart becomes an unclean thing, the fount of every loathsome desire, the cage of unclean lusts all fluttering to escape, the noxious tree of deadly fruit, the open wayside of earthly tares.

Lord, awake faith to put forth its strength until all heaven fills my soul and all impurity is cast out.

Warring Through Worship

Then Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the LORD, worshiping the LORD. (2 Chronicles 20:18 ESV)

The enemy is marching in–three mighty armies. A great horde is harassing Jehoshaphat and his people. After his honest prayer of remembering God’s character and God’s work, and begging God to intercede, he leads his people in a worship service! It’s easy to worship when things are good. It’s easy to sing God’s songs when our bills are paid, our families are healthy, and our work is prosperous.

How do you worship instead of worry?

And they rose early in the morning and went out into the wilderness of Tekoa. And when they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Hear me, Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem! Believe in the LORD your God, and you will be established; believe his prophets, and you will succeed.” (2 Chronicles 20:20 ESV)

If you want to worship God when the enemy is marching in, you have to believe. Believe in the LORD your God, and you will be established. The writer of Hebrews described faith as the assurance of things hoped for, conviction of things not seen. Faith is convinced of God’s faithfulness in the face of life’s hopelessness. Faith rests in God’s presence in the midst of life’s difficulties.

And when he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to the LORD and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say, “Give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever.” (2 Chronicles 20:21 ESV)

They sang. With the enemy marching in, they sang. They didn’t have all the answers. The diagnosis was grim, the prognosis was worse. They sang anyway. They sang the character of God. They didn’t sing because God answered the way they wanted him to. They sang before God answered them. They sang.

This weekend at Grace Community Church, we are spending 48 hours in prayer. As you pray, worship. Worship God for who he is, not what he can do. As you march into battle this weekend, make war through worship.

We Don’t Know What To Do

Last night Adam, Rachel, Greg and Jackie (Rachel’s parents) and I spent some time in the Word together. Here’s what God taught us…and I wanted to share it with you today. What follows is the simple prayer Jehoshaphat prayed when he received word that three armies were advancing against him–they were less than 30 miles away! From Jehoshaphat’s prayer we learn these simple, yet profound principles for praying during difficult times. His prayer opened with these words:

“O LORD, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you. (2 Chronicles 20:6 ESV)

Pray the character of God. Jehoshaphat was praying in the presence of all of Judah. They needed to be reminded of God’s great character. God, in heaven, has a perspective you and I will never have. He knows the end from the beginning. For Jehoshaphat, it was important to remember that God ruled over all the kingdoms of the nations. Do you believe that God rules over whatever you’re facing? He continued to pray:

Did you not, our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel, and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? And they have lived in it and have built for you in it a sanctuary for your name, saying, ‘If disaster comes upon us, the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before you—for your name is in this house—and cry out to you in our affliction, and you will hear and save.’ (2 Chronicles 20:7-9 ESV)

Pray the works of God. God doesn’t need to be reminded of what he has done in the past–we do. Jehoshaphat, in the hearing of his people, prayed God’s mighty works. What has God done for you? What mighty works has he performed? As Christians, we need only go back to the agonizing cross and the empty tomb to see God’s greatest work for us.

And now behold, the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir, whom you would not let Israel invade when they came from the land of Egypt, and whom they avoided and did not destroy—behold, they reward us by coming to drive us out of your possession, which you have given us to inherit. O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” (2 Chronicles 20:10-12 ESV)

Pray your personal problems. Jehoshaphat named them–men of Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir. What are you facing today that seemingly has a stranglehold on you? Name it. Ask for God’s help. Be real. We do not know what to do. What hard words for a king to pray in front of his people!

But our eyes are on you. Turn your eyes on Him today.

O Foolish Ones

But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:21-27 ESV)

Was it not necessary? If anyone knew it was necessary to suffer it was Jesus. The events in the Garden of Gethsemane were not even a week old. In that garden he described his soul as “being sorrowful even unto death.” He then fell on his face praying saying, “My Father if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” Three times he asked the Father if he could pass on the Roman scourging and the cruel cross. Three times silence came from Heaven. Three times the disciples fell asleep. Jesus knew the necessity of suffering.

Jesus’s groan came before his glory. “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” Why was it necessary? One word: justice. Throughout the entire Old Testament, once a year, a sacrifice was offered for the people’s sins. The sacrifice didn’t sin–it was an innocent lamb offered for the people’s sins. Jesus took the Old Testament and preached Himself to them. What a sermon! I would love to have a copy of it!

Are you “slow of heart to believe?”

We Do not Know

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God  things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:26-28 ESV)

We live in the age of knowledge. If you want to know anything, you can find it out! A few years ago, I attended a conference hosted by Josh McDowell. Josh McDowell was an atheist who set out to prove that Christianity was not true. The result of his study was a book entitled More Than a Carpenter in which he beautifully defends the Christian faith. In his talk, he talked about knowledge. I do not remember the exact figures, but it went something like this. From the time of the Romans (near Jesus’ time) until the 1500’s, there was relatively little increase in knowledge. Then came the discovery of the western continents (North and South America) and the expansion of the world. As this happened, knowledge began to increase much faster than before. Knowledge, up until that time, double once approximately every 40-50 years. With the industrial revolution, knowledge increased once every 40 years. Then, we entered the 1800’s knowledge began to increase every 20 years. Now, with the advancement in modern technology, knowledge doubles every two years.

Someone has said, “The change in the intellectual climate has happened while knowledge increases at an unprecedented pace. It has been estimated that in this century the amount of scientific knowledge has doubled every ten years. It is important to notice that our rising concern for humanity coincides with prodigious developments in theoretical and practical knowledge. These developments are not an accidental circumstance of the change in the psychological climate — quite the contrary. They are an essential factor of that change. The more we know and the more we can do, the more we doubt and the more we worry. Our doubts and our worries appear to be commensurable with our knowledge. Whatever were the intentions and hopes of the originators of the idea of progress, certainly they did not intend to make life more insecure or worrisome.

So when we come to a sentence like, “we do not know how” we don’t like it! However, the truth is that many people do not know how to live life as you should. You want to succeed, but success seems to e;ice you. You want to be a better husband, but you don’t know how. You don’t like how you lose control, but your temper seems to get the best of you. In an age of ever increasing knowledge, we can find comfort in the almost embarrassing phrase, “I don’t know how.”

What happens when we admit that we don’t know how? The Spirit helps. This word helps is a wonderful word in the Greek. The word help in the English doesn’t do this word justice. It more accurately means, “to lend a hand together with, at the same time with one.” What happens?   Here Paul beautifully pictures the Holy Spirit taking hold at our side at the very time of our weakness and before too late. At the moment of weakness, not a moment too soon and not a moment too late, the Holy Spirit comes to our aid, walks alongside us, lends us a hand, and walks with us through the weakness.

Paul wants to drive home the point. He says, “The Spirit Himself to show that when you are struggling the worst, God does not send a substitute—He comes Himself to your aid.” And what does He do? He intercedes. This is the only time this word appears in the New Testament. It is a picturesque word of rescue by one who happens on someone who is in trouble and in his behalf pleads “with unuttered groanings” or with “sighs that baffle words.”

You have a Savior who rescues and the Spirit who regenerates.