This year I bought a Christmas present for Trent–well it was really for both of us. I bought Tiles. Most likely you’ve heard of them–small square pieces of plastic embedded with a chip that allows them to be tracked. Trent occasionally (that could be an understatement) loses his wallet. He now has a small tile in it. I often (that could be an understatement) lose my keys. I now have a tile hanging on my keychain. The tiles serve one purpose–to keep me from having to waste time looking for things. I spent way too much time looking for my keys–wasted time.
We tend only to seek what we’ve lost.
Yet Psalm 105 says we should do otherwise:
Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice! Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually! Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered, O offspring of Abraham, his servant, children of Jacob, his chosen ones! (Psalm 105: 1-6, ESV)
Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually. Why are we instructed to seek who we already have? Because we are constantly tempted to make other pursuits and people the object of our seeking. The word seek literally means “to frequent a place.” We tend to seek our favorite restaurants, people and pastimes. Scripture is replete with commands to seek the Lord. Why?
John Piper says, “His face — the brightness of his personal character — is hidden behind the curtain of our carnal desires. This condition is always ready to overtake us. That is why we are told to “seek his presence continually.” God calls us to enjoy continual consciousness of his supreme greatness and beauty and worth.”
How do we practically do this? Psalm 105 gives five ways: give thanks to Him; call upon Him; sing to Him; glory in Him; remember what He has done.
So this week, Psalm 57:4 is my memory verse: “Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually.” Will you join me in memorizing Psalm 57:4 this week. I am bound and determined to worry none and seek always.
If you missed Sunday’s sermon, here goes: (https://www.facebook.com/1828113320739340/videos/1962061687344502/)
In 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:
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- Message. And 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.”
- 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?
And Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that they had made for the purpose. (Nehemiah 8:4 ESV)
The returned exiles built a platform so that their pastor/scribe could climb it, open the scroll of God’s law, and read it. They made it for that purpose.
It’s Monday. The week is young, the weekend is over. You’re back in the swing of things. Before the week begins, grab a hammer and some nails and build God a platform to reveal Himself to you through His Word. You won’t need a real hammer–nails won’t help either. Here are the materials and tools you need:
- An open heart. Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things from your law. Psalm 119:18
- An open schedule. My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you. For when your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness. (Isaiah 26:9 ESV)
- God’s Word. How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. (Psalm 119:9 ESV)
Seek God on purpose this week.
And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. (Luke 24:17-20 ESV)
Jesus approached these two forlorn disciples on a long road back from what they thought was a failed mission. Their fearless leader had succumbed to the Jewish religious hierarchy and the cruel Roman torture called crucifixion. When Jesus found them, they stood still, looking sad. You can hear the biting sarcasm in Cleopas’ statement: “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
He played ignorant. Jesus played ignorant! “What things?” he asked. Their answer to his question revealed the source of their disillusionment. Dictionary.com defines disillusionment as: disappointment resulting from the discovery that something is not as good as one believed it to be. They answered, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people…”
They were disillusioned because they expected too little, not too much! They thought of Jesus as a prophet, not the Prophet; as one who prophesied before God not as God. They were deceived by their low, incomplete view of Jesus.
What are your expectations of Jesus? Is it possible that His greatest accomplishment has fallen to the bottom of your list of expectations of him? Are you disappointed because the healing didn’t come you prayed for, someone else got the job you prayed for, the relationship you prayed for ended in an ugly breakup? I am not trying to diminish your suffering. I only encourage you to see Jesus for who He is, not who He isn’t. Paul had this in mind when he wrote:
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:31-32 ESV)
God is for you…even when He doesn’t make sense.
This prayer is from The Valley of Vision, a book of Puritan Prayers and is called by that same name. Read it (and pray it) slowly and deliberately. Quiet yourself before the Lord.
The Valley of Vision
Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly,
Thou has brought me to the valley of vision,
where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights;
hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold thy glory.
Let me learn by paradox
that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.
Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from
and the deeper the wells the brighter
thy stars shine;
Let me find thy light in my darkness,
thy life in my death,
thy joy in my sorrow,
thy grace in my sin,
thy riches in my poverty
thy glory in my valley.
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:6 ESV)
Yesterday I talked about faith being one of our 3 greatest needs for 2015. But what does this faith look like? The writer of Hebrews makes it clear that faith is necessary to please God. Again I am making an assumption: if you’re reading this blog you want to please God. I do too.
Let me illustrate. Last night I grilled burgers and we watched football. We didn’t eat until 7 pm and Trent was hungry. As a matter of fact he was so hungry that he didn’t want me to take the time to heat the charcoal. “Use the George Forman,” he pleaded. Here is the reality. I could have walked into the kitchen with a brand new PS4 console and Trent would have been thrilled, but he would not have been pleased. Whatever I brought through the back door, it had better be edible.
So it is with God. He is only satisfied when we approach him with faith. Good works are good–but not good enough. Faith is necessary. Knowledge of God is good but incomplete. Faith is necessary. A good attitude goes a long way–but not far enough. Faith is necessary.
If faith is so important, then what does it look like? The writer of Hebrews clearly answers this question:
Believe that God exists. Faith, at its core, believes in the existence of God. If you don’t believe that God exists you don’t have faith. Faith believes in an unseen God who made everything that we see. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. (Hebrews 11:3 ESV)
Believe that God rewards. Faith trusts. Faith trusts that, when you seek God, you discover He was already seeking you. Faith believes God will save you when you call on him, will answer when you pray, and one day will come and get you and take you to be with him.
Do you believe? Do you trust the God of the universe not only with your eternity (He exists) but also with your daily life (He rewards)? What bold request do you need to make of Him in 2015? Seek Him.
The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together.” Judges 6:16 (ESV)
God promised Gideon His presence.
I know this is a goofy play on words, but it is true. Often we seek God’s presents more than His presence. We want what God can give us without a deep relationship with the God who can give us those things. We seek solutions when God wants to give Himself. We seek strategy before we seek Christ. The result is a plan engineered by us–waiting for God’s stamp of approval.
God usually doesn’t work this way.
One reason is that we tend to foul things up when we plan and then invite God. We operate from a limited perspective.
Second, and perhaps most importantly, we lose the opportunity to hang out with God. We lose the opportunity to commune with Him.
Revelation 3:20 is a powerful invitation: Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him and eat with him, and he with me. While this is often used in the context of unbelievers, it is really for wayward believers in the Laodicean church. The thought of Jesus knocking on the door, not because He has a plan to change the world (which He does) but because He’d like to have dinner with you…or supper as we say in the south. Wow!
Which are you seeking?