Tuesday, October 27, 2009

an eternal feast

Isaiah 25:6-8: "On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine-- the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The Lord has spoken."
In our day to day existence, it is easy to forget that this world, with all its problems and challenges is passing away.
"For this world in its present form is passing away." (1Corinthians 7.31) The trials that seem to last so long, the problems that hem us in a corner, the pain that never seems to go away, all these things will come to an end one day! The vision that Isaiah conveys to us is of God setting a rich feast for his people. And one of the most beautiful parts is the image of God wiping the tears away from our faces, taking away all that causes us pain.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Try Jesus!

"Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed are those who take refuge in him." (Psalm 34.8)
When I was growing up, there was a humorous cereal commercial that used to play on t.v. There were some young boys who were sitting at the breakfast table despairing that they had to try this "new healthy cereal." Suddenly, one of them looks at his younger brother and says, "Give it to Mikey, he'll try anything." Mikey then proceeded to chow down the cereal, enjoying every bite. To which the older brother declares, "Hey Mikey! He likes it!" The guinea pig has performed well! Presumably, the older brother can now eat the cereal with no fear that it will be "yucky."
We humans are kind of like Mikey. We will try anything at least once. The psalm writer for today declares that we should also try the Lord: "Taste and see that the Lord is good." Some of us have tasted more of the world than we would like to admit. Still, the invitation is open: TRY Jesus! You see, the psalm writer knows that if we really try God, if we really worship and serve the Lord, we will not be disappointed. There is no better way to live. (I do not mean that there will never be trials. But the trails will come whether we serve God or not. Bu do we want to be alone in those trials or do we want the Lord of the Universe to help us? Do we want to live life as meaningless randomness or do we want to have purpose, direction, and eternal life with the God who made us? The choice is ours).
John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement once gave some interesting directions for singing hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs. He wrote, "Sing [God's songs] lustily and with a good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, than when you sung the songs of Satan."
Most of us have flirted with sin at some level in our lives (whether it be gossip, wanting what others have, making idols of money or possessions, judging others, gluttony, selfishness, sexual sin, greed, or breaking our promises.) NOW is the time to try Jesus, to accept Him as Savior and Lord of our lives. "Taste and see that the Lord is good!"

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

God is with you!

Psalm 24:1-2: "The earth is the Lord's and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it; for he has founded it on the seas, and established it on the rivers."
"The earth is the Lord's and ALL that is in it." Those words flow over me like a cooling mountain stream. I belong to the Lord! You belong to the Lord! And there is no where that we can go in all Creation that is away from the Lord's presence. Yes, there are some "dark valleys" in which we don't emotionally feel the Lord's presence. There are some trials that we go through that try to make us doubt the Lord's presence. There are some heartbreaks that come upon us that try our faith. BUT GOD IS STILL THERE!
Where are you today? Are you at a trying job, doubting that you can get your work done? THE LORD IS WITH YOU!
Does school seem to be more than you can handle? THE LORD IS WITH YOU!
Are you doubting that your job will even last another day? THE LORD IS WITH YOU!
Have you lost your job in these uncertain economic times? THE LORD IS WITH YOU!
Do you have a loved one who is facing terrible health? THE LORD IS WITH YOU!
Are you facing health concerns that cause anxiety and fear? THE LORD IS WITH YOU!
Do you just have the blah's today? THE LORD IS WITH YOU!
John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, is reported to have said on his death bed, "the best of all is that God is with us!"
May that assurance bring you comfort this day!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Have you looked around lately?

Psalm 104:1-4: "Bless the Lord, O my soul. O Lord my God, you are very great. You are clothed with honor and majesty, wrapped in light as with a garment. You stretch out the heavens like a tent, you set the beams of your chambers on the waters, you make the clouds your chariot, you ride on the wings of the wind, you make the winds your messengers, fire and flame your ministers."
Have you looked around you lately? Have you noticed the sunrise, the clouds, the rain, the changing leaves, the cool breeze in the mornings and evenings? Have you heard the bird calls? Have you watched a spider weaving her web? Have you watched a breath-taking sunset recently? Have you enjoyed a child's laughter? Have you sat by one of the lakes? Have you looked out from the top of Morrow Mountain?
If you are like me, it's easy to get caught up in the rat race, the endless tasks that need to be completed before we lay ourselves on the pillow at night. I have to make myself look around sometimes, to notice the beauty of creation. Yes, there is much to do. There are places to go and people to see. There is evil and wrong-doing in this world. BUT THERE IS ALSO BEAUTY AND PEACE. I believe that God has given us signs and symbols of his majesty in the natural world. I believe these are gifts for us to remind us that one day, the rat race will be over and we will enter the full majesty of our Lord. In the end, the deadlines will be over and for all eternity, we will simply worship and enjoy God's majesty.
Why not take a few moments today to enjoy that natural beauty? Take a walk in the woods. Watch the rain fall. Listen to the birds. These are all natural praise songs to our God!

Thursday, October 8, 2009


"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness." (1Timothy 3.16).
I was recently asked by a friend how I can know when God is speaking to us. This was my answer:
"How do we know God is speaking to us or just our minds playing tricks on us?" This is difficult sometimes.
1. God speaks to us most clearly in God's Word, the Bible, and in the Bible most clearly in Jesus' words. If we stay in the Word, the Bible, then certain things that we experience become clearer. For example, if I have read the story of Joseph and know about Potiphar's wife seducing him, then I would be more prepared to resist sexual temptation. A continual awareness of God's commands should make it easier to spot sin when we see it. So, if we hear the voice of temptation, we can clearly label that temptation and not suppose that it comes from God. God will never call us to sin. These are the easier discernment cases.
2. The harder cases are when we have to choose between two "goods." When I was in seminary, I really thought about joining the (Eastern) NC Conference. (which is from Burlington to the coast. Our conference is from Greensboro to the Tennessee line). As a surfer, I liked the idea of being closer to the coast. And I thought, what difference does it make where I serve the Lord as long as I serve Him? But I wanted to do God's will. So, I:
a. Prayed, prayed, prayed. And still no definitive answer.
b. I asked a few close, trusted spiritual friends to pray with me for a time and then tell me what they thought. They had no definitive answer.
c. I "tried on" the decision to move to the Eastern Conference. I even pursued it. I went and interviewed with a district in that conference and was approved to go. BUT, I HAD NO PEACE ABOUT IT. I couldn't explain it, but it just did not feel right. So, thankfully, I listened to that non-peace and took that as God's Spirit leading me, and I am so glad I did! Now, years later, I see countless, countless reasons why God wanted me to stay in this conference (not the least of which was to serve the churches I have served and serve currently and serve Jesus with so many great saints). My desire to move East was not God speaking by my own selfish desire.
So, what I am saying is when you are trying to discern if something is God speaking or just yourself:
1. Pray, pray, pray. Many times, God will work through our own spirit and mind to help us make decisions.
2. Ask some trusted, mature, spiritual friends to pray about it and see what God reveals to them
3. "Try on" a certain decision before it has to be final for a few days, week, etc. and see if God gives you peace about the decision or not peace.
May God bless you as you follow Jesus!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The dark night of the soul

Psalm 22.1-2: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest."
We may be a little surprised by the words of this psalm. We may be surprised that these words are found in Holy Scripture. They seem so negative, so angst ridden. Even more shocking is that these words are spoken by Jesus himself as he suffered on the cross.
The truth of the human condition is that we all face the "dark night of the soul" sometimes. We all have to travel through some dark valleys sometimes. We all face trials that shake our faith sometimes. The psalmist is expressing what we all feel sometimes when we go through trials. He is validating our feelings. We all struggle with faith sometimes. We all have days when we wonder where God is in the trials we face. It is a normal part of our faith journey.
Let me give you some suggestions for when you face those times:
1. Let God know how you feel. The words of this psalm prove that it is o.k to let God know we are struggling.
2. Let a sister or brother in Christ know how you feel. We are not meant to walk alone in this journey of faith. When our faith falters, then our brothers and sisters in Christ can "loan us" some of their faith, pray with and for us, and let us know we are not alone.
3. Let me know. I would be glad to pray with and for you!
4. Let the church know. We have a prayer team that prays for the needs of the church. We would love to lift you up in your time of need.
We all go through ups and downs in our spiritual journey. It does not mean that we have no faith. The dark valleys can actually serve to draw us closer to God, to make us hunger for God even more.
Take courage! The valley will not last forever!