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Archive for February, 2012

Leap Day Realities

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Why is Leap Day in February?  Wouldn’t it be better to have an extra day around one of our three-day summer holiday weekends when we have more sunlight to enjoy?

Perhaps Congress can move Leap Day to either Memorial Day or Labor Day Weekend.  There is still time for this to become a GOP campaign issue before Super Tuesday.

Leap Day is not only an extra day of winter, but it becomes a day when February’s financial savings are diminished.

February is my bank account’s favorite month.  With 2-3 fewer days than other months household salaries, pensions, and social security benefits do not need to stretch as far.

While Leap Year still affords us a bit of elastic, the benefit of the shorter month to our bottom line is lessened.

Daily necessities come regularly and without interruption.  Everyday brings expenses: water, heat, groceries, gasoline, etc.  These expenses are like waves at the beach, which roll-in to shore every minute of everyday.

The regularity of daily expenses is a source of anxiety for many.  Cardinal Wolsey’s political poem speaks to our fears:

Old Mother Hubbard
Went to the cupboard
To get her poor doggie a bone,
When she got there
The cupboard was bare
So the poor little doggie had none.

We fear running out.  It’s this uncertainty that leads people to be hoarders of either trash or their financial stash.

When God led the Hebrew slaves from Pharaoh’s plantations to freedom in the wilderness, the people were more anxious about their daily provisions than celebrating their emancipation.  To ease their anxiety, God provided them daily bread.  (See Exodus 16)

God provided manna on a daily basis.  It could not be hoarded and saved for a rainy day nor for Leap Day.  For forty years the people of God learned to rely on Him, not their banker, to provide their daily needs.

Better have God for your guardian, than the Bank of England for your possession. You might spend the wealth of the Indies, but the infinite riches of God you can never exhaust. (1)

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Look at the birds of the air: 

they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns,

and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. 

Are you not of more value than they? (2)

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  1. Charles H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening : Daily Readings, Complete and unabridged; New modern edition. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2006).
  2. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Mt 6:26.
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God is Never Alone Without You

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One of the overarching realities of the Christian faith is that God is omnipresent.  God resides in every space of His creation at every moment.

God’s presence with us is not in the form of big brother or the man upstairs looking down on us as a collection of finite beings in the expansiveness of His creation.  Instead, God’s omnipresence is personal.

As a child of God you are never alone! Your Shepherd is with you at all times. You never have to call Him into your situation. You never have to wonder where He is. You never have to fear that if things become too difficult, He will abandon you. He goes before you; He walks beside you; He comes behind you. (1)

Even when we try to escape God’s presence, which many Christians attempt everyday, God remains omnipresent with us.

David prayed about this in Psalm 139:7-10:

Where shall I go from your Spirit?  Or where shall I flee from your presence?  If I ascend to heaven, you are there!  If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!  If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. (2)

Since God has chosen not to be alone without us, doesn’t it make sense that we would desire to be alone with Him.  So many of us cry out to God when we are lonely, but rarely seek to be alone with Him.

Christians who are never alone with God become impoverished believers and persons.  They become hungry for His presence, although He is with them, because they refuse to be alone with Him.

If we neglect to be alone with God, we rob ourselves of God’s blessings.

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I stand at the door and knock. 

If you open the door, I will come in.

I will eat with you and you with me.

Revelation 3:20

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  1. Blackaby, Richard (2006). Experiencing God Day By Day (p. 59). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
  2. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001)

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“O people of God, be great believers! 

Little faith will bring your souls to heaven, 

but great faith will bring heaven to your souls.” 

Charles H. Spurgeon

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Early in my ministry an Elder said to me, “Rus, you talk about faith too much!”

Somewhat taken aback by his concern, I said, “If I your pastor do not tell you to have faith in God, who will?”

This Elder was a man of absolute integrity.  He was a good man.  However, as a prudent man, he did not believe the church should take on any task unless every detail was guaranteed.  Nor did he believe Elders should plan on spending money that was not already in the bank.

He had never trusted God to provide in little things, thus he never saw God provide in a big way.

One of the blessing of being a Pastor is that in the course of ministry, I get to see God work miracle after miracle.  I have learned to expect God to provide.  Having great faith in God comes naturally to me.

Many Christians are so certain that God will not provide they never pray for a miracle, they never step out in faith, and thus, they never see God work a miracle.  Their faith remains little.

Five times in His ministry Jesus rebukes the disciples for being men of little faith!

Jesus rebukes them in:

  • Matthew 6:30 – when they are worried about daily provisions;
  • Matthew 8:26 – when a storm blows in while they are in a boat;
  • Matthew 14:31 – when Peter begins to sink after walking on water;
  • Matthew 16:8 – when they worried about not bringing bread;
  • Matthew 17:20 – when they are unable to cast out a demon.

I can only imagine Jesus’ exasperation with the disciples.  They had seen Him work so many miracles, yet they still had little faith.

The only way to grow your faith, is to live in faith.  In time, you will begin to see God providing and working miracles everyday.  It is then that you will be blessed with great faith!

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Let your faith rest not in the wisdom of men, 

but in the power of God.

1 Corinthians 2:5

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Today’s post are my preaching notes for my sermon at Kishwaukee Community Church.  If you are at Kishwaukee today, you may follow these notes as I preach.  If you are not at Kishwaukee today, click here to go to our  website on Monday and follow the links to hear the sermon. You can then follow these notes as you listen to the sermon.

God Invites You to Join Him in His Work

I.  Reflect on Phrase

“Pray like it all depends upon God and work like it all depends upon you.”

In our John Wayne achievement oriented driven society we think everything depends upon us.  It does not

II.  King Asa

Judah was threatened by corrupt king of Israel. King Asa, king of Judah led the people to trust in the Lord.  Asa said,

“LORD, there is no one besides You to help those without strength. Help us, LORD our God, for we depend on You, and in Your name we have come against this multitude. LORD, YOU are our God. Do not let a mere mortal hinder You”   2 Chronicles 14:11

Later when threatened by another king Asa acted if it all depended upon himself instead of turning to God for help, Asa sent gold and silver from the temple asking for his help in the conflict.  God’s response was

“You have been foolish in this matter, for from now on, you will have wars” 2 Chronicles 16:9

Because of his self-reliance, the very thing Asa feared, war would plague him the rest of his life.

III.   Depending upon God

What depends on you is:

  • Your availability to God
  • Your willingness to follow His will
  • Being the vessel, rather than instrument
  • Letting God work through you

God-centered living is characterized by:

  • confidence in God;
  • dependence on God, on His abilities and provision;
  • A denial of will and self-reliance when serving God

This is hard because the world praises self-reliance  Trusting God may make no sense from a human perspective.

In Bible when God starts to do something, He takes the initiative  Then God involves His people in accomplishing His purpose

The most critical factor is not what you want to do for God.  Rather what God wants to do

God never asks people to dream up what they want to do for Him.

He rebukes those who propose their own best thinking over His commands.

We decide what is best.  We develop our plans.  We implement our strategies.  One of several things happens:

  • Meager results
  • Complete Failure
  • Cause problems

We experience similar failures in marriage

I know, I plan, I do, then I get angry when it’s not embraced

Example of friend’s honeymoon plans.

He made his own plans.  She rejected, he was miffed. Later, after mutual conversation good plans were made

IV.  Critical 1st step in serving God – Is to learn His ways

Isaiah 55:8-9:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

When God’s people do not follow His ways, God may leave us to the resulting problems

God’s most devastating acts of discipline is when He allows us to experience the natural consequences of doing things our way instead of His.

Romans 1:24, 1:26, and 1:28

“Therefore God gave them up to … Their ways”

God told Israel in Psalm 81:13-14

“If only My people would listen to Me and would follow My ways, I would quickly subdue their enemies and turn My hand against their foes!”

V.  Turn from your will

As Christians, it is not only important that we

1.  Fulfill God’s will

2.  Fulfill His will His way

A self-centered person tends to confuse his or her personal agenda with God’s will.

You need to reach a point where you have no will of your own. (RB)

This includes depending on Him, not on a method.

What is God’s Will?

God is seeking to bring people to Himself

He wants to use your life and our church in the process.

See Acts 1:8

“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea, in Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

VI.  How Does God Accomplish His Will?

He always takes the initiative to involve His people in His activity

Richard Blackaby 4 steps

  1. Don’t be in a hurry to be engaged in activity
  2. Be still and wait
  3. Remain faithful in what He has told you to do
  4. Focus on deepening your fellowship with God.

Servants wait on the Master for whatever instruction they may be given.

When you see God at work, that is your invitation to join Him in that work and to adjust your life what He is doing

Bosses at work – Parents to kids

There are things for YOU to do

There are things for you NOT to do

Story of Mom’s spring cleaning project, She was thrilled to have me offer, but she was bitter when I did my own thing

==> Big Question:

How do I know what God is doing around me and what He wants me to do?

VII.  Knowing What God wants you to do

Two factors are important:

1.  You must be living in an intimate love relationship with God. 

// to marriage

If you do not have a solid love relationship with your spouse, you will never know him/her and what she/he wants, regardless of how perceptive you are. Men complain, “I cannot read her mind.” Her mind will always be a black box if you do not love her and nurture a relationship.

2.  You must listen to God … Hear Him

// to marriage again

Have you ever told your spouse something, then they swore you never told them

Dad shopping for Mom … always came home with 10 packages of Jello, but not the item requested.  Particularly frustrating for Mom who could not hear

God will show you

He will direct you

Unfortunately most of us are unskilled at

1.  Seeing God at work

2.  Hearing Him speak

Another reason we miss God’s activity is that we are not committed to joining Him, regardless of what He is doing

We want God to bless our plans, not for us to adjust to His will.

Story of husband about where to go to dinner

People ask me:

Why am I volunteering at RRM when my heart’s desire is/was in Hospice?

I saw God working and heard Him calling

No longer a matter of my will

God revealed to me what He is doing, that was the time for me to respond.

I was unskilled and afraid, but had to trust God and Philippians 1:6

“He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”

Once we know we’ve heard from God, we can proceed with absolute confidence, even if we can’t see how things will work out.

This reality God is inviting us to join Him relates closely to the fourth reality God speaks.

Next two Sundays

How God speaks to us!

How to hear Him!

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Go into the streets and alleys of the town …

Go out to the roads and country lanes …

Like 14: 21 and 23

Linsanity is sweeping the nation.

Ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s has released a new ice cream flavor in honor of Jeremy Lin, the out-of-the-blue star point guard for the New York Knicks.

My advice for Jeremy Lin is to remain humble and ordinary.  He will be of greater use to God once his 15 minutes of fame has expired.

One of my dreams in to publish a book.  The fear accompanying my dream is that 3 months after the book is published no one will buy it, even after Barnes and Noble puts it on the Sidewalk Sale Table, listed at 99% off.

Do you dream about being famous, but know you never will be?

Perhaps you are very dissatisfied with yourself. You are not a genius, have no distinctive gifts, and are inconspicuous when it comes to having any special abilities. Mediocrity seems to be the measure of your existence. None of your days are noteworthy, except for their sameness and lack of zest. (1)

Do not let your lack of fame bother you.

God likes ordinary people.  No one in the Bible was every famous before God used them for His purposes.

Ordinary people are the ones who do great things for God.  Even if the world does not notice you, God does.

George Matheson had the right attitude:

“For my part, I will be satisfied not to have some great tombstone over my grave but just to know that common people will gather there once I am gone and say, ‘He was a good man, he told me about Jesus.’” (1)

It is better to stand in the shadow of Jesus, than for Jesus to stand in your shadow.

Jesus is the light of the world, let Him cast your shadow.

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  1. Reimann, Jim; Cowman, Mrs. Charles E. (2008-09-02). Streams in the Desert: 366 Daily Devotional Readings (p. 87). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

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There are no atheists in foxholes, the science lab, or the back pew.

There are no atheists anywhere.  Every one is a person of faith.

The scientist, the atheist, the egomaniac, and the Christian are all people of faith.  Everyone believes in something, even if that something is nothing.

Two variables distinguish people in faith

1.  The object of their faith.

2.  How their faith shows itself.

The scientist has faith in evolutionary theory, the atheist in the absence of truth, and the egomaniac in self.  None of which adequately explain the beautiful intricacies of creation, love, hate, suffering, sin, mercy, forgiveness, or ethics.  Neither do these three provide a basis for hope, which poets, philosophers, and psychologists say is essential to healthy living without the malaise of despair.

The Christian’s faith in God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit is the only faith that provides a full explanation of these realities and essentials for living.

The Christian faith is solid not because of the faith of the Christian, but because of the object of that faith.  As F. B. Meyer said, “The Christian leans not so much upon the promises as upon the Promiser.” (1)

The second variable that distinguish everyone in their faith is how do they show their faith.  Is there faith:

  • A static intellectual belief?
  • A life lived from heart-felt conviction?

To believe is different than to live what you believe.  There is an inherent foolishness in not staking your whole life on what you believe.

Martin Luther wrote:

How does your faith show itself ? Faith must never be useless, deaf, dead, or in a state of decay.  But it must be a living tree that bursts forth with fruit. That’s the difference between genuine faith and false faith.  Where there is true faith, it will show itself in a person’s life. (2)

Passive faith accepts the Word as true,

But never moves. 

Active faith begins the work to do, 

And thereby proves.

Passive faith but praises in the light, 

When sun does shine.

Active faith will praise in darkest night

Which faith is thine? (3)

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  1. Dwight Lyman Moody, Thoughts for the Quiet Hour (Willow Grove, PA: Woodlawn Electronic Publishing, 1998).
  2. Luther, Martin; Galvin, James C. (2009-05-19). Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional (p. 52). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
  3. Reimann, Jim; Cowman, Mrs. Charles E. (2008-09-02). Streams in the Desert (p. 86). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

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Every branch that does bear fruit God prunes 

so that it will be even more fruitful.

John 15:2

The church had a hedge wrapped around the whole outside of the building.  Every year the men of the church trimmed the hedge.  Each year the hedge looked older and more tired than the year previous.

One member constantly complained about the hedge and the volunteers who care for it.  He told me frequently, “It is an ugly hedge because no one knows how to care for it!”

So I dared him, “Why don’t you take care of it?”

He accepted my dare, promising to trim the hedge the Saturday before Easter.  I  was thrilled, “The church grounds will look great for Easter!”

When I arrived for the Easter Sunrise Service, I noticed that the whole hedge had been cut down to a row of 5” stumps.  I was livid.  The hedge and the church yard looked awful.  But, by September, the hedge and the church grounds looked fantastic.

All of us are convinced that a life without suffering, without loss, without heart-ache is the best life.  God knows better.

Even though it hurts, God prunes us because He wants us to have a more fruitful life.  He cuts away parts of our lives that we love because He wants us to have a better life.   He knows that a life without the pain and suffering of pruning is worthless.  Jesus’ wisdom in John 15:2 describes the nature of God’s love.

When you are pondering WHY you are suffering, reflect on these words:

“Remember the vineyard and learn from it.  The gardener stops pruning and trimming the vine only when he expects nothing more from the vine during that season. He leaves it alone, because its fruitfulness is gone and further effort would yield no profit.  In the same way, freedom from suffering leads to uselessness. Do you want God to stop pruning your life?  Shall God leave you alone?” (1)

God knows the pruning hurts.  He knows that pain and suffering cut your heart and cause you to cry out to Him.

But He also knows that to give you a pain-free life is to give you a useless life.

“To exclude suffering from your life

means you will exclude life itself.”

C. S. Lewis (2)

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  1. Reimann, Jim; Cowman, Mrs. Charles E. Streams in the Desert (p. 81). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
  2. Lewis, C. S. A Year with C. S. Lewis (p. 55). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

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