Stay Thirsty My Friends
Read John 14:6
“Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”
This is the famous saying from the most interesting man in the world. I do apologize Mr. super cool manly guy with an amazing beard (no not Pastor Josh) in those hilarious commercials…the man I am talking about is Jesus! In God’s word, Jesus is always challenging us to know Him, to seek Him, to follow Him, and to love Him. In essence, what He is asking of us is that we thirst for Him. Jesus knew very well that the things of this world would provide temporary satisfaction, but that only through Him our thirsts can be quenched permanently. This is possible through our committed connection with the source…The Son!
There have been many names given to Jesus. The Great Physician, The Great Provider, The Wonderful Counselor to list a few. I would like to unofficially add to this list…The Great Bartender(I have always believed that the wedding reception in Cana supports that, just saying). So approach the bar, pull up a stool and allow Him to serve you the following:
A Glass of Purpose (I am the Way)
Jesus came to this world to bring us purpose. More importantly, to bring out the purpose that He instilled in us long ago. We are not here by accident…we were created on purpose, for a purpose, to fulfill a purpose! I know He tells us to knock and the door will open, but a lot of us haven’t stopped knocking on the door long enough to allow God to open it. We try so hard to push outward our door of purpose to only realize that we needed to pull the door inward toward ourselves. So look within, accept your identity in God and own the plan that He has for you. Drink up.
Promise on the Rocks (I am the Truth)
This one does not go down as smooth. It is better to get hurt by the truth than to be comforted by a lie, and God always keeps it real! Some of us have a misconception of what the life of a believer should look like. We find ourselves in the gap between our own expectations and our current reality. It’s not all about rainbows and butterflies. And the church is no exception. Matthew 16:18 says “And upon this rock(s) I will build my church”, says Jesus. The hope of the world lies upon those rocks. We are those rocks. We must believe that He is all that we need, that His grace is sufficient and that He has already won! Drink Up and make this one a double.
His Power on Tap (I am the Life)
We have been created with unique gifts, have been given everything we need to succeed and have a birthright access to limitless power but….(like many of the toy cars I buy my son) “batteries not included”. We cannot become all that God has created us to be, without tapping into the only power that will get us there…His! I once heard it said this way…God is a mountain spring, not a water jug. If you want to glorify the worth of a water jug you work hard to keep it full and useful. But if you want to glorify the worth of a mountain spring you do it by getting down on your hands and knees and drinking to your heart’s satisfaction. So thirst no more and allow Him to do exceedingly, abundantly, above and beyond anything that you could ever imagine. Cheers!
…never be thirsty again…
Read 1 John 3:18-20
…was it done with love…
Jesus didn’t run
Read Mark 14:32-35
“32 They went to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and Jesus said, “Sit here while I go and pray.” 33 He took Peter, James, and John with him, and he became deeply troubled and distressed. 34 He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
How many times have you felt stuck? Wanted to run away? Jesus did. In the olive grove of Gethsemane, Mark says Jesus felt “crushed with grief to the point of death.”
But how appropriate that God’s setting was an olive grove. In Lysa TerKeurst’s book, Uninvited, she illustrates how the olive tree is such a picture of perspective; much more than just a backdrop for Jesus during His darkest hour. Here’s what she says:
The Crushing Times Are Necessary Times
To be fruitful, the olive tree needs both the dry/harsh east wind and the rain/life-giving west wind. And so it is with us, we need both the winds of hardship and the winds of relief to seep across our lives if we are to be truly fruitful.
The Crushing Times Are Processing Times
The olive is naturally bitter and to be edible it must go through a lengthy process of washing, breaking, soaking, salting, and waiting. It’s also a lengthy process to be cured of the natural bitterness of the human heart and prepared for usefulness.
The Crushing Times Are Preservation Times
The best way to preserve the olive is to crush it. The same is true for us. The biblical way to be preserved is to be pressed (crushed), but it isn’t the end…it’s the only way to get what is most valuable, the oil. We can be pressed to the point of being crushed, but NOT crushed and destroyed.
We want to resist the crushing pain and run, but maybe God knew we would. Maybe that’s why he created the olive tree. The olive tree is such a beautiful reminder that this isn’t how it’s going to be forever. The next time you’re feeling crushed, remember the olive tree and that “on the other side of every hardship is a resurrection.”
…crushed but not destroyed…
Worship is a weapon
Read 2 Chronicles 20: 1-24
I’m really looking forward to playing a round of golf in heaven with Jehoshaphat and hearing all about this situation from his perspective… because this is a crazy story. (Even if there wasn’t golf in his day, there is in heaven and I’m sure he’s picked it up by now). There is so much packed into this that it could be a full-blown sermon (coughpastorscottcough), but I’m going to do my best to boil it down.
I want to note Jehoshaphat’s reaction to the formidable news that a gigantic combination of armies has declared war on him and are currently marching in his direction with total slaughter being the main objective. Uh… yikes. His reaction? Though terrified (rightfully so), he “set his face to seek the Lord,” lead his people to fast and pray and to declare who God is and what He has done. He prays with humility and honesty saying, ”we do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” Wow. I feel like the natural human reaction would be to call up every blacksmith in town and have them start pounding out as many spears and arrows and any other weapons they used back then as fast as humanly possible because it’s go time, baby.
When I read about Jehoshaphat, I read about a man who was a true worshipper. He got it. He worshipped God with his faith, he worshipped Him with prayer and fasting, he worshiped Him with “very loud” praise. Picture those big burly dudes from the movie Braveheart with face paint and armor and massive spears. Those are the guys I would picture being on the front lines of battle. Not the case here. The singers went out in front of the army praising God! The praise of God was their battle cry. What?! Jehoshaphat understood that God was his defense and worship was the greatest weapon in his arsenal.
We all are a lot like Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah in that we face battles every day that we have no power to face by ourselves. Whatever your case, I encourage you not to neglect the spiritual context of your circumstance. When we do this, it becomes extremely easy to puff out our chest and try to fight a battle that isn’t our own. Instead, follow Jehoshaphat’s example and seek God, worship him always, and let your faith supply the stability you need to persevere through life’s often terrifying terrain. With God at your right hand, you will not be shaken! (psalm.16:8)
“worship is the greatest weapon”
The Daily Prodigal
Read Luke 15:11-32
11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to[b] one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.
17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’[c] 22 But the father said to his servants,[d] ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”
If you’re like me, you’ve heard this story many times. The story of the Prodigal Son. The story of a runaway rebel returning home. The story of the Father’s love. If you haven’t heard this story before then I hope that you are able to see that this is a representation of how much God loves you. If you’ve heard it many times, then I hope that you are able to be reminded that this is a representation of how much God still loves you.
When I was reflecting on this passage I realized something. I realized that when I share my life story of how I met Jesus, I see the story of the prodigal son. I see myself running away to my own desires and plans for my life, and that leading to sadness, depression, and heartbreak. This is true for many people in their story of meeting Jesus. The Prodigal Son story holds weight because for most (and may I be so bold to say ALL?) of us because it is OUR story.
The Prodigal Son is me.
The Prodigal Son is you.
The Prodigal Son is us.
But here’s what I realized: I attributed that story of God’s love to my past. I see the return of the son, and I see that being my moment of accepting Jesus as my Lord and Savior for the very first time.
But I was wrong.
We only got one part of the story from Jesus’ parable in the book of Luke. In our story, we are the son who ran away from the Father, and returned to Him only to receive reckless love and acceptance. But then we did it again. And again. And again. And again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again.
This story is not about God’s love for us in the single moment that we accepted Jesus, this is the story about God’s love for us EVERY day.
In our stories we continue to make mistakes. We lie, gossip, make selfish decisions, give in to lust, ignore the Spirit’s guidance, deny loving our neighbor, and many other things (called sin) that separate us from God and His intention for our life. We continue to run away, defy our Father, ignore His love and provision, and run off to our own desires and self-satisfaction. We continue to disgrace Him, cause Him heartache at our betrayal, and attempt to make our own way on our own strength.
God’s response to us is this:
“…But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”
The implication of the father seeing the son at a distance shows us that he was most likely standing there, waiting each day for whenever his son may return. When his son did return, he kicked off his sandals and runs to embrace us because he cannot stand another second with his son not in his embrace.
Each day we have the decision to submit to the Spirit or the flesh, God’s voice or our own. But even when we countlessly make the wrong choices, intentionally and unintentionally at times finding ourselves in the muck of life and darkness, God is just waiting to embrace us. Waiting to show us it has not changed our identity as sons and daughters, and waiting to just be with us once again.
Maybe you’re in a place that place right now while you’re reading this. Maybe you’re not and life is going good, but you’ve forgotten how God feels about you. Maybe you’re not sure where you’re at but you just need to be encouraged.
These are God’s words to you:
“You are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.”
Read Micah 6:8
“The LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”
In 1982, a group of social scientists theorized crime is a result of urban disorder, giving birth to a social theory called “The Broken Window Theory”. In his book The Tipping Point, Malcom Gladwell writes about how this theory played an instrumental role in the historical decline of crime in New York City in the 90’s. He explains:
“If a window is broken and left unrepaired, people walking by will conclude that no one cares and no one is in charge. Soon, more windows will be broken, and the sense of anarchy will spread from building to the street on which is faces, sending a signal that anything goes.”
In the 80’s and 90’s, a surging crack epidemic sailed crime rates in New York City to a record high, and the trends showed crime at its greatest potency in communities with broken windows and other petty forms of vandalism (like graffiti, subway fare beating, and so on). In his first term as mayor of NYC, Rudy Giuliani tested The Broken Window Theory as potential solution to surging crime rates and began cracking down on graffiti artists, subway turnstile jumpers, and began funding the repair of broken windows throughout the city. These small changes became the tipping point of restored order to NYC, moving it from the 3rd highest crime rate in the US in 1993 to 136th just 3 years later.
As a pastor, I’ve met countless people stuck in a miserable state of life. Jammed in the misery of anger, frustration, depression, and bitterness toward others. But once they encountered the hope of Jesus and began identifying small ways to show love to others, forgive others, and serve those around them… their course changed sailing them to a life of hope, joy, freedom, and contentment.
Ephesians 6:8 tells us that whatever good we do for others, God will do for us. In other words, a friendly smile to a grumpy neighbor causes God to smile upon us. A small act of generosity to God or to someone in need will cause God to unleash His generosity on you. Calling an old friend, coworker, or family member that has hurt you to let them know you have forgiven them leads God to fully forgiving us.
Could it be that when we repair the broken windows in the lives of those we encounter each day, God begins to heal the city of our heart? My challenge for you today is to look for 3 opportunities to show a random act of love or kindness to someone else. Make it a perfect stranger, an old friend, or maybe even someone that you’d call an enemy. And when they look at you baffled, seize the opportunity to give God the credit.
You never know… that small repaired window may be the \tipping point of an unforeseen encounter with God in your own life.
…love mercy and walk humbly…
Read James 5:10-11
“10 As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.“
Over the last couple of months I have had the privilege of working with many married couples for different reasons. Some are embarking on their Journey to become man and wife and desire to have premarital counseling. Some are working through some difficult moments personally that have placed a strain on their marriage & their family. Others are on the verge of divorce and don’t know what to do next because it seems as if all hope is gone.
As I get to work closely with these couples my heart gets so excited for those that are about to get married. I love celebrating with them, hearing how they met, listening to their stories of love and passion for each other. I love seeing their love for each other and for Christ as they look to Him as the center of their life. I also enjoy it, because I get to share with them what I am about to share with you.
Unfortunately, not everyone is about to embark on their journey for life long love which often puts me in a different seat when I get to work with couples that are going through pain, feeling the weight of life, coming in without hope… My heart hurts for them. Truth is, for all of us that are married (or) that are breathing for that matter, we are going to have things that happen to us that we didn’t want, ask for, or want to deal with. Unfortunately, that is not an option for us… But how do deal? How do we cope? How do we move forward?
Those are great questions!! Before I try to provide an answer for it, I wanted to share a clip from my life. In 2011, early 2012 my wife and I had gone through a very difficult time. We didn’t know if we were going to make it. I made mistakes. We weren’t connecting. Silence was our enemy, and communication was nonexistent. The pain was real, the hurt was deep, but as we discovered, our God was bigger…
Maybe you’re not married and have never felt the strain of what marriage brings. Maybe you’re not on the brink of divorce but you feel hopeless. Maybe, just maybe, you find yourself suffering under the weight of pain that you didn’t ask for but are having to pick up the pieces anyway.
Job, a guy from the Old Testament found himself dealing with deep pain. (Job Chapter 1) His family (7 sons, 3 daughters), his livelihood, his will, had all been taken from him. He prayed, because that’s what we are supposed to do, right?!! However, he was still faced with the loss and the need to pick up the pieces. If we look closely, Job started to resent God for the pain he was in. Ever been there? I know I have.
Eventually, Job could see that God sees far more than he could see. This didn’t mean his pain wasn’t real, or just went away. Not everything went back to way it was. When I get to sit with couples dealing with difficult times I often share that if we can step back and look at what’s happening, we might be able to see things from a different vantage point. We might be able to see that through the pain God can give us victory and it can have a purpose. See, the cool things about Jesus is that He can heal our hearts. He can transform situations. He can give peace when there seems to be no peace to be found, but often He doesn’t immediately so that we catch a glimpse of what He is trying to strengthen, encourage, and do in us. Job knew that he needed to change how he was viewing what happened but he also wanted to change God. Change the circumstances. Change his current reality, but God was looking to change him.
So what happened with you and your wife? Also, great question. My wife and I sought great counseling and pastoral care. We looked inward and asked God what He wanted to change in us. We could see that for things to change in our marriage, things needed to change in us. We now see each other for who God has created the other to be. I love this woman and am grateful that God brought her to me. Odd thing is that it wasn’t but a few years back that I wanted walk away from the greatest gift He has ever given me. Walking away from the pain wasn’t going to help. Facing it with a different perspective did. It allowed me to see what I couldn’t on my own.
How do we get through pain? How do we discover what God is trying to accomplish?
Truth, I don’t know if I could ever answer the second question… I want to, but sometimes trusting that His ways are higher than ours, and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts is where I find comfort.
But as for how to get through the pain? Not to sound trite, but through prayer, patience, by stepping back and looking at the situation (Person) from a different vantage point, look inward, and trust that God sees more than we can see and He can give you what you need to not just get you through the pain, but get you through in victory!
…He can heal our hearts…
Read Psalm 46:10
If there is one passage of Scripture I think is most misinterpreted, most misused, or taught wrongly it is Psalm 46.10 ”Be still and know that I am God…”. “Be Still” in the Hebrew does not mean do nothing, stop thinking, stop working, stop moving forward or be lazy thinking God will do all the work from his side of the relationship. It is not being paralyzed in our decision-making waiting for a miracle or a spiritual bail out. It actually means, we must give our best effort, work hard, hustle, shake down every tree, knock on every door, pray, fast, seek, serve, give, sacrifice and in all of that effort, we get to trust and know God.
We can trust God in the grind of life, he can be known, his will can be revealed, his presence can be felt, his love can be embraced, his hand can be seen at work. So everything in your heart, mind and body can be in full motion moving downhill at warp speed, and you can be still and know he is God. He is God of the good and bad. He is God of the victory, and God in the defeat. He is God when things go our way and when they don’t. He is God of a relentless weekly schedule, and God of a slow Sunday afternoon. He is always God, and he always wants to be known.
The goal of life is not to work, work, work just so we can rest and have nothing to do. Happiness is not found in having nothing on our schedules. Rest is a means to an end, not the end. We must rest. We must keep the Sabbath. We must have moments of reflection and stillness of heart inside our week and inside our day…multiple times a day even; however, life doesn’t slow down for anyone.
The world is moving, and it is moving fast. It is moving faster than ever before actually, and the more technology we add, the worse it gets. The pace of life sometimes is beyond our control, but the pace of our heart is not. We must pace ourselves to make sure we have enough time in the day to think about Jesus, focus our thoughts on him, and to see him in the middle of it all. So you don’t necessarily have to be doing nothing to be still before God, but still your heart and mind today in the busyness of your schedule and just watch God make himself known to you in very real ways.
…see him in the middle of it all…
Read Luke 19:35-40
“35 And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. 36 And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. 37 As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, 38 saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 39 And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” 40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.””
There is a song right now that has captured my attention. It is called; “So Will I (100 Billion X)” by Hillsong United. It has me caught up in the majesty, amazing grandeur, power, and inexplicable grace of God. It reminds me of what Jesus said, “if they kept quiet, the stones would cry out.” He said this because he came to redeem all of creation. He came back because sin had broken what he had created and he wanted to fix it. Here is a line from the song:
And as You speak
A hundred billion galaxies are born
In the vapor of Your breath the planets form
If the stars were made to worship so will I
I can see Your heart in everything You’ve made
Every burning star
A signal fire of grace
If creation sings Your praises so will I
It also convicts me that I have so much more to praise him and thank him for. Sometimes I get caught up in what is right in front of me. And so, I get distracted by what I need to get done and don’t stop and marvel at the wonder of Jesus and the 100 billion ways he has shown his grace. I sometimes focus only my failures and therefore miss the opportunity to love those he has in front of me. This verse in the song always catches me:
And as You speak
A hundred billion failures disappear
Where You lost Your life so I could find it here
If You left the grave behind You so will I
I can see Your heart in everything You’ve done
Every part designed in a work of art called love
If You gladly chose surrender so will I
I can see Your heart
Eight billion different ways
Every precious one
A child You died to save
If You gave Your life to love them so will I
Today, choose to leave behind failure, and step into his freedom, he has covered it all. Because of this, set your heart to focus on him and look for those around you he gave his life to save and choose to love them.
…so will I…
Read Matthew 6:6
“But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
What do you think of when you hear that word? Secret. Isn’t it so intriguing? It feels mysterious, doesn’t it? For some of you, maybe it feels illusive. For others, it can sound scandalous and fun. Sometimes it feels dangerous. For those of us who are a bit jaded, it can feel gimmicky. How many infomercials or Facebook ads have we seen where the person selling us whatever product, exercise routine, or service has found “The Secret?”
No matter how you feel or what you think of when you hear the word, my prayer is that you find a whole new meaning to it today. There is a great secret in God’s Word to experiencing a very real, living, interactive, and intimate relationship with your Creator, Savior, and Friend. I’m talking about “The Secret Place.”
Jesus tells us in the Bible that there is this amazing place of connection and intimacy with God. A place where we can have instant access to Him, pray to him, listen to His voice, seek His face and ultimately experience Him. All of that happens in “The Secret Place.” We find this concept of “The Secret Place” in Matthew 6:6. Jesus says to pray to your Father who is in secret. The Father is in that place. Don’t forget to stop, close your door, and meet with Him there.
I love the simple, yet weighty promise attached to this verse. He is there. He is present in the secret place. That’s where he calls us to meet Him. When we prioritize the time, shut out distractions, and truly seek him, we find Him in “The Secret Place.” So, the challenge today would be to take some time, shut the door, and get alone with your Heavenly Father. He is there waiting for you.
…He is there…