The desire to control God

A.W. Tozer wrote, “What comes to mind when you think about God is the most important thing about you.”  Rick Warren says, “Big God allows for Big goals. Small God=small goals.”  In context, both are saying that God does not answer to us, but we answer to Him.  He is not limited by what we can do, we are only limited by what He wants us to do.  All power and authority is His and there is nothing that He cannot do, and assuming He desires it, there is nothing we cannot do.  In Matthew 28:18, it says, “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”  Jesus continues, “Therefore, go and make disciples…”  Some or all of the disciples might have preferred to do something else.  But they said yes to the task Jesus had for them.

Tozer says that it is difficult for us to accept a God we cannot control.  I told some of the people in church yesterday that I did not go out looking to make our church a sort of “ground zero” for the drug problem.  God sent it to us. And when He sends you something to do, you can say yes or you can say no.  If it is from the Lord and you say no, you are almost certainly basing your “no” on a small God who is limited by your abilities and resources.  Our church said yes to NA Meetings and a Resource Recovery Center.  Many in our church are even working the center.  The current leadership of our church has chosen to follow a “Big God” going out on a limb for an assignment from Him, based not on who they/we are or what they/we desire, but based on who God is and what He desires.  I personally wish He had told us to build a gymnasium for youth and community activities!  If I could control Him, that is what we would be doing.  (And I have not given up praying that He may still desire that down the road).

But I and we do not control Him.  As best as we can, we listen to what He wants, and as the Holy Spirit gives us courage, we say yes.  And it is as if the leadership of Wesley Chapel heard Him say, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore…”  And that “therefore” is what we are “here for”.

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Where to find Free Wifi

This morning someone was parked in front of the church for a few minutes.  They had their head down looking at their phone. And they were not just parked in the church lot, which is common, but they had pulled up close to the church, which is also common.  We have free wifi in and near the church that does not require a password.  Four to six times a week I see someone pull close to the church, sit for a while, and then leave.  For people who do not have data or data left on their phones, the free wifi is a lifeline.  Many from our church know the feeling from mission trips to Haiti, where they do not have service, but can communicate with loved ones (and check Facebook) when they are able to get on wifi.

Seeing the car brought to mind something that grabbed me this morning from the book of John.  The phrase “grace after grace” from John 1:16 jumped out at me today.  The HCSB reads, “Indeed, we have all received grace after grace from His fullness,”  The NLT puts it this way, “From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another.”  And finally, “His fullness” or “his abundance” can be understood in the original Greek, “His supply”.  You could think of it this way, “From His supply, we receive grace upon blessing upon grace upon blessing.”

Do you see how  I am tying the two preceding paragraphs together?  Knowing Jesus is like knowing where the free wifi is.  It is our lifeline.  He is our lifeline.  He is our grace upon grace.  If you had a friend who needed free wifi and you knew where they could get it, you would surely tell them, wouldn’t you?

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Getting ready

This morning into early afternoon I spent several hours cleaning the church kitchen, social hall, and utility room.  The women of the church will be doing a dinner for a memorial service Saturday and Wilison Oil is coming to do yearly maintenance on the furnace in the utility room.

With our Wednesday community dinners, the kitchen is used a lot with cooking, baking,  and serving 75 or so people each week. But this will be the first time the women have been in the kitchen since the remodel was complete a few weeks ago.  I knew it needed some TLC.  And the utility room is a chronic mess, always in need of attention.  Knowing the furnace worker needed room made it necessary to get that done as well.

It is handy when we know something or someone is coming.  We can prepare.  You already know where I am going, don’t you?  Most people live life like they are never going to stand before the God of Creation and give an account of their lives.  Most people live life as if they have 100 years left on earth.  Time is ticking.  Blessed is the man or woman who is ready to die and face their Maker.  Only then are we truly ready to live for Him.

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Separating ourselves

Yesterday I posted about people who walk a trail from low income housing to a grocery store.  A lot of people read and shared it.  I said that the people we avoid are people Jesus would have gone out of His way to interact with.  Now, let me be clear, Scripture tells us to avoid people or things that cause us to stumble ourselves.  If you are a recovering alcoholic, 6 months clean, you should not go pass out Bible tracts outside the liquor store.  But for most of us, that is not why we avoid “the least of these”.

When Jesus interacted with people, He called them to a changed life.  He called them to sell everything if their money and possessions were their god.  He heard out sinners and then called them to “leave your life of sin” and “stop sinning or something worse may happen to you“.  It is the balancing act in telling people that Jesus desires that they turn from their sin, but doing so out of a genuine love and concern for them.  When Jesus had something to say, He said things TO people, not about them.  The best chance of seeing people turn to Jesus is by interacting with them, often even developing a relationship with them.  When Jesus wanted to reach Zacchaeus the tax collector, He did not rebuke Zacchaeus when He saw him up in the tree.  He said, “Come down, Zacchaeus. Let us go to your house.”  Which means we must hang around with the least of these, not looking down on them, but remembering and helping them understand the only difference between us and them is the forgiveness through the grace of God which we have accepted through Jesus Christ.

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People like that

There is a trail between Martin’s grocery store and Patrick’s Pub.  The downtown Martin’s has been the store I frequented most in the last 4+ years that I have lived in Short Gap.  I always saw people walking on that trail, but never knew where they were coming from or where they were going.  When Diane and I walk in Cumberland, we often park on Baltimore Street and walk in different directions.  Sometimes we walk along the railroad tracks, past the Union Rescue Mission.  While most people avoid that area, we are quite familiar with it, having friends and acquaintances there (we were at the Mission yesterday).  We usually turn around at Martins, not going so far as the trail on the other side of Martin’s.  Once we walked past Martin’s, walked the trail and kept going, finding out it goes to low income housing.  I remember Diane asking, “How did I not know this was here?”  While most people who live in the area would already know this, we did not.

When I said most people avoid the Union Rescue Mission area, I now also realize that very few people choose to walk that trail.  People who do, do so out of necessity.  And when I took that picture Saturday knowing I was going to blog about it, I did not know the “gotcha’ or the lesson God would give me to share with you. I only felt led to take the picture.  Even as I began the blog post today, I did not have it.  The Spirit just gave it to me as I began this paragraph.  I am convinced that if Jesus were alive today, He would insist that He and his disciples spend some time on that trail.  The people we avoid are people Jesus would have gone out of His way to interact with.

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Peace in the midst of anxiety and chaos

Yesterday someone told me they have been anxious to the point of feeling unhealthy.  They pointed out that social media and the news is a bombardment of negativity and it upsets them.  All the cable news networks have figured out that when they magnify, or at times even create crisis, it drives ratings up.  And the more the ratings go up, the more they focus on and exaggerate negativity.

It cracks me up when people get on Facebook to complain about all the negativity.  It’s like the Hotels.com commercial when “Captain Obvious” says, when you fight fire with fire, it’s hard to put out a fire.  And we are all guilty.  I can do a blog post on homosexuality or illegal immigration and 1,500 people will read it, share it, and comment on Facebook.  I do one on “the peace of Christ that surpasses all understanding” and less than 100 people will read it and share it.  It is almost as if we have been wired by the world to seek out stuff to complain and get upset about.

What we have to understand is that Christians are never going to find peace in the world.  The Apostle Paul didn’t.  Peter didn’t.  And even Jesus didn’t.  So it only makes sense to quit looking for it there.  Christians who talk like we just need to acquiesce to the ways of the world to find peace in the world are wrong.  Christians who talk like we can love our way to peace in the world are wrong.  In the world, you are not going to find peace, but are guaranteed to find trouble.  But take heart.  The constant negativity of the world is bad news for those who are perishing, but for those who are saved by the cross of Christ, the negativity of the world is a reminder of where our peace comes from.  It comes from the One who created us and loves us unconditionally, and who sends His Spirit to dwell with us.

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Burning off a cookie

This morning I went to the YMCA and exercised for an hour.  I will probably be unable to get out of bed tomorrow.  I spent 30 minutes on the elliptical machine, at a pretty good pace, and the machine said I burned 203 calories.  That’s about one gourmet chocolate chip cookie.  There are six cookies on our counter at home.  If I stayed on the treadmill for 1 hour a day for three days, I could eat those six cookies and their calories against me would be cancelled out.  It would also take one hour on the treadmill to equal the calories from a medium sized order of McDonald’s french fries!  It is no wonder it is so easy to gain weight and so hard to lose weight.

If we could think of our sin against God in this way, it would make it much easier to understand the need for Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.  A perfect and holy God says if you commit one small sin against Him, you could spend your entire lifetime doing good and it would not be enough to cancel out the charges against you and the penalty that is due from you.

The cost of sin against a perfect and holy God can only be paid by God Himself!  And He paid that price through the life and death of Jesus on the cross.  And He allows us, by His grace through our faith, to get credit for the payment.  So that our sin can be cancelled out.

Eating and exercise is something we can only do on our own. Nobody else can eat for us and unfortunately, nobody else can exercise for us.  Being made right with God is something that we can not do on our own, but something only God can do for us.  Both are realities we can not change.

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“Here you are in the land of the living with an opportunity to attain salvation. What would those poor people in hell right now give to have one more day such as you have today. You have an extraordinary opportunity, where Christ has thrown the door of mercy wide open calling to you to come through.” ~ Jonathan Edwards, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.

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