Month: September 2013
Here is their version of “Heaven” recorded also by Los Lonely Boys. The song asks the question on the hearts of many people who wonder how much longer they have to live in this troubled world: “How far is heaven?” Do you know how to answer that question? Heaven is as near as Jesus Christ—call on His name, turn from your sin and He will make you His own and take you home! You can never change your own life, your own way of living and make it to heaven. Trusting in Christ to forgive you and make you heaven-ready is as close as praying and asking!
Much of the marketing and developing technology of our day is designed to address our frustration with having to wait. Whether it is in the retail store advertising “no lines, no waiting” at the check-out stand, or with the continued efforts of computer manufacturer to increase the speed by which data can be processed, the emphasis in all of our culture is on removing the need to wait.
I don’t know about you but that appeals to something inside of me, that subtle perception that I am too important and my time is too valuable to have to wait on anything. The problem, of course, is that when I feed that natural, human, selfish instinct, I make it that much harder to learn what it means to wait on the Lord!
Can we ever reach the point where we view waiting as a gift rather than a curse? Is it possible to turn waiting times into profitable times? I believe that I have a lot to learn in this area that cannot be found in the frantic pace of a society racing ahead with the accelerator stuck to the floor with no idea of where we are going and what we expect to find when we get there! It is the classic illustration of the driver who says, “I have no idea where I’m going, but I am making great time!”
All through the scriptures, God speaks to us of the value of waiting. In fact, there are so many verses containing either the word “wait” or ideas regarding waiting that one could spend an extended period of time just looking all of them up! But to put this matter into a biblical perspective, here the words of the psalms:
“Wait for the LORD; Be strong, and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord…, Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him…” (Psalms 27:14; 37:7).
Not only are our lives filled with examples of failure at this point, but we also find that throughout the Bible there are many who stumbled badly before the Lord because they could not be content to wait on Him. Abraham knew that the Lord had promised to build a mighty nation of descendants from his seed, but when Sarah remained barren for so long, he took it upon himself to “help God” by taking Hagar to be the mother of his children. The results were disastrous because of his impatience with God’s delay in keeping His promise. When Moses was with the Lord on Mount Sinai receiving the Law, down below the Israelites gave up and conspired with Aaron against the Lord by making a golden calf to worship. They became impatient and launched out on their own course of action. Saul waited for a while for Samuel to come to offer the sacrifices before the impending battle, but when Samuel was delayed, Saul impatiently substituted his plan for God’s plan and suffered the consequences of that needless urgent act for the rest of his days. Examples are too numerous to mention here, but the problem of impatience is just as great in our lives today.
The urgent drive we have to gratify instantly our desires overcomes our statement of faith that assures us that it is better to wait upon the Lord. This impatient urgency which persists in us thrusts us right through many of the times of quiet, the times of stillness where the voice of the Lord and the heart of our Savior can be discovered. Whenever I think about this great loss, this failure of our souls to gain the knowledge of the Holy One, I am reminded of the distressing words in a little book by A. W. Tozer called The Knowledge of the Holy.
“We have lost our spirit of worship and our ability to withdraw inwardly to meet God in adoring silence. Modern Christianity is simply not producing the kind of Christian who can appreciate or experience the life in the Spirit. The words, ‘Be still, and know that I am God,’ mean next to nothing to the self-confident, bustling worshiper in this middle period of the twentieth century” (p. 6).
If that were true in the middle period of the twentieth century, do you think it has gotten better? If anything, we are more driven, more impatient and less inclined to wait on the Lord now as at any point of human history!
What can be done? The answer is the same for all of us. We need to learn how to wait upon the Lord. Each of us must come to terms with how we are to do so, but the basic solution is what it has always been. In the midst of our urgent and impatient agendas, we must recognize and welcome the divine interruptions in the course of our busy schedules and welcome them as oases in a dry land. The long line at the stop light, the telephone operator who puts you on hold, the appointment who shows up late — rather than being impositions become privileges, moments to enter silently into the presence of the Lord and be refreshed!
Besides these unplanned moments, we must also build into the very core of our days some time to wait, to listen, to abide quietly before Him in “adoring silence” so that He can reveal to us those things that He will never shout to us in the midst of a crowd. “…Those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength…”(Isaiah 40:31). What hope and encouragement that promise brings as we learn to wait patiently on Him!
When we gather for our Solemn Assembly on Sunday evening, September 15, each person will want to be spiritually in tune to what the Lord may want to show us. One of the primary ways to get our hearts right before Him is to ask Him to show us anything in us which might block our sensitivity to His voice.
Here are some categories of confession that may help you as you ask the Lord to show you anything which may need to be confessed, any repentance that needs to happen, before we gather corporately.
Relational Integrity (Have I treated people in a Christ-like manner?)
Moral Purity (Have I maintained a pure heart, mind and behavior?)
Distrustful Anxiety (Am I anxious about anything suggesting a lack of trust?)
Disobedient Priority (Have I avoided, neglected anything directed by Lord?)
Attitudinal Propriety (Have I fallen into a bad attitude or unhealthy pattern of thinking? Am I skeptical, cynical, complaining, abrupt, depressed, critical, condescending?)
Disciplinary Consistency (Am I consistently and wholeheartedly maintaining times of personal worship, prayer and Bible study as a priority in my life?)
Of course, you may have many other categories besides these that need exploring in your own heart. What freedom and lightheartedness comes with confession, repentance, forgiveness and cleansing! May your heart be released to worship and serve Christ in all things!
When the Lord speaks, His words always penetrate the heart. For some time now I have been meditating on a particular passage which the Lord has deeply embedded in my heart and mind. As we move into our busiest season of the year as a community with school starting and a new fall schedule developing, I find that I can easily get distracted from my priorities as a disciple of Jesus Christ. These verses have helped me recently in getting back in focus.
The words are from Isaiah as he speaks to the people about the coming of the Light of the world into their midst. Of course, we know that the light has come to us in the person of the Lord Jesus and the brilliant radiance of His glory is now shining through those who are identified as His disciples.
Hear what he says and think with me about the implications for our lives together in ministry.
“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. Isaiah 60:1-3 (NIV)
The unique calling that He gives to His people to serve Him brings with it a unique responsibility to exercise great faithfulness in carrying out His purposes. As we enter the fall with its increased level of activity, let me offer these observations from this passage which have been a great challenge and encouragement to me.
We Have Been Honored by His Presence. When the Lord lets us know that His light has risen upon us and that His glory shines upon us, we are assured that He is present with us. I don’t know how that makes you feel, but for me to realize through the simple reminder in these verses that the Lord God Almighty abides with us so moves me that I feel that the highest of all honors has been bestowed upon us. The Nobel Prize, Congressional Medal of Honor, World Championship trophies, Olympic gold medals and any other human honor you can name become nothing more than litter compared with the ultimate honor of His abiding presence. Think of it. The radiant splendor of heaven has shone forth upon us in the appearance of the Lord among us as His people. What an honor to be with the Lord!
We Have Been Transformed by His Power. Can we remain the same once we understand that He abides with us? Of course we can’t! His very presence alters everything about us if we are conscious at all of what His presence means. His holiness demands that we be holy. His righteousness compels us to be righteous. His radiant glory transforms our darkened lives into channels through which His light shines. His joy races through our hearts and appears without shadows on our faces.
Through every relationship we have, in every activity in which we are involved, in every word that we speak, we either advance the light of Christ and direct it into the darkness of the lives of those around us, or we hinder the light and dull its brilliance by casting shadows on it and tarnishing its brightness. The Lord wants His disciples to be transformed by the power of resurrection and live as new creatures who represent Him as His light in the midst of the darkness which covers the earth and the deep darkness which covers its people.
As the darkened world around us awakens to that light, they will be drawn to the Source of that light, Jesus Himself. When we are transformed by the power of Christ, our lives will reflect His glory and radiate His perfect light.
We Have Been Humbled by His Plan. This is perhaps for me the observation that has impacted me the most. The Lord has chosen to entrust that light, the light of His presence, to folks like us. As the body of Christ, we have been given the privilege of carrying the light of His glory.
At the beginning of the Olympics, it is a high honor to be asked to carry the torch that lights the Olympic flame. What a greater honor to be asked to bear the light of Christ, to carry His torch, when we know that we do not deserve to do so. He has humbled us by entrusting us with this holy and glorious duty.
When you start to feel the pressures coming upon you as you get busier this month with your fall schedule, just remember that the Lord has chosen to bestow upon you more than a burden of busy-ness. He has poured out upon you the light of Jesus Christ and He wants you to rejoice in His presence. Each day that comes brings with it the opportunity to let your light shine or to generate a cloud which hides that light.
I long for Providence to be a place where the glory of Christ shines forth. As the fall begins, let’s accept our calling as His disciples to
“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you…And nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.”
On Sunday, October 6, 2013, Providence Baptist Church will celebrate its 35th Anniversary. Those of us who have been here since that first Sunday in 1978 could never have imagined the journey in store for us as the Lord gave us the privilege of founding this congregation. In preparation for the anniversary, we are introducing a Covenant for the People of Providence as a way of expressing succinctly our commitments to God and to each other out of profound gratitude to Jesus Christ.
As we have stated clearly our Purpose and laid out our Core Values, we now want to add this covenant to state emphatically that we understand what it means to be members of the body of Christ and in these twelve areas affirm together some of the highlights of that commitment.
COVENANT POINT ONE
We will strive to grow in our knowledge of God and submit to the Word of God as the authority in our lives and in His church.
2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 3:18
COVENANT POINT TWO
We will seek to live loving, holy lives as we grow in Christ-like character.
1 Peter 1:14-16; Galatians 5:16-25
COVENANT POINT THREE
We will dedicate ourselves to live a life of worship before God, recognizing that all of life is lived out in His presence. We will seek to trust God and show His worth with our minds, our hearts, and our hands.
Romans 12:1; Hebrews 13:15-16
COVENANT POINT FOUR
We will gladly support the Church in its worship, teaching, ministry and discipline, and we will submit to its God-given leadership.
Acts 2:42-47; 1 Corinthians 5:1-13; Hebrews 13:17
COVENANT POINT FIVE
We will regularly observe baptism and participate in communion as we remember the past work of Christ on the cross, celebrate the present work of Christ at the Father’s right hand, and anticipate the future work of Christ in returning for His bride.
Matthew 28:19-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26
COVENANT POINT SIX
We will uphold one another, along with the church’s leaders, ministries, and missionaries, in prayer.
James 5:16; Colossians 4:2
COVENANT POINT SEVEN
We will give cheerfully and regularly in the financial support of this church, its ministries and obligations.
Luke 12:32-34; 2 Corinthians 9:7-9
COVENANT POINT EIGHT
We will submit to one another out of devotion to Christ, allowing us to love one another, serve one another, encourage one another, share one another’s joys, bear each other’s burdens, and support one another in sickness and distress.
1 John 3:16-18; Philippians 2:3
COVENANT POINT NINE
We will seek the good of others by going to our neighborhoods and to the nations to show the love of Christ and share the truth of the gospel.
Matthew 28:19-20, Psalm 67:1-2
COVENANT POINT TEN
We will seek to pursue our unity in the Spirit by being patient with one another, by extending grace and forgiveness, and by being ready to seek reconciliation.
Ephesians 4:1-3; Ephesians 4:32; Galatians 6:2
COVENANT POINT ELEVEN
We will protect our families and train our children to treasure Christ and seek His will for their lives through instructing and encouraging them in the Scriptures.
COVENANT POINT TWELVE
We will seek to understand and exercise our spiritual gifts as we serve together as members of the body of Christ.
1 Corinthians 12:1-27
Each week for the next four weeks, daily devotions are available to explain and call more attention to the twelve points of this covenant. They can be found by clicking here.