Like the Spring Rain

“So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; and He will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain watering the earth” (Hosea 6:3).

Welcome Spring! It was a welcome site to go to the car and see buds from the maple trees that had fallen on the car yesterday morning. I’m so ready. Warmer weather, birds singing, flowers blooming, trees blossoming, green grass. Love it. Even though I’m allergic to most of it, I absolutely love seeing all of God’s beauty and renewal in the Spring.

My wife, Anna, purchased an egg incubator so that we could hatch our own chickens for the first time this year, and for the first time we were able to witness for ourselves a chick hatch. To see this process up close and personal was just incredible. God is awesome. His creation is awesome. What He does for us daily is awesome.

In the above passage in Hosea, the prophet was urging the people to “press on to know the Lord.” If you back up to the beginning of that chapter in Hosea, he was encouraging the people to return to the Lord to seek His forgiveness and healing. The promise given by the Holy Spirit through Hosea is that if they were to come back to God, He would “heal,” “bandage,” “revive” and “raise” them to life. That is where Hosea then compares God coming to them with the spring rain.

Through the winter, everything seems gray and brown. But then the spring rain comes, and then we have greens, purples, reds, yellows, and oranges. We have life again. We are revived again. There is hope and promise in the Spring.

If you are finding yourselves in the winter spiritually, I hope this will encourage you to come to the God of the Spring Rain. Maybe today you feel like you are in a blizzard with 10 feet of snow and 30 degrees below zero windchill. Your life is not where it should be with God. Return to God through the blood of Jesus Christ and come to His throne for mercy. He will revive you and make you new again by showering His grace and mercy upon you.

Sugar Smash

Sugar Smash, by Jason Salyers

Waking up, progressing downstairs, mobile phone in hand, the day begins with the coffee button depressed, and since wakefulness has not completely materialized, a quick game on the mobile device in which little candy pieces are moved into alignment and destroyed. In this “sugar smash” game (the real name has been changed to protect the innocent…), one must destroy pieces of candy in an effort to clear the screen. The levels have progressed onward and multiple challenges have occurred.

However, this game involves frustration. Just when an individual thinks they are going to win the level and move onward to the next challenge, the right pieces of candy do not materialize, or the moves run out. Obviously, the fault for this unsuccessful venture rests solely on the game itself; or does it?

The majority of the time levels seem unconquerable: early morning, late at night, or when hastily playing. In other words, the levels become harder when tired or in a rush. Discovering this, application presents itself towards the life of a believer.

The Apostle Paul urged the Corinthian believers to understand a foundational principle in regards to temptation; “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). Throughout the Old Testament and into the New, a promise given to all men: “God is Faithful.”

In a silly game like “sugar smash,” men and women get frustrated because the “game just does not give us what we need!” Which, in the case of the game, may be true. With God though, God has “granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).” God grants to the believer, what the believer needs, but because of exhaustion or hastening “to-and-fro” believers can miss what God has provided.

Paul told the Corinthian church “For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints” (1 Cor. 14:33). This verse directly applies to the worship service, but the principle can also be applied to an individual’s life. God does not attempt to frustrate or confuse His children. Instead, when temptations or trials in life occur, believers must recognize God grants an avenue of escape and endurance.

Problems in this life are greater and more significant than “I need to get a speckled candy!” Believers become discouraged when tired, frustrated, or rushing. God is faithful though, and He will always be there for His followers:

“Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free. The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? The Lord is on my side as my helper; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me. (Psalm 118:5-7)”

A Little Food and a Lot of Faith

Friends,

Here is a link to a great sermon by a man named Ralph Walker on the feeding of the 5000 by Jesus.

A Little Food and a Lot of Faith

If you wish to read in the Bible further, start in John 6. The feeding of the 5,000 is only one of two miracles that are recorded in all 4 Gospel accounts.

You could listen to this today on your lunch break as you meditate upon the Bread of Life.

God bless,

Aaron

Meditate on These Things

Philippians 4:8 – Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

Meditate on these things. Other versions translate this word as “dwell” or “think.” This word in the Greek is an accounting term which means to “take an inventory.” It is translated throughout the New Testament in such ways as: “take into account,” “credited,” “counted,” “numbered.” God is asking you to do an accounting, a numbering of things that are true, holy, lovely, pure, etc.

This is really silly, but do you remember the Count on Sesame Street? That is the picture that came to my mind. One apple…two bananas. He just loved to count anything. So, what do you love to count? Paul is instructing us through the Holy Spirit to take an inventory of some very special things.

  • True
  • Noble, Honorable
  • Just, Right
  • Pure
  • Lovely
  • Of good report, good repute
  • Virtue, Excellence
  • Praiseworthy

For a moment, think of the opposites (antonyms) of these words:

  • False
  • Dishonorable
  • Wrong
  • Defiled, dirty
  • Lousy, awful, terrible
  • Ill-repute, bad report, bad news
  • Without virtue, failure, inferiority, imperfection
  • Worthy of condemnation (criticism), worthy of fixing

Let me ask you, and answer honestly for yourself, which of the above lists is the one upon which you meditate the most?

Let me also ask you, how do you feel after meditating on things that are false, dishonorable, wrong and terrible?

You see, the context of this passage written by Paul is about having joy in the Lord, a peace that passes comprehension, and being content in no matter which condition we find ourselves. Bad things happen. Evil surrounds us. Worries plague us on every side and from within. That is precisely why we must turn our attention and focus our minds on praiseworthy things.

It is not that we avoid thinking about the bad things that happen in life, but we have to take time to meditate on holy and excellent things so that we can have the proper mental foundation to deal with the all the other junk that occurs. Paul was in prison in Rome when he wrote this! He had been treated shamefully and was falsely accused. On the way to Rome he suffered through a violent storm and was shipwrecked. He now he was awaiting a trial before Caesar. He had learned by experience to focus his attention on praiseworthy things so that he could deal with the trials he was facing.

Lately this has proved very helpful for me when I am finding myself getting anxious about things or dwelling on negativity. I personally have to muscle my mind into Philippians 4:8 and say, “Okay, Aaron, think about something that is true…now think about something that is honorable…now think about something that is lovely.” It might sound simplistic, but it helps me, and I believe it will help you also.

One final thought: This same word translated “meditate” is also used in 1 Corinthians 13:11. When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. The word “reason” here is the same word for “meditate” in Philippians 4:8. When Paul was a child, he took an accounting like a child, but now he is a man, and he does not “count” the same way. In order for us to have the peace, joy and contentment of the Lord, we must put away our previous ways of mental accounting, and begin taking inventory of better and higher things.

 

 

A Lesson from Young Denny Hamlin

I’m admittedly not a NASCAR follower, but when I saw this story on ESPN.com about Denny Hamlin after he won the Daytona 500 yesterday, I was moved by the fact that Denny Hamlin as a 7 year old in elementary school wrote in very specific detail how he wanted to win the Daytona 500.

Here is an excerpt from the article on ESPN.com.


Do you remember that assignment when you were in elementary school? The one that asked you, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” or “What is your dream?”

Well, Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin’s response has surfaced, via his mother on Twitter:

The Daytona 500

 “My wish is to win the Daytona 500. If I won the Daytona 500, I would like it to come true on February 17, 1998. My car would be red, white, blue and gold. Just like Bill Elliott’s car. If I do win the Daytona 500, I could win 1,000,000 dollars. My crew chief would be Gary Barden and my tire changer would be Ernie Elliott. The reason for all of this is because I love racing.”

http://espn.go.com/espn/story/_/page/instantawesome-hamlinletter-160221/denny-hamlin-childhood-letter-proves-dreams-come-true


Leave it to a mother to keep papers like this!

A young boy in elementary school envisioned his future with passion and precision. He knew exactly what he wanted and where he was going.

So, how powerful is a dream? How powerful is it for a young man to set his mind to be something or do something in the future? It’s very powerful, isn’t it? And this letter from the 7 year old Denny Hamlin is a perfect illustration of that principle.

For today, I want to take that principle and use this especially to encourage our young men that there is great power in determining early in life to seek God and follow His ways.

Here are just a few quick examples:

  • 2 Chronicles 34:1-3 – Josiah, “while he was still young…began to seek the God of his father David.”
  • Ezra 7:10 – Ezra had “prepared his heart” to seek the Lord.
  • Daniel 1:8 – Daniel had “purposed in his heart” that he would not be defiled with the pagan food and drink of King Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon.

So, that’s it for today. Set your mind early to seek the Lord. Make God’s people your heroes and idols, and make it your dream, your passion, your everything to serve the Lord and follow Him. If you do, something much greater than winning the Daytona 500 is waiting for you!

Remember your Creator in the days of your youth… (Ecclesiastes 12:1).

I Acknowledged My Sin to You

I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”; and You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah (Psalm 32:5).

The Bible is the best dictionary we have to define Bible terms. Do you want to define love? Read 1 Corinthians 13. Do you want to define grace? Read Ephesians 2. Do you want to define faith? Read Hebrews 11.

How about confession of sin? There are many great texts that will help to illustrate confession of sin, but for today I want to focus in on Psalm 32:5. Psalms 32 and 51 were both written in a very dark time of King David’s life. David’s heart is made plain in what he said in these Psalms regarding confession.

David stole another man’s wife, had her husband killed, and desperately tried to cover up the sin and the pregnancy.  The Lord God rebuked David and punished him severely. Through all of this we see the heart of David for serving God. Yes, he behaved very wickedly, but his spirit yearned to be back in a right relationship with His God. He was completely sick, not because he got caught, nor because he was going to lose any prestige, possessions or power, but that he had sinned against the Almighty Creator.

The English word “confession” means to “speak the same thing.” When I confess Jesus as Lord and Christ, I am saying the same thing about Him that God has already spoken. When I confess my sins, I am speaking the same thing about my sins that God has already declared about them. God is not being informed about our sins, nor is He being instructed on how to think about our sins, but we are coming to His throne and owning up to what He already knows.

I acknowledged my sin to You.
  • “I” – David made this personal. David said “my sin,” “my iniquity,” and “my transgressions.” He did not try to confess someone else’s sins to God. It’s me, God…I did it. No one else.
  • “Acknowledge” – David owned up to what he did. He did not “hide” it anymore. No excuses, blame shifting, minimizations or justifications were made. He previously had tried to cover up his sin and as Psalm 32 makes clear, his sins were eating him up from the inside out.
  • “My sin…my iniquity…my transgressions” – Three terms (sin, iniquity and transgressions) combine to give a composite picture of what David did to God. The word sin can also be translated offence, iniquity brings with it the concept of perversion and moral evil, and “transgression” includes the concept of revolt or rebellion. David sinned, meaning he broke God’s law. David committed iniquity, meaning that he was perverse and morally evil in his behavior against God. David in his “transgression” rebelled and revolted against a Holy and Just God.
  • “To You” – Not to a priest. Not to my brethren (that comes later). Not to those we hurt (that comes later).  In Psalm 51:4, David wrote, “Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, So that You are justified when You speak and blameless when You judge.” David, through his confession, drew back the curtains in his heart on what never was hidden from God.

This confession is couched in a Psalm relishing in the blessed state of the man who is forgiven by God, and forgiveness is certainly a beautiful thing. What precedes that forgiveness? Genuine heartfelt confession of your sin to God.

“I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide.”

Your Will Be Done

“Then He said to them, ‘My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.’  And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.”  Mt. 26:38-39

“He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.”  Mt. 26:42

Jesus made it very clear throughout His ministry that His purpose was to do the will of His Father.  One example is in John 4:34, after He had spoken to the woman at the well He said “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.”  It was always the intention of Jesus to do the will of His Father, He always wanted to do what the Father wanted Him to do.  However, just because He always wanted to do His Father’s will doesn’t mean His will was always consistent with His Father’s will.  In the garden we have one illustration when Jesus’ will was different than the will of His Father.  We see from the text that this conflict deeply grieved Him and caused Him great stress.  In  Matthew 26:37 “…and began to be grieved and distressed”, verse 38, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death”, verse 39, “…and He fell on His face”.  Coming face to face with the horror and reality of cross moved our Lord to admit His earthly will.  He really wanted, if there was any possible way, He wanted a way out.  At this moment His will was not His Father’s and it is in this moment that the real test came.

And then we have this passage in Hebrews 5:7-9:

“In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety.  Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered.  And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation…”.  

It was the fact that Jesus yielded His obedience to His Father in the face of suffering that He learned obedience and in this, He was made perfect or complete.  The point is that before this experience, as obedient as He was, his obedience was not complete.  In order for His obedience to reach its completed end He had to face the will of God, in contrast to His own will, and yet still obey.  In this experience Jesus teaches the lesson of true obedience.  Obedience to the Father does not come when it is easy or when we agree with the Father or when His will is our will.  True obedience is when our will, our flesh is in contrast to God’s will and we submit anyway.

I believe most of us would say that we want to do the will of the Father.  Like Jesus, it is our intent, our desire to do His will.  But what happens when it is hard or uncomfortable to obey?  How often do I rationalize a way out?  How often do I convince myself that an “easier” route is OK?  Do I obey God up to a point?  As long as it “makes sense” or as long as my flesh doesn’t want to violently rebel or as long as I don’t have to sacrifice too much, I’ll obey.  Am I finding a way to avoid obedience?  True obedience that leads to salvation is that which faces the difficulties, the challenges, the hardships and continues to do the will of the Father.  Jesus asks us to learn obedience as He did.  I pray that I learn such obedience.

Rejecting Truth

In I Kings 18 we have the incredible story of God and Elijah having a contest against Baal and his prophets.  This is a classic showdown to prove who is the one true God.  The prophets of Baal are jumping around, shouting, cutting themselves to no avail, while Elijah makes wise cracks.  Then Elijah steps up and has water poured all over the sacrifice and the altar, says a simple prayer, and God sends down fire consuming the sacrifice, the water, and even the rocks.  The people’s response says it all, “…they fell on their faces; and they said, ‘The Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God.”  (I Kings 18:39)

What amazes me is Jezebel’s reaction in I Kings 19:1-2, “Now Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword.  Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, ‘So may the gods do to me and even more, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.”

Verse one says that “Ahab told Jezebel ALL that Elijah had done…”.  I believe that ALL must include the useless efforts of Baal’s prophets and his lack of response.  ALL must include the immediate and overwhelming response from God.  ALL probably includes the people’s response as well but Jezebel only focuses on the death of her prophets.  She seems to ignore the purpose of the contest, the outcome of the contest, and what the outcome proves.  In fact, it is somewhat humorous that she invokes her already proven useless “gods” in her threat to Elijah.

I don’t know exactly why Jezebel couldn’t see the evidence and the truth that was right in front of her face.  Maybe it was her anger or hatred, maybe it was her pride or selfishness, maybe a combination of many things.  What I do know is that I can, and have, fallen into the same trap.  I have allowed my pride, anger, and selfishness to blind me to relatively simple truth.  I don’t know how many times God has tried to reveal sin in my life or in my motives and I’ve pushed it away and convinced myself that I was “justified” or I was “OK”.

My experience is that all truth comes from God but He will use various means to present that truth to me.  Sometimes it is my wife making an observation about my reaction to a situation.  Sometimes it is an innocent question from one of my children.  A brother or sister in Christ might send me a text or write me a note.  Most often truth is revealed in the quiet of the morning during my daily bible reading.  Regardless of the means by which God reveals His truth to me, am I listening?  Is my heart open and ready to receive the reality of my situation?  When God does His work on me it can be painful, embarrassing, and even downright shameful .  My first reaction is usually to justify myself, rationalize my behavior, or even attack the messenger.  In the end, however, all those reactions are simply a rejection of God and His truth.  I pray that I can get out of the way of His work in my life.  I pray that, however painful it might be, that I will embrace the changes I need to make so that I can be molded into the image of Jesus Christ and bring glory to my Father.

Moses was faithful even when…(6 of 6)

Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant… (Hebrews 3:5)

#6 Moses was faithful to God even when things did not work out as expected.

Consider the past 5 articles leading up to today:

  • Would you be faithful to God even if you don’t want to do the job?
  • Would you be faithful to God even when the enthusiasm is gone?
  • Would you be faithful to God even when you receive little appreciation?
  • Would you be faithful to God even when you begin to doubt your own value and effectiveness?
  • Would you be faithful to God even when you lose support of those closest to you?

All of us would naturally struggle with one of these more than another. What we mean is that some will endure everything as long as they have their family. Others can endure a lot of junk thrown their way as long as they feel appreciated and valued.

So, what if you go through all of the above things, and things still don’t work out like you planned and hoped? Would you be faithful to God?

After 40 years of leading Israel, and after all of the heartache, sacrifice and pain, Moses was not able to go into the Promised Land. Because of a moment of weakness and exasperation toward the people of Israel, Moses had at one point taken the glory for himself and God told him the consequences for doing this (see Numbers 20).

Later, near the end of his life, he begged for God to change His mind. “Let me I pray, cross over and see the fair land,” and God replied “Enough! Speak to Me no more on this matter…for you shall not cross over this Jordan” (Deuteronomy 3:25-27).

How did Moses respond to this?

What does a real man do? What does a real man do when things don’t work out like he planned?

This is so important for those of us who are driven by results and “success” (as we define it). What happens when the road we have carefully and methodically plotted out takes a wrong turn and we are left with broken dreams? What happens when God says “No” to our heartfelt requests? Lesser men will throw up their hands, quit and walk away.

Moses asked God to appoint a good leader to succeed him, because he did not want Israel to be like sheep without a shepherd. When God told Moses that Joshua would be the new leader, Moses spent a great deal of time encouraging and strengthening Joshua because of the awesome task at hand. Moses remained humble, focused on God’s glory, and always thoughtful of what was best for God’s people…even when things did not work out like he hoped for himself. Moses gently submitted to God’s decisions, even when he didn’t agree.

That is a faithful man. Are you like Moses?

Moses was faithful even when…(1 of 6)

Moses was faithful to God even when…he didn’t want the job.

By Andy Harrison and Aaron Kemple

Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant… (Hebrews 3:5)

What does it mean to be faithful? Does it mean I “go to church?” Does it mean, “I’m a pretty good guy?”

Faithful means: dedicated, loyal, trustworthy, or reliable. Faithfulness is a core quality of God Himself. You can count on God…period. He never fails. He is there in good times and bad. He will never leave you nor forsake you. He is the same yesterday, today and forever.

So, how was Moses like God in faithfulness?

#1. Moses was faithful to God even when he didn’t want to do the job.

He didn’t want to go back to Egypt, he felt completely unqualified, he certainly did not want to confront Pharaoh, and he begged for God to send someone else to lead Israel. Yet, he humbled himself and obeyed God’s call to lead.

As a man serving God, there are simply things you just don’t want to do (or feel unqualified to do), but you do them because you are a man who seeks the glory of the only true and living God. Do you only pick the easy jobs? Do you only go for the jobs that keep you in your comfort zone?

Moses had left Egypt behind and was sitting comfortably in Midian with his family and had been so for 40 years. Why leave now? He had already tried to be Israel’s deliverer 40 years ago and it didn’t work, why would it work now?

Yet, Moses went to Egypt, he didn’t want to, but he went. And the Lord went with him.

Men, your greatest example of a man is Jesus Christ, and He did not want to do what He did for you. He groaned in His spirit and was troubled concerning the cross. He was distressed about it, the Bible says. He begged, while literally sweating blood, for the Father to let this cup of anguish called the cross pass from Him. Yet, because of His love for God, His hope of glory and His love for you, He did it anyway.

What does it mean to be a man? What does it mean to be a faithful man?

Today, we want you consider that being a faithful man means that you are faithful to God even when you don’t want to do the job. You do it anyway, because it is what God asked you to do.

That is a faithful man. Are you like Moses?

Tomorrow is point #2, Lord willing.