#P5: Obedience includes location

Pastor's Five, P5 logo“Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your country and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you.’ “ Gen 12:1, NASB

This is where my mind was today when I woke up. I leave in a couple of hours with a team traveling to NY to work with a church planting partner. It is an exciting adventure and for several on the team…is a “first mission trip” experience. Whether it is the first of the fiftieth, this coming week is significant for several reasons, not the least of which is because WHERE you do what the Lord tells you to do is as important as WHAT you do.

Many look at the call the “missions” as a strange consideration. “Why go somewhere else when there is such great need around us?” The reason is…because obedience includes location. If you look at this command to Abram, God gave him very little info: GO…go from, go from, go from…TO a land which I WILL SHOW you. Abram knew more about where and what he was leaving behind than about where he was headed to. He was told to leave the familiar. He was told to leave his security. He was told to leave what was comfortable. Where he was going was undetermined. In fact…the only thing Abram knew about his future endeavor…was that God was mindful of him, present with him, and fully versed on what the future held.

If Abram had stayed in his land and preached powerfully, met the needs of all the people around him, started 1000 soup kitchens, cured disease, and funded 1 million charities…he would still have been disobedient to God. Why? Because OBEDIENCE includes location.

God places us in situations where our only security is Him. He alone is our hope and strength and support. If we rely on anything else…we are in some regard…engaged in a form of idolatry. But…after all…why would we place any trust in anything else since God is greater? WHy hope in less than His awesome love, grace, and purpose.

Go FROM and TO a land I (have yet to show you up to this point but I know perfectly says the Lord and) will show you.

Shalom, CA.

#P5: Rehearsing the Gospel

Pastor's Five, P5 logo“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want…” Psalm 23:1.

In my reflection time this morning after reading my devotionals, I was thoughtful of King David in the writing of the 23d Psalm. Often times we read Scripture and think of it as someone sharing a new truth or enlightenment. It is that many times, but it is also a written as a response to situations or circumstances affecting the writer at the time. (All of this according to the Inspiration fo the Holy Spirit of course). My thought…”Was David preaching the gospel to himself…and if so, why?”

We often think of the gospel as the good news of God’s Salvation for the lost…but it is also a source of encouragement for the saved. Life is difficult. It is stressful. It is overwhelming. Not all the time but certainly sometimes. When those times occur, how does one become strengthened?

David notes that the Lord is His shepherd. This is not because David sought out and enlisted the Lord’s service; rather, it is because the Lord sought out David and enlisted him! I think that was a source of encouragement to David. God sought and bought me! God is not sentimental or sappy….He is not wasteful or capricious. He is purposeful, glorious, and righteous in all things! God sought me and became my Shepherd!

All encouragement in the Christian life stems from this fact.

When we find ourselves discouraged, remember Him. When we are overwhelmed, remember Him. When we see no point in persisting, or remaining righteous, or pursuing justice…remember Him.

YES…the gospel is good news for the lost but it is also good news for the saved! We are no less needy of the gospel once we are saved than before we ever heard and responded to it initially. Today…preach to yourself. Rehearse the gospel. Do not fear being given over to pride. No right perspective on the gospel can lead to pride. Rehearse it and then be swept up in the glory of God’s grace toward us that not only saves, but also sustains!

Shalom. CA

#P5: Jesus is not your consultant

Pastor's Five, P5 logo“Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do what I say?” Luke 6:46, NASB

There is a popular idea that exists asserting that if we ask Jesus for help, He will give it to us…whether that help is encouragement, wisdom, direction, etc. There are some who believe that if we ask, Jesus will grant (supernaturally) what we ask for to come to pass.

While there is some truth to the idea that we should ask Jesus for things and seek Him for help…our corrupt nature often perverts the meaning and context of this practice. We tend to slide down the slippery slope to treating Jesus’ Name like a “good luck charm” and His instructions like “consultative suggestions.”

Jesus is not a consultant to His people. He is Lord. One either bows to Him as Lord today… or one bows to Him as Lord later…but He is Lord whether we acknowledge Him as such or not. The point is, He is not our good luck charm, our pitcher waiting in the Bullpen for the 9th Inning, our “homeboy” of “BFF” to support us on our endeavors, or our consultant that we call to get sage advise on our new ideas.

The Lordship of Christ demands that we seek Him and His hand. We seek the connection of relationship which gives us understanding of His orders. We then seek His empowerment to accomplish His orders as He instructs us to act.

As it works itself out, the bulk of our time and energy upfront is invested in knowing Him and discerning His purpose for our lives. Sometimes this is a secluded exercise of quiet solitude. Sometimes it is an active exercise of moving forward on what we already know as we wait for further instructions.

Allow me a military analogy. No Infantry division determines for itself when it will engage in a war. It stays in the rear waiting on orders and training for multiple scenarios. Until the unit is ordered to battle, it does not engage in the conflict. This is akin to the solitude example above. There are times though when HQ will order the unit to move from a holding area to a forward staging area so that they can be redeployed from there. They were never going to “fight” from the staging area, but they were ordered to go forward of their base and prepare to receive new orders en route.

In the Christian life, we do find ourselves at times being CALLED to solitude and preparation. There are seasons of that in our lives. Most often, we are en route to a mission and waiting on clarification of our objective. (For instance, no one has to pray about whether God wants them to make disciples of all people, or to bear witness of Christ, or to proclaim the Kingdom, or to heal the hurts of mankind around us. Those things are written in the Book and given as instructions to us. The are standing orders. Sometimes, in the midst of obeying those orders, Jesus will give a “frag order” and clarify our objective further or redirect us on a new mission. We will likely not be dispatched to this new task if we are lying on a bunk back at base camp. So, we should be doing what we know we are called to do while constantly monitoring communication channels (prayer) for new orders, or to call in support for the mission we are engaged in presently.

So, today, don’t treat Jesus like a consultant or your personal therapist. Treat Him like your Boss. Go into His office and ask if He needs anything from you today and if so, WHAT? They run to do it.

Shalom, CA.

#P5: And the Prophet Wept…

Pastor's Five, P5 logo“The king of Aram, Ben-hadad, sent his servant Hazael to Elisha the prophet. The king was sick and wanted the prophet to tell him if he would recover. Hazael brought many gifts to the prophet and asked if the King of Aram would live…to which Elisha responded:

“…’the Lord has shown me that he will certainly die.’ [Elisha] fixed his gaze steadily on [Hazael] until he was ashamed, and the man of God wept. Hazael said, ‘Why does my lord weep?’ Then he answered, ‘Because I know the evil that you will do to the sons of Israel: their strongholds you will set on fire, and their young men you will kill with the sword, and their little ones you will dash in pieces, and their women with child you will rip up’…’The Lord has shown me you will be king over Aram.’ “
   2 Kings 8:10-13, NASB.

In many ways, the life of the prophet (the proclaimer, the preacher) is a difficult life. We find ourselves seeing destruction in the future of others and we are not able to turn it around. [NOTE: I am not saying that I am a prophet in the same sense of Elisha or other OT prophets, but that as a student of God’s Word and as a shepherd of His people, I do see destructive patterns in the lives of people who cannot see it for themselves]. This aspect of ministry is difficult and heart-wrenching. I have had people in my office or over coffee that have heard me speak truth and have politely (or sometimes not so politely) ignored or resisted the truth and left on a course that left lives strewn along their path.

When you look at these situations as a “prophet,” you are left with two courses of actions: You can become clinical and emotionless and simply watch them destroyed according to the Word of the Lord…or you can (as Elisha here) weep as you watch their destruction according to the Word of the Lord.

Some wonder why anyone would intentionally subject themselves to such painful experiences. Well it isn’t all painful as a ‘prophet.’ Elisha raised the dead, provided for widows, made an axe head float, and opened people’s eyes to the greater reality of God’s Sovereign work (2 Kin 6:8-19). These highlights don’t diminish the pain though that leads to weeping and they don’t justify it in themselves. The reason a prophet engages in this difficulty is because the Lord has called him to such a mission.

It is God’s great plan that through the “proclamation” of His Word, men might be saved. It is foolish of course from man’s perspective, but is ordained in heaven as God’s chosen means. It is pastoral malpractice to withhold the truth from those God sends us to. It is pastoral malpractice to gloss over it or simply “spin” a gentler message. Fidelity to the calling requires us to announce even the difficult truths and to do it with weeping over the pain they will cause.

In many ways, this is the calling of all believers. It is a heavy message to speak to another and declare that apart from their repentance from wicked rebellion against God, they will be spiritually separated from God for eternity in a place of utter and intense torment as judgment for their rebellion…and that they possess the ability to reverse that course by yielding to the Sovereign plan of God for Salvation. We should do so with weeping over the future of the lost, but it is Christian malpractice to withhold truth from those wo whom we are sent (all the world), and it is Christian malpractice to gloss over their rebellion or simply to “spin” a gentler message.

Only the truth has the ability to set men free as they hear, understand, and respond to it. We are truth speakers and we must speak truth, or our silence speaks destruction.

Shalom, CA

#P5: Faith is…

Pastor's Five, P5 logo“Now faith is the assuranceof things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by [faith] the men of old gained approval.” Hebrews 11:1-2, NASB.

Recent days have caused me to explain the principles of this verse many times over to several people. The principle is that faith is believing in and trusting in something that has not yet come to pass. It doesn’t take faith to believe your car will crank up in the morning if you are already driving it on the highway. In this case, there is evidence…or “conviction” to use the word the writer of Hebrews uses in this verse. It does take faith, however, to call someone and arrange to meet them before you ever walk out to the garage to get in your car.

God calls His people to be people of faith. Faith is not only a possession, but it is an action…an activity…an attitude…an aspiration. Faith is what we do in response to what God says.

It does not take faith to choose divorce. Divorce is what happens when we choose to believe that our solution will bring more happiness or glory to God than God’s solution. It does not take faith to hold a grudge. Holding a grudge is what happens when we think our sense of justice is better than God’s. It does not take faith to withhold the biblical tithe. This is what we do when we think our understanding of heavenly economics is greater than God’s revelation and instruction. It does not take faith to withhold the gospel from those in desperate need.

Faith is believing that God is Sovereign. Faith is believing that God is good. Faith is believing that God has never lost sight of His people, nor has He lost interest in them or their affairs. Faith is believing that our lives matter and our obedience matters and our service to God matters. Faith is believing that apart from our obedience to share the gospel, people will die without Christ. Faith is believing that if God is for us…no one can resist us because God is for us and to resist us is to resist God! Faith is doing the right thing even when it is hard…in fact, doing the right thing when it is not difficult…requires no faith at all. Faith is placing all of our chips in the middle of te table and believing that God control the cards we are dealt and that whatever the conclusion, God will work all things together for good! Faith is hoping for great things in God and waiting for them to come to pass.

Faith is choosing God over us. It is relying on His Word over our opinion or our emotions or our yearnings. Faith is believing God when the results have yet to manifest themselves before us. And…”without faith it is impossible to please God” and by faith, men gain approval.

Shalom, CA.

#P5: Sometimes, you are just a horse

Pastor's Five, P5 logo“And King Jehoram went out od Samaria at that time and mustered all Israel. Then he went and sent word to Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, saying, ‘The king of Moab has rebelled against me. Will you go with me to fight against Moab?’ And he said, ‘I will go up; I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.’ “ 2 Kings 3:6-7, NASB.

Soldiers rarely get to pick the cause they fight for. Soldiers choose to fight for nation or for a king. They rarely get to choose whether the nation’s objective is worthy or if the king’s rationale is just. They are, after all, soldiers.

When the king of Israel asked the king of Judah to join him in the fight against Moab, there was no poll taken fo the foot soldiers. The kings did not make long and compelling speeches to gain adherence. They simply committed their forces to one another. This seems obvious to us. Of course no one asks the soldiers! That’s crazy! That’s chaos! That’s ridiculous!

I get that. I do. but as I pondered on this, two applications came to mind. First is contemporary: Why is there such an uproar to remove monuments to great leaders of men that led well in the civil war? How do we look at monuments to Generals Lee or Bragg and seek to remove the monuments based on the cause they led troops in? Are we under the impression that these generals should have deserted their posts? Should they have led men to ignore their orders to fight? Would we really advocate for a military that considered the instructions of civilian leadership and then decided if they would lead their armies to act for or against those orders? Coups have begun this way. In fact, that is the definition.

Soldiers follow orders. The Continental Army knew they were rebelling against lawful authority (in fighting the motherland) and they did it…but no one asked the private on the front line. For that matter, no one asked General Washington what he thought. The governing body gave him instructions to fight and win…and our cause was one of rebellion! No one has suggested removing him from the dollar bill have they? Nor should they since he led with honor, distinction and was effective in executing his mission.

Now I don’t really care if a person thinks the cause fo the CSA was just. It is not essential to the question at hand…what role did Generals Lee, Bragg, Polk, Benning, or Jackson have in shaping the policy leading up to the war? They had minimal influence, but they did lead well and that is deserving of recognition. (Consequently, I find Dr. ML King Jr to be one of my greatest heroes, but I disagree with some of his personal life choices, including his adulterous affairs; however, I can separate his cause from some of his actions. I would not call for a removal of his memorial because he sinned. I believe influence of his life is greater than the individual parts. Why is not this the same approach for these generals?)

Second, by way of application we can learn something from just being a horse. When we yield to Jesus as King, we “join a heavenly army” (excuse the analogy if it seems too militant for you). He is Sovereign Ruler over our lives. We yield to follow His commands and instructions, period. To ignore Him is to commit treason. It is to rebel. If He says bear witness and make disciples…to do anything else is to be AWOL. When He says to “be holy as I am holy,” to ignore is to declare your independence from Christ. As servants/soldiers/ followers/disciples, we have only one appropriate response to our Leader…Yes Lord!

Today, be a good horse. :)

#P5: Wash and Be Clean

Pastor's Five, P5 logoSo Naaman came with his horses and his chariots and stood at the doorway of the house of Elisha. 10 Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh will be restored to you and you will be clean.” 11 But Naaman was furious and went away and said, “Behold, I thought, ‘He will surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper.’ 12 Are not Abanah and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. 13 Then his servants came near and spoke to him and said, “My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?”14 So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child and he was clean.” 2 Kings 5:9-14, NASB. 

Sometimes, maybe often times, obedience is most difficult in the “small” things. In this story, Naaman wanted and needed healing from leprosy. “Go and bathe in the river 7 times” was the instruction of the prophet. Naaman was furious! Why not command him to kill a 1,000 men…or give a million dollars or walk 100 miles? These things would have seemed reasonable or logical to Naaman. But God instructed him to go bathe in the Jordan.

Why are we willing to go the great things while resisting the small things? “Sure pastor, I can go on the mission trip and preach or teach!” “Sorry pastor. I don’t feel like I can effectively tell the gospel to my family/my co-workers/ my neighbors.”

Why not? Are the people in India more lost than the people in Pensacola? No! Is hell any hotter for people coming from Africa? No! We struggle with obedience. This is why (specifically with evangelism) that the Scripture teaches us to “make disciples as we are going.” We don’t have to cross the sea (unless God instructs/leads us) to make disciples per se, but we must make disciples. If we would have the courage to attempt great things for God in a foreign land…why not here? If we would pray bold prayers for healing from cancer…why not pray boldly for peace during “final exam week?” If we would give sacrificially to feed the hungry in South America…why would we not sacrifice even more for our neighbors in our own county?

For many, one feels more worthy! Missions is more “attractive” than bearing witness at work…but doesn’t it feel a little strange to fly 24 hours to do something that we resist doing right where we are? Could it be that what Naaman struggled with…is precisely what we struggle with too?

Shalom, CA