They heard of God’s concern, and…

open-bible 2This passage spoke to me today as I was reading in my morning devotional time.

“So the people believed; and when they heard that the Lord was concerned about the sons of Israel and that He had seen their affliction, then they bowed low and worshiped.”
Exodus 4:31.

The people of Israel were in Egypt for 400 years. The latter years were dramatically more difficult that the former because the leadership of the nation changed following Joseph’s death. (Never mind a sermon on how God has to, at times, increase our discomfort to get us to move on with the mission). Pharoah really hammered the people and the more he tried to break them physically, emotionally, and even spiritually, they grew increasingly desperate in their cries to God.

Then Moses arrives on the scene. He approaches the people, demonstrates, his credentials (which were nothing but the working of God through him…which is another sermon in itself), and the people saw a glimmer of hope.

They HEARD that God cared about them. This is an important step that we miss. Many of God’s people are busy explaining how God is angry with their conduct. The focus at times is on how God is concerned with everyone else BUT the people we speak to. What moved these people though was their understanding that God was concerned for them.

God had SEEN their affliction. What an encouraging thought that God sees every transgression, failure, victim, and perpetrator. He sees. He sees! There is nothing that you and I experience that God doesn’t see! Furthermore, He voiced His concern and demonstrated that He was seeking to rectify the matter. (It is why He raised up Moses).

And the people BOWED LOW and WORSHIPED. The response of the people upon realizing that God sees and is concerned is humility and worship. It was not God’s awareness fo their sinfulness and lack of faith that provoked worship. God met them exactly where they were. There would be many days ahead to address faithlessness, but today, what provoked worship, was realizing God’s concern.

For the preacher today…”Message received.” Perhaps you hear the same thing. Today, remind people that God is concerned. He sees. He is able. He is active. He deserves worship.

Blessings, CA

Our Values on Display

Open Bible 1I was blessed this morning in my morning Scripture reading as I began the Gospel of Luke (after many, many months in the Old Testament Prophets). In the first chapter I was struck afresh by an observation from a passage in the Gospel of Luke.

In Luke 1:13-16, the angel Gabriel announces to Zacharias the priest that he will have a son in response to his prayers and according to the purpose of God (See Galatians 4:4-5 for a little perspective on God’s timing and purpose). These are the “broad strokes” of the announcement:

  • Your wife (against all odds and outside of what is expected to be physically possible Lk 1:18) will bear you a son.
  • You will give him the name John
  • Many people will rejoice at his birth
  • He will be great in the sight of the Lord
  • He will be consecrated to God by solemn vow (drink no wine)
  • He will be filled with the Holy Spirit
  • He will turn many of the sons of Israel back to God!
  • He has been chosen by God to be the forerunner to the Messiah.

I was struck by how this “father” must have valued the announcement of his son’s future life. Nothing was said of John’s success in business, academic achievement or how many trophies he would receive playing sports. Noting was spoken about his prom date or the beauty of the woman he would marry. These are things we tend to value, but they are (I suggest) not the most significant. John’s existence had everything to do with his relationship to the Messiah and his usefulness to the purpose of God as the forerunner of the Christ.

Here is the value question: If God announced to you that your child will be a great missionary and live in obscurity; or, your child will be greatly misunderstood and vehemently opposed by many because of His religious faith; or, your son will be a preacher whose stance on truth will cost him his life…do WE value the purpose of God in that announcement the same as we do the promise of academic, athletic, or business success? Are we as “stoked” about our child sharing his faith as we are his receiving a $1,000 scholarship for a high school essay?

Ultimately, the answer speaks more about our heart and our values and our view of God’s sovereign calling…than it does about anything our child achieves or has assigned.

Perhaps we should seek the answer from the One who looks deeply into our souls. Perhaps in so doing, we will recognize error in our values…or maybe we will be affirmed in them! There is no greater place to be than in the midst of the will of God. To this end, we should pray, and yield, and seek, and long.

Lord bless!

#P5: From blessing to blessed

Pastor's Five, P5 logoIn 2 Samuel 7, we are introduced to the idea that King David determines within himself that if he has a house of cedar to live in, then God (the Ark) should not reside in a tent. So David approaches Nathan the prophet who is pretty excited about the prospect of a building program :). Up to this point, no one consulted God…so God weighs in:

“Are you the one who should build me a house to dwell in?…I will also appoint a place for My people Israel and will plant them, and they will live in their own place and not be disturbed again…The Lord also declares to you that the Lord will make a house for you.” (2 Sam 7:5, 10-11, NASB).

At times…in fact often times…we set out to serve God…to bless God…to do something for God thinking that we have a great idea and God will be blessed. While it is true that our worship does bless God, it is God who created the worshipper, drew him to Himself…and placed the heart of worship within him. As Jesus said, “If these people become silent…even the very rocks will cry out in praise to God.”

God has no needs. He is self-sufficient. He is self-sustaining. He is complete in Himself. We do God no favors. God is not served (in the understanding of us doing something for Him that He could not do for Himself) by human hands for it is God who made the hands of all humans!

David’s idea was wonderful…but God once again demonstrates that He is not in need of our ideas. He has a plan and purpose and will and desire. He reveals that in His time and timing…and our privilege is to embrace it and join Him in His purpose.

So…we set out to bless God and we ought to seek to worship Him with every element of our being…but we ought also understand that God is not being provided something that was not already His. His grace towards us enables us and provokes us to worship as we ought…because He is good.

David caught that…and sat before the Lord to acknowledge as such (7:21-22). We would do well to do likewise.

Shalom, CA.

#P5: Important but not Ultimate

Pastor's Five, P5 logo“And the anger of the Lord burned against Uzzah, and God struck him down there for his irreverence; and he died there by the ark of God.” 2 Samuel 6:7, NASB.

I enjoy a cup of soda. I like it cold, or even chilled…but room temperature soda is not really my favorite. It is wet, but it isn’t very satisfying. I think sometimes, our response to God in worship (whether in the organized assembly of church…or in the conduct of our daily lives) can be a bit room-temperature. I mean, God is IMPORTANT to us but He is not ULTIMATE.

In this narrative, God seems like He is having a temper-tantrum. In fact, King David all but says so (v.8). David and the people were doing a “good thing.” They were moving the ark of God to the City of David. This was important work and they approached it as such. David assembled soldiers and singers and musicians with instruments…and he paraded the ark back toward home. This was an IMPORTANT day and an IMPORTANT task. It was IMPORTANT!

Yet, the Ark almost fell off the new ox cart and Perez reached out to steady it. Seem innocuous…even helpful. And God struck him dead on the spot for daring to touch the Ark! It was IMPORTANT to Perez that the Ark not fall off the cart! It was IMPORTANT to not let the Name of God be dishonored.

What was ULTIMATE though…was lost in the fray. As we see later, this event forced David to do a little research. He realized that the ox cart may have been thoughtful but God had left instructions of how the Ark was to be carried and it was not in a wagon. A worship party was important but God demanded that the exuberance of the worshippers be more fitting for the occasion…that it involve lavish sacrifice and unrestrained celebration and dancing! There could be no holding back!! To hold back was to declare that something else (whether pride/dignity/idolatry/whatever) was ULTIMATE and God was only IMPORTANT.

One of the things absolutely clear in this text: God is not interested in being important to us. If He is only important, He is reduced from His rightful place of ULTIMATELY GLORIOUS in all of His creation! Another observation…God doesn’t apologize or step back to console David or try to soften the edge on His actions. He leaves David to pray and research and seek understanding. This experience helped David as he learned to value God above all…to value Him as ULTIMATE (vv.16, 20-22).

The question for us is this: “In our hearts and in our actions…is God IMPORTANT or is He ULTIMATE?”

Shalom, CA