Clinging To Jesus

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Previously I shared with you that according to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, nearly 1-of-5 adults in the United States age 18 and older battle some form of anxiety disorder. That means there’s a good chance that either you or someone close to you will be in this battle sometime during their life. 

We also learned from David that being anxious or afraid is not a sin. He said, “When [not ‘if’] I am afraid, I put my trust in You” (Psalm 56:3). But we can grieve God’s heart if we don’t train ourselves to turn to Him as our trustworthy First Source of help. 

We also saw in Mark 4:35-39 how the disciples of Jesus were caught in a raging storm, trying everything in their own power to rescue themselves, and yet Jesus was right there with them. He arose and said, “Quiet. Be still,” and “THEN the wind died down and it was completely calm.” From this we learned that only His peace can X-out the noise of the storm and bring us to a place of quiet rest. 

We see another aspect of anxiety here: “Anxiety weighs down the heart” (Proverbs 12:25). That word for “anxiety” means carefulness, but not in the idea of being cautious. It literally means someone who is full of cares. This state leads to a heaviness of heart, as the KJV of that same verse says, “Heaviness in the heart of a man maketh it stoop.”  

I don’t think anyone wakes up one day and says, “I’m going to take all of the cares of the world on my shoulders today.” Instead, we pick up just one thing. “This is just a small thing,” we tell ourselves. Then we wake up the next morning with just that one little thing, and we pick up one more little thing. And then we do it again the next day, and the next day, and the next day. Until before we know it we are bowed down because we are full of cares. This heaviness makes us stoop, makes us unsteady on our feet, and magnifies even the smallest of concerns into a huge crisis. 

We are clinging to our load of cares—our care-fullness—but our loving Heavenly Father desires us to cling to something else. He wants us to cling to Him!

  • Moses told the Israelites: Serve only the Lord your God and fear Him alone. Obey His commands, listen to His voice, and cling to Him. (Deuteronomy 13:4 NLT) 
  • David declared: I cling to You; Your right hand upholds me. (Psalm 63:8) 

We see a beautiful example of Paul clinging to the promises of God during his multiple trials in and around Jerusalem and then during his journey to Rome to stand trial yet again. While he was still in prison in Jerusalem, Jesus appeared to him and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about Me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome” (Acts 23:11). 

Paul knew he was going to arrive in Rome. But during the horrendous storm at sea on his way there, Paul received an added assurance. He told his shipmates—

“But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as He told me.” (Acts 27:22-25) 

Jesus tells all of us to cling to Him and His secure promises (Matthew 11:28-30). When we cling to Him, we no longer cling to the cares of this world. We move from from full-of-cares to care-less. We go from insecurity over our future to the security that only Jesus can give us! 

Paul clung to those promises of Jesus: I will rescue you … You must testify about Me in Rome … I have given you all who sail with you. Likewise, we need to arm ourselves with the promises of God and tenaciously cling to them. I’ve shared just a few promises in the comments below, but feel free to reach out to me if I can help you find a promise in the Bible that you can cling to through your stormy times. 

If you’ve missed any message in our series about X-ing our anxieties, please click here to find the full list. 

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Really Bad News And Really, Really Good News

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

My cousin Dick Brogden wrote in his book Missionary God, Missionary Bible, “Since good news must often indeed rectify bad news, the gospel message is both warning and invitation.” This is so appropriate when reading the prophet Zephaniah: He wanted to share some really, really good news, but first, he must make us confront the really bad news. 

Zephaniah prophesied near the end of Judah’s decline toward exile. He saw the great revival in King Josiah’s day, and then watched his fellow Israelites once again turn their backs on God. If Jeremiah spoke to faithless Israelites, and Habakkuk spoke to faithful Israelites, then Zephaniah spoke to fake Israelites—those who appeared to be religious, but whose hearts were not actually devoted to God. 

This whole book looks backward in history and forward to soon-to-be-fulfilled prophecy. Most of the time when God speaks, He is asking us to look forward to what is unavoidably coming. Zephaniah then takes God’s words as a call for us to apply them to our lives today. 

In the first chapter, God’s forward-look is a warning of the judgment that most assuredly is coming. Built into His warning are two backward looks to the law of Deuteronomy (vv. 13 and 15 look back to Deuteronomy 28:29-30). 

Zephaniah uses this warning as a wake-up call for us, telling us to “seek the Lord” and “seek righteousness, seek humility” before the day of God’s judgment comes (2:1-3). 

The fact that God’s judgment would fall on godless people shouldn’t surprise anyone (2:4-15), but when Zephaniah says, “Woe to the city of oppressors” (3:1), he’s talking to the people of Judah! Zephaniah addresses his warning to the fake Israelites, the hypocritical people—those claiming God’s name but not God’s nature. 

The apostle Paul sounds a similar warning to New Testament Christians: 

Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: ‘The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.’ We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel. These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! (1 Corinthians 10:6-14) 

The really bad news is ALL of us have sinned and we have ALL fallen short of God’s righteous standard. As a result, ALL of us would stand guilty before God on Judgment Day. 

But the really, really good news is that Jesus allowed our penalty to fall on Him instead! So if we put our faith in Jesus, God’s judgment will be appeased in Christ instead of on us! 

Christians, then, take the name of Jesus Christ, but we need to make sure we also take His nature.  Fake—hypocritical—Christians are those who are “Christian” in name only. 

I like the way Eugene Peterson paraphrased part of the 1 Corinthians passage above—These are all warning markers—danger!—in our history books, written down so that we don’t repeat their mistakes. Our positions in the story are parallel—they at the beginning, we at the end—and we are just as capable of messing it up as they were. Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence. (The Message) 

As we read those words, “So if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall,” I’d like to suggest four action steps:

  1. Hear the Word of God to YOU—not your neighbor—but you personally. 
  2. After you hear the Word, examine yourself to see if you are truly living in God’s nature and not just using His name. 
  3. Respond like King Josiah did when he heard God’s Word: He made a public commitment “to follow the Lord and keep His commands, statutes and decrees with ALL his heart and ALL his soul” (2 Kings 23:3). 
  4. Stay diligent—Hebrews 2:1 tells us, “We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.” 

Don’t delay—the Day of the Lord is closer today than it’s ever been before! Pay attention to the really bad news that Judgment Day is coming, but then make certain you are standing in the nature of Jesus Christ on that day so that God’s judgment will pass over you. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series looking at the major lessons in the minor prophets, you can find the full list of messages by clicking here. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? ◀︎◀︎

God Is One, God Is Love

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on Apple or Spotify.

There is a common characteristic among every human civilization: they all have had a pantheon of gods. It seems that no one god could capture all of the attributes each civilization thought were important, so they created multiple gods to help fill in the gaps. 

Onto the world scene comes the account recorded for us in the Bible of a God who creates the universe. The Hebrew word for this God is elohiym which means “a divine one.” This name is used throughout the Creation story in Genesis 1. 

Then in Genesis 2:4, a new name appears, one that is used over 6500 times in the Bible. It is the unpronounceable name YHWH: often pronounced Yahweh or substituted with the word Jehovah. In most Bible translations this name is designated by all capital letters: LORD. Yahweh or Jehovah means “the existing One.” 

The first part of our second foundational truth states, “The one true God has revealed Himself as the eternally self-existent ‘I AM,’ the Creator of heaven and earth and the Redeemer of mankind.” This Creator is uncreated: He sustains the universe without needing to be replenished Himself. He is utterly complete in Himself; hence, His name means I AM (see Exodus 3:13-15). 

The second part of this foundational truth statement says, “He has further revealed Himself as embodying the principles of relationship and association as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” 

The I AM is One (see Deuteronomy 6:4), but He reveals Himself in three Persons—Father, Son, Spirit—that we call the Trinity (although this is not a word found in the Bible). 

Sometimes Christians have done a disservice to the I AM by making it appear He is divided. For instance, we might say, “The Father is the Creator, the Son is the Redeemer, and the Spirit is the Regenerator.” But remember that our One God is not a pantheon of gods; He is One. We see the fullness of the Trinity operating in every area. Here’s just a short sampling:  

  • The creation of the universe—Genesis 1:1; Colossians 1:15-16; Psalm 104:30 
  • The creation of man—Genesis 1:26-27 
  • A prophecy about Jesus’ advent—Isaiah 9:6 
  • The incarnation of Jesus—Luke 1:35 
  • The baptism of Jesus—Matthew 3:16-17
  • The resurrection of Jesus—Acts 2:32; John 10:18; Romans 1:4 
  • Our atonement—Hebrews 9:14 
  • A Christian’s baptism in the Holy Spirit—John 14:16 

(You can read all of these verses for yourself by clicking here.) 

A good question for us to ponder is: Why would this I AM God create humans? If He needs nothing to complete Himself or sustain Himself, why make us? 

The apostle John captures the essence of the Trinity in three words: God is love.

God created us out of an overflow of His love so that we too could enjoy the intimate, eternal pleasure of being at-onement with Him forever. God then wants our love to overflow to everyone around us, so that they will also be drawn into this at-oneness with the I AM. 

When Jesus was asked to state the greatest commandment, He first quoted from Deuteronomy 6: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD [Yahweh] our God, the LORD [Yahweh] is one.” Christ’s conclusion was for us to love this All-Loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. And then Jesus added an obvious overflow of that love: “And love your neighbor as yourself” (see Mark 12:29-31).

Love to God and from God should overflow from us to others to bring them into the One God who is love itself.  

The more we understand this love that the I AM has for us: (1) the better able we will be to love and worship Him, (2) the more we will love others out of this overflow of love, and (3) the more glory our awesome GOD will receive. Which is exactly what the apostle Paul prayed for us in Ephesians 3:14-19. 

This idea of an I AM God who reveals Himself as Father, Son, and Spirit has been described by the Latin phrase mysterium tremendum. It is indeed a mystery: not one that frightens and confuses, but one that energizes and enlivens. Pray Paul’s prayer for yourself, so that you can see more dimensions of this awesome love that God has for you! 

If you missed any parts of this series exploring our foundational belief statements, you can check out the full list by clicking here.

God Delights In Me

It’s been said that the bookends of success are starting well and finishing well. I believe that! 

David started well when he lifted up a prayer of thankfulness to God when he became king over the united nation of Israel. Prayer at the the beginning puts us on a path toward success. 

Have you ever begun to assemble a child’s toy or a piece of furniture, gotten completely stumped, and only then read the instruction manual? We’ve all been there! There are many things in life that we start on our own and then hit our knees in prayer only after we’ve exhausted all of our human resources. Fortunately, after we pray and God answers, we often end up finishing well with a prayer of praise and thanksgiving. The question is: what do we do when we again get ready to start something else? Do we pause to start well with prayer, or do we dive in on our own again? 

I think one of the biggest reasons we don’t go to prayer quickly is because we feel unworthy to go into the presence of a holy, righteous God. 

One commentator said about Psalm 18 that David probably prayed this “before he committed his terrible sin” with Bathsheba and Uriah. That may be, but with very few minor changes, David prayed this exact same prayer (2 Samuel 22) at the very end of his reign. His reign as king was bookended with the same prayer. 

Between the bookend prayers of Psalm 18 and 2 Samuel 22, David prayed another prayer—this one was after he had sinned against God, Bathsheba, and Uriah. David truly believed that God forgave that sin and wiped the slate clean, so much so that he noted this great blessing on his life: “He brought me out into a spacious place; He rescued me because He delighted in me. 

He rescued me because He delighted in me?! Yes! 

David knew that God had told us that He delights in those who obey Him. The example of God’s delight was seen in Jesus. Because Jesus paid the price for the forgiveness of my sins, I can be completely cleansed. Then Jesus comes in me, and takes me into Him, and takes both of us into the Father. So now when our Heavenly Father looks at a forgiven sinner, He sees only the righteousness of Jesus—something He utterly delights to see! (Check out all of the biblical passages I’m referencing by clicking here.)  

David said his sin had been washed “whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:7), So now look at what he could claim—

The Lord has dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands He has rewarded me. For I have kept the ways of the Lord; I am not guilty of turning from my God. All His laws are before me; I have not turned away from His decrees. I have been blameless before Him and have kept myself from sin. The Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to my cleanness in His sight” (2 Samuel 22:21-25). 

…according to my cleanness in His sight. 

In GOD’S sight! The devil wants to accuse me. He wants my sight to dominate. The devil doesn’t want me to see myself as God sees me. But I declare it out loud: I am clean IN HIS SIGHT! 

This cleanness allows me full, bold, confident access to Almighty God! I can take everything to God in prayer because I am clean in His sight! 

If you would like to read more of the posts in our prayer series called Be A First Responder, please click here. 

Our Most Effective Shield And (S)word

…with Your mouth You have promised and with Your hand You have fulfilled it… (2 Chronicles 6:15). 

I rest solely on what God says—He says it and He fulfills it. 

I can live on “every Word” He speaks (Deuteronomy 8:3).

“Every Word” of God is flawless and is a protection for me (Proverbs 30:5).

None of God’s Word ever fail (Isaiah 55:11).

God gives us His Word to speak (Jeremiah 26:12; John 12:49; Luke 21:15).

We defeat our enemies by God’s Word in our mouth (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10; Revelation 12:11).

Every Word of God gives life because of the Holy Spirit’s anointing on it (John 6:63).

Every Word of God is a sword (Hebrews 4:12; Revelation 1:16; 2:12, 16; 19:15). Or as my friend Sasha reminds me God’s Word is our S(word)! 

There isn’t a more effective shield against enemies, there isn’t a more deadly weapon against temptation, there isn’t a more sure foundation in storms than the Word spoken and fulfilled by God! 

[check out all of the above passages for yourself by clicking here] 

Don’t Let Prejudices Rob You

Imagine you had a family member killed in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City or Washington, DC., and then after that horrific event God asked you to go to Osama bin Laden’s headquarters to talk to him about a personal relationship with Jesus. 

I bet you would have felt much like Jonah did when God said, “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before Me” (Jonah 1:2). The Assyrians were some of the most brutal peoples of history, perpetrating almost unspeakably grotesque torture on everyone they attacked. 

And if you or I feel that way, it’s a good bet we would have responded like Jonah responded: “Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish” (v. 3). You probably know the rest of the story: Jonah spent three days in the gut of a huge fish before he finally agreed to obey God’s directive. 

It’s interesting to note that God was sending Assyria as His agent of punishment against Israel for all their vile idolatry, AND He was sending Jonah from Israel to Assyria to call them to repentance for their grotesque torture practices.

That tells me something we all need to remember: God cares for ALL people, and He will use whatever means necessary to get the good news of His mercy and love to them. 

Why is the story of Jonah in the Bible? Perhaps to teach us that although we think some person or people group is so beyond hope, God still loves them. It’s a reminder that God extends grace and mercy to everyone—even to those who are the least deserving of His grace and mercy. People like you and me (Romans 3:23, 5:8). 

In Hebrew literature, the main point of the story is found in the middle. In the case of this story, the middle is the prayer in chapter 2, especially verses 8-9 where Jonah contrasts the worthlessness of trying to cling to our prejudices versus trusting who God is and what He says. 

In light of that, I think this story should prompt us to ask three introspective questions: 

  1. What prejudices am I clinging to that are out of alignment with God’s Word? David’s prayer in Psalm 139 is one we should regularly pray. 
  2. Who have I thought is beyond God’s reach? God’s grace isn’t earned by anyone, but no one is beyond the reach of it! 
  3. Can I say as Jonah did, “But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will obey You, God. What I have vowed I will make good” (2:9)? It’s better not to make a vow to God than it is to make the vow and not follow through on it. 

Let’s all learn from the life of Jonah how much God loves ALL people. Don’t get so hung up on your prejudices that you miss out on the incredible things God has for you, as well as the incredible things God wants to do through you. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in this series on Major Lessons From Minor Prophets, you can access the full list by clicking here. 

The Core Curriculum Of The Spirit

“The Law of God teaches us how to love Him and our neighbors (Matthew 22:34-40). The Law of God is critical for seeking the Kingdom of God (Matthew 5:17-19). The Law of God liberates us from the blinding and binding power of sin (James 2:8-13). The Law of God marks the path of love that Jesus walked, and that all must walk who would follow Him (1 John 2:1-6; 5:1-3). The Law of God provided the framework within which the apostles ordered their churches (cf. 1 Corinthians 5, 9; James 2:5; 1 John 5). The Law of God is the core curriculum of the Spirit, as He brings us into the presence of God’s glory and transforms us into the image of Jesus Christ (Ezekiel 36:26-27; 2 Corinthians 3:12-18). Neglecting the Law of God is a major cause for the decline of true and selfless love in the world; it licenses the progress of evil; and it threatens to render the prayers of Law-neglecting believers an ‘abomination’ or, we might say, ‘a dead and a useless thing’ (Matthew 24:12; Proverbs 28:4, 9). 

[all Scriptures from the above paragraph are here]

“It’s no wonder the psalmist, echoing Moses, insisted that the righteous person, the one who embodies the goodness of God in all his ways, meditates on the Law of God day and night, hides it in his heart and embodies it in all his ways (Psalm 119:9-11; Deuteronomy 6:1-9), keeps it diligently, delights in and loves it, and hastens to make sure his feet follow in its path (cf. Psalm 1; Psalm 119:4, 5, 35, 59, 60, 97). 

[all Scriptures from the above paragraph are here]

“If you are missing the Law of God in your relationship with Jesus, you are depriving yourself of a most important resource for bringing the goodness of God to light in the land of the living. The good works outlined in the Law of God are those ‘ordained of old’ which God intends us to do in all our ways (Ephesians 2:10). Yes, understanding the Law can be difficult. But we can learn from the prophets, Jesus, and the apostles how to read, study, and meditate in this most important corpus of Biblical literature, and thus we can discover the true freedom for goodness and love that God has prepared for us.” —T.M. Moore 

Prescribed & Personal Worship

But you are to seek the place the Lord your God will choose from among all your tribes to put His Name there for His dwelling (Deuteronomy 12:5).

THE place—not a place.

The Old Testament physical practices always point to the New Testament spiritual practices:

  • We cannot worship like everyone else does—You must not worship the Lord your God in their [pagan] way (v. 4) 
  • We cannot worship God like it’s always been done before—You are not to do as we do here today, everyone doing as they see fit (v. 8) 
  • We cannot worship God in a way that is cheap and convenient—Be careful not to sacrifice your burnt offerings anywhere you please (v. 13) 

Go to THE place the Lord will choose (v. 26). 

The exclusivity focus is on the Person not the place or the practice.

Jesus said, “Not here or in Jerusalem, but in spirit and in truth” (John 4:20-24). And He made clear that He is THE exclusive way to the Father (John 14:6).

The apostle Paul noted that the day of the week or the type of food doesn’t matter in our worship practices; THE focus on Jesus is what matters (Romans 14).

So worship of God is both prescribed and personal:

  • Prescribed in that it’s only THE work of Jesus that makes worship possible. 
  • Personal in that I worship God as me—as He created me—not by following a formula. 

Paul went on to say in Romans 14 that we shouldn’t judge the sincerity of another person’s worship. If they are glorifying God—great! If not—they will have to stand before THE Judge.

We only have access to God through THE High Priest Jesus Christ. Let us always make sure that He is THE focus.

Where’s God Today?

Transitions are always hard things. We are leaving the known for the unknown. Even if the known is unhealthy or painful, it’s still hard to go to the unknown. 

Why are these transitions so difficult? Perhaps it’s because I’ve learned how to cope with the known, or I’ve gotten used to this “normal” life, or even I’ve simply learned to navigate any dysfunctional areas.

But is that really living? Am I managing my life or is God? When I’m against transitions, aren’t I really saying that I’ve put God’s plan for my life in my box?

Those questions trigger even more questions in my mind: Where’s God in all of this? Why can’t He just make my known better? Why is He leading me (or maybe even pushing me) into this unknown? 

Jesus didn’t endure the unimaginable horrors of the Cross just so you could cope with life. Jesus came to bring us abundant life—not a barely-getting-by life or just a coping life!

How does He bring us into this abundant life? By leading us through transitions. And where is He in all our transitions? Closer than you think! 

Moses sang a song to conclude his sermon in Deuteronomy. In that song, he mentions God taking care of His people the way an eagle cares for its eaglets.

Adults eagles build their extremely large nests in the highest point they can find. Their nests are made of massive branches. In fact, they build some of the largest nests of all birds, and build them in the most inaccessible of places. Before their eggs are laid, the adult eagles will soften their nest with feathers pulled from their own body. From the time the eggs are laid until the eaglets leave the nest, they are never without a parent present—while one parent hunts, the other watches. 

Eaglets first test their stumpy wings by jumping around in the nest, mimicking their parents. Eventually they will start “branching”—jumping to nearby branches—and then “fledging”—taking their first short flights from the nest. All under the watchful eye of the parents. Finally, the adult eagles will “stir up” their nest by blowing away all of the comforts of their plucked feathers, encouraging the eaglets to soar. 

Moses said that this is how God cares for His children. First by shielding and guarding us, and then by stirring up our nest and encouraging us to soar! 

Much like when Jesus ascended back to Heaven. He was going to physically leave His disciples, but He knew He had adequately trained his “eaglets” to soar without Him with them in bodily form. 

But Jesus never leaves us spiritually. He said that His ascension back to heaven would allow for the Holy Spirit to be resident in each of His followers (see John 16:7-15). It is the Holy Spirit that continues to guide us, teach us, empower us, correct us, and lead us to SOAR into abundant, God-honoring, Christlike living. 

There are many, many times of transition as we soar, but He never leaves us. The Holy Spirit is our constant Counselor. God shows His love for us by caring for us. God also shows His love for us by making us uncomfortable with the status quo. 

May the times of transition cause us to rely even more on the very present help of the Holy Spirit.

Continue to follow along with me in a new series of posts looking at how the Holy Spirit helps us to soar!

Remember … Reorient … Rejoice … Repeat …

…remember… (Deuteronomy 16).

As Moses called the Israelites to keep three main feasts each year—Passover, Weeks (or Pentecost), and Tabernacles—he said the purpose was to remember.

Closely linked to all three of these feasts was another important word: celebrate (vv. 10, 13, 15). 

This remembering and rejoicing on a regular schedule was to keep God’s people aligned with God’s intimate and ongoing involvement in their lives. As a result, an attitude and an action should become just as ongoing in the lives of God’s people—

  • The attitude: joyful gratitude (vv. 11, 14)
  • The action: joyful giving (vv. 10, 15, 17)

These three set times were to be a time of reorientation. They were not supposed to be the only three times God’s people remembered what God had done, celebrated His goodness, let joy overflow their hearts, and let giving overflow to others. These reorientation times should excite us to live like this every single day! 

That’s why Paul wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). 

What celebrations can you build into your life that will help you 

Remember … Reorient … Rejoice … Repeat …

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