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Worshipping Amidst the Storms

I realize the internet stretches beyond my locale, but I encouraged our congregation to worship the Lord together tomorrow morning even though it’s not safe for us to physically meet at church. My hope is that this will bless anyone who might miss church tomorrow due to the hurricanes.

Hi everyone!

We can’t worship the Lord together physically, but we can do so in spirit. So, I propose that we can sing to the Lord and study His Word together at 10am in our homes. I’ve put together an order of worship and Bible study below. God bless you and stay safe!

Opening Worship:

Bless the Lord (10,000 Reasons)

Lord I Need You

One Thing Remains (Your Love Never Fails)

How Great is Our God

Bible Study:

Read Revelation 21:1

– No more sea means no more hurricanes! Amen!

– While that IS a benefit, Revelation 21:2-8 explains what else eternity will be like

This morning, read through those verses, and discuss the following together with your family (or think on them if you’re by yourself). It might be a good idea to take some notes as there’s lots of practical application in this study.

  1. Based onRevelation 21:4, what other things will be gone in eternity?
  1. How can the promises of21:4help you to live rightly for God during difficult times now?
  1. How does God describe Himself and His Word in21:5-6? In light of those things, how is God bigger than Hurricane Irma (or any other giant you might be facing right now?
  1. ReadPhilippians 4:19and 1 Timothy 6:17. God promises to supply all our needs through His riches in glory, but He also tells us not to trust in uncertain riches. Uncertain riches includes our possessions.
  1. Read1 John 5:4-5. Based on these verses, who is an overcome?
  1. In light ofRevelation 21:7, what two promises does make to us? How can we find hope, comfort, and peace if we experience loss now?
  1. Spend some time praying for safety and recovery for people of Texas, Florida, the Caribbean

Closing Song: Great Are You Lord

 

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Thankful for God’s Sword

“You rely on your sword, you commit abominations and each of you defiles his neighbor’s wife. Should you then possess the land?”‘ – Ezekiel 33:26 (NASB)

The exiles in Babylon eagerly awaited the time when they would overthrow Babylon and return home to Judea. Why not? Their “prophets” had told them it would happen.

But God asks them a good question through his true servant Ezekiel.

Why should I let you go back home when you haven’t changed your behavior?

God sent this group into exile (and would bring the rest soon) because of their sin. If you read the verses before and after this one, He lists a heap of stuff they were still doing.

But one stood out to me.

“You rely on your sword…”

How many times and in how many ways do I do that each day?

Far too frequently, I charge into a problem with the kids, or a work dilemma, or a conflict with my neighbor with my own sword instead of seeking Jesus.

The Lord isn’t asking much. He wants me to acknowledge Him in all I do, dig into His Word so I can know the right thing to do, and to let Him fight my battles for me.

Even if it’s something I tend to get by each day on my own.

I’ve learned an important lesson in twenty years of teaching God’s Word. I’ve done it enough to know how to craft a sermon. But His sword is way more effective than mine.

I’m so thankful I can come to Him and His sword is always at the ready on my behalf. I’m so glad that He loves me and will fight every battle, big or small, for me. I’m so glad He cares about me enough to remind me that His way is best.

Why don’t you take some time today to sit at His feet and thank Him for His wilingness to go on the battlefield for you? While you’re at it, why not commit to trusting Him with some of those things you do all on your own each day?

“…for I have broken Moab like a vessel wherein is no pleasure, says the Lord.” – Jeremiah 48:25. 

Jeremiah 48 is a lengthy judgment from God against the nation of Moab. They were arrogant, idolatrous, and had thrown a party when Babylon captured Jerusalem.

God’s indictment against them in v25 struck a cord this morning.

I want to be a vessel that brings God pleasure 🙂

This thought brought to mind another verse.

“But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth, and some to honour, and some to dishonor. If a man therefore purge himself from these things, he shall be a vessel unto honor…” – 2 Timothy 2:20-21a

Since I wanted to be a vessel of honor, I had to check out what things I need to purge from myself. It was an interesting list in 2 Timothy 2.

v14-15 – Don’t engage in dumb arguments that beat people down. Instead, study God’s Word!

v16-19 – Don’t engage in poisonous conversations. Instead, depart from these things!

v22 – Don’t pursue the cravings of youth. Instead, pursue things that are right. Pursue being someone others can count on. Pursue loving others. Pursue harmonious relationships with those around you. Pursue hanging out with people who are doing the same!

I’m so thankful for little nuggets like these from the Old Testament. For daily reminders of what’s most important.

Loving God and doing what He says.

However today began, take a moment now and set your heart to be a vessel of honor that pleases the Lord with the rest of your day. He loves you and has so much better for you than you could ever plan.

Israel Day #10

“Behold, bless ye the LORD, all ye servants of the LORD, which by night stand in the house of the LORD.” – Psalm 134:1

The final Song of Ascent was sung when the travelers finally arrived at the temple in Jerusalem. They would see the priests and their assistants serving the Lord and sing blessings over the occasion.

As I reached the final day of my tour in Israel, I can’t think of another word to describe my gratitude.

I’m so blessed 🙂

I always dreamed of going to Israel. But the idea seemed absurd. I’m so far away. It’s expensive. When will I find the time?

But the Lord took care of it all. Much like He does with everything He wants us to do.

My last day was a lesson in the absurd. It started with Jeremiah, who was instructed by God to buy a field days before the Babylonians were to break through the walls of the city and drag them into exile.

Then the Valley of Elah where David went out to meet the Philistine’s fiercest warrior Goliath, armed with only a sling and five smooth stones.

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Finally Golgotha. Where God the Son became a man to die on the cross for me.

My heart is full because what is absurd to me is not even a struggle for God. His love is immeasurable. His grace sufficient for everything. His power incontestable.

For God would bring His people back to the field that Jeremiah purchased. These 10 days are living proof of that. And David did beat Goliath. The giant never got to use the spear it was over so fast.

And the cross. Oh, the wonderful cross! God’s love incarnate offering full forgiveness for all my sin.

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“Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, and bless the LORD. The LORD that made heaven and earth bless thee out of Zion.” – Psalm 134:2-3.

I do bless the Lord. I do give Him everything because he’s worthy of it all. And He’s abundantly blessed me.

So, I say the same to you as my tour comes to an end. Bless the Lord! Lift up your hands! May the Lord bless you out of Zion.

These videos were posted earlier on Facebook. I’m placing them here if you’d like to view the entire day in one place.

Israel Day #9

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” – Psalm 133:1.

The 2nd to last Psalm of Ascent was sung as the travelers entered the city. As they did so, their group would swell alongside all the other groups entering Jerusalem.

All there for the same purpose. To worship the the God of Israel.

That meeting would be so joyous. You’d sense that whatever town you originally came from was part of something huge. That your average days weren’t just average days. They were part of God’s big plan.

They compared that joy to the snow that melted on top of Mount Hermon, became the Jordan, and watered all Israel.

I’ve seen those four little rivers that snake down from Mount Hermon and eventually form the Jordan. They’re pretty in places, but certainly not impressive.

I saw some impressive things today.

Masada, where the last remnants of the Jewish revolt against Rome committed mass suicide to avoid slavery.

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The Dead Sea, which is slowly dying due because of centuries with no outlet.

Qumram, home of the Essenes (and the caves that held the Dead Sea Scrolls), a sect of Judaism who left Judea because of its corruption, only to enslave themselves to a legalism just as bad.

All cool sites. But not nearly as cool as the fellowship I had at dinner with believers from all around the world.

Sunset over Jerusalem

There were stories, questions about the Bible, and tears of joy at having grown closer to the Lord.

God’s very presence in our midst.

“It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments.” – Psalm 133:2

I’m so thankful for the new friends I’ve made, and the blessing of being a part of their story, as they are now a part of mine. I’m so grateful for the loving God who unites us together. I’m so grateful for my spiritual family back home in Orlando.

Take some time today to think about the privilege you have to be a part of God’s plan. Let your work, your home life, and your church life flow out of that. I guarantee you’ll find the same joy I am.

Below is a video I posted earlier on Facebook. It’s here to put everything from this day in one spot.

Israel Day #8

“Surely I will not come into the tabernacle of my house, not go up into my bed; I will not give sleep to mine eyelids, until I find out a place for the Lord, an habitation for the mighty God of Jacob.” – Psalm 132:3-5.

The 13th Psalm of Ascent is a prayer for God’s temple in Jerusalem. They’d sing it on the last part of their journey to city.

Today we visited the the only remaining parts of the Temple Mount which the Jews can access. The Western and Southern Walls. Because the south part of the wall is part of an exhibit, the west side is the one they visit.

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Why do they come? Surely for help to keep the commandments.

But mostly to pray for God to restore the temple. I imagine this Psalm is on many of their lips.

Why here? Because this is the closest they can get to the location of the Holy of Holies after the Romans destroyed the temple in 70 AD. They believe God’s divine presence is still in that spot beyond the wall.

Some of them will press their face against the wall. Others place the Old Testament scriptures over their face and press it against the wall.

During the tour inside the Rabbinical tunnels, which give underground access to the rest of the wall, I saw a woman weeping. You could tell she was pleading with God for something very important to her, pressing her shaking hand against the wall, hoping for an answer from the presence of God.

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I choked back the tears because she was so desperate for something that in her mind she couldn’t touch. My heart broke for her because she didn’t have to be here to touch God. Jesus would come right into her heart and be with her wherever she went if only she’d ask.

The sadness only increased with row upon row of similar men and women. I realize this is a holy site for many religious Jews.

It isn’t for me. It was a broken wall that supported a long-gone building that no longer contained God’s divine presence.

And God says as much in Psalm 132. The prayer of the people ends in v13. We see God’s answer in v14-18.

“Here will I find my rest for ever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it” – Psalm 132:14.

Where? Not in a building. Or in any location in Jerusalem.

“I will clothe her priests with salvation; and her saints shall shout aloud for joy. There will I make the horn of David to bud; I have ordained a lamp for mine anointed. His enemies will I clothe with shame: but upon Himself shall His crown flourish.” – Psalm 132:16-18.

Jesus is the horn of David. God’s anointed.

God answers with a prophecy of Jesus! And He makes His home in those who are saved.

God’s presence lives inside me. And I can touch Him, hear Him, and talk to Him wherever I am.

“And this is eternal life, that they might know you, the only truth God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.” – John 17:3.

That was Jesus’ prayer before He went to the cross. And God has answered it.

I’m so thankful I don’t have to pray at a wall begging God to help me keep 620 commandments (or 39 if you’re a woman) so I can get to heaven. I’m so grateful that Jesus lives inside of me by faith alone. That I have a relationship with Almighty God and His Son Jesus Christ, who promise to never let anyone pluck me out of their hands.

If you’ve been reading my blog and you don’t have a relationship with God, I plead with you. Stop trying to be good enough to get to Him. Stop thinking religious rituals will get you to close to Him somehow. Come to the cross, recognize your helpless state, and throw yourself on His mercy. Jesus will always abundantly pardon!

Israel Day #7

“Let Israel hope in the LORD from henceforth and for ever.” – Psalm 131:3

Well, I’m in Jerusalem. I saw some camels, Bedouins, Jericho, and the Jordan River along the way, but everything was gearing toward our entrance to the Holy City.

Israel Musem - Old City West View

It was a bit of a disappointment because of the weather. Not the city. Just the view. Everything was hazy, so you could barely see the Western Wall and the rest of the old city.

I imagine tomorrow will be very different as we walk the streets of Jerusalem.

But the trip took so long to get here, we were only able to visit a museum and then check into the hotel once we were here.

I was expecting something almost magical when we crested the last Judean hilltop, pulled around the Mount of Olives, and then through the tunnel that leads to Jerusalem.

What I learned is that my blessing comes from the Lord, and not the breathtaking view of an ancient city.

The highlight of my day came from having great fellowship with another pastor and his wife at dinner. In that the Lord reminded me that He came for people. All the people in Jerusalem to the uttermost parts of the earth.

People like me.

Lunch 5

And He died for them in this city. Our fellowship was based on that. Not breathtaking views.

Maybe you’re in the midst of a ho-hum day. Maybe you’ve had a bunch of ho-hum days. God wants to bring blessing in the midst of the people who are part of your ho-hum day, as you pour into them, and they pour into you.

I’m so grateful that God gave me great time with a brother and sister I barely knew before tonight. I’m so thankful I’m part of a family that spans the entire globe. Aren’t you?

Israel Day #6

“Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth, may Israel now say: Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth: yet they have not prevailed against me.” – Psalm 129:1-2.

The enemy of our souls is liar and murderer. Israel has always been surrounded by their own enemies, and in the 10th Psalm of Ascent, they remembered how their enemies had treated them, and how the Lord delivered them.

This also served as a reminder that often those enemies afflicted them because of their own sin.

Have you ever ended up in enemy territory because you disobeyed God? Yeah, me too. Especially in my youth.

But the enemy didn’t prevail.

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When I gave my life to Christ, His Word was a balm to my soul. It became my one solid plot of ground. The one thing I knew stood sure.

As we visited Gideon’s Springs, God’s Word washed over me afresh. He is good. He loves me. And He’s leading me.

I’m so grateful for His Word. That it reminds me who He is and how much He loves me. That His grace is revealed on every page.

I’ll leave you with some words from the 11th Psalm of Ascent. Wait on His words from the scripture today, and let them wash over you as He speaks hope to your heart 🙂

“I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope. My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning. Let Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption. And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.” – Psalm 130:5-8.

Below are two Facebook videos I shared earlier today. I’ve placed them here if you want to see everything all in one spot.

Israel Day #5

“Blessed is every one that feareth the LORD; that walketh in His ways.” – Psalm 128:1

As the Jewish people approached Jerusalem, they would sing this 9th song of Ascent. They start it by reminding themselves that God knows best and God’s way is best.

Trusting Him and doing things His way brings blessing upon your wife and children, and satisfaction in everything that you do.

The reason Israel needed these reminders is because there are so many examples of those who failed to do so in their history.

Tel Dan made me re-visit this principle anew.

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See, after Israel conquered the Promised Land under Joshua, God divided the land between the 12 tribes. The tribe of Dan was given the coastal plain by Joppa.

Beachfront property!

But they didn’t like it. There was a group of Amorites holed up in the Valley of Sharon who needed to be conquered. So, they took the easy way out. Instead of trusting God and doing the hard things, they went looking for a “better” place to settle down.

And as often happens when I disobey God to lean on my own understanding, Satan provided an attractive alternative. The City of Laish, a place where people lived the easy life.

They were Phoenicians, but they lived in such a remote area that they never had to answer to anyone.

So, the tribe of Dan wiped them out, took their city, and made it their home. Miles away from the land God gave them.

This dissatisfaction with God, and His plan for their lives, led to idolatry. So, when Jereboam rebelled against the king and set up his own kingdom, it wasn’t a hard sell for him to get Dan to buy into his new worship system.

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As a result, Jereboam set up two temples with golden calves where the northern tribes could worship “the Lord” instead of going to Jerusalem.

“And this thing became a sin: for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan.” – 1 Kings 12:30.

When the Assyrians conquered the northern kingdom, they burnt Dan to the ground. It became swallowed in a jungle, only to be recently discovered. Their city didn’t last.

Not only that, but Dan is 1 of 2 tribes not mentioned in Revelation 7 when it lists those that God will use to evangelize the world during the Tribulation period.

The other one? Ephraim. The location of the other golden calf.

“For thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands: happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee.” – Psalm 128:2

It’s been awesome for me to see how the Psalms of Ascent have coincided with my journey through Israel. I’m excited to trust my God and His ways more than I ever have. I’m determined to be grateful for all He does for me and all He plans for me.

Are you trusting Him and His plans for you?

Below are links to two videos I posted earlier on Facebook if you want to see everything in one place.

Israel Day #4

“Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.” – Psalm 127:1

The 8th Psalm of Ascent was written for Solomon, the young man who would someday be King. It’s only fitting the Lord spoke to me about my call today.

Now bear with me. This is longer than normal, but I’m going to get a bit personal.

God had been speaking many things to my heart over the first three days, but each venue today brought a specific challenge to my calling as a Pastor. To be faithful. To trust Him. To find satisfaction in Him alone.

In my battles with depression years ago, I used to say to myself, “Nice guys finish last, idiot. And you’re trying to do things the right way, Will, so get used to losing. Get used to failure. Get used to watching God do things through others. You’ll never experience that.”

The emotions behind such thoughts were extremely powerful. And very tormenting.

While Jesus helped me to control thoughts, they still have taunted me from time to time.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” – Matthew 5:6

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The truth is nice guys don’t finish last. Jesus promises otherwise. So, I must keep being faithful.

Because there was another guy who thought he knew it all. An alpha male who took life by the horns. When Jesus asked to borrow his boat so he could teach the multitudes, Peter had no issues.

But then Jesus started to tell him how to do his job.

“And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.” – Luke 5:5.

The enemy of our souls doesn’t fight fair. The same one who whispered the lie that nice guys finish last often bludgeoned me with the accusation of, “You’re not a nice guy, Will. You fail Jesus all the time”.

That’s the double-edged sword of depression. It appeals to your pride, and then smashes your face into the mud because you know you have nothing to be prideful about.

Peter obeyed the Lord, and Jesus did a better job with Peter and his boats than Peter ever did! But when Peter realized how foolish he’d been to question the Lord, he fell on his face before Jesus.

“Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord…And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men.” – Luke 5:8b and 5:10b.

Jesus didn’t pile on and say, “You’re right. I’m out of here you arrogant know-it-all failure.” He called him to the ministry!

“It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep.” – Psalm 127:2

There in the middle of the Sea of Galilee, the same spot where Jesus called Peter, the Lord reminded me that serving Him isn’t about stressing out and taking life by the horns.

It’s about a good night sleep because I’m resting in the One who loves me infinitely, longs to bless me, and still wants to use me when I fail.

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Isn’t our Jesus awesome? I’m so thankful for a God who loves me. Who speaks to me right where I’m at despite all my frailties and hang-ups. If God’s entrusted you with an area of service, are you resting in His love?

Below are two videos I posted earlier on Facebook.