Category: Pastor Blog


“…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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Israel Day #3

“When the LORD turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, The LORD hath done great things for them. The LORD hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad.” – Psalm 126:1-3

The seventh Psalm of Ascent could have been written in the sky as we visited our last stop today.

Mary Magdalene is one of my favorite Bible characters. Her love and loyalty toward Jesus always stirs me when I read the scriptures.

Mary got this name because she was from Magdala, a town archaelogists had given up on finding.

Kinda like most people had on Mary.

See, Mary was an obvious sinner. She was demon possessed seven times over.

And Magdala was a small town. About a decade ago, some contractors stumbled upon the ancient site during construction. What the archaelogists discovered afterward was a wealthy and religious fishing town of around 200 people.

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When you’re messed up like she was, in a small town, news traveled fast. Mary became the woman everyone shunned.

When Jesus was asked why He tolerated Mary’s presence, He said it was because those who’ve been forgiven much, love much.

And Jesus forgave Mary of a lot.

As I stood at the excavated synagogue, I couldn’t help but picture Jesus teaching there, as was his habit in Galilee. And I couldn’t help but think that a shunned failure like Mary possibly found forgiveness on the very seats I leaned on.

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Wherever it was that she met Jesus in the town, when she did, she found freedom, hope, and a new purpose. God “turned again” her “captivity” and replaced her sorrow with laughter.

I lingered at that ancient synagogue. I’d never seen anything like it, but it felt very familiar. Because Jesus came to my town and set me free too.

Jesus came to seek and save what was lost.

“They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.” – Psalm 126:5-6

I’m so thankful Jesus rescued me. That He came and found me. That He forgave my much sin. And I have great joy now because of all He’s done.

You don’t have to be in Israel to tell Him that 🙂 And you don’t have to be in Israel to serve Him joyfully from this day forward. Why not follow Mary’s example today?

Below are links from Facebook to earlier videos I put up from Day #3.

 

Israel Day #2 Blog

“Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” – Psalm 124:8. 

Many of the Psalms of Ascent included praise to God for delivering them from enemies. Today I visited two places that reminded me of God’s love and grace as two people were surrounded by their enemies.

The first one was Paul in Caesarea by the Sea. Originally built by Herod the Great, the city became the capital of the Roman province of Judea and remained the capital after the Romans expelled the Jews and renamed the province Palestina (after Israel’s worst enemies – it means “land of the Philistines”).

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As I stood in the place where Paul gave his defense, it brought to life just how alone he stood in the judgment hall. And yet Paul boldly preached the Gospel to the pompous crowd.

How?

Because the person he spent time with each day was far more impressive than any of those dignitaries.

He met with a God who flung worlds into existence.

He met with a God who is always holy and never does wrong.

He met with a God who loved Him infinitely despite his own failures.

The only Person whose opinion mattered at all stood right beside him the entire time.

It was only fitting a half-hour later when we saw the rubble of the Roman palace where some of those dignitaries lived. I, on the other hand, am a living stone that remains because of Paul’s faithful testimony.

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The second one was Elijah on the top of Mount Carmel. As we studied in the garden next a monastery dedicated to God’s triumph over the priest’s of Baal in 1 Kings 18, I couldn’t help but notice God’s love in v30-31.

Elijah is outnumbered 450 to 1. And he’s got no help from the people. They’re similar to Paul’s audience. Maybe not as hostile, but on the fence until they see the results.

Yet, after all the failed shenanigans from the priests of Baal, Elijah doesn’t lambaste the people for being double-minded. He doesn’t chastise them for leaving him alone to battle these wicked men.

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“And Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me.” – 1 Kings 18:30.

He invites them close enough to the incoming fire which should wipe them out for their idolatry. God says as much when He makes idolatry a capital crime in the law of Moses.

But Elijah knows His God. That while He is holy, He is always looking for a reason to pardon. That God is there already, waiting for His people to draw near so He can consume the innocent sacrifice instead of them.

Kinda like He did for me on the cross.

“As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the LORD is round about his people from henceforth even for ever.” – Psalm 125:2. 

I wasn’t at the mountains around Jerusalem today, but neither were the Jews when they sang these two songs. They did so in anticipation of where they were going. To remind them of the faithfulness of their God to protect them.

I’m so glad God gave me these reminders. That His love is unfailing, and He never leaves or forsakes me. Won’t you come near, wherever you are right now, and find the same?

I posted a few video’s earlier on Facebook. You can see them below if you want everything in one place.