Ask, Seek, Knock
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”
Do you ever feel like you aren’t getting answers to your prayers? I know I have felt this way many times. I pray and I pray and it feels like it’s to no avail. Pray, then wait. Wait, then pray. Then repeat. Nothing. Too often though, if we were to be truthful with ourselves, we are looking for God to answer in such a way that the sky opens up and the thundering voice of the Lord grabs our attention all while we are looking to have a Saul on the road to Damascus experience.
I would like to pose a question, one that I have to ask myself almost daily: What if God has already given us the answer? We know that prayer is communication with God. Let’s be honest, just the simple fact that we can come into His presence through the Blood of Christ is, in itself, something we could spend a lifetime contemplating. Nevertheless, we are invited into God’s presence to commune with Him (Hebrews 10:19-22).
Communication is restored through Christ. We also know that communication is one of the major pillars in ANY relationship, especially the ones that mean the most to us. But what happens when one side stops communicating? It’s difficult to continue any type of meaningful relationship without communication from both parties involved. Here’s the kicker… too often we don’t give God the opportunity to communicate.
In John 1 Jesus is called the Word become flesh. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. He is what mankind had been waiting for. All of history had led up to His coming and was recorded so that mankind would recognize Him when He made his entrance. How often do we seek out that Word? How much time do we spend bringing our prayers and petitions to the Almighty, Jehovah-Jireh (the LORD who provides) yet we don’t give Him the chance to respond because the answers we are seeking are answers that have already been given within the pages of scripture which we too often neglect.
God’s Word is meant for us daily. We must be feasting on it! We have to let it sustain us! We must let Him speak! When we ask, we need to be diligent to seek!
Serving Christ Together,
Confession. Fasting. Solitude. Meditation. Study. Prayer. Simplicity. I’m sure these terms bring certain thoughts and emotions to mind for you. Maybe you think of a Monk sitting in his cell, alone. Maybe you think of those “overly-super-spiritual-types” always trying to show off. For the most part, these words, or Spiritual Disciplines, don’t prompt us to think about our “everyday Christian life.”
Sure we pray before we eat, on Sunday mornings, and before bed—if we can stay awake. And we make sure to study our verse or two for the day—if we have time. But for the most part these Disciplines, especially in their intense, prolonged forms are thought to be for the Spiritually elite.
Seriously, who has time to pray for a few hours a day? We’ve got jobs to report to, errands to run, kids to chauffeur, the list goes on. In general we think of these Spiritual Disciplines as for the monks, ministers, and the like. But what if we’re wrong? What if these disciplines are for the “everyday Christian life?”
Listen to and contemplate these words by William Law:
You would think it very absurd, for a man not to value his own health, because he was not a physician; nor the preservation of his limbs because he was not a bone-setter. Yet it is more absurd for you, [your name here], to neglect the improvement of your soul in piety, because you are not an Apostle, or a bishop.
Isn’t it odd that we go to such extremes to keep our temporary mortal bodies healthy, yet when it comes to keeping our permanent immortal souls healthy, we might try—if we have the time. We all know people who read almost nonstop about physical health (vaccines, nutrition, exercise, essential oils, weight loss, natural remedies, hereditary disease, etc), maybe you find yourself in this group. Yet, many of those same people, many of us, don’t have enough time to read our Bibles and pray, let alone think about fasting, solitude, or any of the other disciplines.
May we realize what is at stake. May we recognize the temporal fleeting nature of these earthly bodies that are but a mist. May we give as much, if not more, attention to our spiritual health as we do our physical health. May we have the strength and desire to follow Christ and be conformed to His image the more we know Him.
What’s the source? In Kyle Idleman’s book “Gods At War”, Kyle gives a scenario that I would like to share with you. He says… “Imagine you're out for a hike on a beautiful spring day. You’re delighted to hear running water, and sure enough, you come to a creek. But there’s something wrong with this picture.
You notice that someone has dumped trash into the stream, an ugly sight. There is refuse floating on the water. Judging by some of the empty soda cans, the trash has been there awhile. And there is an ugly film on the top of the water.
You can’t just leave the scene as you found it because it would bother your conscience. So you stoop down and begin gathering the trash. It actually takes several hours before you can begin to see a difference; it’s amazing how much junk is there. You sit back, rest for a moment, and realize you’ll have to keep returning each day until the site is truly clean. Well, that’s okay; it’s a project you’ll be proud of... except that when you come back the next day, it’s as if your work has been undone.
In fact there’s more trash than before. Somehow the garbage bred overnight. You think about the unlikelihood of someone coming to this very spot to dump their garbage in the few hours while you were away, and you realize that something smells fishy, so to speak. So you begin to follow the creek upstream.
Sure enough, you come to a garbage dump that has been there for years. It’s emptying into the passing creek. Your cleaning job only opened up a gap for more stuff to settle. You could go and clean every day, but it would just be like pushing a boulder up the hill and watching it roll back down again. Which is surprisingly fun, but, really, what’s the point?”
Cleaning up a mess is something we have to do almost every day. Whether or not the mess is big or small, it still needs to be dealt with, but knowing the source is the key. If you know where the mess or difficulty is coming from then you will have a greater chance of fixing and cleaning it up. If not, you will continue to deal with it for as long as you choose.
We all have had, or do have, garbage hidden away in our hearts. We try to fix what people see but we can’t fix it without going to the source. We have to find the source of that garbage and clean it up there, so we can stop it from flowing downhill toward others. But can we fix it on our own?
A lot of times we like to think that we can keep it hidden and no one will know. I can handle it…I don’t need help…It’s not that big of a deal... Whatever excuse we come up with, garbage is garbage and we all have it. It all must be cleaned up in order to go to heaven.
Jesus came and gave His life to pay for that garbage that has piled up in our lives. He offers to not just clean up the little mess, but to clean it up at the source. To clean it all, once and for all.
Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” So what kind of river is flowing out of your heart? Is it one full of trash? Or is it one full of life? What’s your source?
What a crazy December it was. What amazed me was the ways in which the white envelope offering touched lives. While I did not include the complete details in this article many of the descriptions of the lives of those you touched brought tears to my eyes. Following is a list of things done that were reported to me from white envelope deeds. I know of many others that used this time to touch lives that were not reported back to me. I believe that your generosity to others in the name of Jesus will impact people for eternity.
These are the type of things that act out our fulfilling the “love people” part of our mission statement. Looking forward to next year’s opportunity!
FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD
I had the privilege last week of journeying with a family as they were about to have a baby. It was a week full of joy and sorrow. They had known for months that the child had developmental issues that would make her life very short, hours maybe a few days at best. It was amazing to be a part of that experience, to be with the young couple as well as the grandparents and family during those precious hours. It was the highest of highs, and the lowest of lows in just 24 hours. The child was born and she was beautiful. Everyone held their breath while she was with us, as minutes turned into hours and hours into the next day. She lived about 18 hours and then passed and is at home with Jesus today.
During the twenty years I spent in youth ministry I have had the unfortunate blessing of walking with many families through the loss of a child; perhaps even some of you reading this. It is no doubt one of the hardest things that a human can ever endure. There is a special place in my heart for parents who have been through this “valley of the shadow of death”. I was deeply and powerfully reminded this week that this is a pain that God, our Father, is familiar with. We often quote the most popular verse John 3:16 “for God so loved the world that He gave His only son that whoever believes in Him would not perish but have eternal life”. Often when we read that we think about God saving us and the promise of heaven with Him. Or maybe we think about the cross and the sacrifice that Jesus was willing to become for us.
Today I want to focus your attention on one word…“Gave”. God gave His one and only Son. As I sat with the parents losing this little girl, and I thought about the many other families I have walked this road with, I cannot think of any parent who would give their child. Often the thoughts are that the child was taken, we feel cheated, life cut short, great loss. But God gave, this means He chose and Jesus agreed to the decision. God’s great love for you and for me would spare no expense, the greatest of human losses is the price of our salvation. I want to encourage you to sit with this idea for a while today…meditate on the Father’s love for you. It is the only power in the world that can set us free.
I would like to share with you an experience I recently had that maybe you can relate to. Have you ever been in a place trying to read or concentrate and certain voices just make it difﬁcult. I had a day when that happened a few weeks ago as I sat in a lodge, attempting to concentrate on something I knew was going to feed my soul from one of my favorite biblical books, the Gospel of John, in conjunction with The Spirit of the Disciplines by the great theologian and leading authority on spiritual discipline, Dallas Willard. Unfortunately, I found it increasingly difﬁcult to concentrate. There weren't many people in the room but there was one voice that I found to be particularly distracting because it was strikingly similar to a voice I knew very well. I actually turned around multiple times just to make sure it wasn’t that person, which makes me wonder how many voices we would be able to recognize if we were blindfolded and asked to identify those who came up to speak to us. There are many voices I would be able to identify right away without having to see a face. I’m sure though, for some, I’d be embarrassed as I guessed and strained to recall where I knew them from, let alone remember their name. Voices are powerful. It’s a mother’s voice that calms a crying baby, and in our house, it’s a father’s voice that brings a feeling of security and obedience. Some voices just make us laugh and there are others that simply make us angry for whatever reason. In that moment the question hit me, “Do I recognize the voice of the LORD?”. Jesus says the “sheep follow Him (the Shepherd) because they know his voice… I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” (John 10:4,14) Do I know the shepherd’s voice? Am I even listening for his song?
As His sheep, sometimes we have wandered so far that the shepherd’s voice is faint. We try to determine which direction his call comes from but we are stuck down in a pit and it echoes off the rocks and we can’t ﬁnd Him. We feel lost and darkness is closing in because the sun is setting and amongst the the shepherd’s call we hear the howling of the wolves. We cry all the louder seemingly to no avail. But maybe we’re drowning out the Shepherd’s voice with our own. So we wait on Him here, stuck in the mud and mire. I would like to remind you of one of my favorite Psalms.
I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a new place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD. (Psalm 40:1-3)
How beautiful it is to be part of His ﬂock!
It amazes me that no matter how familiar I am with a passage of Scripture, I can come away with new perspectives, observations, and understandings. That is, of course, if I approach it with an open mind. The problem I face is when I begin to skim over the familiar, because I think I already know all it has to say. Sometimes the new observations and understandings come like an epiphany. One such moment came for me while reading the parable of the wise and foolish builders.
Many of us don’t even have to read the passage to tell the parable. The wise man built his house upon the rock, the rains came down and the floods came up, and the house on the rock stood firm. The foolish man built his house upon the sand, the rains came down and the floods came up, and the house on the sand went SPLAT! So build your house on the Lord Jesus Christ and the blessings will come down. The blessings come down as the prayers go up. So build your house on the Lord. (Be honest, you sang that in your head, didn’t you?)
Take a moment now and read the parable in Matthew 7:24-27. I’ll wait for you to come back. Do you notice any differences between the song and what Jesus says? Specifically, what trait does Jesus mention as the defining traits of the wise and foolish builders?
Countless times I have skimmed this familiar parable thinking I knew all it had to teach. I had always thought that the “house” was a metaphor for one’s life, and that the wise builder was the one who built his life on Christ. But that’s not quite what Jesus says. In fact, back up and read Matthew 7:21-27. The context suggests quite the opposite of what we often think when discussing this parable. Don’t get me wrong, I think it is very wise to build our lives on Christ. However, that is not exactly Jesus’ message here. Furthermore, this parable says nothing about prayers and blessings. The problem lies in the way we define building our life on Christ. From the way we practice faith, it seems that what many mean is accepting Jesus’s gift of salvation, attend church (at least semi-regularly), read the Bible, pray, and receive the resultant blessings.
When it comes down to it, I think this parable is about building our lives on Christ, that is why verses 21-23 are so important. Jesus says if we want to be wise, and truly build our lives on Him, it requires that we do what He says. This sounds similar to what James writes in James 1:22-27.
As we begin 2017, lets commit to being wise builders. May you have the strength and desire to do the things that Jesus calls you to do. May you end 2017 looking back and see that it was a year spent building on the rock.
Good morning, or afternoon, or evening. Whenever this letter finds you, I hope it finds you well. I am writing this to you the day after the election. It’s a day I look forward to every four years. Not because we get a new president per say, but because it’s the day when all of the political ads end. I guess the ads wouldn’t bother me as much if they would just talk about what each candidate would do, but instead each ad is full of hate speech toward their opponent. Whatever happened to building each other up or don’t let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth? I think I’ve read that somewhere. Luke 6:45 says, “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.”
In his book “Good Call”, Jase Robertson tells a story about cleaning out a duck blind one spring and the difficulty they had getting it clean. I found the story fitting to all of the political junk being spewed about. He said, “The strangest thing we’ve found in our blinds during our annual cleanings was a female buzzard, which had built a nest and laid an egg in the middle of one of four tree blinds. The smell was indescribable and produced an immediate gag reflex. In an effort to relocate the buzzard, I discovered the hard way that an angry buzzard’s best defense is projectile vomiting…The incident with the buzzard reminds me so much of our spiritual well-being. As a Christian, there are some situations you can’t reside in and stay faithful to Christ. 2 Peter 2:22 describes the problem of not breaking free from you past lifestyle and declaring Jesus Christ as Lord: “Of them the proverbs are true: ‘A dog returns to its vomit’ and, ‘A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.’” Real buzzards were made by God for the specific purpose of feeding on rotten things, but from a spiritual perspective, who wants a buzzard-type lifestyle? As a human, if you feed on evil, rotten things, your spiritual lifestyle will stink. And just like the buzzard defends its domain with projectile vomiting, people spew filth from their mouth toward Christians when their evil behavior is threatened. 1 Peter 4:3-4 says, “For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you.”
This election may have gone how you wanted it, or maybe it didn’t. Either way what things are overflowing out of your heart? Are we spreading the good news of the Gospel, or are we contributing to the filth that is being spewed about?
Jase concludes the chapter with this thought. He says, “Evaluate your life and determine if you are influencing others for good or being influenced by evil. There is no middle ground.
Matthew 24:28 states: “Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.” Who are you running with? What does your lifestyle smell like?”
I am suffering from separation anxiety. I have missed you terribly. I have also come to realize that I have also been suffering
separation anxiety from God. I had been praying, reading the Bible, preparing lessons and sermons, making hospital visits and pastoral calls, all the while slipping further from God with each passing event. The time off allowed the opportunity for my body to catch up to my spirit. As badly as I hate to admit it, I needed this to happen. I once again cannot wait to get into the reading of scripture each day. I have read numerous books (four up to this point). I have been challenged and directed by both Ben Merold and Bob Russell. I have had days when all I did was read and pray and contemplate onministry at Sterling. God has been refreshing my spirit and my will. I have shed tears as I read the letters that the leadership team sent with us. I have cried over the littlest thought of Billy’s death. I have cried over nothing, just started crying. I’m still very emotional about life in general. I am a weak and sinful person and I know that, oh, how I know that. God has used this time to bring me back to that reality.
While going to a time share in North Carolina not far from Charlotte. We were using our GPS on the phone to guide us. We
pulled off the interstate onto a side road; it was dark and we were dependent on our GPS map. It started to rain and we were directed to turn down a dirt road and at the same moment our GPS lost connection. We had no idea where to go, what roads to look for; it was dark and stormy and no one was in sight. We managed to get back to the interstate where we had reception. We pulled up the GPS map, made notes and began again. Guess what? That dirt road was the correct road. After a short time on that road it became a paved road again and after several turns on to other roads, we arrived. That is how life was for me...I was heading in the direction I understood God wanted me/us to go. We hit some struggles, storms if you will, and signal was lost and my heart panicked. This sabbatical has been my “regaining signal from God”, finding my way as a Christian and as a preacher. And then helping us get on the right track to our destination. I hated both moments but desperately needed them.
God was in the process of breaking me down and has now started the process to build me up. Not to be like I was before, rather to be more like Him. I am reading the book “The Pursuit Of God” by A.W. Tozer. I am personally destroyed by the contents of this book. I am beyond challenged by the insight into my soul. It is opening new understanding into my walk with God. I want to seek God’s presence in my life and in the church I serve in a deeper, more insightful, more obvious, more practical and expanding way. I’m not sure what this will look like in action, but know that I/we will do our best to show Jesus to the community we live in. We will exemplify the life Christ wants us to live personally and as a church. I don’t want to come across in the wrong way. I don’t want you to think that I am becoming a religious fanatic or a “Holy Joe”, but I am convinced that I am to turn my heart and yours to focus on Jesus first and foremost. That means to put people in a position to make them contemplate their relationship to Jesus. Most people will not appreciate that level of inner evaluation. I am convinced that is what we need, no, must do. The church as a whole is losing the battle in America and hence in Fountain County. We must change that. We must become the special forces unit that acts and does beyond the norm.
One of the actions I’m going to take is to remove my Kentucky wall from my office. I do not think it’s sinful to be a Kentucky fan, in spite of what some of you think. But I realize that for me, at this time in my walk with God, I need to put the attention on Jesus and His bride, the church. I’m not sure what I will replace it with. I have not come to that understanding as of yet. Come by and check it out when you get a chance. Another action that I will be putting into place is to read more. Certainly the Bible but also books that will stretch my mind and heart. Maybe even change my perspective on things within the church. Another emphasis will be on prayer. I challenged you to fast and pray for revival. I will also be calling you to pray about specific things. For example: the outreach we have in our community. We have begun to emphasize that with the Back Pack Attack and meals for the teachers in our county schools during parent-teacher conferences. We also do “trunk or treat” which is a great outreach to our community. We will look at doing more of those kind of things in the future. Remember, they don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
Final count...I read seven books, almost eight. In addition to Ben Merold and Bob Russell, I also met with Phil LaMaster. We
attended a conference by Chip Ingram and also visited the Billy Graham Ministry Center. More about those things at a later
There is nothing quite as exciting as opening day. Football season just began a few weeks ago and whether we enjoy Friday nights or Sunday afternoons, the opening of football season is always a good thing. Opening day of baseball season is also a moment that we look forward to. I remember as a kid that I couldn't wait for the first day of Little League season to put on my catcher’s mask, see the sunshine, smell the fresh cut grass and play baseball again. It could be opening day of your favorite restaurant that just came to a town nearby. Or opening day for a store or a mall where you like to shop. Right now at our house we are very excited about opening day of deer season. Joey is counting down the hours and the minutes until we’re able to be in the woods again. I remember two years ago last March, opening day at the new church building and how exciting it was to get to go into that new place and worship together for the first time; it was a great day!
I wonder if all these opening day feelings are just a little taste of what John felt as he put a pen to paper and wrote the book of Revelation. John found himself in the spirit, on the Lord’s Day, and he found himself able to have a vision of what the first day in heaven would be like and it was awesome! He describes Jesus, his appearance is bright like the sun, hair white like wool, wearing priestly garments. He describes the presence of lamp stands that represent the churches and a voice like a trumpet that spoke to him... I wonder what that was like? He spends 22 chapters describing for us all kinds of details about heaven, about earth, about struggle, about the human story, about God's intervention into that story. Then he goes on to describe the judgment, the division between good and evil, and what life will be like when this world is over and we step into the eternity that God has promised. This book has become one of my favorite books partly because there are so many scenes of worship described in revelation, everything from a huge meal to great songs and all people bowing down at the feet of the King. In some way it's as though John is describing for us opening day in heaven and what that will be like. So what if we considered our lives right now just to be pre-season, to be practice, a time for us to be getting ready to be worshipers. Will we be ready to worship on opening day? Just some thoughts, see you at practice on Sunday.
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