Digging Deeper

So you know how you go to church on Sunday and you hear the message from the pastor and you go home thinking about how awesome the sermon was?  Okay so maybe awesome is too strong of a word.  Anyway, a sermon is not so much a public speech as it is a challenge, or a call to respond.  The sermon that we hear on Sunday is meant to inspire us or challenge us or encourage us in our walk with the Lord.  It is part of our discipleship process.  But what happens after you leave the church on Sunday morning?  Do you ever spend anymore time considering the topic of discussion? 

I was thinking that it might be nice for us to have a tool to use on Monday to help us focus a little more on what was said on Sunday.  Wouldn’t that be great?  What if on Monday we could go online and find a Scripture reference to turn to that deals with what we learned on Sunday, or maybe some questions that we could consider or points for us to ponder as we go through our week.  We could use those as part of our regular devotions to help us dig a little deeper into the material that the pastor was talking about in the sermon. 

For instance this past Sunday I spoke from Numbers 23:19 and talked about how God keeps His promises.  What if you could go online this week and find some Scripture references that would help you explore God’s promises a little bit deeper and give you some questions to reflect on?  Would that be helpful?  Would you use it?  You could tune in to the website on Monday or any other day for that matter, and see a blog in which there would be some materials for digging deeper.  Some tools for your own personal study time on the topic that was discussed.  I am willing to do that each week if there are those out there that would find it helpful. 

I will bring this up this coming Sunday at The River as well, but please feel free to let me know your comments.  Thanks!

Is Anyone Out There?

You know one of the problems with writing a blog is that you wonder if anyone actually is reading it. I mean, what if I spend all this time sharing my thoughts and really nobody is interested? I guess it is kind of that, “if a tree falls in the forest…” kind of question. Blogging allows you to put your thoughts out there for anyone to see, but you don’t really know if anyone is actually listening. Ultimately it is not a big deal if 3 people or 300 people read the blog, but still it is nice to know that someone is actually listening.

Now, I have heard from some of you from time to time, so I know that at least a few people are listening, and I appreciate when you make comments to let me know that you are there. But believe it or not, I am not writing this blog just to elicit more response, I actually have a point. And the point has to do with prayer.

I think sometimes we approach prayer with the same mindset that I sometimes approach blogging. Like I am going to throw this out there, and maybe someone will be listening and maybe they won’t. Do you know what I mean? Have you ever approached prayer that way? Like you have something to say, and you hope that you are being heard, but you are not entirely sure?

Well, I want to remind us today, that we can be sure that God hears us. The Psalmist writes about this in Psalm 55:18, “Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice.” What a great reminder. Whether morning, noon or night, God hears us. We don’t have to worry that He might be asleep, or busy, or that He won’t have His cell phone with Him, or that He will be on the other line, or that He is screening His calls. We don’t have to worry that He doesn’t care or isn’t interested in what we have to say. He is right there, waiting for us to call on Him.

That is a great promise. We don’t need to wonder, “is anyone out there? Is anyone listening?” We know God hears, He listens, and He cares. Being a dad I am interested in what my kids have to say, not so much because it is important to me, but because it is important to them. I listen because they are my children and I love them.

God loves me even more than I love my kids. And He has the amazing ability to pay attention to me, even when I am saying something that is really not all that interesting, or when I am not really making any sense, or when I don’t even know what I want. God loves to hear from me. Not because He needs what I have to say, or because it is interesting to Him, but simply because I am His child and He loves me. Is anyone out there? Yes He is!

Focus and Follow Through

Let’s stop and consider the Magi one more time. The story of the Magi, contained for us in Matthew 2:1-12, is a wonderful and interesting story. We don’t know exactly who they were, what they were, how many there were, or even where exactly they came from. But for some reason, they travel a long distance, at what must have been great expense, to come and worship the newborn King.

Why do I bring this up? Specifically to bring up a challenge for us as we head into the new year. Consider the Magi. They saw this star and knew that they were supposed to follow it, so they set their sights on it and set off on their journey with purpose and determination and followed it until they arrived at Jesus where they bowed down to worship Him and present Him with gifts.

It was probably not an easy decision to set out and follow that star. It meant leaving their homes and family and friends and traveling a great distance, during a time when it was not so easy to travel so far. I would imagine they had difficulties along the way. At times they may have questioned whether or not to continue. There were even times when they apparently lost sight of the star and didn’t know exactly where they were supposed to go. For instance, we see them stop in Jerusalem to ask for directions. It is an interesting journey and one that probably took much time and great expense to make. But they knew this was what they were supposed to do, they so they focused on the star and followed through on their journey.

My challenge for us is to do the same in this new year. Not that we should set our sights on a star, but rather on the Lord. Let’s begin this new year right, recognizing that we are on a journey with the Lord. Let’s commit ourselves to staying focused on Him, letting Him guide our steps throughout this year. And let’s recognize that just because we determine to follow the Lord, does not mean that everything will be easy. We may lose our way at times like the Magi did. It may even cost us greatly to follow the Lord. But let us determine today that following the Lord is our goal this year. My challenge is for us in 2010 is to focus on the Lord and follow through on our journey.

The Magi

So in my devotions this morning I was reading about the Magi in Matthew chapter 2.  Have you ever thought about these guys that traveled from so far away and for who knows how long, in search of the one who was born king of the Jews?  We don’t know much about them.  We know they came from the east because they saw a star.  We know they stopped in Jerusalem and asked for directions to where the baby was to be born.  We know that they eventually wind up in Bethlehem after hearing of the prophecy from Michah 5.  And we know that the star reappeared and guided them to the place where the child was.  But one of the most interesting things that we know about them, is their response when they finally find the child.  Matthew 2:11 says they bowed down and worshiped him and they they presented him with gifts of gold and incense and myrrh. 

We don’t know how long their journey took them or how long they spent in Bethlehem.  We don’t know how many friends and family they had to leave behind.  We don’t know how much hardship they had to endure, or what the cost was for them to make this trip.  But it does appear that they spent much more time on the journey than they did at the destination.  All that travel simply to worship the newborn King. 

What a statement to us.  What a challenge for us during this holiday season.  How much effort are we willing to put forth to worship the King?  How far are we willing to go?  How much sacrifice are we willing to make during this Christmas season simply to worship the King?

Next time you pass a nativity scene and see the three wise men standing there with their gifts in their hands, take a moment and consider what they went through simply to worship the King, and then may that reflection cause you to worship Him as well.

Remember, Rejoice, Reflect

So the holidays are here.  What are you looking forward to?  The turkey?  The shopping?  The family time?  The parties?  The holidays are full of all kinds of things and mean different things to each of us.  One of the greetings that we use with one another during this time of year is “happy holidays.”  That’s great.  I hope you are happy, but even more so, my hope for all of us is that this holiday time would be a time to remember, rejoice and reflect.  What a wonderful way to wrap up one year and begin the next one. 

We start with Thanksgiving which is a time to remember.  It is a time to look back and consider all the ways that God has blessed us and provided for us.  It is a time to consider all of those things that we take for granted everyday.  It is a time to pause in the midst of our busy lives and give thanks.

Then we move on to Christmas.  The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is a time to rejoice.  It is a time that can easily be consumed by all the hustle and bustle of buying presents, going to parties, and everything else that comes during the commercialized portion of the holidays.  But instead of focusing on all of that, it is a time for us to rejoice in the true meaning of Christmas.  It is a time for us to rejoice over the baby who was born as the perfect gift to a lost and dying world, so that our Heavenly Father, who loves us so much, could bring us back to a right relationship with Him.  Christmas is a time to rejoice over what has been done for us and the hope that we have in Christ.

Then we move on to New Years.  The time between Christmas and New Years is a time to reflect.  A time to look back over the year that was and look forward to the year to come.  It is a time to reflect over God’s faithfulness to us and to renew our hope in Him for the new year.  God is good and He knows the plans that He has for us.  Entering into the turn over from one year to the next is a perfect time to reflect.

Remember, rejoice, and reflect.  What a great way to celebrate the holiday season.  Instead of wishing you a happy holidays, I wish for you a time to remember, rejoice and reflect!

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