When God Says “NO” (Part 1)

But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, “Go and tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord: Would you build me a house to dwell in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent for my dwelling. In all places where I have moved with all the people of Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”’ (2 Samuel 7:4-7 ESV). Have you ever reached a point in your life when you could sit down and breathe a sigh of relief and just relax? You’ve reached your goals, your dreams have been realized, and there’s not really anything “wrong” in your life. It’s an enviable position; and, it is one which is rare. There are those times that we get a glimpse of such peace. It’s usually when we reach those milestones in our lives. When you get your driver’s license; or, graduate from high school or college; perhaps it’s when you get married or have your first child; it may be that first job in your chosen career; maybe it’s retirement, that last day when there’s really nothing left for you to do but attend a party in your honor for the service you’ve provided and the recognition of a job well done. It is that wonderful moment when everything is going your way. This is where we find David today in our reading. These were possibly the best days in the life of King David.  He was the King of Israel.  His nation was united and at peace.  David was enjoying a time of rest, after all the problems that he had been forced to endure.  For David, these days gave him the luxury of reflection; and, he naturally turned to the many blessings of God. Out of this, a dream was born in his heart.  He wanted to build God a permanent dwelling place. Remember, since the time the Tabernacle had been built during the days of Moses, God’s presence had dwelt in the Holy of Holies of that temporary building.  David wanted to give the Lord a proper, permanent place to manifest His glorious presence. It’s a wonderful thing to dream of doing something to honor God. Often people come to this place in their lives and become bored and restless. Rather than using their stability as a base from which to do good, they focus on themselves in an effort to become more secure or find more pleasure. David wanted to use his time, resources, and knowledge to honor God. This is not a self-serving, sinful dream. David genuinely wants to do something for God. The only problem with this dream is that God said “No!” And this is where we can learn something essential in our lives. We will explore these essentials in the next few days. Today, remember God’s “no” is just another way of saying there’s something better planned for...

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Winners and Losers

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” (Matthew 16:24-28 ESV). It’s always been the case, although recently the headlines have seemed to be screaming for me to notice the announcement of “winners and losers” in some category of life. It may have been at the conclusion of an athletic event, a political issue, a cultural event, or some other well reported contest. Regardless of my personal position on any of these things, one thing is sure: historically losers have been scandalized as those unworthy of winning because of something they did or didn’t do. Most laugh, and mock losers as unproductive people of society. Yet both history and Scripture would disagree with this assessment. Alfred Landon lost in a landslide to Franklin Roosevelt, yet he had a distinguished career thereafter.  He witnessed 8 more presidents including America’s oldest president, Ronald Reagan who helped him celebrate his 100th birthday. Roosevelt died in office at the age of 63. No one lost a larger landslide election than George McGovern when he lost to Richard Nixon in 1972. He has had many humanitarian awards since losing, and though near death he has lived to be 90 years old. Nixon left office in the scandal of Watergate, and died in obscurity and shame. Though not a politician and hardly a loser, George Burns was always second to his wife Gracie Allen. When she died, George’s career began. In fact, George Burns became a movie star at the age of 79. He went on to live to be 100. Gracie died at the moderate age of 69 of a heart attack. These same trends have been duplicated over and over again throughout history. In our Christian life Jesus asked all of his followers to be losers. That’s the reference in our reading today. We see that in the Scripture repeated often. The prophets and the apostles sacrificed their lives for their faith. They understood an incredible principle that produced this incredible commitment and hope. They did not love this present life. They understood what was waiting for them was exponentially greater.  The call for us today is the same. What the world may see as losing because of our faith is the ultimate victory. It last for an eternity! We are real winners in...

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Go Rest High On That Mountain (Part 9)

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:25-34 ESV). The last argument says, “Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.” In other words, God has appointed to each day its portion of pleasure and trouble. And as your days so shall your strength be (v. 34). So don’t misappropriate God’s allotted troubles for tomorrow. Don’t bring them forward into today in the form of anxiety. Believe that God will be God tomorrow. The main point of all this is clear and unmistakable: Jesus does not want his followers to be anxious. He does not secure his kingdom by keeping his subjects in a state of worry. On the contrary, the more primary, the more central his kingship becomes in our lives, the less anxiety we will have. Jesus came, lived, died, and rose from the dead, in order that he might reign as King over an anxiety-free people. I know that sounds much easier than it is; however, remember what your paygrade is. It is his work in your life that makes the difference. Let me give you an image to remind you when things spiral out of your control. It is the way of the dandelion. The seeds of this delicate little flower of the fields are a fragile little bundle. They are like the opportunities of life. See all your circumstances as something that will provide you the means to become. Look again at the dandelion. They willingly empty themselves. They allow themselves to be reduced to nothing but a stem, as their seeds are gradually scattered to wherever the wind blows them. They share the little they have with the rest of the garden. They offer their beauty to the wind, for the renewal and the growth of other flowers. So let the wind blow it’s hardest. It will only make whatever of Jesus is in your life take root in others. It will be okay, God has got this! This belief and this alone is the way to freedom from...

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Go Rest High On That Mountain (Part 8)

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:25-34 ESV). One of my coffee mugs reminds me of our seventh truth. The seventh reason not to be anxious is that when you seek the kingdom of God first, he works for you and provides all your needs (v. 33). Many people interpret this verse in a way that emphasizes what we need to do to insure our peace. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, it is a way Jesus has of reminding us that peace and security are simply “above our paygrade.” So, we can say with certainty that when we stop taking on God’s role and being anxious about the things of life, God starts being anxious for you. It’s such a foolish thing to insist on carrying anxious burdens which God has promised to carry for us. This is how Isaiah says it: For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV). So, how do we get there? It’s about “seeking.” If you set yourself to seek the Lord today in the stillness of your room or under the stars, the first thing you will do is call on the Lord. The religious word for this is “pray.” Many people feel that they can’t pray. They feel that it takes a lot of Bible knowledge to know how to say things just right. And that it takes a certain way with words, so you don’t sound too coarse or too casual. The word is “call.” And that is part of our everyday language, just like it was then. We call the waiter. We call a friend on the telephone. We call for help on 911. The first thing we do to seek the Lord is call to him. We might use words like these: “O God, help me!” Or: “God, if you are really there, show me!” So, rescuing yourself is not an option. That’s above your paygrade. It’s not for God. Call on...

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Go Rest High On That Mountain (Part 7)

“Therefore Ind his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:25-34 ESV). Today we will actually look at two things Jesus says about anxiety. They are linked together. The fifth and sixth reasons why a follower of Jesus shouldn’t be anxious are: We shouldn’t be anxious about what we eat or drink or wear because “the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all” (v. 32).  Anxiety about the things of this world puts us on the same level with the world of unbelievers. It shows that we are really very much like the world in what makes us happy. And that ought not to be. It also shows that we don’t think our Father in heaven knows our needs. Or perhaps we don’t think he has the heart of a loving Father. Anxiety shows that we are too close to the world and too far from God. So don’t be anxious. The world has nothing eternal to offer, and your loving heavenly Father knows your needs now and forever. It really is an amazingly simple truth. I have found that I am easily distracted with the temptation to believe that somehow God doesn’t really know what I need. It usually looks something like a deadline. We’ve all been there. We have something that appears to us as being difficult and not being able to see the future, we often fear it. The closer the time approaches for us to need something to overcome the obstacle, the easier it is to panic a bit and think maybe God has forgotten. Of course, we never admit that. It is easier to believe that we have somehow misinterpreted God’s will. Whether we have misread God’s will or not, he does not forget what we need. That’s the real truth. And, worrying about all those things simply drains our faith. The real rest is found in our absolute faith in God’s consistency in meeting all our needs. Don’t allow yourself to go to the world of the unbeliever. There is no hope or peace to be found...

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