Feb 23, 2017

Increasing Trust

Last week I had surgery to repair the meniscus on my right knee. Too many sleepless nights and painful years had taken me to a ‘fork-in-the-road’ of decision that it was time to get it repaired.

Mentally, this surgery recovery time has been difficult for me. No, not more difficult than any of my other surgeries. But it took longer than I thought it would. Part of this was because prior to surgery, my surgeon said that when he had this surgery, the next day he was on a bike.

Cathy jokes that perhaps when he sat on the bike, his wife said to him; "Hey, get back to bed; you shouldn’t be doing that!"

The surgery did go very well and after two days, because I had a lot of meetings and because I didn’t really have any pain, I went back to work.

But at the end of the day, my knee swelled up and made it difficult to walk or be comfortable so I decided that I needed to work from home; which, with technology and a great staff, should have been easy to do.

I say; ‘should have been’ because I really don’t like depending on others to take care of me or to do things for me. And because at work there were many fires that needed my attention and I was stuck trying to run the world laying in a bed in one of our guest rooms with my leg packed in ice and propped up as I tried to let my body heal.

And, to make matters worse, a squirrel was outside chewing on the soffits just outside the bedroom I was in! I knew how quickly a squirrel could damage a house and my mind went crash!

I wanted to let the staff try to do their jobs, but in-between emails, texts, and phone calls, I had way too much time on my hands to think and mentally get off track.

So, as I lay here writing this, I must admit I don't trust God as much as I think I do. Oh, I have trust for others, but I still look to myself to get stuff done. I trust my ability to work and my brains to complete tasks. But, my trust is really in me; not in God.

This was driven home to me when a coworker sent an email to me that said; "Tom, will you stop playing superman and take the rest and time necessary for your body to heal, please?!"

As I pondered his words, I thought about the theme message for our church.

Every year at church we have a theme message as a way to get some direction as to where we believe God is leading us as a congregation. Some of the themes in the past have been "joy", "simple devotion", and "thriving".

The theme is then woven into messages throughout the year sort of an anchor cornerstone for reference to what "prophetically "the Lord is saying to us as a congregation. Occasionally, I will hear that other congregations have the same or similar theme for their church as our church does… which makes me sit up and ponder what He is saying to the larger Body of Christ.

This year our theme is; “A Year of Increasing Trust”.

When I first heard of the theme I didn't think about it because I think that I do trust God…which basically means: ‘confident expectation of something or someone; hope, to rely upon’. 

He has been faithful over and over and over again. He has been our provider and confidant. He has proven David’s words from Psalm 37:25 which says; Once I was young, and now I am old. Yet I have never seen the godly abandoned or their children begging for bread.”

But the theme is trust that is “increasing” which basically means: ‘to make greater, as in number, size, strength, or quality; enlarging; augmenting’.

This is about increasing trust in HIM for: finances, healing, others to do the work that I need to get done, in the team in my life.

Even as I write this I think about all the other times I've had surgery and wondered when I would be able to run the world all by myself again. I thought about when I wondered when my hands would finally be able to work again, when my ankle would finally work again, when my shoulder finally work again. Today all of them work excellently.

Do I trust that God's presence is enough? What has God promised? What is the problem for you personally? What has He promised us as His children? What is the potential? What are the problems, giants, walls? How do we discover and obey God’s strategy?

What can I do to increase and trust? How will I study, meditate on, and obey God's word? What will I pray against? Say, "I trust you Jesus”; and then ask.

No, this was a new opportunity for me to trust God for everything.

Let me say that again: everything!

He wants ME to INCREASE in my trust in Him. To look to Him. To believe Him.

He doesn't want me just talking about who He is and what He can do for others.

He wants me to simply trust Him to increase my trust in Him.

Trust Him that He will do the work.

Trust that He will bring the increase and show His faithfulness once again.

God answer you on the day you crash,

The name God-of-Jacob put you out of harm’s reach,

Send reinforcements from Holy Hill,
Dispatch from Zion fresh supplies,
Exclaim over your offerings,
Celebrate your sacrifices,
Give you what your heart desires,
Accomplish your plans.” (Psalm 20:1-4 MSG)

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Feb 16, 2017

Hey, I Made That!

Recently, I was talking with a new acquaintance and we were sharing about each other’s past employment to get to know each other better. We discovered that each of us had worked in both residential and commercial construction during part of our employment history.

He asked me what I used to do in commercial construction and I said that he had probably already seen my work… since most of the projects were very large in nature and easy to make a reference to; knowing that he would know what I was talking about…not meaning to imply that I had built the whole thing by myself!

But when you tell the story of what you did on a large project such as a stadium or amusement park, it is easy to talk about the project as though you were the only person who did all the work!

In fact, if you tell the story enough times, it is easy for others who know you to retell the story as though they too believe that you built the whole thing by yourself!

Yes, I am guilty of sometimes driving past a project that I worked on and saying out loud; “Hey, I made that!”

When you work on large scale commercial construction projects, it takes a team of thousands of workers from many different trades. That is not even including all the people who spent many years planning, designing, and coming up with the finances MANY years before the work was even started.

And oftentimes, when the large-scale project is completed, the final project gets exalted way above the individual who did the work. We see it and exclaim how beautiful (the building, stadium, freeway, amusement park, etc.) is and exclaim to others how magnificent it is; not the one who created it.

So, the work of an individual is easily over looked; especially the one who had the idea in the first place many years before.

I was pondering my conversation with this new acquaintance one morning as I was walking up to the second floor in our house. I looked out the window in the stairway and saw a beautiful sunrise in the east.

Brilliant colors lit up the morning sky in red and gold and blue as the sun was coming forth, breaking the dawn. I stood there saying how beautiful it was.

Wanting to share this with someone else, I called to Cathy to come here so that she could see the sunrise. Cathy also exclaimed how beautiful it was and returned to downstairs with a smile on her face.

When I got upstairs, I realized that I had spoken of how great the sunrise was; not the One who made the sunrise. I had ‘worshipped’ the creation, not the Creator (see Romans 1:25).

A passage from the Bible came to my mind;
“The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display His craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make Him known.” (Psalm 19:1-2 NLT)

Did you catch that; The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork.

HIS work was being displayed; HE is the ONE who should have been praised…not the sunrise or the sky. Let’s not get the two mixed up.

He is the One who made everything we see. He is the One who deserves our attention. He is the One who is calling out; “Hey, I made that!”

“This is what the Lord says— your Redeemer and Creator: “I am the Lord, who made all things. I alone stretched out the heavens. Who was with Me when I made the earth?” (Isaiah 44:24 NLT)
He is displaying His glory (goodness) for us to get to know Him. He is longing for us to be with Him and it is easy to miss out on Him calling to us as we get excited about the final product.

“But Jesus deserves far more glory than Moses, just as a person who builds a house deserves more praise than the house itself. For every house has a builder, but the one who built everything is God.” (Hebrews 3:3-4 NLT)

So here is my exhortation to you (and me):

“Don’t let the excitement of youth cause you to forget your Creator. Honor Him in your youth before you grow old and say, “Life is not pleasant anymore.” Remember Him before the light of the sun, moon, and stars is dim to your old eyes, and rain clouds continually darken your sky.

Remember Him before your legs—the guards of your house—start to tremble; and before your shoulders—the strong men—stoop. Remember Him before your teeth—your few remaining servants—stop grinding; and before your eyes—the women looking through the windows—see dimly.

Remember Him before the door to life’s opportunities is closed and the sound of work fades. Now you rise at the first chirping of the birds, but then all their sounds will grow faint.

Remember Him before you become fearful of falling and worry about danger in the streets; before your hair turns white like an almond tree in bloom, and you drag along without energy like a dying grasshopper, and the caperberry no longer inspires sexual desire. Remember Him before you near the grave, your everlasting home, when the mourners will weep at your funeral.

Yes, remember your Creator now while you are young, before the silver cord of life snaps and the golden bowl is broken. Don’t wait until the water jar is smashed at the spring and the pulley is broken at the well. For then the dust will return to the earth, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.” (Ecclesiastes 12:1-7 NLT)

Turn today to the One who is calling out to you and me; “Hey, I made that!”

Scripture from The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Scripture from New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Feb 9, 2017

God, Where Are You?

How many of you have had a really close friend?
How many of you have had a friend move away?
How many of you sought their new address?

Did you ever wish they could be there in a moment when you needed them? Did you long to see them face to face? To sit down and ask them questions you faced? Have you ever cried, longing for them right now?

How about God? How many of you feel as though He moved away? How many of you have sought His address?

Did you ever wish He could be there in a moment when you needed Him? Did you long to see Him face to face? To sit down and ask Him questions you faced? Have you ever cried, longing for Him right now?

Don’t you wish you could sit down with Him and know what He really thinks about things: What He wants you to do ,or to get answers to decisions that you need to make?

Jeremiah 33:3 is God’s Phone Number:
“Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know “.

God speaks to us through the Holy Spirit in our spirit and I am grateful for that. But this week I wanted to meet with Him face to face. I wanted to know where He lives so that I could be with Him, not just to hear from Him. 

 “Let Everything Else Go” by Phil Keaggy speaks to this desire:
 “Oh I can't wait to see you Jesus, face to face,
Nothing in this world can take Your place.
All the pride of man laid low,
And all his works of gold,
Nothing can compare with what You are,
Let everything else go…”

The cry of my heart this last week has been to see God face to face. I had some decisions to make, areas I need Him to change; and I found myself literally crying wanting God to be with me, to answer me. 

And then I realized that hearing from Him is our agenda; but being with Him is His agenda. He, too, wants to meet with me.

So, where does God live? How do we really get in touch with Him? First; let’s look at God’s past address.

In Exodus 29:42-46 we read that the tabernacle in the wilderness was the dwelling place of the Most High God. In it we see a physical picture (type) of the spiritual reality.

But, because God has perfect order and man messed up, God moved to a new address. Fortunately, He has left a forwarding address: It is Isaiah 7:14 and John 1:14

“So the Master is going to give you a sign anyway. Watch for this: A girl who is presently a virgin will get pregnant. She’ll bear a Son and name Him Immanuel (God-With-Us). (Isaiah 7:14 MSG)

“The Word became flesh and blood,
    and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
    the one-of-a-kind glory,
    like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
    true from start to finish.” (John 1:14 MSG)

Where is God’s perfect address? He dwells FULLY in Jesus
 “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” (Colossians 2:9 NKJV)

Even though God lived in a perfect home in Jesus, He wanted His estate to be distributed. He wants to dwell in more than One. 

For that to take place, there had to be death. The death of Jesus assured an inheritance for the Sons of God. God had to once again give up His home.

Fortunately, He has left a forwarding address:
“If you love me, show it by doing what I’ve told you. I will talk to the Father, and he’ll provide you another Friend so that you will always have someone with you. This Friend is the Spirit of Truth. The godless world can’t take him in because it doesn’t have eyes to see him, doesn’t know what to look for. But you know him already because he has been staying with you, and will even be in you!

I will not leave you orphaned. I’m coming back. In just a little while the world will no longer see me, but you’re going to see me because I am alive and you’re about to come alive. At that moment you will know absolutely that I’m in my Father, and you’re in me, and I’m in you.

The person who knows my commandments and keeps them, that’s who loves me. And the person who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and make myself plain to him.”

Judas (not Iscariot) said, “Master, why is it that you are about to make yourself plain to us but not to the world?”

Because a loveless world,” said Jesus, “is a sightless world. If anyone loves me, he will carefully keep my word and my Father will love him—we’ll move right into the neighborhood! Not loving me means not keeping my words. The message you are hearing isn’t mine. It’s the message of the Father who sent me.” (John 14:17-23 MSG)
Where is God’s address now? He resides in the hearts of those who have received Him by faith and have been born again.
 “Or didn’t you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit? Don’t you see that you can’t live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for? The physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you. God owns the whole works. So let people see God in and through your body.” (I Corinthians 6:19-20 MSG)

He resides in Christians. The Apostle John wrote:
 “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” (John 1:12 NKJV)

Considering that, how do people see God reflected in you? Can they find Him in your life? The world is stumbling in the darkness trying to find God and we are the light (Matthew 5:14-16).

If we answer honestly, we must admit that our lives don’t always show that He lives in us. So much as it is dependent on us, some people may have trouble seeing who God is when they come to our “house”.
Fortunately, God is building a new home. He is going to move again, only this time it will be a permanent residence with NO FORWARDING ADDRESS And, He will take His family with Him. 

Where is God’s permanent address going to be?
Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.  And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4)

Isn’t that exciting? Some day we will live with God face to face.
When all the world we know has passed away we will be able to get up each day and say: “Good Morning, Dad”

How do we know it is for all of us? Jesus said to His disciples:
“There is plenty of room for you in my Father’s home. If that weren’t so, would I have told you that I’m on my way to get a room ready for you? And if I’m on my way to get your room ready, I’ll come back and get you so you can live where I live.” (John 14:2-3 MSG)

You might be thinking; “That’s great for the future, but what about today? Where can I go today to hear from Him TODAY?”  

Well, He has taken of that. He has given His Holy Spirit who is a member of the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). He is available to meet with you wherever and whenever you need Him because He, through the Holy Spirit, dwells in you!

And He will talk as a representative of the Heavenly Father:
 “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.” (John 16:13 NKJV)

It is exciting that He wants to dwell in EACH of us through His Holy Spirit and ALL we have to do is ASK Him:

This is the core of our preaching. Say the welcoming word to God—“Jesus is my Master”—embracing, body and soul, God’s work of doing in us what he did in raising Jesus from the dead. That’s it. You’re not “doing” anything; you’re simply calling out to God, trusting him to do it for you. That’s salvation. With your whole being you embrace God setting things right, and then you say it, right out loud: “God has set everything right between him and me!” Scripture reassures us, “No one who trusts God like this—heart and soul—will ever regret it.” It’s exactly the same no matter what a person’s religious background may be: the same God for all of us, acting the same incredibly generous way to everyone who calls out for help. “Everyone who calls, ‘Help, God!’ gets help.” (Romans 10:9-13 MSG)

We can know that God dwells in us if we have asked Him to dwell inside of us. He will never move away. We won’t have to look for His address. He will be there when you need Him.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Feb 2, 2017

KNEEding Rest

If you know me at all, you know that I like hockey. I love both watching and playing. When I am at a rink, if I am unable to be on the ice playing, then I want to sit (literally) on the edge of my seat with my nose against the glass.

OK; Truth be told: I LOVE hockey!

And, because I am a ‘rub-dirt-on-it’ kind of person, I don’t like to let injuries keep me out of the game. One year I broke the pinky on my left hand and a cast was put on me that went up to my elbow. Instead of sitting out the game, I had a teammate lace up my skates so that I could be a referee because they were one short.

So, the idea of not playing when I have the time and have a game available isn’t something I am going to do; even if I am injured. This is especially true when it is the end of January and the outdoor ice here in Minnesota starts to melt in mid-February; which is only two weeks away…that adds up to only a few more games outdoors!

And yet, this past Saturday morning that was exactly what I knew that I needed to do.

For the past month or so, my right knee has been giving me some trouble. It doesn’t affect me DURING the game partially because my compression garments, shin pads, and hockey socks wrap around in a way that seems to stabilize my legs and knees.

But AFTER the game, a few hours later, my right knee begins to ache and swells up. The pain and swelling usually lasts from Saturday night through Friday morning; with pain levels going from a “10” (out of ten) on Saturday night to a “3 or 4” by Friday morning. 

This cycle of pain through the week affects me a lot when I am even doing simple things like walking up and down stairs and when I drive; which usually brings pain levels back to “10”! My favorite part is the popping or cracking noises, and frequently locks up.

It also stops me from crawling on the living room floor to give horsey rides to my grandchildren. “Not today; grandpa is hurt…”

My remedy for the pain has been a combination of Ibuprofen, Lidocaine, Biofreeze, and ice…applying and repeating throughout the week. 

By Friday evening I have some idea whether I am going to play or not. But, I wait until Saturday morning to make my final decision. And, for the past month, my love for hockey has trumped my body’s need for healing.

My knee felt good by this Friday and my pain level was better than last Saturday, so I was cleared for takeoff. A fresh sheet and teammates awaited my arrival. And yet I didn’t go.

This Saturday my body won.

I know that sometimes you need to rub some dirt in and keep moving, and for that part that is in my fiber I am grateful; it has kept me employed and kept me in the game (both hockey and in life).

Moms understand this and know that they need to respond to a baby’s cry even if they have had no sleep (and if their man has slept right through the crying). They are always on call no matter how they feel.

I say that my body won, but the truth is that it was a scripture that came to me that gave me wisdom to sit out this week’s game even though I could have pressed through and played.

The LORD speaking through the Prophet Isaiah said:
In returning and rest you shall be saved;
In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.”
But you would not” (Isaiah 30:15 NKJV)

I realize that my knee isn’t what the LORD was talking about in that passage, nevertheless, the LORD communicated to me that I needed to rest to find my strength; there was something else beyond this game.

I immediately thought of the fact that even though my outdoor season would be ending in a few weeks, my spring season will be starting in five weeks. I needed to see the bigger picture that if I would simply sit out one game, then I could get stronger to play my ten games (March thru May).

My combination of Ibuprofen, Lidocaine, Biofreeze, and ice…applying and repeating throughout the week, was a temporary fix for what my body really needed; REST!

In fact, my attempts to get healed were undermining what God was trying to do. Pressing through was making things worse in the long run. The swelling and the pain were trying to prevent further damage to my knee and were trying to communicate that I need to stop trying to be strong; I needed REST!

I needed to rest my knee for other reasons as well, like being available to help carry things for others or being on the floor with my grandchildren.

Do you realize that sometimes our short-sighted goals or efforts prevent us from getting what we really need? In fact, we can undermine what God is trying to do for us by trying to take shortcuts.

I love how Eugene Peterson translated Isaiah 30:15 (MSG):
“Your salvation requires you to turn back to Me
and stop your silly efforts to save yourselves.
Your strength will come from settling down
in complete dependence on Me—
The very thing you’ve been unwilling to do.”

If you find yourself today in a similar state of mind (or body) and you are trying to push through in your own strength, my exhortation to you is to STOP…and REST!

Jesus longs for you to call out to Him today.

He is waiting for you to respond to His mercy and grace that has already been extended to you through Jesus Christ. And you can; today. And it can make all the difference in the world as you look for hope in your present world. Let Him bring you REST.

Need further help? Someone is waiting to talk with you. Call either: 1-888-NEED HIM or 1-877-2GRAHAM (1-877-247-2426).

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved."

Scripture taken from The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson