In Charge and Never Dropping the Ball

Daniel 4:35 “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, But He does according to His will in the host of heaven And among the inhabitants of earth; And no one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’

Have you ever considered how big God must be to keep the whole world in line? It isn’t just that He is organizing a picnic or even a marching band. God is Lord of all! It boggles the imagination. I have trouble organizing a family trip, what would it be like if I had to organize the whole world?

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God says through the prophet Daniel, “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, But He does according to His will in the host of heaven And among the inhabitants of earth.” Can you imagine? “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing.” Compared to God, we are nothing. The people that we struggle with are nothing. The impossible situations we face are nothing. Those things that I find to be impossible are like dandelion fluff to God. That is how little our yelling and screaming and planning and scheming are to Him.

As I see it, we sure make a lot of noise about things that we can’t really control. I wring my hands and wonder if God can really work in my life. He responds, “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing.” God is in charge. He never drops the ball.

If God says something needs to be changed, it will be. If God decides to act, nothing can stop it. So Daniel says, “No one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’” I am stopped by my lack of faith. I worry that something will thwart God. I worry that my life might fall out from under me and God will be shocked. That is not Daniel’s fear. He knows that no one can ward off His hand. No one can challenge His authority and demand that He explain Himself. What an awesome God we have!

God never drops the ball. He never says oops. He is fully in charge. We can trust Him!

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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At Calvary – Ep 31 – Who Cares about Political Conventions?

Last week finished the Republican National Convention. We should think deeply… not about who to vote for but about this thing called a National Convention. What are they for? What do they do? Should anyone care?

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Living for God in Real Time

The other day we were talking about an interesting parable of Jesus. It was the parable of the shrewd steward. If you recall, his master demanded that he make an accounting of all of his dealings because the master was going to fire the steward. The steward, afraid that he would be unable to work or beg, came up with a plan. He renegotiated the debts others owed the master. Thus, when he was fired, he would be able to mooch off of these people for some time.

Cultural things aside, the way Jesus praised the shrewd steward is interesting. Jesus said, “for the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light.” (Luke 16:8) He was declaring that those who did not care about the things of God know what to do with the opportunities that present themselves. They are looking out for number one. They do it all the time. They shrewdly know how to get the things they care about.

Jesus’ statement may seem odd to us, but the question comes back to us for an answer. Do we do the same? Do we look out for number one all the time? Is that ‘one’ Jesus? Our number one should be the Lord Jesus Christ. However, doesn’t Jesus’ question cut us to the quick even more because of that? He states that the non-believer is always looking out for themselves. They know what to do to get what they want. Do we know how to use worldly wealth to get what we want? Does what we use money for declare that our life is about Jesus? This is what Christ’s criticism is all about. Those who care little about the things of God, know how to chase what they want. God’s people seem to struggle chasing after the things of Christ. That is Christ’s comparison. It is a comparison that hurts!

So, my question today is this: how will you and I intentionally seek to raise God up and share Him with others this week? Will we use what we have to do so?

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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At Calvary – Ep 30 – Backpacking with My Youngest

A couple of years ago my youngest child asked if she and I could do something unique together. It morphed a couple of times but finally settled on something specific: a backpacking trip!

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Grace, Meant to Be Lived Out

Grace. We hear the word in church. Hopefully, we understand that the grace of God is what has saved us. God’s forgiveness offered to us through Jesus is glorious! Have we thought about what that word is supposed to mean to us every day? Is it a religious term that stays in our Bibles and churches or does is it our new way of living every day? I would urge us to make it our way of living. That is the only response to God’s grace that makes sense – we should copy Him! Today, I want to talk about one example of living out that grace: generous giving…

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In his seventh chapter, Luke recounts a time that Jesus went to a Pharisee’s house. This Pharisee invited Jesus to eat with him. Yet, this encounter is different than other dinners that Jesus was invited to attend. Jesus wasn’t invited because of a personal transformation (like Matthew or Zacchaeus). He wasn’t visiting with this Pharisee because the Pharisee had significant spiritual questions (like Nicodemus). In fact, we don’t really get to see this Pharisee’s motive for inviting Jesus to dinner. Instead, the dinner is interrupted by a stranger. Luke says,

37  And there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume, 38 and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume.

Luke 7:37-38

The Pharisee was bothered by this event. He even says to himself that he doubted that Jesus was a prophet because if He was, God would have revealed to Jesus that this woman was a “sinner”. Jesus, as we often see Him do, chose to use this event to teach something important. We don’t know if it went over the Pharisee’s head, but it teaches us something very important about our understanding about grace and giving. He says,

44 Turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave Me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss My feet. 46 You did not anoint My head with oil, but she anointed My feet with perfume. 47 For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

Luke 7:44-47

This unnamed woman illustrated a heart-quality that we can be tempted to forget: our accurate understanding and appreciation of God’s great forgiveness of us is the best motive for our generosity. It will make us givers that refuse to keep score or get envious of others who are blessed. Grace-inspired love sees the need around us as an opportunity to shine God’s love to someone else who needs it. In other words, understanding God’s grace calls to us to live out that grace. In the area of ministry, that lived out grace is called generosity.

Jesus’ statement above points out something else. He says, “he who is forgiven little, loves little.” Guilt is a lesser motive for giving. It will only motive for a little while. Duty, although deserving some praise, is also a lesser motive. It too, will fade if not connected to love. Grace-inspired love is the supreme motive. As Jesus points out, the person who thinks little of the grace of God loves little. Little love inspires little generosity. Great love inspires great generosity. The Bible declares that great love comes from experiencing God’s great grace. If it doesn’t, we must ask if we truly understand God’s grace. This woman’s great giving was inspired by her understanding of the forgiveness offered by God through Jesus. Because of her generous gift to Him, Jesus declared that her faith had saved her. She was forgiven!

I wonder what happened next in her life or in Simon the Pharisee’s life. Did she find victory in her new, forgiven life? I suspect that she did. She knew God’s forgiveness. It had inspired her love even before Jesus had declared her forgiven! What about Simon? Did he learn the lesson implied by Jesus’ parable and example? Did he learn that we all need much forgiveness from God? Did he learn that such forgiveness would inspire him to give generously in his everyday life too? I certainly hope so!

What about us? Does God’s grace mean something to us every day? Or, is grace simply a religious word to us? Does the forgiveness and love that God has given to us inspire us or do we take it as our birthright? God has given us so much – do we let His gift make our life a gift we get to give? May it be so!

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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At Calvary – Ep 29 – Do We Know When We Are Being Petty?

Even though all evil should be gradually defeated in the lives of God’s children, there is one category of evil that is especially hurtful. It isn’t hurtful because of its shocking force. It is especially hurtful because it hides behind smiles, pious words, and self-righteousness. These evils are the sins of pettiness.

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At Calvary – Ep 34 – Having Confidence in God in Everyday Life At Calvary!

Psalm 46:10 declares that we should, “Cease striving and know that God is God.” What can we learn about having confidence in God from this Psalm? Let’s think deeply about trusting God in the midst of the storm. On Android … Continue reading →
  1. At Calvary – Ep 34 – Having Confidence in God in Everyday Life
  2. At Calvary – Ep 33 – Fighting without Sin? Is It Possible?
  3. At Calvary – Ep 32 – A Crazy Man Praises God
  4. At Calvary – Ep 31 – Who Cares about Political Conventions?
  5. At Calvary – Ep 30 – Backpacking with My Youngest
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Does God Speaking Make You Squirm?

The last two weeks have got me thinking about conviction. We have been thinking together over the last two Sundays about how we view God’s course corrections. We have talked about the joy that Paul was sharing with the church in Corinth. I am not sure that is the word we would use. I think the most universal word is squirm!

What makes you squirm? Does discussing money at church make you squirm? How about political issues? Are there specific passages or specific sins that make you squirm? Here is an even more probing question: have you ever thought about what your squirming looks like?

Let me share a few observations. I have seen people squirm under conviction by becoming angry and moody. I’ve seen people squirm under conviction by becoming sullen and withdrawn. I’ve seen others lash out at the person who carried the message, and I have seen some lash out at innocent bystanders. I’ve even seen folks who wouldn’t admit that they were under conviction, but their feelings of guilt would come out in their speech as they tried to essentially argue with God as they were talking with others around them. It is something, watching people squirm under conviction. We squirm in so many ways.

Yet, the most amazing squirming I’ve seen (and also the rarest) is the person who squirms with excitement because God is showing them a new area in which they can grow. It is amazing because they look both happy and sad at the same time. They are happy because God is speaking and they are learning. They are sad because they missed something that they could grow in and they know it will be a bit of a struggle to change. I say that it is rare because I don’t see it much. Much more often I see us squirm as if Jesus is performing a tooth extraction and we are holing onto the tooth for all we are worth.

Consider what God’s man, Paul said when commented on his strong correction of the church in Corinth:

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11 For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter.

2 Corinthians 7:11

Were the Corinthians sorry? Yes, they had what Paul called “godly sorrow.” Yet, they didn’t just stay there. They embraced with zeal the good word that Paul gave to them. They understood why God corrected them – for their good! Jesus gave this picture of how God molds us for our good:

1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. (emphasis added)

John 15:1-2 ​

So, the good response to God’s teaching, correcting, and molding us is to begin from the place that God works in us for our good. He works in us to bless, to build, and to make us more like we were designed to be – to be like His Son!

We know that God’s way is the way of life. We know that He wants our good. If that is so, then why do we seem to squirm so uncomfortably under His teaching? Wouldn’t it be so much better if we would simply say yes to Him? His character is trustworthy. His love for us is clear. Will we trust that as we hear from His Word?

What causes you to squirm? How do you squirm? Is joy your response when God speaks?

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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Embracing God

What does God care about? How does a person receive eternal life? What must I do to be saved? I find it ironic how often the answer to these three question will contradict each other even when you are asking the same person. For example, a person like me who has been saved through Christ’s loving and sacrificial giving of Himself of the cross will so often declare that God is about relationships. Yet, when asked how a person is to become godly even people who believe what I believe will suddenly give a list of rules as their answer. So, which is it? Does God value rules or relationships? A real question to ask ourselves is this, “Is God primarily a rule giver or a life giver?” I realize that God is, in a sense, both. However, if that is as far as we go then we are ignoring a fundamental question: why did God give the rules in the first place? The answer: God reveals the rules of this universe to us so that we would have life. Where is life found? It is found in a relationship with God. That is what His teaching points us to. It is what His teaching asks us to believe and trust. Throughout the Scripture we see that God is all about relationships. He wants a relationship with us, and He wants us to value our relationships with others.

Paul says of the law (the rules), “24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a  tutor.” (Galatians 3:24-25)

The overarching focus of God’s commands is all about relationships. Why do we make it about rules? Is it because of our own desire to put God in a box so that we can control Him? Is it because we are uncomfortable with a relationship where we are the dependent one? God’s purposes have always been about a relationship with us. He walked with Adam and Eve in the garden to have a relationship with them. (Genesis 3:8) He called Abraham his friend. (James 2:23) He spoke with Moses as a man does with another man. (Exodus 33:11) These individuals are the most common ones used to establish God as the supreme law giver. Yet, we see God working so specifically in all their lives to show to us His intention to meet with us in relationship. Could it be that we have missed something as we have interpreted God to be so interested in the law?

Our entire understanding of godliness will change if we make it about relationships. Suddenly, we see the whole Old Testament in a new light. Suddenly, we can bring passages of Scripture together that seemed to challenge one another. Suddenly, Paul’s words to the Galatians make so much more sense. He says, “Therefore the law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.” (Galatians 3:24) What is the tutor? The tutor is the law. What is its purpose? Its purpose is to lead us to Christ! It does not lead us to religion, or ritual. The law leads us to a person. That person is Jesus Christ.

Do you find yourself making God’s call about following rules? Resist the temptation to lessen God’s call by making it about rules or rituals. Can you imagine the God of the Bible settling for just being an impersonal King? The Bible can’t. He is a personal King who is also our Friend and Shepherd. He wants a relationship that brings life. He desires to be a real person in our lives. He wants to be a person of importance to us. He is important. He is real. Do we treat Him like a statue or a marble inscription, or we treat Him as our beloved?

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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At Calvary – Ep 28 – 3 Card Monte in Life, the Church and Politics

When we think about the important issues facing America right now, we need to hear clear and helpful information from our leaders. In politics, in culture, and in faith we need our leaders to tell us what they believe and what they intend to do. The difficulty is that too often we don’t know if we can really believe them. Why? Too many times having played 3 card monte!

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Of course, you can always find all of the episodes right here…

At Calvary – Ep 34 – Having Confidence in God in Everyday Life At Calvary!

Psalm 46:10 declares that we should, “Cease striving and know that God is God.” What can we learn about having confidence in God from this Psalm? Let’s think deeply about trusting God in the midst of the storm. On Android … Continue reading →
  1. At Calvary – Ep 34 – Having Confidence in God in Everyday Life
  2. At Calvary – Ep 33 – Fighting without Sin? Is It Possible?
  3. At Calvary – Ep 32 – A Crazy Man Praises God
  4. At Calvary – Ep 31 – Who Cares about Political Conventions?
  5. At Calvary – Ep 30 – Backpacking with My Youngest
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The Christian Atheist – A Scary Thought

Today we think about one of the oddest actions in the world. No, it isn’t when people who don’t believe in God act like they don’t believe in Him. It isn’t when people who are iffy about God act like they don’t believe in Him. No, the oddest action to me is when those who say they believe in Him act as if He is irrelevant in their life or choices.

6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

Hebrews 11:6

About ten years ago I came across a book by Craig Groeschel called, The Christian Atheist, Believing in God but Living As If He Doesn’t Exist. In the book, Mr. Groeschel points out the odd contradiction in many of those who claim to follow Jesus faithfully: we seem to ignore what He says whenever it suits us. In essence, we act, sometimes, as if he doesn’t exist.

Consider this example: Johnny is hurt by someone. He hears God’s Word telling him to forgive that other person. He says, “I can’t forgive them – it’s hopeless.” Do you hear what our man Johnny is saying? He is saying, “Forgive? Forgiveness isn’t possible because there is nothing in the world that can make this situation any better.” Do you hear the inherent disbelief in such thoughts? He may sing the words on Sunday. He may nod or amen when the pastor talks about it. However, when it comes to believing it for his own life, it is as if what God has said isn’t even there. It’s as if what God has said doesn’t count. This is essentially atheism at the relationship level. We do not believe that God is at work in our painful relationships, so we lose heart. We give up. We refuse to forgive.

Do you ever find yourself in such a situation? Paul wrote to a man like that: Philemon. Philemon had experienced betrayal. He knew pain. His former servant, Onesismus, had betrayed him. He had been betrayed and then Onesimus had run from him. That same Onesimus was now returning with a letter from Paul. That letter is our book of Philemon. It is full of hope for Onesimus and Philemon. Paul believed that restoration was possible. He believed a new relationship that would be rich and rewarding was in their future.

If then you count me as a partner, receive him [Onesimus] as you would me.

Philemon 1:17

Paul asks Philemon to so forgive Onesimus that Philemon would begin to see Philemon in the same way that he sees Paul: a friend, a brother, forgiven. Philemon faced a tough choice: believe his that his experience with Onesimus should tell him how to act OR let Paul’s encouragement from Jesus tell him how to act. Which should he choose?

Here’s the choice – do we see Paul as a starry-eyed idealist or a man who understood pain and had a real answer for it? Was Paul speaking from an ivory tower or from real world wisdom? An even bigger choice – do we hear just another person speaking (Paul) or do we hear Jesus speaking through him? How we answer these questions tells us whether we are relationship atheists are not. I know, we couch our response so well in words that excuse our atheism. We say, “It takes two.” We say, “I can’t make them like me.” We even say, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” These statements can all be true. Yet, they have nothing to do with forgiveness. They have nothing to do with whether we can believe that God will work a miracle. Isn’t that what miracles are all about?

The real test of our Christianity is not saying we believe in miracles. The real test is when we need a miracle and we act like one may come. That is when we really believe. When we act in faith, that is when faith is real.

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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