Surely You Know

“Who has gone up to heaven and come down? Whose hands have gathered up the wind? Who has wrapped up the waters in a cloak? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is the name of his son? Surely you know!” (Proverbs 30:4, NIV)

Yesterday at LakeView I felt led by the Lord to give an invitation for people to repent and declare their faith in Jesus, to be saved. In some churches I’ve attended something like this would be handled through an “altar call.” That is, we’d have had prayer partners at the front, and we’d have invited people to step out and come forward to pray and receive Christ. In a couple of churches, they even had an actual altar, a bench at the front of the church before the stage where people could come and kneel to pray.

I didn’t give an altar call yesterday, I did the old “every head bowed, every eye closed” routine and two people raised their hands to receive Christ. PRAISE THE LORD! However, I keep wondering if I should’ve challenged the people gathered to take a more declarative step…

I’ll be transparent. My church background, with its dysfunction, has put fear of altar calls in me. There have been a few times at LakeView when I felt nudged to invite people forward for prayer for one reason or another but chickened out. The culture of our church is not an altar-call culture. What if no one comes forward? Will it seem like the service was a failure? Will people think I’m not a good pastor? Hello, pride, there you are again. I’d sure like you to be crucified in me so that Christ can live in your place!

This morning, when I read Proverbs 30:4, I felt the challenge from the Lord. (Sidenote: It’s amazing how God can give a rebuke without condemnation. He is incredible!) Why do I let fear and pride influence my actions? “Who has gone up to heaven and come down? Whose hands have gathered up the wind? Who has wrapped up the waters in a cloak? Who has established the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is the name of his son? Surely you know!”

As I reflected on these words, the last line held my attention. “What is his name, and what is the name of his son?” His name is Jesus, and His son’s name is… me. I’ve been born again into His household. My confidence and sense of self-worth shouldn’t come from whether or not people respond to an invitation. Neither should I be afraid (whether afraid of failure or wounded pride) to be obedient when God stirs my heart. Our job is to obey faithfully and let God produce the fruit. If we do what He tells us to do, then we cannot fail because the definition of success is obedience, not results.

My prayer for the week is for those who accepted Christ yesterday (please join me in that), and for God to remind you who He is what His son’s or daughter’s name is, yours. Be humble, yet confident in who you are in Jesus.

Tested by Praise

“The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but people are tested by their praise.”

Proverbs 27:21 NIV

Although I don’t have any firsthand experience with refining metals, my secondhand understanding is that they are refined by fire. You take a piece of ore, which is rock or sediment that has traces of the gold or silver in it, or a chunk of metal with impurities, and throw it into a smelting furnace. The metal melts into a liquid, and the impurities (also called dross) can be separated out resulting in pure gold or silver.

Gold’s and silver’s impurities are revealed by the fire in the furnace. Your and my impurities are revealed by praise. Compliments test our humility and can expose such dross in us as pride, selfishness, vain ambition, jealousy, and more. It’s not wrong to take pride in a job well done or to receive a compliment from someone else. The question is, what do I do with that praise? How does it cause my heart to react? Do I return the praise to God, giving thanks for the work He has done in and through me?

Remember James 1:17: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father…” Nothing we have is from our own hand. God gave us the skills, talents, abilities, and opportunities. Receive a compliment for being faithful with what He’s given, but don’t forget that He’s the one who gives–and takes away.

Perhaps the most telling test of praise (in my experience) is how a person reacts when someone else receives praise, but they don’t. We’ve all been there. Someone comes up and compliments the person standing next to us, but neglects to give us the same regard. When someone else is praised and you aren’t, what happens in your heart? Jealousy? Anger? Discouragement?

Here’s the thing. As Christians, we should really only care about the praise of One: our great God and Savior. If we never receive a single nice word from another human being, but the Lord says, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” then we have received the highest praise of all. So, when someone else is complimented and you aren’t, give thanks that God allowed that other person to be encouraged, and remember that one day the One who alone is worthy of all praise will tell you just how proud of you He is.

My prayer for the week is that some praise or compliment will reveal to you an impurity so that you can confess and be free.

True Riches

“Do not wear yourself out to get rich; do not trust your own cleverness. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.”

Proverbs 24:4-5 (NIV)

Granted, this Proverb is talking specifically about money. And, money (or wealth of some sort) is a universal idol for people of every culture throughout history. Jesus said that the love of money is so strong it threatens our relationship with God to the point where we must choose who will be our master–God or money (see Mt. 6:24). As I’ve heard more than one pastor say, “You will either love God and use money, or love money and try to use God.”

But it wasn’t financial wealth that God brought to my attention when I read these verses in Proverbs 24. God reminded me this morning that I need to trust and rely on him for success in ministry. “Rich” doesn’t just mean money. For a pastor, “rich” can be any number of things, but it’s most often numbers. It’s a struggle for pastors to avoid the comparison game, looking at other churches to see how many people they have and what they’re doing to get those people through the front doors. We are very tempted (and it’s not easy to resist) to slightly exaggerate our average attendance when we meet other pastors and they ask, “How big is your flock?”

In my time with the Lord this morning, I was praying for LakeView, thinking about the direction God has called us and the transition coming as we begin to follow his lead. As with any big decision or course change, there is always a little anxiety. What if it doesn’t “work”? What if we’re not at 500 in five years? Did we hear you correctly, Lord?

I prayed, “Lord, don’t forget your servant.”

And he replied, Servant, don’t forget your Master.

I remembered something Dr. Mathews said in one of my classes at Moody Theological Seminary. “You worry about the depth of your relationship with God. Let God worry about the breadth of your ministry.” My role, and our role as a church, is to remember our Master, to worry about the depth of our relationship with God. We’ll let him worry about the numbers as we faithfully worship, pray, meet with him in his Word, and share his love with others in our lives (both inside and outside the church).

What do you wear yourself out to obtain? Where do you find yourself tempted to trust your own cleverness? Money? Reputation? Your position at work? Success? Experiences in life? However you define “rich,” my prayer for this week is that we remember our Master. God’s love is true wealth, and we have it in infinite abundance. Let’s focus on spending time with him and let him worry about the “riches” of this life.

Be Wise, Take Advice

“Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.” (Proverbs 13:10, NIV)

Have you ever known someone who was always asking for advice, but never taking it? Have you ever been someone who frequently asks for advice, but rarely takes it? There have been times in my life when I was desperate for advice. In those seasons, I drank in wisdom from older, more experienced people who’d already been through whatever I was in the middle of.

There have also been times in my life when I was pretty full of myself. I thought I knew what I was doing and didn’t want advice. When a well-meaning person offered me a word of wisdom, I only pretended to listen. My face was interested and attentive, but my heart was smug and prideful. I can always tell when I start getting this way by how I react to unasked for advice. If I’m annoyed, there’s a good chance I’m complacent and arrogant (even if I’m hiding it well).

What I have discovered, often the hard way, is that most advice has something of value I can take away. There are plenty of times when someone gives me advice I don’t want to hear. In fact, that may be the majority of the advice I’ve received throughout my life! But it’s often when I don’t want to hear it that it has a valuable nugget of wisdom for me.

One of the best pieces of advice I have ever received came from Dr. Green in a class at Moody Theological Seminary. He said (paraphrased), “You will leave Moody with a Master of Divinity–a higher level of theological education than most people you’ll meet. But, don’t think that you know God better than anyone else in your church–you don’t. You may have read books and written papers, but there’s a whole lot more to knowing God than that.  You can learn something from every single person you meet. Never forget that.”

My prayer for this week is that we will each receive some advice with humility and grace.

Prepare to Meet Your Maker

The Lord said to Moses: “Tell your brother Aaron that he is not to come whenever he chooses into the Most Holy Place behind the curtain in front of the atonement cover on the ark, or else he will die. For I will appear in the cloud over the atonement cover. This is how Aaron is to enter the Most Holy Place…” (Leviticus 16:2-3, NIV)

The Most Holy Place was the inner sanctuary of the Tabernacle, where the Ark of the Covenant was kept and where God made His invisible presence visible. This was sacred space, and it could not be entered into willy-nilly. For a human being to be in the physical presence of the LORD God Almighty was no small thing! Aaron, the high priest, had to go through a strict ritual cleansing to enter the Most Holy Place. He had to bathe, wear certain clothes (even special underclothes), and sacrifice a bull for his own sin before he could enter into the Most Holy Place to offer the sacrifice for the people of Israel. Once Aaron was done making the sacrifices for the people, he was to change out of the clothes, bathe again, and offer another burnt offering for himself.

Thank God that Jesus is a better sacrifice, that His blood is superior to that of goats and bulls, and that through His death on the cross He won access for us to come directly into the presence of God–to “approach the throne of grace with boldness” (Hebrews 4:16)! Because of Jesus’ death on the cross, we’re not going to die when we come before the LORD, we can approach Him with boldness like a small child who runs up to their Daddy, grabs onto his legs, and says, “Pick me up, Daddy!”

And yet, as beautiful as this is, the challenge from Leviticus this morning was to remember that for a human being to stand in the presence of the Most High God is no insignificant matter! If there is one mistake we Evangelicals make (and there are many), it is that we often don’t take the worship of God seriously. We think of Jesus as our homeboy and are so familiar with God we risk losing the reverence we should have toward Him. When we come to church on Sunday morning, we are coming to literally meet our Maker.

If you were going to meet the President of the United States, the Queen of England, a Prime Minister, Emporer, or another world leader, what would you do to prepare yourself? Most of us would look in our closets for appropriate clothes to wear. We’d shower, shave, get a fresh haircut, clip our fingernails, and brush our teeth. Before being ushered into the presence of the very important person, we’d be searched. We may have a background check done on us. The point is, you don’t just walk into the President’s office or the Queen’s palace willy-nilly.

God is not just a VIP, He is the VIP, the Most High. Are you ready to meet your Maker this Sunday? My prayer is that this week we will get a glimpse of the power and majesty of God, and remember that while God has called us friends, He is still the King of the Universe. Humility, confession, and repentance are appropriate as we prepare to worship Him together next Sunday.


Photo by Cristina Gottardi on Unsplash

Going To Work With Dad

And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3-4).

Yesterday was my last day at Pontiac Bible Church.  Many people shared encouraging words of affirmation with us, and we walked away with a new appreciation for how God works.  God chose to include us in his plan to minister to people at PBC—what a privilege!  Yes, we endeavored to serve faithfully where he called us for the past six years, but God did all the heavy lifting.  It was good timing as I read these words of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel this morning.  Almost as if God was reminding me, “Don’t start thinking you’re a hot shot because of all that’s happened in recent months.  Remember the path to greatness.”

My prayer this week is that we will remember in our leadership roles that we are accompanying God on his ministry.  We should be faithful in our service, but it is God who will accomplish the task.  It’s kind of like going-to-work-with-Dad-day every day!