This weekend we publicly dedicated our daughter Daisy Grace to the Lord, in front of our church family at freshlife. We recognize that she belongs to the Lord and is “on loan” to us, to steward and raise to know and fear the Lord. We desire to launch her out into the world to shine brightly and impact her generation for Christ.
Yesterday we were exactly one week away from the first skull church event of the year. I felt lead to call the church to come together (despite some wild winter weather) and ask for God’s favor on the outreach. If there is one thing I have learned in ministry it is that you don’t want to go out in the power of the flesh. On your own you will be about as effective in battle as Samson with a bowl-cut. (John 15:5) Many people chose to fast and pray throughout the day, and as we assembled as one we declared our weakness and embraced God’s strength.
We prayed, asking Him to rend the heavens and come down; lighting up this city and beyond with His love. We sang, (loudly) celebrating what we believe He is going to do. We left sensing the reality that the victory is already ours–the battle belongs to the Lord!
Someone texted this photo in to our website of last night’s rally and when I saw all the arms raised high in surrender I couldn’t help but think of the now legendary words spoken to D.L. Moody by Henry Varley. He told him that, “The world has yet to see what God will do with and for and through and in and by the man who is fully consecrated to Him.” And withinin Dwight’s heart came the response, “I will be that man.”
I don’t know what will happen next week or completely understand what the Lord has in store for the future of skull church (I have dreams) but I do know that God always gives His best to those who let Him write up the deal. And I am certain that as we move forward as an army, into all that God has for us, we will advance on our knees–for that is where the power comes from.
Zechariah 4:6 Then he said to me, “This is what the LORD says to Zerubbabel: It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
Often times when we are trying to discern the will of God our inclination is to wait. Hold tight. Sit still. Do nothing. Maybe we are freaked out that we will make a wrong decision or perhaps we are waiting for a bush to spontaneously catch fire and tell us what to do, but until we are 100% certain we aren’t budging. I think that oftentimes what we need to do is exactly the opposite. Step out in faith and trust God to either give us favor or close a door.
I think of the computers that are on treadmills and exercise bikes at the gym. The screens stay blank until you start pedaling. You can stand there all day pushing buttons, trying to start a program, but until you start to power it with movement, there is nothing on the display. I think that oftentimes God’s will is powered by motion. When we step out in faith, guided by the instruction He has already given us in His Word, often that is when we begin to get readouts. Stand still for too long and it’ll go blank.
I’m all for waiting on the Lord, taking time to pray, seeking wise counsel, asking God for a sign. But as I read scripture I see a whole lot of stepping out in faith with pretty low levels of certainty as to the outcome. Paul would set out for one city or seek to go to another country with little more than a desire, a hunch. He knew the gospel would “work” in one place as well as another and I don’t see him waiting for a “thus saith the Lord” before moving on. Every once in a while something special would lead him, like a dream, but most often he seemed to follow his gut. Sometimes it worked, other times he got shutdown. Big time. Are we to think he was out of sync with the will of God? If he was, than I’m in big trouble!
I think that it’s possible to miss out on God’s will for our lives because we are sitting on the couch waiting for it to be handed to us on a silver platter instead of getting out and moving towards it. In Genesis 24 Abraham charges a servant with finding a wife for his son Isaac. He had the fate of the entire Jewish nation on the line. No pressure or anything. He could have been seriously stumped by the assignment. Sat at home praying for God to give him a vision of the woman he was to find. Or lead her to him. Instead he got moving. And after he found the perfect bride for Isaac he praised God with these words:
Genesis 24:27 And he said, “Blessed be the LORD God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken His mercy and His truth toward my master. As for me, being on the way, the LORD led me to the house of my master’s brethren.”
The key to me is the phrase, “being on the way.” Even though he wasn’t certain who he was looking for, he got moving. He started mashing on the pedals and trusted God to guide his steps. He didn’t know which girl he was looking for, but He knew what country he was supposed to start looking in, so he headed there. And God, in His providence, brought him straight to Rebekkah. The screen flickered to life only after he had been putting one foot in front of the other in the dark. I think in our times of uncertainty we should follow suit.
We might not know where He wants us to be ultimately, but we can step out in faith towards what might be His will. Will we take wrong turns? Come to confusing forks in the road? Get turned around? Probably. But I believe that God is capable of using these to bring us to where He wants us. Remember, it was not being able to get into Asia that ultimately brought Paul to Philippi. Looking back, I can say for certain that God has lead me, even though many times I set out in a fog of uncertainty with little more than a sanctified hunch guiding my voyage.
Proverbs 16:9 A man’s heart plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.
I am in the middle of a wild storm at a retreat in the mountains of California. Chains were just made mandatory on the winding road up here. The winds are gusting so much that while I was preaching tonight the power cut out four times and once a mighty, rushing wind blew open some of the windows in the auditorium. (Fortunately it was at an intense spot in my message and I was able to play it off like it was just the Holy Spirit.) I can’t help but find it ironic that I flew on two airplanes from Montana only to freeze in a storm in Southern California. And of course I left all my warm clothes at home and only brought a light jacket! doht.
Weather complaints aside, tonight it was a huge honor to speak to a group of high school students on a winter camp. Fourteen years ago I attended a camp at a lake when God got a hold of my heart and I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed at the thought of what God might be brewing in some of these teenager’s lives. I told them that had God told me, fourteen years ago, what He wanted to do through me, I wouldn’t have believed Him. I only knew that I needed to come to Christ. Even though I had grown up in church, I needed to be born again. I told them this and challenged them that if the Lord tarries and they would follow Him fully there is no telling the history-altering, earth-changing, kingdom-shaking things God would do through them. At the invitation we saw twenty-five respond, making public professions of faith in Christ!
I have one more session early tomorrow morning where I will be challenging them to aggressively pursue the calling God has on their lives, with vision and tenacity. The world has yet to see what God could do with a heart fully surrendered to Him! And then I will be flying back to Montana. This weekend we are in Ruth 3 in our Happily Ever After series. My message is titled, “Sleepless in Bethlehem.” And we will see Ruth propose to Boaz, in the middle of the night, on a threshing floor. It’s a great passage and it will be great for everyone, especially those who are single but moving closer to the point where marriage is hopefully in the not too distant future.
One of the most beautiful verses in the Bible is Genesis 29:20 which says, “So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed only a few days to him because of the love he had for her.” Is this guy twitterpated or what? I deduce from this, and my own experience confirms, that love makes you crazy. It changes your perspective. When you love someone it’s not work to do sweet things for them, it’s a delight. In the book of Ruth we see Boaz feeding Ruth and he keeps handing her food until she is full and so are her pockets! In the end she is able to feed her mother in law dinner as a result of Boaz’s relentlessness. Maybe Ruth forgot to flip the little sign over at her table like you have to at Brazilian steakhouses.
In that day just about no one in Israel would have been willing to eat with a Moabite like Ruth, much less feed her like a queen. But I bet you that Boaz felt the same way Jacob did, like it was no big deal at all. Wanna know why? It’s because when you love someone it’s not work to do sweet things for them. It’s a thrill, it’s a pleasure. You are just stoked to be around them at all. Love changes everything.
I pray today that right now as you read this, whether you are pumped that it’s Valentines day or can’t wait for this wretched day to end, that you would know that God loves you like Jacob loved Rachel, like Boaz loved Ruth. He loves you! He delights in you! He rejoices over you with singing and dancing! That is why Jesus had joy set as He endured the shame of the cross. What was His joy? You! And that is why He is so excited to do things for you. In Luke 12:32 Jesus said, “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Keep this in mind as you pray and as you participate in God’s plans for you today. God is not reluctant to revive, He is not stingy with His blessings. He loves you so it’s not work for Him to do sweet things for you. Love lightens the load.
This realization will transform the way you approach doing the things God has called you to do too. Your love for God, which will grow in response to your understanding of His love for you, will lighten the load of the things you are doing for Him. The more you love Him the more you will find that serving Him and obeying Him is not a heavy burden but a pleasure, an honor, and the joy and passion of your life. You will be pinching yourself because you can hardly believe that you get to serve Him. His love is too good to be true. But it is true. Happy Valentines day!
The opening chapter of the book of Ruth punched me in the face this week. I learned from just about every character in the story. From Naomi I learned that I must not let my feelings dictate my faith. I learned from Orpah that if you quit when it’s hard you will miss out. I learned from Elimelech that running away from God when He is trying to get your attention never solves anything. From Mahlon and Chilion I realized that those are terrible names. And from Ruth I saw that even if just about everyone around you is making mistakes and everything is falling apart, God still has a plan and you can still choose to participate in that grand adventure. No one can stop you from trusting that God is in control.
In the past 4 years, in addition to some great topical series, we have made it all the way through 13 books of the Bible (you can catch up here) and we are about to add another one to that list. This weekend at freshlife we are beginning a new study going verse by verse through the Old Testament book of Ruth. This book puts a magnificent love story (that of Ruth and Boaz) on display. That is wonderful in and of itself, God cares very much about our love lives! But in this beautiful, Biblical chick-flick we are also presented with another love story, an eternal one. We see a striking picture of God’s love for messed up, sinful people, and the price He was willing to pay to redeem us to Himself.
Throughout this series we will be inviting people to respond to God’s great love and invite Christ into their hearts. Towards that end, we made the series launch look like little Valentines. This seemed like a great idea during our creative brainstorming meeting. I wasn’t so sure we had chosen wisely yesterday after handing one out to the guy with grease covered hands who rang me up at the car place. He held it up and saw the heart and shot me a funny look like I had handed him a grenade with the pin pulled. I quickly blurted out, “Uh, I’d like to invite you to a new series we are starting at church this weekend…it’s all about God’s love.”
But you know what? Dudes who have to use lava soap at the end of a shift need to know about Christ’s love too! And I am praying for God to stir longing in the hearts of all those who come, whatever their station in life is. I hope that they will realize that their heart is empty and that what they ultimately crave deep-down, that causes them to turn to other things, is a relationship with the God that made them. I pray that we see many choose to open the door of their hearts to Christ as their Savior, Lord and Valentine.
If you know of someone who needs to hear that God loves them, invite them to come to a service!
Kalispell: Saturday night 6pm at the Strand, Sunday morning 9am at the Strand and 11am at the Strand and the Liberty.
Whitefish: Sunday morning 10am at the Whitefish Mountain Cinema
Webcast: Sunday morning 9am and 11am MST at freshlifechurch.com
Radio: Sunday morning 9am and 11am MST at freshliferadio.com