Thursday, September 24, 2009

Engage- Go & Pray

Yesterday was a special day in this country. A day that is celebrated each year on the last Wednesday in September. I'm talking about See You at the Pole day. This is an incredible opportunity for students to exercise our freedom by surrounding the flag pole at their school and pray. I had the privilege of joining the local high school for this event and its great to see students joining together for prayer. This year's theme was "Engage- Go & Pray" and focused on the story of King Josiah. I felt that this was a great opportunity to preach on the subject to tie it in with the day's event.

First of all, what all comes to your mind when you hear the word revival? When I was a kid and probably until the past several years I always thought of a series of meetings we had at church that to me seemed to last forever (I mean like Squints on The Sand Lot saying FOR-EV-ER). That was my view of revival and while those gatherings do fit the definition, I think we all probably know that our nation, communities, and churches are in desperate need of the type of revival that is a spiritual reawakening. We even hear it mentioned a lot in church in the form of prayer requests. I heard a quote this week that said something to the fact of "In order for revival to take place, there must first be vival". We all know that vival isn't a word but in order for a reawakening to occur, people must have been awake in Christ in the first place. I also heard some startling statistics that bothered me. 80% of churches in America are declining (a church can have increasing numbers and still be declining). Also each year in America 3500-4000 churches close their doors. Why is this happening? We need revival and most revivals in the history of the world began with young people or teenagers. King Josiah began one of the greatest revivals in the Old Testament at the age of 16.

We looked at the beginnings of this in 2 Chronicles 34:1-19. King Josiah began to live a life of radical obedience. This means that he was willing to get rid of whatever- and I mean whatever was a hinderance to his and everyone's spiritual growth. This means he tore down the idols and altars that had caused them to stray from God. Are you willing to live a life of radical obedience, getting rid of anything that is bringing you down? It could be anything from friends to television to your cell phone, etc. Even if it isn't something that is necessarily bad but is keeping you from growing closer to God, then it has become a bad thing and you need to get rid of it.

In verse 8 King Josiah decides to restore the temple and during the process they find the Book of Law (Genesis through Deuteronomy)-verse 14. After it was read to him in verse 19 he tore his robes because he realized the kingdom hadn't been following the law the way it should and it grieved him. We should feel the same way about sin. We should be grieved and distressed about it.

My desire is to see this generation stand up for God like never before. I believe that God is calling this generation to do this. It's time for us get serious about our faith, get rid of anything that is holding us back, and grow closer with God. For revival to begin in our churches, schools, communities, etc. it must first begin with each and every one of us.

The verse that this year's SYATP theme was derived is 2 Kings 22:13a that Message puts this way "Go and pray to God for me and for the people..." This is King Josiah's statement after he realizes their disobedience against the law. In other words the king was saying in order for us to change, we have to pray for each other. This is what ministry is about- lifting/building each other up. We must pray for each other. We must engage in prayer making it a priority. When we do this and get rid of the things in our life that are holding us back, then revival begins.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Whew, that felt good!

This morning I had the incredible opportunity to lead worship at Christ Legacy Academy's chapel. Nineteen students along with teachers, parents, and some board members gathered for their weekly chapel meeting. During this time students shared what they are currently learning, some quoted scripture passages, an essay was read, etc. Also during this chapel our associate pastor Jason spoke to the students about prayer.

I've been leading worship for over two years now, mainly at youth services but other settings every so often. As always it was a great time where I enjoy using the gifts that God has given me. We sang three songs and at the end of the last song "How Great is Our God" a 1st grade student made the statement out loud "Whew, that felt good!" I laughed and responded "It sure did". It's been a neat thing to think and laugh about all day but the more I think about this moment I've been a bit bothered. Definitely not by the fact that this young girl professed out loud her emotion because I'm very proud of her for that, but that I didn't necessarily feel the same way. Of course I agree with the lyrics and love singing as I have numerous times, but I wasn't overcome with that excitement that she felt about praising our wonderful God. The thing is that I don't worship freely most of the time. I admit it. I fall into the sin of worrying about what others are thinking about me while I'm playing/singing and I miss out on the opportunity to worship like I should. I worry about whether or not I'm going to play the right chords, or sing the right lyrics, or even sing in the right key (which I probably don't anyway). Don't get me wrong, I love to play guitar and worship, but for some reason I hold back. And for some reason I feel like posting this today. I'm not sure exactly why. Maybe so you can pray that I will worship freely like I should. Maybe so you can examine yourself to see if you do the same. Anyway I realize today even more how I want and need to take advantage of the freedom I have to worship freely in this country and how I can approach the throne of God freely because of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross. I want every time I sing praises to God to be able to say at the end- "Whew, that felt good!"

Monday, September 21, 2009

When God Has Been Revealed

I concluded the Reveal series this past week by taking a look at a time when God was revealed to Moses and the events surrounding. First, have you ever been singing a song to find out you've been singing the wrong lyrics? Have you ever been doing something to learn you've been doing it wrong? What is your reaction when this happens? Sometimes its quite funny when we've been singing the wrong lyrics. However when we learn new information, no matter what it is, our way of thinking or even acting changes. If you learn the correct song lyrics then you shouldn't continue to sing the wrong lyrics. It should be the same with God. When we have an encounter with God, then our way of thinking and acting should change.

If you look at Exodus chapters 31-33 we see a time when Moses went up Mt. Sinai for the 1st time for 40 days and receives the 10 commandments. While up there the Israelites freak out (which they were good at) and start worshipping the golden calf they created. Moses reacts with just a little bit of rage and then after God says he wants to completely destroy the Israelite nation and start over with only Moses, then Moses intercedes on their behalf. During the next little bit of chapters 33 and 34 we read about an incredible encounter between Moses and God. God revealed Himself to Moses and here are the 3 main points we looked at surrounding this encounter.

1) Moses allowed God to reveal Himself and even asked for Him to- Exodus 33:18
-We have to make ourselves available to God. If we come to church each week unwilling to listen, then we are not making ourselves available to God. We can even do this while reading our Bible daily and being involved in spiritual activities. If we do it out of habit or an ulterior motive, then we don't give God the chance to speak to us. Consider all you do during the week including spiritual activities. Do the amount of time invested in these add up to more than the amount of quality time you spend with God?

After this Moses goes up Mt. Sinai a second time for 40 days. During this time he writes on the 2nd set of stone tablets the words of the covenant and the 10 Commandments. Also during this time God renews His covenant with Moses and the Israelites.

2) When God revealed Himself to Moses- Moses did what God commanded Him to do- Exodus 34:32
-When God tells you to do something- do it! When God tells you to not do something- don't do it! That's pretty easy to understand but we don't always follow this because we want to be in control and don't like to give control to God.

3) Moses was changed because of his encounter with God- Exodus 34:29-30
-Moses was changed because of His encounter with God and it was obvious. His face was shining. Not only that but there was a change inside of Moses. When we spend time with God and He reveals Himself to us, we're changed- we're not the same. We change our way of thinking and acting. People should see a difference in you when you've been with God.

Ask yourself this- Can people see a difference in me because of my relationship with God? I'm not meaning do people know that you go to church, because you can go to church all day long and not be changed if you don't allow yourself to be. Are you allowing God to transform you? I love Max Lucado's quote- "God loves you just the way you are, but He refuses to leave you that way. He wants you to be just like Jesus." I challenge you to allow God to change you.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

These Are the Days

Thursday is usually the day when I post the notes from the previous night's sermon but today I have something different I want to write about. I'll definitely post them either tomorrow or Monday because it was definitely a sermon I enjoyed preparing and preaching.

You ever have one of those days when the most random song pops into your head? I'm not talking about just any song, but one you haven't heard in years? Well this morning was one of those times. Belinda and I struggled to get up this morning, probably because we stayed up late talking. Sometimes it takes me a while to gear down after a Wednesday night and with the recent action of cutting our satellite we sometimes are left to entertain each other by talking, which is quiet alright with me. So because of that we struggled to get out of bed and as I did almost immediately a song popped into my head that I hadn't heard in years. It was a song that I would have listened to at a strange time in my life several years ago when I definitely wasn't focused on God. Don't get me wrong I was going to church and stuff, but that was about it. There was no depth to my walk with Jesus.

So this song just randomly starts playing in head and the lyrics went something like this.......These are the days when all that I can do is dream. This made me think-which can sometimes be dangerous when I first wake up. It made me think of the dreams I have for my own life, my family, ministry, etc. I'm reminded of Proverbs 29:18 that pretty much says when we don't dream, then we have direction. Now we have to make sure our dreams are of God, but I believe we need to dream big. I love this quote by Steven Furtick- Has anybody laughed at your vision lately? If not, you may not have a vision from God. Probably just a daydream. As this obscure song played in my head I wondered what God might be saying. While God wants us to dream big, there has to come a point where that's not all we do. We must continue dreaming and allowing God to lead us, but we have to put into action the plan that leads to those dreams coming to pass. I tell the students, and myself, that the people in the Bible who did huge things are not just unattainable examples for us to read about. Sure we'll probably never doing anything that seems as huge as parting the Red Sea, but anything we do for God is just as significant from His standpoint. So for whatever reason I have this song in my head today, because of it I feel challenged to realize that- yes, these are the days. These are the days where we're meant to not only dream of what God wants us to accomplish, but to set out action to do it as well. I want to continue to dreaming big but when I get to heaven I don't want God to say "Congratulations, you were a big dreamer" which I know He wouldn't say but I want to hear "Well done!"

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Reveal Part 4- Listening

A couple weeks ago I spoke on talking to God and dissected the "How" in prayer and so this week I spoke about the 2nd half of prayer which is listening. Listening to God is something we possibly all struggle with. I know I do and so that made this a very tough sermon to preach. Not because it was stepping on toes or anything like that because it's always a tough question to answer when someone ask about how to hear from God. However there are things we can do in order to make it easier to hear from God so that He can reveal Himself to us.

Every once in a while my wife and I will be having a conversation and something will be mentioned and the other one will say "I didn't know that". At that point the other one says "Yes, I told you that a few days ago". We all at some point are dealt the disappointment of telling someone something that we thought was important enough to tell them and they don't remember it or didn't listen in the first place. We all want to be heard when we speak. On the flipside at some point or another we all need a word at times. We all need words of encouragement and affirmation whether it is by a parent, teacher, coach, etc. We also need a word from God. I know there are times when I can feel hopeless or even desperate and I'll need a word from God. I need Him to speak to me and give me direction. We have to realize though that God is always speaking, but sometimes like we do with each other we miss hearing HIs voice and what He has to say to us.

The main scripture passage we read was John 10:22-30 and focused primarily on verse 27. Jesus says here that His sheep know His voice. If we truly know God, then we will know His voice when He speaks. We need to realize however that since there is no one like God, then He speaks differently than anyone else. We sometimes think that we can act like a little kid with God and keep begging and yelling in order to get our way but God doesn't compete with our noise level, and we have to be willing to accept whatever it is that He is saying to us. God never stops speaking, but we may not always like what He says. However just as in praying that His will be done, we have to be willing to accept whatever His will is and what He says.

Things to do to listen to God
-You must know His voice to be able to hear it. A musician is unable to know if their instrument is in tune or not the first time they pick it up. Over time they are able to determine if it is in tune because they know how it sounds. The same is with our relationship with God, the more time we spend with Him the easier it is to recognize His voice.
-Be still - Be quiet - Get alone. God does speak in loud times, but it makes it much easier to hear Him when we get quiet. This is something I struggle with because I love music so much. I love to have music playing when I study, read, etc. But what I'm learning more and more all the time is that if I get alone and get quiet, then it's easier for me to focus on listening to God.
-Get rid of any sin in your life. Sin blocks us from hearing God. Simply put.
-Wait patiently. Know that God hears your cry and may desire for you to lean on Him more as you wait on the answer. Psalm 40:1

How do I know if it's God speaking?
This is definitely something we need to ask ourselves. It's crazy some of the things that people will sometimes say that God has told them.
-Ask yourself if what you think He is saying is actually Him or if it's really something you want
-Seek godly counsel for advice
-Be comforted in knowing that God will never lead you to go somewhere He isn't already there- Deuteronomy 31:8
-Know that God never confuses you, only Satan confuses
-Know that God will never tell you anything or tell you to do anything that contradicts Himself, His nature, or Scripture. He will never tell you that it's ok to download illegal music- even if it's Christian music. He'll never say it's ok to pirate movies, break the speed limit, get revenge on someone, etc. It's not going to happen so if you think God is telling you to do something that goes against His nature, then it's not from God!

What is God speaking to you right now? Don't be frustrated trying to listen to Him, but actually take time to listen to what He is saying. I encourage you to take some time today, and everyday to get alone, be quiet, and ask God to speak to you.