God in the Mundane

I suspect that there is one thing that is true of most Christians today – when we look for God, we look for Him in the exciting, the extraordinary, the uncommon things of life. That’s why so many Christians today, given the choice, gravitate to larger churches – something is happening there. It’s exciting. We feel good there.

Don’t misread me, I’m not against big churches. Some of my best friends are pastors of large churches. Some of my family members attend big churches. Mega churches have a bigger influence and create a larger ripple effect than small churches and I’m thankful.

My point is that God isn’t always where we think He is. In fact, I think that we often miss God because of our preoccupation with the exciting.

That’s because many times God is in the mundane. The ordinary. The unexciting. The commonplace. And we miss Him because we’re looking in the wrong places.

You can call this the Elijah syndrome. From 1 Kings 17 where we first meet the prophet, through chapter 18 Elijah’s life was one exciting event after another. He stood toe to toe with the King as only a prophet could; he ate food miraculously provided for him by God; he performed miracles; he raised the dead; he challenged the King and his false prophets to a contest of fire; he defeated the forces of evil; and he saw miraculous answers to prayer. Elijah was living in the realm of the exciting!

Then he fled from an angry woman, running as fast as his legs could take him all the way back to Mount Horeb (Sinai) where Moses had met God generations before.

It was there on a desolate, barren mountain that God appeared to Elijah. Not in the hurricane force winds that ripped the mountain. Not in the earthquake that rocked the earth. Not in the fire that raged across the landscape.

God appeared to Elijah in the mundane. He came to the prophet in a quiet, whispering voice.

Nothing special about that voice. Nothing exciting or extraordinary or uncommon. Just a quiet whisper of a voice. God was in the mundane. He was in the ordinary.

I believe that is where we will most often find God in our lives. We will find Him in the quiet of our Bible reading. Or in the solitude of our prayers. Or in a private God conversation with a friend as they encourage us. Or in the everyday events of life as we faithfully live for Him.

Sure, the exciting is fun – and sometimes it’s invigorating. But you can’t live all of your spiritual life on the exciting and the extraordinary. God doesn’t expect us too.

Most of our spiritual lives involve the ordinary and that’s OK, because God is there.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

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What Does it Mean to Wait on God and . . .

The Bible talks about waiting on God, especially in the Psalms (25:3-5, 25:21, 27:14, 37:7-9, 37:34 etc.). You also find this idea expressed in the book of Isaiah (8:17, 30:18, 49:23).  The best-known passage may be Isaiah 40:31: But they that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint.

Waiting on God is often mentioned in the context of trials and suffering. Exactly the hardest times to wait.

But what does it mean to wait on God?

The word used in the Old Testament (where most “wait” passages are found) has several concepts built into it.

One concept in this word is the idea of waiting for something with an eager expectation. You are waiting because you know something better is coming.

Another concept found in this word is waiting with endurance or what we would call tenacity and patience. You’re not just hanging in there until something better comes along – you’re hanging on with all that you have, determined not to be swept away by the riptide of life. It’s another way of saying, My faith means something and I’m not giving it up that easily.

When you wait on God you dig your heels in and wait in faith because you know He’s doing something that is better than what you are going through today.

So, if that is true, why do we find it so hard to wait on God?

There are likely several things that come into play here.

One is that we’re impatient people. Call it the McDonald syndrome. We have a spiritual melt-down if we have to wait a month or even a couple of years for God to answer us.

Another issue is God’s timing – which is always the right time, whether we think so or not. Inherent in the very word wait is the concept that this isn’t going to work out when we think it should – so we have to W-A-I-T for it to work out in God’s time.

A third thing that comes into play is suffering. It’s just hard to wait when it hurts so much.

But the idea of waiting on God also implies, as I’ve already said several times, that something good is going to happen. A child waits (not so patiently!) for Christmas. The Bride waits for her wedding day. We wait for our out of town guests to arrive. All because we know that something good is coming.

Waiting on God is not easy, but it can be a faith-building experience if we learn how to do it.

The prophet Isaiah, who exhorted Israel to wait on God, held up a future glorious day as encouragement for them to wait patiently. While this was written to Israel there is an application for us today.

And it will be said in that day: Behold, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for Him; we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation (Isaiah 25:9).

So, Wait on God. A Better Day is coming. Be Glad and Rejoice in His Salvation.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

Trusting Bravely in The Darkness

One of the hallmarks of the Christian faith is trust. Although we often use the words faith and trust as synonyms, there is actually a difference. As one writer said, trusting is what we do because of the faith we have been given.

We begin the Christian life by trusting in the death of Jesus to save us. And we grow in the Christian faith as we learn to trust God in the various times of life.

In Joshua 1:9, God said to Joshua, Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. He was saying, trust Me whatever life throws at you.

The Bible has a lot to say about trust, especially in the Psalms. Just a few examples include Psalm 9:10, Those who know your name trust in you; Psalm 13:5, I trust in your unfailing love; Psalm 20:7, Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God; and Psalm 37:3, Trust in the Lord and do good.

The classic passage on the subject is Proverbs 3:5-6 which stresses just how important the issue of trust is. Trust in the Lord with all your heart (all that you are), and don’t lean on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.

God wants us to trust Him all of the time for everything in life. Even in the hard times.

The thing about trust is that you really don’t know the strength of your trust until your trust is tested. It is in the trials of life that the depth of trust is revealed. It is in the darkness that we really learn just how much we trust. What is assumed in the light is often exposed in the darkness.

And that’s why God sometimes puts us in difficult circumstances. Trust demands trials. Without them we really don’t know anything about the strength of our trust.

David McCullough in his excellent biography about the early life of President Theodore Roosevelt, Mornings on Horseback, relates what was undoubtedly the darkest day of Roosevelt’s life.

Roosevelt had always had a close relationship with his mother, which only deepened after the death of his father. In October of 1880 he married Alice Lee, the love of his life and the only other woman to whom he gave his love (until a second marriage some years later). These two women, his mother and his wife, were the lights of his life and he could not have been happier.

Until a fateful day in 1884 when tragedy struck. His mother was the first to die of typhoid fever. Alice died eleven hours later in the same house of a kidney disease after giving birth to their only child.

Contemplating the death of his wife some months later he wrote, When my heart’s dearest died, the light went out from my life forever. It was a dark place.

One of Roosevelt’s contemporaries prayed that God would give Roosevelt strength to work bravely in the darkness.

I would like to make a small change to his prayer and pray for you and for me, that when we are in that dark place, that place where we don’t understand what God is doing, when we can’t explain His plan, that He will give us strength to trust Him bravely in the darkness.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

 

Be God’s Hands

I’m getting ready for another trip to Haiti. This year I’ll be speaking at a Bible Conference for a group of churches, teaching two Bible College classes and preaching in a week of evangelistic meetings. I started doing this 29 years ago. It seems like just yesterday I stepped onto the tarmac in Port-au-Prince and stepped back in time a hundred years.

I know what’s been going on in Haiti recently, in fact I’ve kept close watch on it. And yes, it concerns me. I’m not anybody’s hero.

But things are quiet right now and I believe that God has given me this opportunity. That doesn’t necessarily mean that nothing bad will ever happen. I’ve already been caught in two manifestations over the years but God was and is faithful.

That’s what I want to share with you. God is faithful – and He often manifests that faithfulness through people.

In the few times that I’ve been in uncomfortable situations in Haiti, I have always had the same experience – Haitian people watched out for me. People that I didn’t know. People who took it upon themselves to be concerned about me and provided for me because they could look at me and know that I was alone in a foreign country.

You can say what you want about Haiti but there’s one thing that’s true: the people of Haiti are some of the kindest, most helpful people I’ve ever met. They are just great people.

But back to God’s faithfulness. God often works through people. He shows His protection through people. He shows His love through people. He shows His faithfulness through people.

The Apostle Paul touched on this idea in 2 Corinthians 1 when he wrote:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 

Comfort comes from God – but he sends it through people.

I’m so glad that He does.

My contacts with Haitian people, many of whom I didn’t know, have reinforced my perspective that I’m here (and there) for others. To comfort them in their suffering. To encourage them in their poverty. To bless them in their trials. To be God’s servant in whatever way I can.

The challenge for each of us every day is to be the avenue of God’s faithfulness wherever He puts us.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

Is Peace Even Possible?

We live in a world of increasing hostilities and aggression. It’s manifest, not only between countries and ethnic groups, but more and more between groups and individuals in the same country and even the same neighborhoods.

It used to be that while people had differences of opinions about a wide variety of issues, actual hostilities were reserved for the concerns that fundamentally affected us in powerful ways. In ways that had the potential to change the basic fabric and structure of our lives.

Somewhere in the post WW II world that all changed. And the speed of change has been propelled at increasing rates by our addiction to social media.

We now live in an age of instant hostility. It takes little to set people against each other.

We seem to take offense so easily and believe that it is our fundamental right to stand up for our cause by any means necessary – even it that involves hostilities, either physical or verbal.

As Christians, how are we to navigate a culture of hostility?

The answer is Peace. Unfortunately, unless you belong to one of the historic peace churches, it’s an issue that we hear so little about.

But Is Peace Even Possible?

Here I’m addressing the issue on a personal level. Is peace possible between people? Between coworkers. Between church members. Between neighbors.

The first thing we have to understand is that the issue of Peace is something that God takes very seriously. He is a god of peace (1 Corinthians 14:33) and He is deeply interested that we be people of peace. A quick check of the Bible, especially the New Testament, will reveal many references to the subject.

The next thing that we need to know is that peace is a responsibility laid firmly on the shoulders of every follower of Christ.

We’re taught to Pray for Peace (Psalm 122:6); make peace (Matthew 5:9); live in peace as much as you can (Romans 12:18); let God’s peace be the ruling factor in our lives (Colossians 3:15); be filled with peace (Romans 15:13); strive to live in peace with everyone (Hebrews 12:14); pursue peace (1 Peter 3:11).

If you’re waiting for peace based on the actions of the other person or group of people, you’ve missed the point. God wasn’t talking to them – He was talking to you.

But here’s the real issue: When we ask the question, Is Peace Even Possible? we are asking the wrong question.

The right question is, Does God Want us to be People of Peace?

And the answer to that question is Yes.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

The Day of Heroes

There have always been great men and women. Every country and culture has (or at least had) them. Men and women who contributed to their fellowman in ways that shaped the future. They stand out from the rest of us as people worthy of our respect.

They are people like Gandhi, and Marie Curie, and Churchill, and George Washington to name just a few. People who walked with feet of clay, yet managed to elevate not only themselves, but everyone around them. They were the few who could inspire the many. They left the world better than they found it.

They are the people who are immortalized in books and in the memories of not just their countrymen but people around the world. They are the heroes that we look up to.

Unfortunately, the definition – or at least the perception, of heroes has changed. If the posters on the walls (both physical and social) of many teens and I suspect many schools is any indication, heroes today are chosen using a different criterion than in the past. Heroes today are chosen for their entertainment value not for their sacrifice.

The day of true heroes is quickly slipping away.

God too has his heroes. There’s a group of them listed in Hebrews chapter eleven. People like Abraham and Moses and Samson and David. People who stood for God and for righteousness. They are still inspiring people generations later.

The irony of these heroes is that we don’t even know the names of most of them. They are the anonymous heroes of the world. They are the ones of whom it was said, the world was not worthy (Hebrews 11:38) of them.

Here’s the thing about these heroes that makes them stand out from all of the great people of history. They were heroes to God.

We think in terms of heroes to men. Men and women who are remembered and recognized as great by the rest of us. But you don’t have to be recognized by people to be a hero to God. What matters is that God knows who you are. That’s what’s really important. To be a hero among men is one thing but to be a hero to God raises it to another dimension.

So, go out and be a hero.

Sure, be a hero to your family and your children. But more importantly, be a hero to God.

The Day of Heroes does not have to end.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

Who Is God?

It’s a good question. In fact, it’s the ultimate $64,000 question – which according to inflation calculators would make it the ultimate $936,000 question!

The biggest problem with this question is how we answer it. More specifically, what criteria or information we use to answer it. It’s our source of information that is the problem.

It seems like most people make God in their own image. That is, God is who or what I make him out to be. I become the source of my own definition of God.

Even Christians do it.

Some make him a god who is all loving but never requires anything of us. Some make him a god who is all about justice and retribution but not of grace. Others make him a god who is tolerant of everything they are tolerant of, while still others make him a god who loves what I love and hates what I hate.

In other words, God is just like me, only a little better.

That’s what most of us do.

We hold to certain beliefs and positions that we define as right or good and then we define God as someone who holds to those same beliefs and positions. In reality that we’ve done is to choose our beliefs and positions without regard to God and then superimposed them back on God. They are OUR preferences so they must certainly be His.

We start with where we are and then define God to fit in.

But you don’t get to do that with God. He existed in His perfection long before we came along (Colossians 1:17) and He doesn’t change just because the world we live in is constantly changing (Malachi 3:6).

If you want to know God, you have to go to His disclosure of Himself. He’s already told us who He is. There’s a reliable source.

That source is the Bible.

We just don’t want to accept it.

But you can’t have God without it. By definition, God is so far above and beyond us that we cannot know Him unless He reveals Himself to us. Do you really want a god that is just like you?

A god without a self-disclosure is no god. It’s a figment of someone’s imagination.

If you want to know about God, then go to His source. Go to the Bible and learn what He says about Himself. You won’t learn everything about Him, but you can learn what He has revealed about Himself.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve