His Footprints in the Sand

beach-footprints2Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen. Psalm 77:19 NIV

...through the darkest days of my life…..where were you God…..I only saw one set of footprints in the sand…..where were you God….those were the times, my child, when I carried you…….

You are familiar with the Footprints poem that has been commercialized onto plates, pictures, ties, refrigerator magnets, bookmarks, etc., etc., etc.. I once thought it was overused. In fact, I wondered where the Biblical reference for it was. I knew it was true, because I had experienced it so many times in my life, but I didn’t know the reference to back it up until I read this verse years ago.

Of course, this verse refers to the famous march through the middle of the waters by that powerful leader we know as Moses. Can you imagine how the Israelites felt? They had escaped the years of slavery and persecution to head for what they thought was a chance at real freedom and along came the Pharoah’s finest, ready to put them on the chopping block. Needless to say they were slightly disappointed. Never at a loss for tricks, Moses summoned God, who told them to go through the center of the sea. Yea, right? Yet as strange as that may have sounded at the time the people enter the “water” on dry ground! I know, it doesn’t make sense, but that is what happened, read it for yourself if you don’t believe me.  (Exodus 14)

Did they see the footprints of God? No! Did they doubt who parted the water? Did they question who dried up the dirt? Well, let me ask you, could you have done it? Neither could they! They knew that God was being God….again!

Has He ever been God in our life? Can you explain it? Did you see His footprints? But if you submit yourself to God and allow God to do His work in your life, make no mistake about it, you will clearly know He is God and there is no other!

Read footprints again. You probably have it on a coffee mug somewhere. Remember the times that He took you through the waters. Thank Him for carrying you all the way!

He is a mighty God!

What Is God Up To At Grace Community Church?

thegbwI don’t know how to describe what’s happening right now at Grace Community Church, short of the Spirit of God works in the hearts of people.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised since I know God is more interested in people in our community than I am or any of our staff is concerned…and we love our community, but it is an exciting time to be at Grace.

In 3 and half years we have watched God bring people to the church through their neighbors, friends and families.  We have witnessed double-digit growth every year.  After a church reaches the size ours is now growth normally begins to slow to a smaller rate, but this year we have had yet another growth spurt.  Most Sundays this year have been 30% in attendance or more over last year.  (I wish our budget were doing likewise, because we might be able to staff appropriately or build a building soon, but that will come in time.)  Not only are more people attending but also God is showing up in people’s lives in incredible ways!

Another phenomenon is that God is bringing people with influence over a circle of friends or family. As these people get excited they start to bring the people within their circle.  If this trend continues we can expect even greater things in the months to come!  I’m pumped for God!  (I’m nervous for us as a staff, because I think we quit being able to figure out what God is doing or to manage growth a couple years ago! We will need more than ever to rely on Christ’s strength.)

I’m curious from other pastors, is your church experiencing the same thing right now?  Can you explain what is happening?

Grace people, what do you think God is doing?  Do you sense it like I do?

Ten Commandments, Tenth Command

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.  Exodus 20:17 NIV

God created us to crave; to want; to desire. God created us to have a deep yearning for something– Him! At the fall of man, our wanter got a little mixed up and started wanting the world. If you read Ezekiel 28, Isaiah 14, and Revelation 12, you will find that Satan was created because an angel desired more than God.

We now live in a society that really has a mixed up wanter system. Sometimes it seems we have lost all sense of fairness and have entered into an all-I-can-get mentality. We are driven, not by our desire for righteousness, but by our desire to keep up with the Vanderbilts (the Joneses are out of style now). Our children no longer dream over the Sears toy catalog; instead, they receive a new toy as soon as it hits the shelf (if it doesn’t sell out first).

Contentment is not a word we teach in homes, schools, or even churches anymore. We have courses on how to achieve, succeed, crush the competition, buy and sell more, meet all our desires, and we have plenty of credit cards to get what we can’t afford. The shame is not in being greedy anymore, but in doing without.

What happened to our contentment? Didn’t Paul encourage us to learn the secret of being content with what we have? Didn’t Jesus say apart from me you can do nothing? If our retirement plan is Heaven and we are fully vested, what else do we really need?

I don’t know about you, but I need to change my wanter! I need to correct my cravings and focus them in the direction they were intended: on loving and honoring our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! What a difference it would make in the way we live, if only we could be content with what we have!

But guess what the good news is! If you have Jesus, and even if He is all you have, HE’S ALL YOU NEED!

The tenth commandment may be the best of all, because once we get our wanter fixed, what we want will cause us to keep all the rest!

Call on the wanter repairman today! His name is Jesus!

What Does Grace Mean To You?

I’m thinking a lot lately, really the last few years, about the word grace. What a beautiful word!

According to Dictionary.com it means:

  • elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion, or action.
  • a pleasing or attractive quality or endowment.
  • favor or good will.
  • a manifestation of favor, esp. by a superior
  • mercy; clemency; pardon: an act of grace.
  • favor shown in granting a delay or temporary immunity.

The definitions continue under the heading of “Theology”:

  • the freely given, unmerited favor and love of God.
  • the influence or spirit of God operating in humans to regenerate or strengthen them.
  • a virtue or excellence of divine origin: the Christian graces.
  • the condition of being in God’s favor or one of the elect.
  • moral strength

The founders of Grace Community Church and I have received so much grace we even put it in our name. Yesterday I was reminded how much our staff is a product of God’s grace. We’ve all needed lots of it. (Everyone we decided except for maybe Ben. Of course, he probably just hides it well.)

Lately though my thoughts have been on how we abuse grace. We take it for granted. We attempt to cheapen grace. We failed to accept it. We try to add to it.

Today, at least for the moment I’m typing it, I’m just going to be overwhelmed with the amazing grace my Father provides for me.

Grace, grace, God’s grace,
grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
grace, grace, God’s grace,
grace that is greater than all our sin!

What are your thoughts about the word “grace” today?  Have you needed lots?  Has lots of grace been given to you?  Think carefully about this next question:  Are you abusing grace?

Ten Commandments, Ninth Command

You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. Exodus 20:16 NIV

The Bible says that liars of the Truth will end up in Hell.

The ninth commandment is no joking matter. This one command is quite possibly the most broken, and one we tend to see as minor sin. Our God, however, does not qualify good and bad sin. Sin is sin to God, and He can tolerate none of it. One white lie is as bad as a cold-blooded murder to a Righteous and Holy God.

Yet, most of us break the command every day. Oh sure, I know you don’t go to court every day to testify against your friends, but have you ever talked less than kindly about them? Have you ever complained about their actions, repeated a rumor, criticized their work, or summarized your theory about their life? Let me put it in simpler terms. Do you gossip?

When you say something about someone else that may damage his or her reputation, you have broken the ninth commandment, and God says Hell is good enough for you! Praise God for the grace of His Son Jesus, (grace and grace alone will get you to Heaven) but you have broken His holy law when you speak against another.

What do you have on your heart or mind today? (Remember, sin is not confined to action, but also applies to hidden thought.) Is there something you’re thinking about another person? Does what you’re thinking build them up or tear them down? Would you repeat it to God? If you did, would God be proud of you for thinking it?

Momma (and Thumper) knew best when she said, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Let that be your goal today. It will be tough! You may have to bite your tongue a few times. You may not be able to talk for weeks.

But, Praise God, you will be on your way to obeying the ninth commandment. Soon you’ll start talking again. People will love what you have to say. God will be pleased!

Speak the truth in love today!

The Law: What Is It? Why Have it? What Difference Does It Make?



 

We are in a series called Epic, tracing God’s story through the Bible.  One message in that series concerns the law, given to God’s people through Moses. In this message I attempt to answer these questions:

What is it?
Why do we have it?
What difference does it make in my life today?

You can watch part of the message here.   You must login to TruthCasting in order to watch the full length service. Your email address is only used as a log in and also gives you the ability to forward a service to a friend.

Ten Commandments, Eighth Command

You shall not steal.  Exodus 20:15 NIV

The eighth commandment is not about cheating on your taxes. Oh sure, that is a sin, and the commandment applies there, too, but if you limit God’s instruction to theft of property, then you have diminished the word of God.

We are rising a generation of takers! We have developed into a society that steals from each other. For example, I go to my children’s school and there are three parents at the office waiting for the principal so they can complain about their child not making the team. I stand in the line at the grocery store and everyone is looking for the quickest line. No one is trying to let someone else through first. I ask someone to do me a favor and they reply, “What’s in it for me?”

We spend more time shopping sales for the best bargains for more stuff we don’t need than we do planning how we can give to world missions. We save and save our money so that when we see someone in need we can buy ourselves the latest flat screen TV. We budget our tithe after we see if we can meet our current obligations. We never worry about issues of money until our wallet is affected. We tend to give out of our wealth, never out of our poverty.

Can you relate?

Remember, Jesus looks beyond our actions straight to our heart. He considers our motivation. Let me ask you, what does He see? Does He see a heart with no desire for personal gratification, looking out for a neighbor before yourself? Does He see someone who desires to give more than receive?

I can’t see your heart, only you and God can, so examine yourself today. Do you find, like I found when examining my heart that you need to grow your heart in the area of giving?

You shall not steal! Become a GIVER today!

Ten Commandments, Seventh Command

You shall not commit adultery. Exodus 20:14 NIV

We, as a society, no longer place a value on life. I know I should have included this comment along with the thoughts on the sixth commandment not to murder, but it fits here as well. When you commit the sin of adultery, even adultery of the heart, you are de-valuing the other person and yourself. You are essentially saying, “I’m cheap, my life is worthless”, or, as the case may be, you are saying, “You’re cheap, and I’m going to take advantage of you.”

There was a day when women were respected. Men opened the door for them, stood up when they entered a room, and stood outside in the rain so a lady could enter a building first. The desire of a man was to care for his wife, and this caused a wife to respect and admire her husband. Roles were defined clearly and no one argued about them.

Please understand, I am not living in the dark days, longing for a return to a day when women had no place in business, politics, or even the church. I am not advocating dictatorship for the male species. Far to the contrary, I am pushing for a Biblical example of relationships between males and females. You may not know something. I t is certainly not taught by the media these days. Here is a little secret: (promise not to tell?) Boys and girls are different!

The seventh commandment is broken when we fail to see the importance God places on us as individuals, on our marriages, on our sex lives. God desires for us to be pure, and this, according to His word, can be accomplished only through the marriage relationship.

Look around today. You will surely see some of the beautiful people God has created. (I know how to admire beauty.) Recognize that they are more than animals. They are creations from a living God, creations in which God has placed His spirit. They were created in His image and were important enough for Him to send His Son to the cross.

Ten Commandments, Sixth Command

You shall not murder.  Exodus 20:13 NIV

A conversation with God:

ME: Finally, a commandment I can keep. I am so glad the sixth commandment is no problem. I’m not too bad after all. I know that I have never murdered anyone. I have barely killed a fly. I’m a pretty good guy!

A VOICE FROM ABOVE: But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.

ME: What was that? Did you hear that? Well, anyway, as I was saying, I am pretty good compared to…

A VOICE FROM ABOVE: Anyone who calls his brother a fool will be subject to the fires of hell.

ME: There it goes again. Excuse me, but I am trying to gloat. I have been faithfully reading these Ten Commandments, and I finally come across one that I am pretty good at, and you keep interrupting me. Now, let me continue. I have never murdered anyone….

A VOICE FROM ABOVE: In his heart a man plans his course….

ME: Now wait a minute, just wait one minute. Are you trying to say that if I get angry with someone to the point of name-calling, that I have planned in my heart to murder them?

A VOICE FROM ABOVE: For the Lord gives wisdom, and from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.

ME: So, in other words, I think what you’re saying is that when I get this angry, I am guilty of breaking this commandment, just as if I carried through on the act of murder.

A VOICE FROM ABOVE: Yes, for all have sinned and fallen short of my Glory.

ME: What am I going to do then? I have broken them all.

A VOICE FROM ABOVE: Don’t be afraid, just believe.

ME: I am a murderer, according to you God, and you are telling me just to believe?

A VOICE FROM ABOVE: I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. If anyone calls upon the name of the Lord, he shall be saved.

ME: So you’re my answer. Jesus is the way! Praise God!

A VOICE FROM ABOVE:  Well done, my good and faithful servant.

Ten Commandments, Fifth Command

Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. Exodus 20:12 NIV

To honor means to respect and to appreciate, but actually goes much deeper as well. It means to add reputation to or to increase another’s value. When you are to honor your parents, it means so much more than to obey. That is to increase their good name by having one of your own.

What is it like to call you a son or daughter? Can someone be proud of you? I’m not talking about that love a mother or father naturally has for a child. I’m talking about bragging rights, and not about accomplishments either. I remember attending one of my son’s elementary school parent-teacher conferences. I was filled with joy as the teacher showed us paper after paper with 100 or A+ on it. Both my boys have done so well in school academically, but I may have been the only parent that night to ask the questions of my son’s teacher, “What about his character? Does he get along with others? Does he show compassion? Does he strive to make friends with his classmates?” And I even asked her, “Can you tell that he is a believer?” Praise God, I had something to brag about!

Isn’t that what we should aim for: to have a reputation of being like Christ? Is that a noble goal? Could you see this as a necessary part of any parent’s plan for their child’s future? In this all-for-me world, shouldn’t we focus a little more on character?

I praise God often for granting me the privilege of being raised in a Christian family. Both sides of my parents have a long history of being active in church, loving God, and serving Him faithfully. What will I contribute to that legacy? Will it continue or end with me?

You too have an awesome responsibility! Your actions and your heart will determine what is said about your children and your children’s children for generations to come. You are deciding now, based on the way you live your life, what the future will be like for your descendents. The Bible states over and over again that blessings are passed on by generations, as are the curses of God. Which are you leaving behind?

If your reputation was being built on just the last week, last month, or last year, what would it say about you? Would it honor your mother and father? Would it add to the value of your name?

This fifth commandment is a tough one if we strive to live up to it. By the grace of God, may we accomplish His will as we live our lives, striving to be like Him, and create in our hearts a desire to make Him Lord of everything?  Your reputation is at stake! And the honor of your mother and father!