Jeremiah 18, Part 5

Then the LORD gave me this message: “O Israel, can I not do to you as this potter has done to his clay? As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand. Jeremiah 18:5-6 NLT

I’m not going to ask today if you agree with what God is allowing or doing in your life right now, but I do want to ask this question, will you give Him permission to do it? A better question might be, does He have the right to do it?

My son made a sand castle once at the beach. I thought he did a super job with it. People would pass it by as they walked the beach and comment how good it was. He wasn’t happy with it, so he smashed it and started over. I didn’t stop him. It was his sand castle.

God made you. He shaped your life. He’s been in control of every moment of your life. He hasn’t caused all the bad things that have happened to you.  Many of those happened simply because we live in a messed up world, but He certainly had to allow them and will choose to use them for an ultimate good if you allow Him to do so.  He has a plan for your life. He knows what He wants you to look like in the end. The question of this post is: Doesn’t He have a right to do with His creation as He chooses?

If you aren’t happy with your life right now, I want to encourage you to talk with your Creator. Tell Him your concerns.  Ask Him for changes that line up with His desires for your life. He may allow them but, always keep in mind, if God says “No”, the ultimate role of a follower of Christ is to accept His will for your life. He made you and has a right to shape what He made.

If you could ask God to change one are of your life, what would it be?
(I will conclude this series next Monday through Friday.)

Jeremiah 18, Part 3

So I did as he told me and found the potter working at his wheel. Jeremiah 18:3 NLT

This verse reminds me of countless others in the Bible where men obeyed the command of God, simply because He is God. “Noah did just as the Lord commanded” (Genesis 6:22) for example. We can read similar verses about Moses, Abraham, Joseph and Mary, the disciples, Paul and others. God is still looking for people like Jeremiah who will obey God and do what He commands. I have always suspected that God knew the hearts of the people He spoke to enough to know what their response to His command would be prior to asking them to obey.

If you want to hear from God, you will have to do what God commands. You’ll have to let God’s path be your path. You’ll have to quit resisting His prompting and surrender to the will of God. God works through people who will give up their selfish motives and humble themselves to God. I believe even today He is looking for that kind of heart in people.

If you are trying to hear from God on an issue, examine your life to see if you are walking in obedience to God’s commands, as best as you know how today. Then examine your heart to see if you will continue to be obedient, regardless of what He asks you to do. If you aren’t sure, consider these questions. If God told you to do something that would cause you to have to give up your plans, would you still obey? If God called you to let go of something of great importance to you, even though you may not want to do so, would you still obey?

God speaks and works through people with this kind of heart.

What is something God has asked or encouraged you to do that was difficult at first to do? (Sharing your story will encourage others.)

Jeremiah 18, Part 2

“Go down to the shop where clay pots and jars are made. I will speak to you while you are there.” Jeremiah 18:2 NLT

In order to hear a word from God we have to meet God on His terms. God will go to extreme measures to reach one of His children, but to hear from God requires us to be in a listening position with God. In the life of a believer, for example, sin can hinder our relationship with God, as other relationships are hindered by infractions in the relationship, and that broken fellowship can keep us from hearing God when He speaks. Our own busyness and the normal distractions of life can also keep us from hearing God.

God wanted to speak to Jeremiah and He was going to use pottery as a part of His discussion. Sometimes God will use situations in our life to gain our attention and illustrate for us His agenda. You and I, if we want to hear from God, must continually rid our lives of distractions, strive to walk in obedience with Him daily, free our life of unneeded clutter, slow down long enough to listen for the voice of God, and watch and listen for God’s voice in the midst of the normal routine and places of life.

God is not trying to hide His voice from you or me. In fact, if we aren’t hearing when God speaks, it’s most likely because we aren’t listening. Let’s do whatever it takes to hear the voice of God. He has great things for us to know. He sees the path before us and He wants to lead us down it within His will. Let’s listen!

What’s the biggest distraction in your life from spending time alone with God?

Dealing with the Uncertainty of Life

Today at Grace Community Church we delayed our series to address the issue on everyone’s mind. The flood of 2010 shook many people in our community and in the Middle Tennessee area. Fear and anxiety has been on the increase. People are seeking answers and looking for hope. That’s perfectly understandable during days such as these.

In this message, looking at a story from Acts Chapter 27, I attempt to encourage a renewed faith during uncertain times.

8 Reminders for Granting True Forgiveness

(This is an expanded version of a previous post on this same issue. Click on the “Related Links” below this post for more on this issue of forgiveness.)

As believers, we are called to offer forgiveness, because we first have been forgiven. Whenever I talk about forgiveness, however, grudges, hurts and past pains seem to surface in people’s lives.  I will get emails, Facebook and Twitter direct messages confessing to scars and wounds being opened.  In fact, the reaction to the topic of forgiveness is so tender for many, that it draws me to address the issue frequently.  When a person refuses to forgive and hangs on to a grudge or injury, it prolongs the recovery process and keeps the injured person from ever experiencing the joy God intends for us.

With that in mind, here are my 8 principles for granting true forgiveness. If you want to truly forgive the one who injured you, here are 8 reminders:

Reflect on your own forgiveness - The fact that God forgives us through His Son Jesus should fuel our willingness to offer forgiveness to others.

Consider the imperfection of others – Don’t hold people to standards they cannot live up to. Often when someone has injured us, we expect them to be near perfect from that point forward.  Depending on the wrong the person did, he or she will need accountability and it will take time to rebuild trust, but he or she will still be an imperfect person.

Resist the opportunity for revenge – There is something about the desire to get even that keeps us from offering true forgiveness.  Realize that forgiveness is not a fair system…it’s a grace system…and drop the revenge efforts.

Look at your own plank - You aren’t perfect either and probably don’t meet all the expectations others have of you.

Build positive learning experiences – When a person needs to offer forgiveness it means he or she has been injured, but valuable life lessons can be learned from negative experiences. Use the injury as a personal growth opportunity.

Release the burden of guilt caused by refusing to forgive – Guilt absorbs a person’s energy, so it stands to reason that releasing guilt provides freedom.  When a believer holds on to a grudge and refuses to forgive, he or she actually injures him or herself more.  Give yourself some energy and forgive!

Don’t avoid future conflict – Sometimes when we are injured we attempt to avoid all future conflict, especially with the person who injured us, but conflict is a part of life among imperfect people and is actually part of building healthy relationships.  Part of making life manageable is learning to deal effectively with conflict.

Set a new path – In freedom and forgiveness, learn from experiences and live a life closer to the model Christ set for us; loving others as we love ourselves; forgiving as we have been forgiven.  Try not to allow this situation to determine your future.

Keep in mind this post only addresses the issue of granting forgiveness.  I realize there are other issues in most situations, such as personal physical protection, accountability for the other person, rebuilding positive emotions, etc.  All of these are part of the process, but they do not remove the responsibility a believer has to grant true forgiveness. To forgive does not mean we give up all control of our life and allow others to injure us more.  It does mean we set our hearts free to forgive.

Whom do you need to forgive? Is it a parent, friend, family member, ex-spouse, co-worker, boss, or maybe even you? Do yourself a favor…with God’s help and grace, extend forgiveness today!

Responding to Natural Disaster as an Organization


Years ago I served on the local city council when a major tornado destroyed our downtown. As an elected official, with the title of mayor pro-tem, I got a first hand look at disaster response. One thing I learned in the process is that disaster may strike quickly, but recovery takes extended time. In addition to physical damage, the town suffered emotional damage that had to heal.

This week our town is again suffering; this time from a major flooding disaster. As a pastor, I now serve in a completely different role. Even with experience with a major disaster, however, it’s been another learning week for us as a church.

The biggest question has been what we are to do while we wait to respond to this tragedy. Grace Community Church is a doing church. We have serving our community in our DNA. Our people have been anxious to do something tangible. In cooperation with local officials, however, we have been encouraged to wait. In the early stages of this disaster, it was determined that mass numbers of people are not the greatest need. With the layout of our community divided by two rivers, transportation has been at a standstill. The safety of people, stabilizing the road system, and assessing needs of the community is where local officials are focusing attention.  We now have teams in motion.  Check back HERE daily to see what’s needed next.

When the time is right, we can easily mobilize people. We’ve proven that previously and we do it weekly during our Sunday services and annually with our Operation Serve community service project. When we ask our people to serve, they show up ready to plug in where needed.

The current answer we have landed on is not to quit everything we do waiting until our community needs us. In the months to come the community will still need a strong church organization, so we must continue to develop and grow as an organization. There are ongoing ministries and practices that we must not quit doing.

At the same time, we must be sensitive to what has happened. We decided to begin collecting names of people who are ready to serve and collect projects that are ready to be completed. (You can join our list HERE.) Some of our people have already offered assistance through agencies like the Red Cross. There will be immediate things we can do and when they are discovered, we are ready. We will be respond as we are called upon, but we don’t want to hinder the work of local officials.

My advice from experience is that when a disaster comes into the life of an organization, don’t stop everything because of it, but it should and will alter some of what you do in the future as you respond to the situation.

Has your church or organization experienced disaster? How did you respond?

Men and Women Need Accountability in Marriage

I am tired of watching marriages fall apart.  One thing that breaks my heart is when two wonderful people allow temptation to overtake them and fall into sin, such as adultery or pornography.  I wish I could say it was rare, but it happens every day.   I have seen and believe that marriages can be fully restored from these times and even become model marriages after them, but the goal should be to keep either spouse from reaching this point.

While this is not a fool proof answer, one of the leading struggles I know of for men and women is when there is no one is involved or interested enough in their private affairs to challenge them as he or she starts to stray.  Most affairs, for example, don’t start in one day. They occur over time as a person’s guard is let down and they ease into the temptations that exist for all of us.

Here’s the bottom line of this post:

Men need to be accountable to a few other men and women need to be accountable to a few other women. They need someone with the freedom to speak truth into his or her life and challenge them in love when there are concerns.  As much as my wife tries and desires to understand me, she’ll never fully understand the heart and mind of a man; just as I will never fully understand her heart and mind.  This is true of every marriage.  (It’s also why more women responded negatively to THIS POST about how I protect my marriage.)

I have often heard it theorized that King David may have never given into the temptation with Bathsheba if he had still had the close relationship with Jonathan in his life.  I don’t know if that’s true, but it certainly would not have hurt.

Men and women that don’t see this as an issue are only fooling themselves.  Quit playing games with your marriage and pretending you are stronger than you are.  “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Do you have accountability built into your life?  If not, do you dismiss the need, are you afraid to invite it, or have you not found the person to hold you accountable?

John R. Edmondson, Sr. (Legacy of a Dad)

dad

In April, 2010, my father peacefully passed from this earth into the presence of His Savior. His battle with cancer got the best of him and He gave up his fight and entered his eternal rest. I’m thankful he no longer has unbearable pain.

My dad would readily admit that he has made many mistakes in his life. We could pretend those days never happened, but the fact is that his alcoholism caused many scars in his life and in the lives of those he loved. He spent many years trying to overcome those days.

Because of his faith in the person of Jesus Christ, my dad finished his earthly life as a new man. He had been sober for many years and he and my mother were very happily married. He loved his children and wanted nothing more than to be with them. His grandchildren just think of him as Pa Pa, with no personal knowledge of years gone by. My father was active in church, loved to share Scripture with others, and would help anyone who needed a hand. At the funeral, I was overwhelmed hearing what a “good man” my father was from so many people.MSometimes we don’t know a person’s impact until they are gone. (That seems sad, but it’s true.)

Perhaps that is what the writer of Ecclesiastes meant in Chapter 7, verse 1, which says, “A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of death better than the day of birth.” I have learned from watching my dad’s life that finishing is better than starting and that finishing well by loving God and others is the end goal of life. My father was truly prepared to die.

When I meet with people who have made mistakes in life in my role as a pastor, I am always less concerned with where they have been or what they have done wrong. I am always more concerned with where they want to go in life and how dedicated they are to get there.  My dad is an example of someone that wanted to end well. I believe his legacy will continue to prove he achieved his goal.

Love you dad! Thanks for paving a good path for others to follow. Give Jesus a hug for me!

Are you prepared to die? Do you have a personal relationship with the person of Jesus Christ?

Guest Post: Nate Edmondson on Trusting God

My youngest son Nate is in Chicago and we are bringing him home once again this weekend for a funeral.  This time for the funeral of my father. I thought his thoughts were worth sharing today:

I have a paper due tomorrow morning at 8, so I should probably be working on that… but there’s not too many things I dislike more than writing those.

This year has by far been the most difficult year of my life. I’ve had to go home 3 times for 3 different funerals, one of which for a very close friend. Mixing all of those emotions with the emotions of being homesick in general has been interesting. At the beginning of my first semester I sensed God trying to teach me to trust in Him with every aspect of my life, and unfortunately I’ve continued trusting myself instead of Him.

I think learning to trust God completely is the most important thing that any Christian could do. Imagine what would happen if every believer truly started living by faith in every arena of life.

It’s hard. I really suck at it. Instead of spending time with Him I sit on facebook and write blog posts..

Trust God. What does that mean exactly… I don’t know. But I know God’s real and has a real plan. The goal if figuring out how to stop holding on to my life and surrender it to God, but again, I don’t really know what that means or looks like.

It’s amazing how unstructured this post is…

Can you identify with Nate? 

Is trusting God completely a process for you as well?

What is the number one distraction in your life from fully trusting the God who loves you more than you could ever imagine?

How to Be in Continual Prayer, Without Babbling

I have been asked numerous times about a seeming contradiction in the Bible. Paul, who wrote much of the New Testament, wrote that we are to “pray about everything” (Philippians 4:6), “pray continually”, (1 Thessalonians 5:17), and “be in constant prayer” (Romans 12:12).  Paul seems to have believed that something in us could live in a state of continual prayer and that we should keep talking repeatedly to God.

Here’s where the seeming contradiction comes in the Bible to some people.  In Matthew 6:7-8 Jesus says, “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered only by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, because your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!” Jesus almost appears to be telling the reader NOT to pray continually.

The verses do not contradict each other.  We must consider these verses in the context of the entirety of Scripture. Throughout the Bible we realize that God is always more concerned about the heart of a matter than He is actions we take (1 Samuel 16:7), so it helps if we examine this subject with that understanding.

When Jesus said not to babble in prayer, because God already knows our needs, He was speaking to people who tried to impress others with their flowery words.  That is not what Paul is suggesting to us in his writings.

Paul’s encouragement for continual prayer, in action at least, is obviously not even possible. Some people have a hard time walking and chewing gum at the same time.  Expecting people to pray while they do anything else is a challenge. Paul is not referring to an action as much as he is an attitude. He’s encouraging our heart to be in a continual spirit of prayer; a constant journey of seeking our Father’s will and communing with our Heavenly Daddy.

This is made possible with the help of God’s Spirit, who “intercedes for us”. If our heart is firmly set on Christ, we can be “continually praying”.   If we go to the marketplace, Christ goes with us in prayer. If we are driving a car, Christ is with us in prayer. If we read a book to our children, if Christ is in our heart, we can be in an attitude of prayer, because God’s Spirit intercedes for our spirit.

Put your heart and mind firmly on Christ today and you will continue to live in a spirit of prayer.

Do you have any specific prayer requests? Leave them here.  I’m finding my readers really do pray for others.