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?

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One Way I Hear From God

I want to hear God’s voice. I want to know God’s plan for my life. (I think that’s pretty important for a pastor, huh?)

Years ago I read a passage, which seems to give us a model of one of the ways God speaks to us. Some of the most definite ways I have heard from God have been in this model.

(I’m not trying to pick and choose verses, please read the entire passage, but I am pulling the verses, which more clearly address this issue.)

Isaiah 30:15

This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength”

We have to be still to hear God’s voice.

Isaiah 30:18

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!

God wants to bless us with His presence. He wants to speak into our life.

Isaiah 30:20

Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them.

Sometimes we hear God best when circumstances of our life require us to place our complete attention on God. When we are stripped of what we depend on, our dependence on God becomes more necessary and we more clearly hear His voice.

(Notice it says, bread of adversity and water of affliction. Bread and water are necessary staples to sustain life. Sometimes adversity and affliction are necessary also, to get our attention and move us spiritually to where God can speak to us.)

Isaiah 30:21

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

When we are still, we are fully dependent on God, and we are expectantly waiting for Him, we will hear God’s instructions for life.

How do you hear from God? What changes would you need to make to hear from Him more often or more specifically?

More importantly, what is God saying to you today?

In what areas of your life do you need a word from God right now?

John Maxwell Arrest Story: An Example of Honesty

John Maxwell shares a very authentic story on his blog about a stupid mistake he made that ended badly and the comments are incredibly positive.  I think this is even further example that what people really want is leadership they can trust. That includes not being afraid to tell the mistakes we’ve made.

Read the post HERE.

John Maxwell defines leadership as “influence”.  I’m most influenced by people who admit they don’t have it all together all the time.  Thanks John!  (Hope it’s okay to call you that, but I feel I know you better now.)

Waiting On God When It Feels He Is Nowhere Around

I met with an awesome couple today that is going through one of those waiting times on God.  I could sense the tension developing in them as their patience, and literally their faith, is being stretched.  I could easily identify with their situation, because I have personally been there many times.

What should you do when it feels like God has forgotten you?

Here are 7 things to remember or do in those times when God appears silent.

  • Be honest with God, those closest to you, and ultimately yourself about your fears.  We are not meant to be silent sufferers.
  • Keep in mind that you are not alone.  All of us go through times of uncertainty.  Even the great heroes of the faith had times of doubt.  Don’t beat yourself up emotionally because you are in one of those times now.
  • Remember that just because you feel a certain way does not mean the way you feel is truth.
  • Recall truth:
  • That God has promised to “never leave you nor forsake you”. Even when you feel abandoned by God, He is closer than you can imagine…and, He cares!
  • That God has promised to work “all things for good”. That means He has a plan, even when it doesn’t seem that He does.
  • Don’t sit still for long without doing something you already know to be doing.  Volunteer, help others, stay busy, pray, seek His face.  Be active in living out your faith during this time.  Idleness is one of Satan’s best friends.
  • Know that God prepares for some of His best work as He makes you wait.
  • Read Psalm 27 and 121.

Have you ever been in a time like this?  I would love for you to leave a brief testimony here to encourage others.

Are You Missing The Best God Has To Offer?

Michael Higdon, our Director of Creative Arts was working on a song for a Sunday a week or so ago. The song is Carrie Underwood’s version of “How Great Thou Art”. I have it on my iPod and suggested we consider it. Michael said as he was preparing this song for practice he had one of the greatest worship experiences he has had in a while.

The next day we were discussing this song again and he said something that stuck with me. He said, “I finally stopped long enough to actually listen to the song with the intent of worship and not just planning it for Sunday.”

Wow! That was a convicting statement. How many times do I miss the truth of a passage of Scripture because I’m too intent on studying the passage so I can teach it on Sunday morning that I fail to apply the truth of that passage to my own life?

That also made me consider what other ways we may miss the big picture of God’s blessings because we are caught in the little picture of the routines of life. Sometimes we literally miss God, because we are caught up in the busyness of life.

The first example that came to my mind is how as parents we often fail to enjoy the blessing of our children, because we are too occupied by trying to provide for their needs (or their wants).

So, here’s a question to consider:

Are you experiencing the best in life, or are you too distracted by the tasks of trying to get there?

God’s Going To Carry Us Through

Times are tough. I have been overwhelmed in the last six months with the struggles of our people. As a pastor, I carry the weight of my people’s burdens. I know this is part of the call and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Still, sometimes I just need a little encouragement.

Thanks to Dave Barnes this song has been that encouragement. It’s first on my iPod right now and my running days have been sweeter because of it.

When I hear this song I’m reminded of Psalm 77:19.

“Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen.”

Be encouraged. God will indeed carry us through.

I Broke All The Rules

I broke my own rules today. When it comes to issues of integrity and accountability concerning my relationships with other women I am strict on myself.

  • I never meet with women in the office when I am there alone.
  • I never eat alone with women.
  • I never visit a woman at home without Cheryl unless her husband is there.
  • This may sound strange, but when I’m talking to a woman, I try to keep my focus on a woman’s face, not her body frame. (Funny story: Recently Cheryl told me about a woman in our church delivering her baby the next week. I had just had a long conversation with the woman in the hall at church. I told Cheryl I didn’t know the lady was pregnant. She said, “She’s 9 months pregnant. How could you miss that?” Honestly, I had never looked beyond the woman’s face.)

In matters like this I do not believe men can take a chance or they will be inviting temptation.

Today I broke my own rules. I was working from a local coffee shop. A lady approached my table and sat down and started talking. The place was full, so I felt better about things, but normally I would have politely told her about my safeguards. Instead, we talked for over an hour.

The reason is that my rule, which I still believe I should have, was getting in the way of an eternal purpose. I am building inroads with her and soon may have the opportunity to share my faith with her. Do I still have to be careful? Absolutely. I made sure people were in the coffee shop that knew me. I sent a text to someone at the office. I made sure Cheryl knew about it. I felt it was a time, however, that was worthy of breaking the rules. And the fact is I only broke one of the rules above, the others I would still keep. (I’m reminded of some rules Jesus broke when He met the woman at the well…and other times.)

Do you struggle with issues like this at times? What other ways to you build integrity safeguards into your life? What advice would you give me?

Dr. James Dobson’s Resignation an Example for Leaders

Dr. James Dobson announced last week that he is stepping down as chairman of the board at Focus on the Family. He will continue to do his daily radio program.  You can hear him talk about it in today’s broadcast available at the site. It will be interesting how they will replace Dr. Dobson. For some of my thoughts in that area of leadership check out this previous post.

Recently I posted a criticism of some of the direction Focus on the Family has taken in recent years. You can read that post HERE, but basically I encouraged the organization to return to its roots of helping families and leave politics aside.

Today I need to compliment Dr. Dobson for his example to all of us to do what he feels is right for the ministry at this stage in its life. Many times leaders, especially founders, hang on too long to the reins of power and the succession of leadership becomes much more difficult.  I have had similar questions about leadership and when it’s time to leave in this post.

Dr. Dobson, I look forward to your continued investment in my family through your radio program.

Reflections From Sunday

Yesterday was another amazing day at Grace Community Church. In three and half years our church has seen many such days, but yesterday seemed extra special. We concluded our series “Am I The Only One?” considering how God’s grace can change a life. I was not speaking, so I stood in the back of the room as my co-pastor Chad shared about God’s grace in the life of Bible characters such as Moses and Paul. He then shared how God had poured grace upon his own life eight years ago when he felt ministry was over for him. God breathed new life into him. You can hear the sermon HERE. (I think one of the things which has made our church grow as fast as it has is because we have been open and honest with people about who we are and the struggles of life that we all face, including the pastors.)

Chad’s message closed with our own version of the cardboard testimonies so many churches have done, where you share your hurt, brokenness or failure on one side and flip to the story of God’s grace on the other. As I watched those familiar faces and stories walk across stage, and I looked at the packed room of people in the auditorium, I was instantly reminded of all the lives God has touched through our church in a short time. I saw couples reunited, men who others thought would never come to church, former alcoholics, and those who have been so beat up by the world. It was all I could do to hold back the tears.

We concluded the day with an afternoon baptism service and that’s where I couldn’t hold back the tears. Several hundred of our people returned to enjoy the time together. We had a full band lead us in a few songs; then took the Lord’s Supper together and then the baptism. Twenty-six people were baptized. One of our practices is to allow the father, if he wants to, to baptize his child. Seven dads baptized their children. Two of these were core members of our church. Two were people who have been a part of my ministry for years. I remember sitting with one of these men when we started the church and watching him tear up about being asked to be a core member. He didn’t feel worthy of such a task. Today these men are leading his family well and have played a significant role in the life of the church. I looked into the audience and saw the families represented by those being baptized. I knew that God had changed not just a few lives, but many lives. I couldn’t hold back…the tears flowed.

At the end of the day, another man said to me, “My tear ducts have been cleaned out today.” I could honestly say to him, “I know what you mean”.

Thank you God for your abundant mercy and grace poured out upon us.

Great Friends and Good Times…No Pressure

Ted and Robyn Randall have only been in our life a few months, but they will never know how much their friendship has already meant to us. Thankfully we have several friends like them, and Cheryl has even more of these friends than I do, but last night we spent some time at Richard’s Café in White’s Creek with the Randall’s.

The reason their friendship means so much is that when we are with them, the only business at hand is having fun. As a pastor, when I’m with someone, usually there is a perceived expectation that I’m to be “pastoral”. I’m supposed to be the one to pray. It is expected that I can provide answers, comfort, wisdom, hope, suggestions, insight, and condolence. I’m supposed to be the rational one. Some, not so much in my church thankfully, think a pastor should always be serious and certainly never silly. (Sorry, that’s not always me!) I realize the expectations and responsibilities that come with the calling, and I’m not at all complaining about it, but sometimes I just like to have fun, with no expectations on my part.

Ted is an Army Chaplain and pastor. They have been in ministry for years. They understand the stress of always being “at work”. They are both fun people. Hanging out with them is just that, hanging out. There is no pressure to be anyone other than a friend. Through that time with them they invest in me and help me unwind from the stress of ministry.

I value my time with friends like this.