The Pondering Pastor

These "Ponderings" originally appeared as articles in our church newsletter or bulletin or just as the musings of one bald pastor. I place them here to encourage you, my fellow blogite and maybe to help us all in our pondering.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

THE HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH


WE ALL KNOW THAT the happiest place on Earth is Disneyland¸ or so we have been led to believe.  I love going to Disneyland, but let’s face it come the end of the fireworks, I am ready to get out of there and go to bed. And by the conversations I overhear between other parents and their children, I can tell you they are feeling my pain.
     Yet, give me the opportunity to go back, and I’m ready bright and early the next day.  There’s just something special about the Magic Kingdom. Even though the lines are long and the food expensive and the souvenirs too plentiful, it all seems to be worth it all once your strapped into a bobsled on the Matterhorn or yelling at the top of your lungs as the California Screamin’ catapults you into the ride of your life. It’s true; I am always ready to head back for more.
     According to the writer of Psalm 84 he says that “happiness comes from being in God’s house, singing God’s worth.(Psalm 84:4) Really? You mean the same type of happiness we gain from going to Disneyland? Church is supposed to be better than Space Mountain? Now, I have been to some pretty exciting church services, but put up against the big D-Land, well I don’t know.
     To answer my own philosophical and theological dilemma let me draw our attention to the psalmist’s own words to find how in the world going to church beats Disneyland. Here’s the answer, happiness comes from being in God’s house and singing of God’s Worth
     You see, Disneyland is all about ME, but our gathering together as God’s people and “doing church” is about GOD! The singing is not about me, it’s about GOD! It really has to do with the attitude I bring into the gatherings with God’s people, whether that meeting is a Sunday morning worship service, a mid-week youth meeting or Bible study, a Community Group, or even an All-Church Workday,
    When we willfully choose to enter into God’s House, and to worship at His throne, and to do so in humble submission before Him and each other, then happiness does come…better yet…deep abiding joy!
    How have you come today?  It’s not too late for an attitude adjustment.
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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

MESSES WELCOME

SOME PEOPLE SAY I AM A NEATNESS FREAK. Well, yes, I do believe there is a place for everything and everything should be in its place. If that classifies me as a neatness freak, well then, I stand condemned. Others I have heard say that a clean desk is the sign of a sick mind, well if that’s true, then I am doing just fine, because right now my desk is a MESS!

There are piles everywhere, a pile of reading material, a pile of study books, a pile of letters and notes to which I need to respond and there is even a pile of lists of things I need to do, like go through the piles on my desk. So, if I am truly a neatness freak, I should be pulling my hair out…well that may explain something!

Over the last couple of weeks we have been walking through Psalm 84. This week I am resting on verse three where the Psalmist writes, “Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself where she may have her young – a place near Your altar.”  Really? God is allowing swallows to build nests near His altar? Have you seen the mess those little buggers can make. Not just the dripping of mud from their home-building, but all the … you know … bird-droppings. I know swallows are fun birds to watch fly. They swoop and dive with the best of them, but as for neatness, NAH!

And to think God allows those little creatures to make a home near His altar! There may be hope for us yet. We all come to God a mess, don’t we? Sure we have lots to offer, and we are His creation, but let’s face it our lives can be pretty messy at times. Yet, here in this verse we can find hope, for if God welcomes the swallows to make a home near His altar, then surely we, those created in His image, are welcomed as well.

God does not want us to live in our messiness, but He does welcome us in it. For He knows that it is only when we draw near to Him that the messiness of our life can be dealt with. He says, “come, and though your sins were like scarlet, I shall make them as white as snow.” (Isaiah 1:18) 

So come!
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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

YEARNING!


WE COME TO CHURCH for a number of reasons. Some come because they are dragged here by their parents., “You’re going to church to learn about the love of God, or so help me I’ll…” Some come out of habit; “It’s just what we do.” Some come out of guilt, “What would people think if I wasn’t at church?” Some come out of necessity, “This week has been so hard, I need to get some answers.” Some come out of curiosity, “I wonder what all those people do inside that place week after week?” Some come even out of desire, much like the psalmist when he penned, “My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.(Psalm 84:2)
     I’ll be honest with you, I love coming to church. I enjoy my opportunity to open up God’s Word whether it’s on a Sunday morning, a Wednesday evening Bible study, or in the coziness of my Study. Most days throughout the week I enjoy being here; to meet with God’s people, to hear what God is doing, to laugh and cry, rejoice and hurt. Yes, most of the time I like it here. But to yearn, faint and have my heart and my flesh cry out? Well, I’ll be honest…I don’t know if I could echo the psalmist at that point.
     I surmise that one of the biggest reasons that I don’t yearn and faint, is because the church is so readily available to me, unlike many in the two-thirds world who must meet in secret, if at all, because of the threat of death. So, what are we to do? We must start to pray the prayer of Psalm 84, beseeching the Lord to create in us yearning hearts, hearts that not only yearn for God, but also that yearn to be in His courts, with His people.
     Wow! A church building filled with yearning people. Can you imagine…so let us pray!

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Monday, September 05, 2011

LOVELY, JUST LOVELY!

THIS PAST WEEK I HAVE BEEN LIVING IN Psalm 84. It is a rich source to remind each of us o the blessings that await those whose heart is bent toward the LORD. Over the next few weeks I devoted my Shepherd’s Staff to this Psalm and the rich treasures that await us in its words.

In Psalm 84:1 the psalmist writes, “How lovely is Your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts!” The psalmist is talking about the tabernacle or at a later time the temple found in Jerusalem. The psalmist could not think of a more lovely place to see, or more importantly, to be near If the psalmist were to arrive today in the city of Jerusalem his heart would break over the loss of the dwelling place of the LORD of hosts, for sadly, “dwelling place” no longer stands having been destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.

Yet, for the follower of Jesus, the Messiah, there is a new dwelling place. A place not made of stone and mortar, but as the Apostle Paul wrote to the church that gathered in Corinth, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16)  Not only does the LORD God make His dwelling in us, but He also makes His dwelling the Body of Christ, the church. To the church in Ephesus Paul wrote, “In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:21-22)
 
With the above being true, the question before us is, could the psalmist gazing at you and me and the church gathered respond, “How lovely is Your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts!”  Could he?
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Thursday, September 01, 2011

PERMISSION OR FORGIVENNESS

I HAVE USED THIS LITTLE QUIP MYSELF, “It is easier to ask forgiveness than it is to ask permission.” The idea behind the saying of course is that we just don’t want to take the time or make the effort to get the OK to do something before commence on a project or direction. The underlying hope is that if we were wrong to pursue a certain course of action the person to whom we should have got “clearance,” will be gracious and offer us forgiveness rather than a rebuke.
     This all seems well and good, but honestly, is it truly the best course of action? Sadly, it is not, at least in how the Word of God would deal with it. When facing a decision to be made it is not advisable to move ahead without first seeking out the wisdom and the blessing of God. Sure, God is forgiving and all (And are we not thankful for that?!) but God desires us to seek Him first, not after the fact. This is especially true in the areas that border on sin. Yet, sometimes, we move right ahead into sin knowing that God would never grant us permission if we asked, but we bank on Him granting us forgiveness once all is said and done.
     This is in part what the Apostle Paul was dealing with when He was writing to the new, young church in Rome,
1What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
5If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. 6For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—7because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.
8Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
11In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. 14For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. (Romans 6:1-14)

     As followers of Jesus, the Christ, we have permission to do many things, but we cannot use that as a doorway to activities that would grieve the Holy Spirit. (Ephesians 4:30) Rather, we are to live sacrificial lives, seeking always to be conformed to His Image. (Romans 12:1-2; Romans 8:29) And when in doubt about a decision to be made, or a direction to take or an activity in which to be involved, it is always best to ask permission first, and less costly too. (James 1:13-15)
      How do we seek His permission? Searching the Scripture is a great place to begin, wrapped in times of listening prayer. There is the “listening the God’s Spirit within you…sometimes it is as simple as, “When in doubt, don’t. Then there is also seeking the wisdom of women and men who have walked long with God through times of trial and victory, these sisters and brothers know both permission and forgiveness. Their counsel is priceless.
     So, when all is said and done, while it may seem easier just to plow ahead without first seeking the Lord, and even though forgiveness is offered freely by His grace, it’s better to ask first, and then obey. This is the path of blessing! And God’s blessing is that for which we all should seek.
     May God bless you all, real good!
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