Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

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24 Alone with God in the Exile

Revelation 1:9-11

9 I, John, am your brother and your partner in suffering and in God’s Kingdom and in the patient endurance to which Jesus calls us. I was exiled to the island of Patmos for preaching the word of God and for my testimony about Jesus. 10 It was the Lord’s Day, and I was worshiping in the Spirit.[a] Suddenly, I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet blast. 11 It said, “Write in a book[b] everything you see, and send it to the seven churches in the cities of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.”

Patmos, a barren, rocky island in the Aegean Sea, had been chosen by the Roman government as a place of banishment for criminals to punish them through isolation. Exile meant experiencing separation from family and country, from community, worship and family faith. John is in exile for preaching the word and for his testimony about Jesus. Would that be the reason for your exile? How is your preaching and testimony for Jesus? What are others seeing and hearing? Many times our exile does not come because of our testimony for Jesus but rather because of sin and selfishness issues. Exile is not a fun place to be and often the devil tries to use circumstances to discourage us, isolate us, and put us in a place where we feel unable to continue with whatever God is trying to do through us.  The truth is that nothing happens in God’s economy that He is not in control of. John understood this and his perspective on his circumstances reveal a man who knew God because he had spent time alone with Him.  In the midst of his exile here are a few of John’s perspectives that I believe we need to have.

  • “Your Brother”

John understands that Christianity is about relationships and even in exile and isolation he starts by connecting himself to his readers through the bond of brotherhood. Brotherhood is not based on location or circumstances it is based upon a relationship with Jesus Christ. John’s focus relationally is outward, rather than focused on himself, he chooses to focus on others, “brothers”. Is your time alone with God refocusing you, shifting your eyes off of you and onto others? Is your focus your brothers?

  • “your partner in suffering”

John’s description of himself is not one of self-pity, panic, anger, regrets, or hesitation, but rather an accurate view of suffering, something we know little of in the western church. Again he doesn’t see himself as alone but as a partner, connected to others. So often in suffering we think we are the only one.  Elijah thought this and it caused him to want to give up, but the truth is he was not alone, there were 7000 others (1 Kings 19). You need to keep perspective, here we see God in the hardships of life, you have a God who understands suffering, who carries the physical scars of his suffering for you, you also have other brothers and sisters in the partnership of suffering with you. When we think of partnerships we tend to think of them as being profitable, yet we tend not to see suffering as profitable, but suffering for Jesus is profitable, and His suffering for us has profited us greatly.

  • “in God’s Kingdom”

Having a real perspective means understanding what kingdom really matters, it is God’s kingdom not his own kingdom or roman’s kingdom. This perspective helped John to realize he was not alone, God was with him. As believers in Christ we cannot be exiled from God, there is no place we can be sent that separates us from God. But for those who do not know God, who do not have a relationship with Him through Jesus Christ, there is a Patmos, a place of separation, Hell. Whose kingdom do you belong to, is it God’s kingdom?

  • “patient endurance”

The Christian life is a race that requires endurance and that only comes from a connected relationship with the father. Many start out the race in sprinting style, excited to forge ahead for Christ, they even do well with the hurdles they find in their way.  Then comes the uphill climb, the discouragement of their situation and somewhere in that uphill battle they lose steam and stop running. John understood that endurances comes when we endure our situation and that takes patience. Patience is not nothingness or apathy or sitting around doing nothing, it is a waiting on the Lord. This is not passively waiting, that is laziness. But to keep going when the going is hard and slow – that is patience and John does this through worship. He doesn’t change his worship because his circumstances change and he is on the Isle of Patmos, his focus is on whose day it is not where he is. “It was the Lord’s Day, and I was worshiping” Many of us just quit, we get angry over our circumstances, our “island of Patmos”. Yet John continued to know whose day it was, who was in control and who he was worshiping. Are you a fair weather worshipper or are you willing to worship in the storm? In the midst of his worship is when he hears God; some of us don’t hear God because we are more focused on our circumstances than the one in control of them. Is there a “patient endurance” in your life? Are you waiting on God?

  • “to which Jesus calls us

It is our time alone with God that reminds us not only of our call but the one who has called us. As we remember who calls us it reminds us of who is the Lord and who is the servant, it goes back to whose kingdom it really is. John understands his call and his circumstances were intended to put him in a desolate place where he wouldn’t be able to continue to live out his call of preaching the Gospel. Yet even in our exile we can be productive for the Lord, John wrote revelation and the barriers of the sea surrounding his tiny island could not keep him from continuing his mission of preaching the word and sharing his testimony for Jesus. Even the barriers of time have been unable to hold back his message. What barriers are you letting hold you back? Aloneness, discouragement, isolation, anger, bitterness? What is your island of Patmos? Do you know your call? Are you living it out?

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23 Alone with God in the Fire Part III

Exodus 3:1-5

3 One day Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro,[a] the priest of Midian. He led the flock far into the wilderness and came to Sinai, [b] the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the middle of a bush. Moses stared in amazement.  Though the bush was engulfed in flames, it didn’t burn up. 3 “This is amazing,” Moses said to himself. “Why isn’t that bush burning up? I must go see it.” 4 When the Lord saw Moses coming to take a closer look, God called to him from the middle of the bush, “Moses! Moses!” “Here I am!” Moses replied. 5 “Do not come any closer,” the Lord warned. “Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground.”

Fire is an aspect of God’s presence in His appearing to his people. It was a sign that he lived and dwelt with those He called his own. Throughout the bible you’ll find traces of the fire of God burning brightly, not a flicker but a flame, touching and transforming the lives of ordinary people.

  • To the children of Israel, God was with then as a cloud by day and a  pillar of fire by night. Exodus 13:21–22
  • In the tabernacle, the fire of God came and consumed the people’s offerings showing God’s favor. Leviticus > 9:23–24.
  • With Elijah, the fire of God came down on the mountain top as a remind to the people of Israel to worship the God who answers by fire and let Him be their God. 1 Kings 18
  • On the day of Pentecost, when the Spirit came it was described as tongues of fire that rested on each of them. Acts 2:3

There are several aspects to how this fire touches and transforms lives

I. Fire Consumes

He doesn’t destroy, he consumes, that is why when Moses looked at the bush it was consumed by fire but was not destroyed. That’s what God wants to do with our lives. He doesn’t want to destroy you, he wants to consume you. Are you burning brightly for Christ Jesus today? Has he got first place and first call upon your life? Are you consumed with the zeal of the Lord today? What is consuming you? Is it God?

II. Fire refines

In Malachi 3:1–2, Malachi sees the Lord and he says the Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to his temple v. 1 and in v. 2 he describes what He’ll be like in his coming for he says, “He will come like a refiner’s fire.”

A refiner in biblical times was a person who took metal that was formless and impure and put it in a furnace to be heated up to an intense heat. This would bring all the impurities to the surface so he could wipe them off.  This process would be repeated again and again until he knew the metal was clean and pure. The way he would know that the metal was pure was once he looked at it he’d see the reflection of his face in the metal.

This is the picture of the refining that God wants to do in our lives. He wants our attitudes and our weaknesses, any hidden sins, any disillusionment’s that hold us back, any fear, He wants it all to go through the furnace of His presence so all the impurities that are in our hearts may come to the surface. This is for one reason and one reason alone and that’s so the reflection of Christ may be seen in everything we are and everything we do. Not the reflection of this world, not the reflection of self, but the reflection of Christ’s face. Whose “face” is your life reflecting?

III. Fire brings light

Exodus 13:21 The Lord went ahead of them. He guided them during the day with a pillar of cloud, and he provided light at night with a pillar of fire. This allowed them to travel by day or by night. Everything outside the camp was covered in darkness but when others looked at where the children of Israel were they saw fire which reflected light. God wants this church to be a church on fire so that we can be the light that shines into the dark areas of our community. Is your time alone with God in private reflecting His light in public? Is God’s fire in your life drawing others to God’s light?

IV Fire brings protection

Exodus 14:19 Then the angel of God, who had been leading the people of Israel, moved to the rear of the camp. The pillar of cloud also moved from the front and stood behind them. 20 The cloud settled between the Egyptian and Israelite camps. As darkness fell, the cloud turned to fire, lighting up the night. But the Egyptians and Israelites did not approach each other all night.

God wants to protect us and we need His protection. Just as the Egyptians chased after the Israelites with the intent to take them captive and bring them back under the yoke of slavery, so we have enemies that desire to enslave us. Like the Israelites, our enemies often attack from behind and it is God that has our back. Is it time to get Alone with God?  It is our time alone with Him that keeps us from running out from under Gods protection? Who has your back?