Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

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30 Resting in the One who Holds my Hand

Psalm 73: 2, 22-26 – “But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you. Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever”

One of the priorities of parenting is providing for and protecting your children, and one of the simple ways that we do this is to simply hold their hand. We do this to keep them safe when crossing a street, or to keep them from getting lost in a crowd, or to keep them from falling when they stumble and lose their footing. Just as a parent takes their child by the hand, so the Lord takes his children by the hand, and teaches them to walk by faith in Him, Hosea 11:3 says “I myself taught Israel how to walk, leading him along by the hand. But he doesn’t know or even care that it was I who took care of him.”  It is our Heavenly Father that holds our hand securely as we stumble in sin and trip over the temptations. It is this reassuring hand holding ours that enables us to rest safe and secure in the uncertainty of life’s journey. Our flesh and our faith will fail but our faithful God will not let go. I think we can all identify with the psalmist when he says in verse 2: “But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold.” We all face a variety of issues that threaten to cause us to slip and stumble. For the psalmist seeing the prosperity of the wicked caused him to question the goodness of God. He found himself standing at the edge of a deep precipice, not fully aware of its danger, having almost having fallen in. Here we are reminded of the importance of holding on to God, keeping our eyes and faith on Him. It was God who squeezed his hand and reassured him that, given the judgment of God, the wicked do not really prosper. He discovered that true prosperity, is found in the fact that God is always with us holding our hand and guide us through the good and the bad to our ultimately destination, home with Him in heaven. It is what we discover about the heart of the Father during these hand holding moments that causes to rely and rest on Him. The first thing we learn is:

  •  God’s Grace.

Verse 23: “Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand” This verse contains the two precious mercies of His presence and protection. Yet what is amazing is that they were both given to one who confessed himself a fool, one who fell short. Asaph was sustained and kept by God in the land of the living, he was permitted to abide in God’s presence. He was allowed to hope in God’s mercy, despite his doubts about the justice of God’s divine administration. Or his envy at the prosperity of evil, and his spirit of complaining against God. The amazing grace here is that he is not driven far away from God, banished from God’s blessings, cut off from his favor and cursed. We should all marvel at His mercy when we reflect on our questioning and doubts about God. There is a note of amazement here, amazement over the unfailing grace and faithfulness of the Almighty. Have we have lost the wonder and amazement of His hand holding grace? It is as if Asaph is looking back over his life and saying, “I wouldn’t expect this; because if God were as I, He would and should have quit with me a long ago. Yet, nevertheless, beyond expectation, and to my utter amazement, God has not forsaken me. Despite my rebellion, despite my questioning, despite my discontent with His ways, He is continually with me.” The amazing grace of God is seen it that no matter how horrible I am He still holds my hand. Have you experienced the holy hand of God, the unbelievable truth that God never forsakes His kids? Asaph understood that God was constantly and continually with him, even when he was far from God, disenfranchised and distrusting, like a sulking, spoiled child. Yet, never once did God remove His faithful hand of power and provision. The picture he paints is of a little child who is sullen and stubborn, intent on his own way, and of a patient father who holds that child by the hand. It is a picture of tenderness, strength and wisdom. Asaph saw how far he’d fallen, he had become brutish, a beast out of touch with God. Like Asaph we too spend so many of our days living as beasts, senseless and ignorant, we slip, and stumble and fall into sin. Our ignorant thinking is seen in the way we think that the only things of value are the things of this earth. We doubt God and question His ways, yet He holds our hand, coming along side of us and comforts us with His covenant. This is the lesson that we need to let flood our souls, the lesson of His amazing grace.

  •  God’s Guidance

“You guide me with your counsel” Asaph is no longer murmuring or complain, but entrust it all to God, allow himself to be led according to God’s instruction. Its easy to question God especially when things don’t seem to make sense, but its in these times that we need to engage in a little holy reasoning. Because God has shown Himself faithful in the past, I can trust Him even in my present panic. Yet its not just our past and our present we can trust Him with its also our future, Asaph reminds us that God wants to guide us into glory, so we can be with Him at home in heaven. Into a world where we will no longer doubt His divine dispensations, questioning the principles of His government. This is not a life left to chance, one of random roaming, where we have to trying to make our own way in life. Our future is not as some think, simply in the cards, where all we can do is hope for the best. This is not a far off impersonal God, but one of grace, guiding us with His loving touch, holding our unsure hand. We have a guide that not only knows the way but is able to keep us on that way. In light of His grace and guidance Asaph now confesses God as his only desire and strength. He recognizes the frailty of man, our flesh is weak, plagued with the curse of sin, corrupted decaying and heading towards the grave. Our earthly life is like a shadow that quickly passes by. Our hearts faint within us, we become overwhelmed with our worries and cares, staggering and fainting as our courage fails. Only God can meet and satisfy the needs of our soul, and even after all the doubting and complaining there is no one who comes close to caring like God. Asaph discovers that God is now his everything, his soul is satisfied, there is a shift here from a focus on have not to have everything. We will never rest until we learn not to expect earthly things to satisfy our soul. We like Asaph need to look to the Savior for satisfaction where we will find His sufficiency for our every need. I wonder is this true for you? This is when God becomes our all, and we finally rest content knowing that no matter what He holds our hand. The lessons that the psalmist learned, through trial and tribulation he learned not by his head but in his heart. We only really learn as we are willing to live life with The Lord. When we do we are reminded of His amazing grace, that God never forsakes us, His guidance now and through the future; and that God is our only satisfaction and all-sufficient strength. While his affliction was unpleasant it had the beneficial effect of drawing him closer to God, his bitterness and complaining was replaced with worship and praise. Rather than dwelling on what material things he lacked, he delighted in the greatest blessing of all having a personal God, an intimate counselor and guide, a present and a future source of comfort and security. What will happen to us tomorrow, what stresses and sorrows will come our way, what difficulties and demands, we do not know. But we know that God will guide us with His grace holding our hand all the way home. Today no matter where you are or what circumstances you face take time to enjoy the journey hand in hand with your Father.

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29 Confident Rest – Part 2

1 John 3:19-24

“This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.”

After focusing on God’s character John now calls us to follow God’s Commands. First we must:

  • Lean on Him.

Verse 23 says: “And this is His command: to believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ…” To believe means to trust in, to lean on. If there is one thing I have learned in this life it is that we all will lean, the question isn’t are you going to lean its on what or who will you lean. We are commanded to believe in God’s Son, Jesus Christ, this means to trust solely in Him. I think for those of us growing up in the west and especially the American church this is one of the most crucial commands, for it is a call to lean fully on The Lord. We love our independent attitudes, where we are free to skim the seas and sail on the currents of a culture riddled with self reliance. John reminds us of this command because belief effects behavior. If we really believe in His Son then we must learn to lean on The Lord, to relationally rely on Him. How often as leaders in His church, if we are honest, do we live in vocational violation to His Word when it comes to leaning on The Lord? We live in a culture that champions independence but this is a command to believe. To trust and lean on The Lord means a clear call away from the culture. Have we so bought into the lie of the independent life that we no longer lean on The Lord? Somehow we have spiritualized self reliance to make it seem sane and acceptable, but I think its time to call this trend of trusting self instead of the Savior what it really is, SIN. Self reliance is not the spiritual life its a SINatra life, where the only life song sung is “I did it my way.” What John is calling us to here is a life of Faith, a life that goes against the flow of familiar culture as it leans on the life of Christ. Am I totally trusting Jesus to the point that I am confident to jump into the free fall of faith?  How often have we ignored the command to believe, to trust and lean on Jesus, and instead been caught up in the cultural cruise control instead of the command of Christ? Often its only the difficulties and dilemmas of this life, that cause me to see my sin of chasing culture instead of Christ. As they come crashing in, dissolving the pillars I love and lean on, like castles of sand swallowed up by the surging sea. In this life, you have to have faith or you will fall, there is no way to survive without the Savior. Embrace the hurt and the heart ace, the trials and temptations, the difficulty and the loss for you will never fully know that Jesus is all you need until He is all you have. Even in the times of loss we can lean on our faith in the Lord, when everything else falls and friends fail He will be there, a sure and steady guide. In 1887 Anthony J. Showalter received some sad news from friends about loved ones who had died, and in his letter of reply he included the verse, Deuteronomy 33: 27.  “The eternal God is your refuge, And underneath are the everlasting arms” As he pondered this verse he began to write the words to the great hymn “Leaning on the everlasting arms” Listen to some of the words:

What a fellowship, what a joy divine

Leaning on the everlasting arms

What a blessedness, what a peace is mine

Leaning on the everlasting arms


Leaning, leaning

Safe and secure from all alarms

Leaning, leaning

Leaning on the everlasting arms

Today who or what are you leaning on? Second we must:

  •  Love others.

The last part of verse 23 says: “… And to love one another as He commanded us.” People are not always the most lovable, I know I’m one of them, but this is a command to love others not a casual suggestion. It is a command to love like Christ, a selfless love, not a self serving one, but a faith based, forgiving love, free from the confines of control and the manipulation of me. God in His wisdom is calling us to come into the heart of community, and to light the dark, damp caves of our culture with love. If there is one thing our consumer culture desperately wants, and is searching and screaming for today it is authentic love. Again just like leaning on something other than self, loving, other than self, is not our natural bent. We need this command to love because just like our independence, we can easily justify our lack of love in our judging minds. The monsters in my mind are quick to remind me that “they don’t deserve it, or they haven’t earned it, or they need to love me first. But the greatest gift I can give is God’s unconditional love. How will my life be characterized, will it be an uncaring life or an unconditionally loving life? Let’s lean on Him, let’s love like He does and third:

  •  Live in Him.

This is found in verse 24: “The one who keeps God’s commands lives in Him, and He in them.”  The word that is translated as “live” here is the word “abide” which we see many times in 1 John, it means to dwell and is a reminder that God lives in His children. As we come to fully comprehended this truth it means a change in the the way we live. As 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” To live in Him means to let Him be in control, and let Him take the wheel of our will. It also means, to stay put, when problems try to paralyze and situations try to sway, we need to stay put in Jesus. No matter how big the hail don’t bail. In the problems and the pain questions will cascade into your life like a waterfall, but cling to Christ anyway. The reality of living in The Lord means to obey His commands, and the fruit of following the Father and relying on Jesus results in verse 22: “and receive from Him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases Him.” To keep or obey means, to attend carefully, to take care of, to observe. This is not name it and claim it, rather when my will lines up with His will, I begin doing things His way and this pleases the Father. Only then are we able and willing to receive what He wants to give us because the wants of our lives line up with His wonderful Will. Our will and God’s coincide as we obey and do it God’s way and as 1 Samuel 2:30 reminds us: “The Lord honors those who honor Him.” John 7:17 highlights the importance of obedience: “If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.” When we choose to obey, God will reveal His truth, far too often we wait to obey until we understand. Instead we need to obey first for when we reverse this order we hold God hostage to our demands of being blessed before we obey. In 1887, at an evangelistic meeting held by Dwight L. Moody, a young man stood to share his story. As he was speaking, it became clear to many that he knew little about the Bible or acceptable Christian doctrine, yet his closing lines spoke volumes to seasoned and new believers alike: “I’m not quite sure, but I’m going to trust, and I’m going to obey.” Daniel Towner the song leader for that meeting was so struck by the power of those simple words that he quickly jotted them down, and later delivered them to John Sammis, who developed the lyrics to the great hymn Trust and Obey. Today take the time to let these words wash over you afresh:

When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,

What a glory He sheds on our way!

While we do His good will, He abides with us still,

And with all who will trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way

To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Confident rest comes as we focus first on God’s character, He is great, He is glorious and He is a giver. Then as we choose to rely fully on Him, following His commands, to lean on Him, to love others, and to live in Him, it is here that we receive the rest that comes from releasing all of our life over to The Lord.