Remember the Goodness of the Lord

When God interacts with Moses he says that He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. When Moses questions whether Israel will believe, He has sent him, God tells Moses to tell them “I AM has sent you.” What follows is a story that echoes for generations within Israel about remembering who God is and what He has done in the context of their present circumstances.

With each new circumstances Israel seems to suddenly forget God’s goodness. They get caught at the red sea, and suddenly forget all his miracles in Egypt. They get hungry in the desert while forgetting His constant provision. They freak out when Moses is gone for a little while, and decide to give a golden calf they made with their own hands credit for their salvation. The list goes on, and with each new big event God regularly call a timeout to say, “Hey, this thing I am doing. Pay attention. Build a monument about it. Pile up some rocks. Tell your children and children’s children what I did here. Remember me.”

That’s always easier said than done. We just struggle with it. Sometimes we can’t even bring ourselves to sing those songs of praise on a Sunday morning when doubt and uncertainty creep into our minds.  Why is it so difficult to remember the goodness of the Lord? Time and time again we are placed in a difficult or disappointing situation, and forget all the other times just like it where God came through. Sometimes we didn’t even recognize his faithfulness at the time. That is how hardship works there. We often don’t recognize his faithfulness in the moment when we don’t get that opportunity we were hoping for.

Let’s tale the crossing the Red Sea as an example. God deliberately guides Israel into what appears to be a trap. They are stuck with a body of water on one side, and Pharaoh’s army on the other. They see know way out of this. Why would God do this? wouldn’t it have just been better to leave them in Egypt? What a cruel trick. God’s just says, “Wait for it.” He separates the waters, and lets them walk across dry land while crushing Pharaoh’s army. Here is the thing though, it was impossible for Israel to understand the reason for the whole event at the time. They were in a panic. God saw the bigger picture though. He saw a few mean years later from Israel enter a city called Jericho. A city that looked formidable on the outside, but who were trembling with fear because they heard about the nation of Israel and their God who defies the very laws of nature for them in battle. It took 40 years of wandering around in the wilderness to be made aware of that fact.

I don’t always understand when I am in a difficult situation. On many occasions, it has taken time for the meaning of hardships to reveal itself. In those moments, I am reminded of the goodness of the Lord. So why would I once again worry when a new trial faces me? Is it simply in our human nature to forget? I suppose that’s possible. It would explain why God was so determined to constantly have Israel reminds itself of their goodness. Adam and Eve in a moment of weakness forgot God’s goodness doubting His words just like enough to take a bite of fruit. The truth is that I don’t entirely know why it is so easy for us to forget the goodness of the Lord. All I know is we do. This means we must be forever vigilant. Constantly on guard. We must constantly be preaching to our soul. We must always tell the core of our being to have courage. We must tell ourselves to continue to do good. To keep the faith. The reaping will come if we do not lose heart.

So, I sit here on a Sunday morning with not much left to say except if there is anyone else out there who struggles with remembrance, know that you are not alone as you are joined in company by a forgetful young man. That is why I write this though. Perhaps remembrance is more than just telling yourself what god is doing. Perhaps it is telling each other. Corporately reminding each other of the goodness of the Lord. So today I will go to church, and when my heart grows faint and struggles to raise its voice, I will be surrounded by a community who will raise their voice for me. Then my heart can finds its voice again, and I will remember the God who parts the seas.

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Opportunities to Preach.

As much as I enjoyed writing on this blog my greatest passion is preaching and teaching. If you or a church you know needs a guest speaker please contact me at in the comment section, or email me at utterlydependent@gmail.com.

There are two of my previous sermons you can listen to as examples of some of my past preaching. You can listen to them at that following link: http://www.mp3-sermons.com/index.php?id=12&speaker=485

I would be thrilled for the opportunity!

Value and Purpose

We tend to struggle with the idea of value. We often based our value on what others think of us. Our value is placed based off of rejections and approval. I think there is another set of words that connect with, and perhaps even better summarize our real question. What is my purpose? What do I have to offer, and who is interested in it?

Humankind was created with purpose. God was intentional in the act. It wasn’t a simply reaction to an event, but rather was the final act over a giant canvas being painted on. We were also made with purpose. Adam and Eve tended to the garden and ruled over it. There was work involved, and there was satisfaction in that work. It was work meant solely to honor and please God. The purpose was clear. It was recognized. It was loved.

The fall changed everything. It changed purpose. Adam suddenly became confuse din his purpose. His purpose for a singular moment was to love Eve more than God. His value for one moment was defined to have her love him in return over God. Since then our value and pu8rpose have been thrown into turmoil and chaos.

It seems hopeless sometimes. How can we find these innate truths of ourselves in a world that constantly pulls us in the wrong direction? Matters grow even worse when we realize we cannot even trust our own heart in these matters. It is liable to go towards immediate and temporary satisfaction. We grumble and grown wherever we are because those core questions do not seem to be getting answered in the deepest part of our hearts. Who think I have value, and what is my purpose?

We can catch glimpses of these answers if we know where to look. We find it in our relationship with Christ. A relationship that is the sole definition to our value. A value that says we are priceless, but not the only one in need of this answer. That last part is the key. I have become to individualistic at times in my ideas on value. That core question can become dangerously corrupted if I am not careful. My value alone is not necessarily the most important thing.

This is where purpose comes in. We can find purpose in community. In Acts believers found purpose in community. They valued others more than themselves. They cared for the poor in their community. They fed the hungry. They clothed the poor. They went out and shared the salvation story with the world.

The purpose and value are connected, and they are not determined based off of our circumstances. We often assume this to be the case. Rejection from a loved one, a friend, a job application, a local church, a clique, or whatever it may be was always destined to fail because they are all incapable of answering these questions. Value is defined by the cross. Purpose is defined by what I do to tell everyone else about their value.

The Church

Ever notice all the bad press we give the church? Blog posts constantly talk about what is wrong with the church. Seminary students sit around and talk about everything that is wrong with he church and develop their plans on how it needs to be fixed. People stop participating in the church because they say it doesn’t work. It almost feels like you cannot be considered a thought provoking Christian these days unless you are willing to talk about everything that the church is doing wrong. We need a perspective change. This fad is going down a dangerous road.

Let’s start with the root of these discussion. We say the things we do about the church because of personal experiences with local churches. We take the negative elements of those experiences and paint a universal canvas of the churches common problems. “The problem with the church is that it is not evangelizing enough.” “The church needs to do better at meetings the needs of the poor.” “The church needs to be relevant.” “The church needs to show love more.” All of these statements are based out of local experiences form local churches. There are certainly local churches that suffer form some of these issues, but is it fair to say that it is a problem of the universal church. Is it fair to say that the church is no longer effective?

Here is where things get particularly complicated. It’s Christ’s church. So we end up laying claim that a creation of Christ is no longer effective. That makes things a little awkward. We sit around and talk about how we need to fix God’s church. We discuss what needs to be done to fix what we interpret Christ’s church to be. It ends up making things exclusive. We end up caring more about making things look the way things they are supposed to rather than helping people move along in their personal journey. We want the destination, but rebuke the progress that it takes to get there.

I love the church. I love the real church. It is more than a love for a local church. The church is so much more than that. The church is a family. It is the body of Christ with Him as the head. He is the one who takes the lead. The problems is we have arms, legs, feet, hands, and all other parts of the body deciding that they don’t like how an individual piece of it is going. The hand grows disenchanted by an itch on the leg and proclaims that the whole body is suffering from a terminal disease.

The church is going to have issues. It is going to have moments that make us disenchanted to it. Many of us feel our most pain and sorrow out of people within a local church body. It hurts the most because it is supposed to do the most good. When it doesn’t it becomes a bitter situation. It leaves us hating the whole thing.

What if we developed another perspective though? What if we looked at the bigger picture. The reason for the messy parts of the church is because it is made up of broken pieces. That leg doesn’t seem particularly effective by itself. It makes poor decisions and tends to go places it has no business going, but with the proper body lead by the proper head it manages to be effective. It finds its one true place where it belongs. That is why the church itself is a living miracle. It takes individuals that are broken and hurting, and brings them together under the leadership of Christ to perform something with significant purpose.

Of course the church is going to be messy because it is made up of messy people. That is part of what makes it so incredible. The church is filled with those who are a work in progress. It is filled with those who are all going on a journey. The beauty of the church is that we happen to get to have the opportunity to go on that journey together. I love the church because I love the one who made it.

I’ve learned to be cautious with statements where I claim what I believe is wrong with the church. The reason is simple. I am part of the church. If something is wrong with the church then I am saying that something is wrong with me. If I see a problem then I need to actively be part of the solution. It is not a solution brought based off of what I think the church is supposed to look like. It is a solution based out of personal sanctification for how Christ proclaims to me how I am supposed to be.

Don’t just give up on the church because a local church burned you. Don’t just hate the church because of one experience. We are a work in progress, but are work is being done by the one who can actually do something about it. I urge you not to highjack that control of perfection, but rather welcome you to be an active part of the process.

Withholding Forgiveness

I’ve been thinking lately about how we often need to force a change of perspective when thinking about forgiveness. Our thoughts on forgiveness often revolve around how we need to begrudgingly find a way to forgive someone who has wronged us, or who we at least perceived has wronged us. It is difficult for us bring ourselves to forgive people at times. I think we fail to see the impact of forgiveness, and the equally powerful impact of withholding forgiveness.

I remember a situation a ways back where I had to apologize to someone. It was difficult to do as I there were intricacies in the situation that resulted in the full fault not truly falling squarely on me, but I understood it was important that I apologizing to this person in that moment. it was even harder entering into this apology speech as it was not the first one I had had to have with them. When you go to humbly and genuinely apologize you hope for a restorative outcome. It never came in this story.

My apology resulted in repeated accusation. The person I was apologizing to had no interest in accepting my apology. They had no interest in giving me forgiveness. They only cared about continuing to proclaim judgment on me over the very thing I was apologizing about. It was through that conversation that I realized that past situation where forgiveness was given were really jus ta smoke screen. it was a fake kind of forgiveness. It was painful. It’s still painful.

Being refused forgiveness is difficult to swallow. It actually took me a long time to realize what bothered me from that conversation. It dawned on me as I begin to wrestle with this topic of forgiveness. It bothered me because someone tried to place themselves up as my god. That may sound harsh, but it is truth. When someone has been apologized to, but they withhold forgiveness and determine judgment then they are saying that their decision is more important than God’s.

God willingly forgives us. We can come to him truly repentant of our sins, and He will forgive us ever time. This realization became even more painful than the destructive nature of being refused forgiveness from someone. It hurt because I realize now what I do when I wrestle with wanting to withhold forgiveness form someone else. I try and set myself up as their god. I put myself as their accuser and judge.

There re lots of intricacies to forgiveness. I’m not saying we don’t point out sin. That is crucial in the community of believers. We need sin to be confronted, but I believe we need to be ready to forgive when people come asking for it. We cannot truly forgive someone until they ask for forgiveness, but we can be ready to give them that forgiveness when they ask for it. I think of those who have hurt me at various points in my past, and not yet asked for forgiveness. I hope they do ask one day. I want them to be healed form that forgiveness, and more importantly I want to show them that I don’t place myself as their god. I don’t want to withhold forgiveness because I hated it when forgiveness was withheld from me. I wonder how different things would be if we looked at this angle of forgiveness more often.

The Outsider

My posts have been far to scattered lately. I’m still trying to sort out my new routine s I am in training for work. My time in God’s Word has thankfully been able to keep up though, and I would like to share what ahs been on my mind from that lately.

I was listening to the book of 1 Thessalonians the other day. The first two chapter really jumped out to me this time around. It was not so much one specific verse as much as it was an overall theme. It is a them I think we see all throughout Paul’s letters. It is also a them that I believe goes largely ignored by people who talk about Pauls’ letters. It gets ignored because its application requires vulnerability. It requires opening yourself up to others in a way that makes use feel uncomfortable. The them is a pretty simple one really. What I find in these two chapter is just how much joy there is in investing in people.

How often do we hear that concept today? How often have you thought about the joy and importance of investing in people? We hate that concept. People are unreliable. They hurt and gossip. They slander us. They betray us. They break our hearts. People are ones who run into schools and shoot children, fly planes into buildings, bomb innocent people, and are simply all around evil. How are we supposed to invest in a race that is plagued with depravity?

This is exactly what Paul did though. He remained heavily invested in people. sometimes this lead to painful heartache, but it also made way for opportunities of immense joy. It came down to the method in which Paul invested in people. He didn’t invest in just the person. He also invested in the potential use God had for them. Paul invested in what God could do in their lives.

We don’t like this idea of investing in people because it requires community. It requires exposing ourselves in ways that aren’t comfortable. This is especially difficult for men I think. People have asked me what the hardest part of marriage is for me, and I think maybe that answer changes form time to time. I know in the beginning the hardest part was being willing to open myself up to my wife more. We don’t like being exposed because that means we are making ourselves vulnerable.

Community requires sacrifice. It requires us to tear down our barriers and leave everything on the floor. If you’re not careful you can become incredibly cynical. That is why you see so many cynical attitudes in ministry and the church. People keep getting burned to much. The environment requires us to expose ourselves, but the results are often painful.

I think we can l say we have been given reasons from experience on why we should not invest in people. We have been given reasons to believe we should stop opening ourselves up to others. Our experience would make it very easy for us to shut ourselves off from the world, and even from the church. many have done so and never looked back. I believe this is a mistake though. It is true there is great risk in community, but there is even greater reward. Sharing life amplifies its purpose and pleasure. Community gives us opportunities to weep with those weeping and rejoice with those rejoicing. It enhances our experiences.

What can the church body do to make investing in people and community the experience it deserves to be? I think it starts by opening itself up. The church wasn’t meant to be a bunch of cliques. It wasn’t meant to be distinguish by single viewpoints or childhood friendships. Church didn’t use to be like that. Church used to be for the outsider. It used to be for the person who was burned by the whole world for believing in the death of a man who claimed to be a Messiah, and was even crazier to believe that this proclaiming Messiah rose from the dead. It was for the outsider who was hated by the world because he believed in the consequences of sin. He believed in the failure of false gods. He believed in true redemption. He was the outsider.

It was ok though because the church was made up of outsiders. It was made up of murderers, liar, thieves, rapists, gossipers, poor, rich, and al the like with one single common denominator. They all believed in Jesus Christ and were hated by the world for doing so. It was ok to be an outsider because there was still a place of belonging. You didn’t need to grow up in that small town to be able to find a place of community. You didn’t need to know the right people in order to feel like you belonged. You didn’t need to know anyone to still feel like you were at home. Your were with family.

What are we going to do to get back to that point today? How are we going to get back to making church a community rather than politics, cliques, rules, and such? There are many church bodies who have realized just that, and have invested in actual community. What will we do as an individual thought when that outsider walks through the door? Will they leave still feeling like an outsider?

More Than a Spectator

There is a good deal about the local church that the majority of Christians seem to miss out on. Many church attenders are spectators. We go to church, maybe have some casual conversation with people, sit in the same seats we sit in every week, read some songs off a PowerPoint or hymnal, listen to a sermon, maybe stick around for Sunday School, and then we are off to go about a weekly business.

The funny thing is I don’t think many of us would describe the church as that. We grasp that the church is supposed to be much more. The problem is that we often choose to opt out of all that. Church is our weekly spiritual fix. We go there for our kids to get some grounded lessons on how to live a moral life. Some of us take our kids expecting the church to fix all their problems after a few hours each week.

The church is required to fix everything wrong with our families, but it only has a few hours a week to do so. The church is required to keep us entertained. it is required to give us a reason to sit their and listen to those sermons. Since church is all about the sermon for us that pastor better keep things interesting. He better not get us to emotional. he better no get us thinking about needing to actually do more with our lives.

I believe we all have a part to play in the local church I am pro church membership when it is done properly. Church membership is not a club. it is an opportunity to join a team that is working towards common goal. That common goal should be to reach out to the community, and extend that reach to the end of the earth. We get involved in a local church to be under some solid leadership that can enact a plan to carry out that ultimate goal.

I think the average Christian would agree with all of this, but talk no action to carry it out. The church is filled with parents who ignore their responsibilities in training up their children in the way they should go. This is not to say that every parent with a troubled child has failed in their duties. Sadly some parents can do everything right, but a child’s heart will still remain rebellious. Where parents get foolish is when they expect the church to do al the work on “fixing” their children with such a short amount of time. The church isn’t just their to invest in your life. it is there to be a channel machine that allows you to invest in the lives of others.

Struggling with parenting? So is that woman who sits a few rows behind you. Maybe you could be taking that opportunity to minister to one another. The church is full of people with problems, but a healthy church knows how to help carry each others burdens. It saddens me how we miss out on this so much. It stems largely from the fact that Christians in our culture today are not nearly as outcast as they would like to believe they are.

We talk so much about the persecution we face today with God being taken out of the schools, government making things more and more difficult for churches. Threats of forcing clergy to marry anyone regardless of life choices. Threats of what preachers can and cannot say. I’m not saying the walls are not closing in. I’m not even saying that there will never come a day where the American local church will face real persecution (I in fact expect it), but we are not there yet. Do you want to know how I know this? Because the average local church is not yet forced to depend on the people inside of it. A truly persecuted church would see a skyrocketing increase in dependence. We would rely on one another more. We would depend on each other because we would literally have nowhere else to turn.

Here is the thing though, we don’t need persecution to start living like that. We don’t need persecution to recognize there are needs that have to be met within our own church walls. Paul often talks in Scripture about needing to help the needy, but he puts an extra emphasis on meeting the needs of the fellow saints. He actually puts a requirement to meet the needs of Christians first before others. Why is that? I think it is partly because believers only had the church to depend on. They were outcasts from their families and the rest of society, but I also think there is a deeper reason. How can we expect to meet the needs of the world when we will not even help those within our own church walls? If we are not meeting the needs of those in our local church it is because we have become spectator who expect the church leadership to fix all of our problems. A church spectator stands no chance of being a part of something bigger than themselves within their own church. How can they possible expect to be a part of something bigger than themselves that expands across the world?