Archive for the ‘Devotionals’ Category

Getting Alone

I know.  Long time, no blog.  Anywhizzle….

Recently, two Bible College students (one youth group alum, one honorary alum) were telling me about an interesting assignment one of their professors had given them. They were to take a nature hike. I thought they were kidding. But then they explained that this was to be a chance to get alone with God. I realized I still had a puzzled look on my face when Josh asked,

“That’s not something you would ever do?”

I immediately felt terrible that I had given that impression.  I explained that I used to do that.  It started with early morning walks while I was in Bible College and continued on early in my ministry.  Somewhere along the way I had gotten away from that.  It was a very convicting moment that God wasn’t done dealing with me about.  The next morning in my devotion time, I ran into a verse in Luke by which I had jotted down another scripture reference.  I went to that verse and, lo and behold, there was yet another reference written down.  I followed this “chain” to another six or seven verses.  It was a chain I had formulated some 10-15 years ago about the prayer life of Jesus.  What stood out the most was Jesus separating Himself from the crowd, and at times going into the wilderness to get alone with His Father.  I honestly said this in prayer that morning:

“Okay, Lord, I get it.”

That scripture chain became the Teen Church message that morning.  I told the young people that we needed to find a way to do that.  To get away from any sign of man’s work and influence (cars, sidewalks, etc.) and spend time with God.  Many were very excited about that.

Today I drove up Glendora Mountain Road.  The main reason was to apply what I had just preached.  I also wanted to find a spot that I could take the teens to for my crazy wilderness prayer idea (I’ve yet to come up with a catchy name for this).  As I drove, one medium-sized peak captured my attention.  It seemed that the road would take me right to it and that I might have a chance to take a small hike to its summit (I did have my hiking boots on).  Then I heard the church van say “ding” and saw that the “Trans Temp” light was on.  I parked in the next available pull out to let the tranny cool off.

Well, I was alone.  In the wilderness.  Yipee.  Might as well enjoy the view.  I stepped out of the van and almost rolled my ankle on a stupid beer bottle.  It was just a mess there.  So much trash (and I’m talking trashy trash, if you know what I mean).  My grouchy level was rising as I made my way through the garbage to the ledge.  I was immediately struck by the cool-ish breeze and it was pretty comforting.  I couldn’t have been much higher than 3,000 feet, but there was a definite difference from the sweltering valley floor below.  The view was just okay.  A bit hazy, but I could make out the hustle and bustle below.

Then I turned my eyes northward to look at the peak I was hoping to get to.  It really stood out in the immediate area.  Ah, so close yet so far.  It looked like there might be a somewhat worn trail going up the side.  Would’ve been an easy hike and the view would probably be really nice.  Upon closer inspection, I noticed that 10,000+ foot Mt. San Antonio was in the background.  I looked back at the mountain I was initially impressed with and thought to myself, “That mountain’s big, but not that big.”

Then I thought about Mt. San Antonio, the tallest mountain in the San Gabriels, and remembered beholding Denali from Anchorage.  So I thought of Mt. San Antonio, “That mountain’s big, too, but not that big.”

It wasn’t ’till the tranny had cooled down and I was coasting back down the lonely, winding road that I realized the Lord was, yet again, speaking to me.  I’d like to pass on the message to those going through some hard times.  Maybe some of the hardest times of your life.

That mountain’s big.  But not that big.

You’ll be fine.

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The Ten Commandments

To help introduce a sermon series, my Pastor asked me to put together a video with impromptu interviews of random strangers and their thoughts on the Ten Commandments.  It’s truly interesting what people think.

I only include one response to the question, “Even for those who aren’t believers, can the ten commandments help them to be good, moral people?”  One hundred percent of those we interviewed (which is about quadruple of those that end up in the video) answered positively.  I wonder then, for a set of rules that can be so helpful…

Why do so many find them offensive when displayed in public?

If someone were to truly make a daily attempt to follow the ten commandments, they would certainly be a pretty decent person.  A morally upstanding citizen.  In reality, it is impossible to keep all the ten commandments for the whole of our lives.  If our eternal salvation was dependent on our keeping the ten commandments, we would be without hope.  That’s the whole point.  The ten commandments serve as a mirror of sorts.  It allows us to see our sinful, hopeless condition, and our need for a perfect, holy Saviour.

Would you consider this very important question?

Uncommon

I wrote some time ago that my favorite sports figure is Tony Dungy (read the Fave Fives post here).  I recently began reading his book Uncommon, and it is one of those rare books that you know is a must read within the first few pages.  Dungy makes no bones about the fact that most of his thoughts and ideas come from what he believes the Bible says it takes to be a man.  His main premise is so true:

A true man is uncommon.

While he coached the Indianapolis Colts, he would go through the rigorous process of evaluating college players who have entered the NFL draft.  I like to follow the prospects and have always been very interested in the measurables: height, weight, speed, etc..  But Dungy’s evaluation went a step further.  He writes, “Coaching ability or talent cannot make up for a lack of character.”  They had a category on their evaluation form labeled “DNDC” — do not draft because of character.

“But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.” -I Peter 3:4

It is this “hidden man”, the thoughts and actions only seen by God, that propels a person to spiritual success.  Even Christian homes have been inundated with the sensual glitter of the world’s entertainment.  Young people no longer know what it means to be a true man or woman.  Parents think that an hour of Sunday School will fix the many hours of filth their kids indulge in Monday – Saturday.  Our homes are no longer work-sites for character building.  Sadly, many Christian homes have become dangerous brain washing stations, with the mass media taking over as teacher, mentor and spiritual advisor.

As parents, Sunday school teachers, youth leaders, we have a responsibility to teach our young men that strength is not to be equated with violence or foolish wrath.  Our young ladies must learn to reject what MTV and Hollywood call attractive and “esteem the reproach of Christ greater riches….”  People who live for wealth and fame are a dime a dozen.

Men and women who love Christ more than self are truly uncommon.

Is the Name of the Lord ALWAYS Blessed?

“Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” -Job 1:20-21

ppfeb09-JLarsenJob had an incredible testimony.  People knew him to be a man of character and integrity.  God looked into his heart and agreed.  He was so confident in Job’s love for Him that He actually went bragging to the “old accuser” about His servant.  Satan wasn’t convinced, though.  He thought Job’s comfortable life was the substance of his right living and challenged God to take His hand of blessing and protection from him.  God agreed and soon Job lost his possessions, his children and his health.

I couldn’t imagine the depth of those losses.  Just about my only hope for sanity would be the support of my wife.  I truly feel like we could get through anything together (with the Lord’s strength, of course).  But then Job lost that support as his wife told him, “Dost thou still retain thine integrity? Curse God, and die.”

Recently, I sang in church, “Blessed Be the Name of the Lord” and the song really put that statement in perspective.  Talk about insult to injury!  The final verse says,

Then his wife came before him to voice her opinion.  She said, “You should end it.  Just curse God and die.”  Job rose from the ashes and looked toward the heavens.  He brushed back the tears from his eyes.  And he said, “The Lord giveth, He taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord.”

I can just imagine Satan smiling as Job’s wife gave those terrible words.  This must be the straw that breaks the camel’s back!  There’s no surviving this onslaught.  Certainly, Job would be cursing God to His face.  But it didn’t happen.  Sure, as you read on in the book of Job, he had many, many questions for God.  But he never charged God foolishly.

Here’s a man who hit rock bottom.  His situation was so hideously dire that his friends were absolutely speechless when they first saw him.  He could take an honest look at his life and KNOW that he didn’t deserve what he was going through.  Goodness, I’ve had some less-than-desirable “trials” in my life, but nothing approaching what Job went through.  I’m not so sure I could’ve made it.

And that really convicts me.  I’ve got some things to work on.

Help Wanted

Missions

“Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.” -Matt. 9:37-38

We are in a crisis.

A crisis much more pressing than the global recession.  There’s a world-wide harvest that’s ripe for the picking.  It’s vast, almost overwhelming.  But the crisis is not in the enormity of the harvest.  The problem lies in the number of laborers going out to reap.  The world isn’t in need of another lawyer.  The world isn’t in need of more nurses, truck drivers or sports figures.  There’s a harvest that’s going to be left out in the field.  Either it will rot away and die or be devoured by scavenging beasts.

Help wanted signs are rarely seen, nowadays.  But when they are posted prominently on a business door or window, it tells the world that there is a need.  And an opportunity.  The sad reality is that most Christians will acknowledge the need presented by the white harvest, but not look at it as an opportunity.  A tremendous opportunity to give so that others may go.

Or an even bigger opportunity to go themselves.

My church’s Missions Conference is coming up.  I have been praying BIG.  Every year I pray that someone will surrender their lives to go to the harvest.  Certainly, it thrills my soul when one of my teens gives their lives to God’s work.  But I’ve been praying specifically for God to get a hold of an adult in our church.  Someone with an established family, ready to be sent out.   A man making a comfortable living, willing to surrender the life he’s known for 20+ years to go into the harvest.  God can do that.

I’ve given my life.  I’m willing to go.  I want to go.  But I’m called to stay.  Not every Christian is called to go to the mission field, but every Christian should struggle with the possibility.  Every Christian should spend some time weeping at an altar, begging God to let them go.  There are over six billion people in this world and the night’s coming.  We are in a crisis.

We should act like it.