Stop struggling, stop striving today!

Joseph's Pictures 219Psalm 29:10-11 (NIV)

10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
    the Lord is enthroned as King forever.
11 The Lord gives strength to his people;
    the Lord blesses his people with peace.

 

Today I want to share a moment of serendipity with you, a moment that occurred as I was reading my Bible. I opened up to a passage and as I prepared my heart I saw a passage above that I had marked previously. As I gazed upon my marks and read the words, God poked my heart and said, “Good morning Joe.” So I pass this on that God may also poke your heart and let you know that he is here. Now matter what it is that you are about to face, big or small, he is here. No matter how loud the noise, how dark the night, how evil the valley, he is here. He knows your name. He loves you. He prepared a place for you near him. Like the swallow that builds her nest near the altar, God has a place for you as well. It is in his blessing.

“The Lord sits…”

Notice that with everything that is going on in your world and mine. With all the false media, the lies, the hate, the wars, the hurt, the rejection, and all the meaningless activity of the mass of humanity, God sits. He isn’t running around threatening, shaking his fist. God is not scared or worried. No, God sits. He is relaxed and watching his children. For some he is sad, for some he rejoices but for all he sits and is working for our good. The scripture says he sits enthroned OVER the flood. He is not worried about the turbulent waters that are crashing down and destroying the earth that time he “started over” with Noah. God is not spazzed or even remotely worried about that flood will do anything other than what he will allow. No, in all our worry, and as we try so hard to get God all wound up in our drama, he sits above the threats. Close your eyes and look at how peaceful he sits on the throne. God is at peace always.

“The lord is …”

I cannot make you believe that God is. I know he is. I cannot prove it to you any more than you can prove he isn’t. I entered this world as a self-absorbed narcissist and until I realized that I am the one that is responsible for my sin, I had no hope. When I saw the God sent his son to die for my sins so that I do not own them, so that I do not suffer the consequence of them nor will they keep me from the throne room any longer, when I surrendered to that truth, my life began to change. You see, In my life, “The Lord IS …” Not only is it true that God is, he is enthroned as the King of the universe. I do not have to be able to answer all the “Why’s” and all the “How’s” or anything else, to know that I am created. The cake doesn’t have to thoroughly know the baker to know there is a baker and the cake is not it. God is too grand, to beautiful, too wonder-full for me to comprehend. Any one that says otherwise is a liar and the truth is not in them. I cannot fathom the depths of God other than to try to understand what he has revealed and reveals to human kind. The lord is King over all that he has made, he is alone is judge, not me.

“The Lord gives …”

Of all the “deities” in this world that have been made up, the God of the Bible is hands down the most generously giving and the most loving. The Lord gives. God wants to give. It is his love language. He gives life, he gives a place with him in heaven, he gives forgiveness when we slander and crucify him. He gives when we need help, he gives when we need knowledge, he gives when we need love, he gives when we need a family, he gives, and gives, and gives. We on the other hand take, and take, and take, and take. It’s our humanity. It’s our sin. You cannot out give God, but you do not want to understand how stingy he can be. When God asks for us to give back to him, he is serious. To ignore obedience to the Word is to prove that we esteem God as nothing more than a spiritual vending machine. It only proves the depth of our self-centered depravity; shame on us. Sometimes what God gives is the strength to face giants, kill lions, strike down serpents, overcome disasters and face adversity with grace and hope. That’s more than any other clay figurine on a shelf is going to give you. My God says he will give you the gift of his presence; You will not be alone. The Lord gives.

“The Lord blesses …”

As we consider “The Lord gives,” what ever the Lord gives is a blessing to you and I. We may always know why he allows the pain and struggle, and it certainly was not his initial plan for humanity, but he come-follow-mecan work it out for our good. The blessing of God is gold in the hands of the righteous. The joy of knowing that the favor of the King of the universe rests upon you brings peace. It doesn’t mean there are no problems in your life. It isn’t a reflection of the absence of struggle and hurt, no, it is the knowledge that he is your father, and he is doing what is best for you at every turn of the sun. It I knowing that though you are outside in the playground called earth, he is intimately aware of what you are doing and going through. Not only is he watching you, but he is “standing” right here while you are preoccupied with all that is going on. His blessing is his gift to you. It is for eternity, but you need to take it. You need to receive it and open it. Know this peace that in the face of death, carries you through all the darkness you may face and all the joy you may encounter.

Today, as you go through this day, remember,

“The Lord sits …”

“The Lord is …”

“The Lord gives …”

“The Lord blesses …”

and YOU are the object of all this love today.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Peace be with you

feet of JesusThe “Butt-inski”

As two of Jesus’ disciples walked along on that very first easter day, they were met by a traveler. A guy. A man headed in the same direction they were going. He walked along with them for  a while as they were headed to a town named Emmaus. This man walked up into a conversation they were having about Jesus himself. They were disturbed by some things that the ladies had said to them, and honestly, based upon this description of the conversation, I would say they appeared to have serious doubts.

He hears their doubts and challenges them

As the stranger interacts with them, they end up kind of incredulous that he appeared to be uninformed about the weekend events. In true hospitable fashion they take it upon themselves to inform him. So they tell him all about Jesus, what he did, the miracles, how he was arrested and killed, then buried. I’m sure they told him what Jesus meant to them personally. This guy, this stranger that walked with them, listened, interacted, asked questions and heard them. The stranger hears their doubts. He then challenges their doubts and unfolds the scriptures for them. When it is all said and done, He ends up at their supper, breaking bread with them, and it is only then that they realize Jesus has been walking with them all along. Immediately Jesus disappears.

Out of their element …

They were walking and lamenting the loss of their leader, their lord, their friend, and there was no way that they were going to believe he was right there. I have often asked myself why Mary at the tomb, and these guys here on the road, didn’t recognize Jesus? Then I remember all the times that I have been somewhere and someone comes up to me, or I go up to someone, and realize who they are.  Out of their normal element or relationship, I do not recognize them. Then it hits me, this is “Bill!”

I think that is exactly what is going on here. They saw Jesus buried, he cannot be here, so that doesn’t even enter their minds. I don’t know what a post burial, resurrected, but pre-ascension body looks like, but they certainly saw him when he broke the bread, when he was “In his element.” Handing out communion he was Jesus again, and Jesus alive!!

What about you?

I wonder how many times we miss God in our lives, miss Jesus doing a work, miss the Holy spirit because he belongs in Church on Sunday morning. Here we are going through our week, maybe we have a spouse and we are doing our daily thing, chasing kids, a quick kiss before we leave for work, maybe a fight and we are immediately in a tension. A flat tire and the day feels wrecked, or work is just piling up and we don’t feel appreciated, no one cares so we melt into the old pit of wallowing; no one likes me, no one notices, I’ll never get ahead. God where are you?

“… and I know that there are angels all around …”

It is at times like these that we miss seeing God in our lives. We end up so focused on our want, our need or our loss, or our problems, that we don’t lift our eyes up and look at who is walking around us. Hebrews 13:2 says, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”

Look!

The Kingdom of God is here. Jesus said it is near, it is coming and it is in you. Jesus is in the Kingdom, so Jesus IS here. The Holy Spirit is in the Kingdom, so the Holy Spirit IS here. Angels are in the kingdom, so angels ARE here. I want to encourage you to lift your chin and look around. God is here in your midst. In the middle of your daily struggle, in the middle of your need to make a decision, in the middle of your fight with your spouse. He is here at work. He is here in your doubt and despair.  He will never leave you alone, but we may be choosing not to believe he could be here.
Cry for nigeriaAs you travel on this road to your Emmaus, that stranger, that song, that group pf people, that church, that co-worker, God is using them to speak to you, to support you, to love you, but you have to open your eyes and believe. Stop what you are doing right now and ask God to open your eyes.

 

PATHS

PATHS

Dangerous path 2

Paths come in many forms. There is path of thought, a path of emotion, a path of friendship, there are even paths through the sky and paths through the ocean. I heard someone say something about a path to someone’s heart. I have walked many paths in my life, probably the single most fulfilling of them all is this path called “Pastor.”
Not all of my paths have been healthy, or wholesome. Early in my life I was on a dark path. This was a path that I inherited, the path of the world, a path of men.

GOOD PATH

When I was 17 I started on another path, a good path, a path of light. I didn’t do real well at first, but I walked nonetheless. As I walked the path seemed easier. I still stumble once in a while but I get back up and I get on with the walk. I like this path. This path led me to the path of Husband-hood, then to the path of fatherhood.

This path has drawn me along various opportunities. This path had me working for a major research and development firm, then for a big printing company, then for myself. Then I heard a voice. It was the voice that called me to the path I was walking upon. This voice called me to a new path that I am presently on.

I have had the opportunity to learn a lot of different things in my life. Things like, motorcycling, hunting, fishing, drawing, painting, leading people, caring for people, camping, and hiking. I have learned to drive a car, operate a tractor, ride horses, rope cattle and even train animals. I have had the pleasure of breaking horses via John Lyons, I trained a dog to work cattle, another one to pull my grandchildren around in a cart. I even had the joy for 30 years of training hawks and falcons to allow me to hunt as their partners.

The paths I have walked have had some wonderful views.

path to the oceanThe paths I have walked have had some wonderful views. From the ocean in Maine, to Washington State, from Key West, Florida to the L.A. Freeway at rush hour and all kinds of places in between; this path of life has had some incredible views. I have seen some of the castles in Germany and Spain, and played as a child in downtown Madrid.

The great thing about a path is that it is going somewhere. It leads to somewhere. Whether it is the path of life or the literal path that you are walking on in the woods, that path leads to something. Something you want to see right?

Amidst all this walking down the path, I am heading somewhere. I have never been there before, but that is the case with most of the paths I travel. This path is leading me closer to what I call home. It is metaphorically the path that leads me up the walk to my real home; what some call “Heaven.”

HEAVEN

I am looking forward to the view. I am looking forward to seeing some of the people that are there. I know some of them; others will be new friends once I get there. But more than anything, I know that God is there. I know that his son Jesus is there. I just know it. Seriously, I would not have walked this path I am on, through all that we have been through, if I did not believe this to be true with all of my heart and all of my soul.

This path has my family interacting in positive ways with other people. We walk together independently. We are involved in trying to help other people see a better life and begin a journey upon this same path.

This path is a path of peace, and a path of love. It is also a path of truth and this path cannot be deviated from, nor can it be changed to suit individual “need” or “want.” The path is established, all we do is walk it.

Dark Path ForestI walked a path once that took me into a deep dark cavern. It was up in Ohio and my friend and I wanted to go down into the cavern. It is a well known Cavern in southeast Ohio. We went down there and the young man leading us, stopped us on the path, and then turned out the lights. It was dark. No, I mean it was D.A.R.K. dark!

You could almost feel the dark. Now, we were still on the path, the right path, but we couldn’t see it. Why would you want to walk down a dark path that you can’t see? Eventually you will be off the path and just wandering aimlessly in the dark.

That describes a lot of people in our world. Not because they are wicked. No, because they can’t find purpose in money, cars, things, or relationship or the pleasures that this world has to offer.

No amount of sex, however wild, no amount of money, and no amount of power, and fame is going to help you be someone purpose on this planet. No, purpose comes from understanding where you came from, why you are here and where you are going when it is all over.

Micah 4:2b
“He will teach us his ways,
so that we may walk in his paths.”

God spoke through the prophet Micah and shared the key to a real life with you and I: He will teach us, but we need to stay on his path. Do things his way. What does that mean to you today?
walkingWhat does that say about where you are, what path you are presently walking?
Are you tired of the dark?
Are you tired of stumbling yet?
God made you a promise; he would teach you if you let him, but you have to choose to get up on the path.

God is not mad at you, he loves you and he is a prayer away with his arms wide open. No concern for anything except you being free from the struggle and the sin.

Are you alone in the desert?

namaqualand desert
Namaqualand is an arid region of 177,000 square miles in Namibia and South Africa, up the Atlantic coast from Cape Town. It’s an arid kind of desert area, but when the Spring rains come, something spectacular happens, it explodes in flowering beauty. It becomes an international tourist attraction as yellow and white daisies along with hundreds of other flowers burst forth into color.

NamaqualandIt’s that kind of picture that I now see as I read Isaiah 35:1-2 (NKJV)

The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad for them,
And the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose;
It shall blossom abundantly and rejoice,
Even with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
The excellence of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the Lord,
The excellency of our God.

Here is a verbal picture of people living in a dry and desolate climate, waiting, crying out for life, hope and freedom from the darkness. A place of dryness, a place of oppression and heat, a place of parched-ness and panting for water; a deer struggling to stay alive. It’s the kind of heat that you can feel just reading about it if you have ever been there.

You ever been in the desert? I mean have you ever been where it is really hot?

My wife and I took a sabbatical last summer that included a motorcycle trip from Richmond, Kentucky to L.A., then north to San Francisco, up to Portland, Oregon, then over to Pendleton, down to Twin Fall, Idaho, then up to Challis for a spell. It was a big trip. It was awesome.

NEEDLES, CALIF. “20 feet from hell, 2 miles from water”

The trip was great except for the part where we went from Kingman, Arizona to Needles, California. We were in the desert. No, I 10550950_10203447856550421_4899093109827598149_nmean we were in the DESERT!! We rolled into Needles and the temp on the sign was 120 degrees. Needles is about the size of my back tire, and why anyone would live there is beyond me. It is hot, dry and oppressive. The highway for 4 hours had been hot, sticky and a little slippery. I have never been that hot in my life!

This is the kind of parched I think of when I read this passage from Isaiah. Sometimes our souls find themselves in places of wilderness and wasteland. When we think our lives don’t count any more. When we believe a lie that says, “God doesn’t care about you.” It’s a hard place to be. It’s a place where you cry out for God to speak to you, to say something, anything.

Where are you God?

This is the picture of King David in Psalm 42

Psalm 42:1-3
1 As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night,
While they continually say to me, “Where is your God?”

Has your soul ever been so hot that you wonder if God cares,
or knows, or is even there?

I want to encourage you today. I felt compelled to write this to you.
God is listening.
God is watching and
God is wanting to change your life.
He is bringing the spring rain to your soul.

The God of the universe is about to let the rains of heaven fall on your life so that it begins to burst into color like the Namaqualand.
Even now it springs up do you not perceive it?

 What do you have to lose?

You don’t have to believe me, really, that is ok. God still believes in you. He hears your cry even when you don’t believe in him.
Today, ask him to reveal himself to you. Go ahead, ask him to show himself so you can believe.
You have nothing to lose except that dry barren desert of a soul.
All he wants to do is make it bloom in beauty, his way, his power, he is LOVE.

IS IT DARK WHERE YOU ARE?

“Why are you crying? Who is it that you are looking for?”

unworthy tearSome times when we are sad, depressed and can’t seem to gather our courage, we just stop moving. We don’t look for God.

Mary had no reason in her mind to look for Jesus. She saw the stone rolled away. She saw the empty tomb. She saw the morning come. And she saw the gardener; that guy standing over there behind her, or beside her. She maybe saw him out of the corner of her eye. When he came to comfort her she was willing to interact, she was willing to allow him to touch her pain. She let him in, just a little bit. “Why are you crying, who is it that you are looking for?”

People 

I get to interact with people everyday. Some people are having a great day. Some people are facing very scary circumstances. Shoot, sometimes I‘m facing giants in my own life. I’m going to shoot straight with you, this “life of the pastor thing” sometimes, is way too much fun and then sometimes it is not all sunshine and lollipops. No sirrreeee, sometimes it is down right scary!!

Do you know what to do?
Do you know what to say?
and do you know where to go?
God are you listening?
God they are mean.
God they are stingy.
and God they are scaring me to death.

And then there is the occasional, “Man this has got to be a great gig, I’m feeling called to the ministry” or “So what, you work an hour a week on Sunday, two if you have multiple services? I need me some of this.” “What do you do all day?” Pastors are not immune to depression, self loathing, and struggling with life. Hahahahahahahaha, Sometimes it’s even crazy here at the church and if you came in you would see that the crazies are running the show. Heeeelllllppppp!

Really though, what do you do when life is just on hold?
What do you do when the darkness seems a little too dark for you to step out into the light?

 MARY M and Mary MOJ

Mary was having that kind of day. This is Mary Magdalene, not Mary the Mother of Jesus. Can you imagine Mary the Mother of Jesus’ weekend? Her very first Easter and what a downer it was. Seriously now, I cannot comprehend the tragedy of losing a child, even an adult child. And then for it to be the Son of God you lost to murder. Here you are, 33 years after you tried to convince people that this pregnancy was an act of God, just when things were looking like the community was believing that he was the Son of God, or at least that he was someone special to God, this happens.

What an Easter this is turning into. 

Those stinking Romans! Big mean nasty warriors and fighters that think they can do what ever they like! THEY HAD NO CAUSE. What about those religious leaders? Hauling her son into the Romans; couldn’t even do their own dirty work, and it WAS DIRTY WORK!!!! Yeah, who did they think they were? What an Easter this was turning into.

Oh it WAS a special week. People may not have recognized that it was the first Easter, but it was still special. It was a couple days after the Passover. BIG holiday for the Jewish people: BIG. Now it was the week of the Feast of Unleavened bread. It was time to remember how faithful God had been to Moses and the gang. God didn’t appear to be faithful to the followers of Jesus. People were celebrating, not this small group of Jesus followers. Small may be an inappropriate term, they were a group bigger than 80% of the churches in America if my understanding is right about 80% of the churches in America.

 Mary M again

Back to Mary Magdalene, It was dark. It was dark for everyone that weekend. At this moment in time Mary is standing, in the morning, at the tomb, with a gardener. At Mary’s darkest hour at the time, she didn’t see Jesus standing there.

God is standing next to Mary. The apple of her eye, the reason for her concern, the answer to her pain, is standing right next to her. Sometimes we are so hurt, the pain is so much, we are so dejected, that we miss that God is right there. Could we but lift our eyes and ask a question, we would hear Jesus call our name. The pain may not go away, the hurting may not stop, but we would realize in that moment that we are not alone.

 GOD

You are not alone.
God said he would never leave you,
nor would he forsake you.
In your darkest moment he is right there with you.
You will grieve, you will ache, you will be in pain,
but God wants to walk with you.
He wants to meet you at the point of your deepest grief,
at the place of your biggest fear,
at the depth of your loneliest moment
and the height of greatest trial.

God is standing right there. Lift your chin and look a round. He may look like someone you don’t know. He may be a song whispering in your ear. He maybe a Word that you read in the Scripture. He could be anywhere but he is there with you. You don’t see him because you don’t expect him. Let him surprise you, lift your chin.

Look around, He is RISEN indeed.

The sun is coming up, it is Easter in your life, He is risen, look for the Lord.

EASTER IS COMING

EASTER IS COMING

Easter: pastel dresses, and colorful ties, chocolate Easter bunnies and jellybeans. You may have more to your Easter than that, actually I hope to you do. I have to admit that when Easter comes around I look forward to it. I love the lilies at church, the spring weather, and the expectation and, I have a bit of an affinity for jellybeans. I especially like the Starburst ones, or the Jelly Bellies.

JellyBellyPile

OKLAHOMA

     I pastored out in Oklahoma for ten years and in the course of ministry I had a day that will forever be etched in my heart. I had arrived at the church during the week just as a dear grandmother and her little grand daughter arrived from having been to the local nursing home. The little girl had a banana, and a Ziploc bag of jellybeans (20 or so), and as I stepped out of my truck to go in, I asked her if I could have one. She said, “No, but ya can buy one.” I laughed inside smiled outside and asked her how much for the whole bag. I couldn’t remember what her answer was but for some reason I remember having something in the order of a dollar in change in my pocket. I asked her if she would sell me the whole bag for all my money and she did. Every year as Easter rolls around I am reminded of that afternoon and that young lady.
I asked her about her morning during our transaction, and she was excited to tell me about all the people she got to visit at the nursing home. She told me of the games they played, and the conversations. Her grandmother was a saint. Her grandmother had a real heart for visiting friends and family in the nursing home and spreading Christ’s love. She just wanted to love on these folks and let them know they were important. She needed to visit these friends and family members; she had to. There was something inside this woman that drew her close and compelled her to share and minister to others.

WomenAtJesus'Tomb

John 20:1-3 (NIV)
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”
So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb.

The least likely to do the most important.

I love that Christ first revealed himself to Mary and some of the other women. God has a way, in the whole redemption story, of using the least likely to do the most important. While we know the names of some of the women that traveled with and supported Jesus, we do not hear much about them. We hear about Peter walking on the water, John leaning back on Jesus at the last supper, Peter, James and John going up the mountain with Jesus, but we do not hear much about the women traveling with Jesus. Those positions aren’t real flamboyant or showy. Those ladies aren’t super Apostles, but you do have to wonder what all they were privy to. The conversations, the miracles, the people, and the crowds: they were there.

It was Mary that got to run back to the disciples and tell them Jesus had risen from the dead. She was the one that brought them running. A woman. The Easter sermon that is preached every spring around the world was first delivered in the heart and on the lips of a woman.

What about you?

You and 1 Who are you going to invite to church this Easter? Do you have a need to tell people that he is risen and they need to come and see? Is your relationship a relationship of consumerism or is it a mission that you need to be a part of?

DARK DAYS

Those days between when Jesus was crucified and Easter Sunday morning were dark days. There was a palpable hopelessness in the air. The kingdom that these disciples and followers thought was coming to pass didn’t happen. Jesus was crucified, the Romans were still in power, Herod and Caiaphas were not real happy with the “followers of the Way.” And now these followers, numbering about 120, (Acts 1) were locked away, hiding from anything and everyone. And then. And then. And then Mary broke into the room and needed to tell everyone that she had seen Jesus.

Up from the grave he arose!

There is something about dark days that opens our hearts and gets us ready for God. There is something about Friday afternoon at that cross that got people ready for Sunday morning at the empty tomb. I’m talking about there is something about dying that gets us ready for living.

Where will you be Easter Sunday morning?

Easter is just a couple weeks away; are you far from God? Do you feel like he left you and now you are hiding in your life, scared of your future, alone and without purpose? Come back to Jesus, he is not dead, He is alive, he is here and we want to invite you to join us.

vineyard logo

Vineyard Community Church Richmond
830 Eastern Bypass,
Old Richmond Mall, main entrance
Richmond, Kentucky

Saturday 5:30 pm
Sunday morning 9:30, and 11:15

Join us, come as you are,
God wants you,
he sees you,
and he knows what’s been going on
and he still loves you very much.

JOIN US