It’s Thursday morning, around 630. I’m still trying to wake up all the way. It’s been an interesting week, as I shared a little bit yesterday. I still feel that tests are happening, and some pretty cool things have been happening. But perhaps I’m reading too much into things.
I want to share a little more about the vision that the pastor shared with us last Sunday evening. As we met and talked about the worship ministry at The Exchange, he shared some very exciting points with us. I spoke briefly about them Monday morning (I think it was Monday), but I want to expand on that this morning. The reason for the delay was that I thought it would be a good idea to get his permission before I posted it here. The main vision statement is this: I believe that God wants to create a worship ministry at The Exchange that impacts the whole world. Here’s how…
1. By creating a contagious worship environment
–excellence in everything (Proverbs 22:29)
–excellence in music
–excellence in technology
–excellence in stage atmosphere
2. By creating anointed original worship recordings
3. By creating a serious team/family of servant leaders
–excellence attracts excellence
–raising up the next generation of servants
4. By continuously growing in Christ
–daily walk with God
–unity (here, he quoted Matthew 18:15-17 to emphasize the importance of NEVER talking about each other behind each other’s backs!) NO gossip…NO griping
This is both frightening and exciting. If I’m going to be involved in this worship ministry, I’ve got to be ready to work. To work on my skills, and to be prepared when rehearsal times come. One of his final statements was “Practice, practice, practice!!”
I know that some folks might not agree with all this talk of excellence, but I truly believe that when it comes to our worship, we need to be giving the Lord the best we have. That means that if we play an instrument, we need to be playing it excellently. If we sing, it needs to be excellent. And, most importantly, we don’t need to be trying to do things at which we are not gifted.
When I shared with the pastor that I was both excited and scared, he replied, “Scared is a good thing because it means that we don’t want to mess up what God is doing!” Amen, to that.
Today’s Bible readings from Discovering the Bible
, by Gordon L. Addington:
22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds.
23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone,
24 but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them.
25 And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea.
26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear.
27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”
28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”
29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.
30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.”
31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.
33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Jesus finally got some time to be alone to pray. They sent the crowds away, full and satisfied, and the disciples got in the boat to head to the other side of the sea. I don’t know what time the “fourth watch of the night is.” The Reformation Study Bible says it’s between 3 and 6am. The wind was blowing the boat around a bit, and all of a sudden, there’s this guy walking across the water toward the boat. “They were terrified.” You think? They thought he was a ghost. But he spoke to them, reassuring them that it was him. Peter got real bold at this point. Instead of jumping in the water (as he did after the resurrection), he asked Jesus to command him to come to him. Jesus simply said “come.” Peter actually got out of the boat and started walking on the water toward Jesus!! Do you get that?? We always seem to focus on what happened next! Because he took his eyes off of Jesus, he saw all the turbulence, got afraid and started sinking. But before that, he got out of the boat!! How many of us think we would have gotten out of a boat that wasn’t sinking in the middle of the sea? (Personally, I equate that with jumping out of a perfectly working airplane in the middle of the sky…the only acceptable reason to jump out of a plane is if it’s crashing!) I’m not so sure I would have that much faith. But Peter did. And, I think it’s also important to note what Peter did when he started sinking. He didn’t start thrashing around trying to swim back to the boat. He immediately cried out, “Lord, save me!” It’s my opinion that this is the most important lesson in this passage. We are all going to experience turbulence in our lives. And we will, from time to time, take our eyes off of God and start sinking. But what we do when we start sinking is the key. Do we thrash around trying to save ourselves? Or do we call on the only one who has the power to save us? Peter knew…and Peter did the right thing.
When they got back in the boat, the wind stopped. Just like that. Everyone in the boat said, “Truly you are the Son of God.” I don’t know how big the boat was, but I have a somewhat humorous image in my head of Jesus at one end and all the disciples crowded together at the other end, kind of afraid to get close to him. This had to have been a life-changing event for them.
34 And when they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret.
35 And when the men of that place recognized him, they sent around to all that region and brought to him all who were sick
36 and implored him that they might only touch the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.
As soon as they landed, people recognized Jesus, and it all started over again. The crowds came, simply hoping for a chance to touch his clothing. And when they did, they were healed.
Chapter 17 begins with an oracle concerning the destruction of Damascus. But it closes out with some drastic prophecy and warning about how it will be when people have forgotten God.
7 In that day man will look to his Maker, and his eyes will look on the Holy One of Israel.
8 He will not look to the altars, the work of his hands, and he will not look on what his own fingers have made, either the Asherim or the altars of incense.
9 In that day their strong cities will be like the deserted places of the wooded heights and the hilltops, which they deserted because of the children of Israel, and there will be desolation.
10 For you have forgotten the God of your salvation and have not remembered the Rock of your refuge; therefore, though you plant pleasant plants and sow the vine-branch of a stranger,
11 though you make them grow on the day that you plant them, and make them blossom in the morning that you sow, yet the harvest will flee away in a day of grief and incurable pain.
Nevertheless, the Lord still protects his people…
12 Ah, the thunder of many peoples; they thunder like the thundering of the sea! Ah, the roar of nations; they roar like the roaring of mighty waters!
13 The nations roar like the roaring of many waters, but he will rebuke them, and they will flee far away, chased like chaff on the mountains before the wind and whirling dust before the storm.
14 At evening time, behold, terror! Before morning, they are no more! This is the portion of those who loot us, and the lot of those who plunder us.
Chapter 18 is an oracle concerning the land of Cush.
20 My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings.
21 Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart.
22 For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh.
23 Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.
24 Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you.
25 Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you.
26 Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure.
27 Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.
This has long been one of my favorite sections of Proverbs, especially beginning in verse 23. The NIV translates this “guard your heart.” It is very important that we keep a watch on our hearts. Look at the other warnings involved…crooked speech and devious talk should not be allowed, should not even be close to us. We are to keep our eyes straight ahead. We are to pay attention to the path on which our feet are walking, so that our way is sure, not swerving to the right or to the left. If we see evil, we should turn away from it. How often do we do the exact opposite? “Oh, look! What’s this evil over here? Shiny!!”
The precepts of wisdom are “life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh.”
gives some good assurance points in today’s reading, called “Faith and Fruit.” The Scripture base is Galatians 5:22-23. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law…
Our assurance of salvation is grounded in “the person and work of Christ.” I think it’s safe to say that all of us, at some time or another, “wrestle with the existential question of how we can be certain that our faith in the One who saves us is genuine.” Just the other day, I wrote about that “unforgivable sin,” and how we all sometimes wonder if we have committed it. “Individually, we know that we have real trust in Christ if we can find any indication of love in our hearts for the biblical Jesus. Unbelievers hate God and run from Him (Rom. 3:11); therefore, those whom the Spirit has called to the Savior will feel affection for Him, no matter how weak this affection may seem at times.” I believe this to be true, and find it to be great news. If there is any love at all for Jesus in your heart, that’s a good sign, even if it is weak sometimes.
Father, I thank you that “you put this love in my heart!” Even when I have doubts, even when my love for Christ wanes, you are there, and you always bring me back to the right path. I pray that my love for Jesus will remain strong. Let the wrestling be over, Father! Let the fruit of the Spirit manifest itself in my life in proportions never seen before.
I pray that you will help me guard my heart. Help me keep a watch on it so that devious talk, crooked speech stay far away from me. Help me to keep a watch on the path where my feet walk, so that I turn neither to the right or the left. Keep my path straight, Lord. Keep my ways sure.
Let me never forget you, Father! The dangers of forgetting you are terrible. I don’t want to ever have to face those. I pray that the Spirit will always be right there, even if you have to slap me in the face to get my attention. But I pray that that will never have to happen again.
Lord, I pray for the wisdom to know that I always need to keep my eyes on you, especially during times of trouble and torment. Help me to always remember to cry out to you, the one who can save me, rather than trying to fix things myself or save myself. Only you can save me, Lord.
I pray for this day. I pray that Christi will have a good work day. Keep her job secure. Keep mine secure, as well. I guess there will always be some fear of losing jobs, especially in our current economy, so I pray that you keep us safe in that regard. Let our day be without stress today. I pray for tomorrow, Lord, as Stephanie celebrates her 18th birthday. Let it be a great day!
If there is a spark of love for Jesus in your heart, celebrate that. If that spark is a roaring flame, celebrate even more, and spread it to someone else.
Grace and peace, friends.