At Gateway Church in South Austin, I asked two of our leaders: “What’s Going On? What is God sharing with you about our community?”
Sulinda McManus, our Next Gen Kids Director and Jamie Schwarz, our Gateway Restore Pastor and I all shared on gaining a new perspective.
Work through the following questions and Scriptures on your own, and get together with your running partner, life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning.
Message Notes (from the 28:30 minute mark):
For many of us, we struggle to trust God or our relationship with God has not been as high of a priority in our lives, so when Sulinda and Jamie invite us to look at life through goggles God gives us or the lens of God’s nature or character, we still have a warped view of who God is. We need to spend more time with Him in prayer, in the Scriptures, in serving others with others, in community with others who follow Jesus.
I want to read a passage Sulinda read earlier but from another version just to help it sink in who God really is for us. Listen again to a couple of verses from one of the most depressing books in the Bible – Lamentations – a book written by Jeremiah, a prophet no one listened to. It is literally a book of laments. Do you know what a lament is? A Lament is “a passionate expression of grief or sorrow.”
In spite of his circumstances, Jeremiah reminds us and reminds himself:
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” – Lamentations 3:22-23 NIV
God has love for us – great love for us. As a result, we can handle whatever comes our way for He is with us, and this life is not all there is!
God’s compassions never fail!
Every day is a new day, another day to discover God’s great love and compassion!
And he says: “Great is Your Faithfulness.”
If you read the rest of the 3rd chapter of Lamentations, you will be shocked this is Jeremiah’s conclusion. He blames God for all the terrible things that have happened in his life!
But even still, He knows God is loving, compassionate, and faithful.
God’s faithfulness means He is loyal, constant, and steadfast.
God’s faithfulness means He will keep His promises. He can be trusted. He is trustworthy.
Several hundred years before things went so wrong for Israel and for the weeping prophet Jeremiah, earlier in the history of Israel, they were just beginning to experience the fulfillment of God’s promise to them about inheriting the Promised Land. So many remarkable battles had been won and lessons learned because of battles lost, yet as his time as leader was coming to an end, Joshua leads the people of Israel renews their covenant with God. In that passage, Joshua says to the people:
““Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.””
Joshua 24:14-15 NIV
He gives them a choice: choose today who you will serve – the Creator of the Universe or the little gods your ancestors created. He challenged them to get rid of their family superstitions, the ways of the world and choose to serve the Lord as He did.
Notice how this challenge begins: “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness.”
We don’t like that idea of fearing God. We love the idea of a loving God. Certainly the Hebrew word for fear means more than what we think that word means. There is a sense of reverential awe, a profound respect and honor. As my friend Francois pointed out this week in a life group where we looked at this verse: “But fear is a proper response when you encounter the Creator of the Universe!”
This is not a fear that keeps you away from God. This is the kind of fear that keeps you coming back to God! You do not want to move forward without Him leading you. We will talk more about this in our series that starts next week called Decision Fatigue.
For now, when you run into a word or phrase or passage that does not make sense to you, don’t give up on it. Ask God for wisdom and use the Scriptures to interpret to the Scriptures.
In this case, right there in the text it gives us a clue what it means to fear God. People who fear God, get rid of all the other gods in their lives – all of their idols. They allow the Creator of the Universe to become their Heavenly Father, and they let go of anything else they go to to meet their deepest needs. For us in 2019 America, it may not be little wooden idols of false gods, it is probably more like the gods of consumerism, security, power, sex, money, pleasure.
According to Tim Keller in his book Counterfeit Gods, he writes:
“What is an idol? It is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give…. An idol is whatever you look at and say, in your heart of hearts, “If I have that, then I’ll feel my life has meaning, then I ‘ll know I have value, then I’ll feel significant and secure.” There are many ways to describe that kind of relationship to something, but perhaps the best one is worship.”
When I was in college, I felt God calling me to become a pastor. My first job at a church was the Saturday night janitor where I cleaned up after weddings. Feel far too good for that, I ended up getting a job as a youth pastor for $70 a week. I felt far too good for that too, but that was all I could get. Even still, I had the title. I had the office. I was 19 years old. I was young and arrogant.
The music minister traveled out of town one weekend and asked me to take his spot. I quickly agreed. I got this, I thought! I know these songs! I can lead the people in singing – not a problem. He then added I needed to find someone to sing a solo as well. “Not a problem,” I said. Well, I wasn’t giving my best in this position. I mean they weren’t paying me much so I didn’t prepare for that Sunday morning. I was planning just to wing it. I had forgotten to get a soloist, so when the piano player asked me about the solo, I let her know I would sing and chose the famous old hymn: Great is Thy Faithfulness. She asked if I wanted to practice, I told her there was no need. I knew it well.
All went fine through the first part of the service. Then it came time for the solo.
She started to play.
I began to sing.
Great is Thy faithfulness
O God my Father
There is no shadow of turning with Thee
Thou changest not
Thy compassions they fail not
As Thou hast been
Thou forever will be
Great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see
And all I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness
Lord unto me
She wouldn’t stop playing! it was in a different key than I had been practicing on my own! It was so much higher than I was ready for! And if any of you grew up in a Baptist Church you know that we never sang all four verses, but on that morning, she played all four verses! Every time we came to the chorus, the youth group on the first row laughed hysterically at me as I slipped in and out of this terrible falsetto and funky bass! It was the most humiliating experience of my life!
I learned something very valuable that day. I was not being faithful to the calling I had received. I was not living as someone who was faithful in the little things nor someone that God could trust with more as Jesus promised.
You see, here’s what’s amazing! When we say “yes” to Jesus, He not only rescues us, washes us clean, but He makes us new! He gives us the Spirit of God – the same Spirit that rose Jesus from the dead now lives within us!
And we are empowered by His Spirit! We have spiritual gifts and when we rely on God, when we Fear God, when we serve God faithfully, and when we trust in His faithfulness, we naturally produce the Fruit of the Spirit!
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”
Galatians 5:22-25 NIV
So I want to invite you to take a step deeper towards God!