As we approach election day, I am filled with deep emotions for the future of our country. On the one hand, I am believing God for a great awakening. As in former days, we discover that God’s Spirit can do a great work in a short time. People who are hopeless can find forgiveness and a future. Those enslaved by sin can be set free. Those lost can discover the presence of God and find the power and guidance of the Scriptures. God truly changes lives! On the other hand, when I look with just my natural vision, I see a country running headlong after sin and its deceptive pleasures. I see the majority of Americans ignoring the Lord and His church. I see the leaders of our political parties boasting about how we can solve our own problems. God is hardly mentioned, and, when some politicians are bold enough to speak His name, they are often ridiculed and told to leave God out of their decision making. It’s easy to feel marginalized and isolated. As I read the Book of Jeremiah, I realize the prophet faced far greater struggles than Christians face in America right now. Jeremiah truly was alone most of the time. While reading chapter fifteen today, I was reminded of what kept him going. “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts. I did not sit in the company of revelers, nor did I rejoice; I sat alone, because your hand was upon me for you had filled me with indignation” (Jeremiah 15:16-17). The hand of God was on Jeremiah. Rather than trying to find joy in the pleasures others pursued, he found delight in God’s Word. May the Lord raise up more Jeremiahs today! Dare to be different. Value God’s Word and His presence. Your life can make a great impact!
The other day I was sitting on the couch worshiping the Lord. I was thinking about the Lord’s wonderful salvation in my life and the multitude of blessings He gives me each day. My praise rose to the Lord with deep gratitude. Then, all of a sudden, my mind turned to the people all around me. How many of them never once share the joy of walking with Jesus? How many of them struggle with life’s issues without the power of prayer? How many of them have no hope as they face the future…and a Christless eternity? This week at Highway, we begin what we call our “Missions Convention.” During these next couple of weeks, we will hear from those called to minister in places far away and close to home. However, the whole idea of a missions convention is a waste of time if we just think of missions as done in special places by a few special people. The Bible reveals that we are in the days of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on all who believe (see Acts 2:17 and Joel 2:28). As followers of Jesus, we are called to be people of the Spirit who look at each day as a mission. How would our lives be different if we looked at our time on earth as an opportunity to do the will of God each hour of each day? What if we got up in the morning and prayed, “Lord, lead me to someone today with whom I can share the hope of Jesus”? What if our lives were “mission controlled” instead of being controlled by our agendas? The commission of Jesus was given to all God’s people when he said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20). May we enjoy the presence and great salvation of our Lord, and, at the same time, pray compassionately for our relatives, friends, co-workers, and neighbors to find life in Christ. My prayer is that every one of us would take the mission of Jesus to heart as our personal mission…not as something “out there” but as something “right here”—in my life and yours. Lord, may Your mission control me!
“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:14-17). In his sermon last Sunday, Pastor Finney reminded us of the power and importance of holiness. Just look around today and you will discover that holiness is a strange and archaic idea, seldom spoken of and greatly misunderstood. For most people, seeking a holy God and living a holy life never crosses their radar. From studying the Scriptures and pondering the meaning of holiness, I have come to understand holiness as both a gift and a pursuit. As a gift, I receive holiness from God based on the perfect sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. He came to die for sinners…like me. Holiness is not something I somehow achieved and presented before God. Holiness is something provided for me, which I simply accepted by faith from the Lord in humble gratitude. However, that’s not the end of holiness. God’s gift of forgiveness and cleansing requires a lifelong pursuit. The Apostle Peter tells believers to continue moving forward, and not to turn back to “passions of former ignorance.” Those who study the Bible understand the pursuit of holiness as the “process of sanctification.” In other words, we are made holy to become holy. Think of an orphan living wild on the streets who is suddenly adopted into a loving family. The child becomes an immediate member of the family and then learns to become like the family. Our adoption into the family of God gives us immediate access into the presence of our loving and holy Heavenly Father. Our Father then motivates us with, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” In all of our imperfection and sinful tendencies, we should not be discouraged in this pursuit of holiness. The same Lord who saved us also empowers us to live holy. Through the Holy Spirit we receive counsel and power in making everyday decisions that please Him. He awakens within us a desire for purity in our hearts…so we are careful about what we read, what we watch, what we speak, and how we think. Holiness is not a matter of “looking good” in the eyes of people but of cultivating a close, honest walk with God. His presence and words influence us in the deepest way possible so that we continue to become just like Jesus. By the way, holiness of life is not a bore as the world wants you to believe. Holiness is the only way to find joy in this corrupt and confusing world! Just look to Jesus.
As a new believer, I thought of Moses’ ministry as somewhat “glamorous.” After all, he performed amazing miracles before Pharaoh and led the Israelites through the Red Sea. However, the more I studied and read about Moses’ life and ministry, the more I realized how difficult his calling must have been. Many times, I thought to myself, I’m glad I was not Moses! He endured 40 years in the desert with believers who easily caved to grumbling and complaining and sometimes threatening to go back to Egypt. In the Book of Exodus, many chapters describe the trials of enemy nations, rebellious leaders, and slim resources. To me, Moses is a hero of faith and perseverance. He stayed with his calling and brought the people to the threshold of the Promised Land. Of all the ways the writer of Hebrews could have described Moses, this is what he chose to say: “Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house, bearing witness to what would be spoken by God in the future” (Hebrews 3:5). When I think of the power of faithfulness, I also think of Pastor Finney, Liza, and their sons. As you know, Pastor Finney started out as an intern with Pastor Wegner and ended up staying over 20 years! As pastor of Highway Tabernacle, I am honored to have served with the Kuruvilla family. Their impact through the example of faithfulness will always stay with us. In a city that desperately needs the blessing of loving homes and church families, the Kuruvillas modeled for us commitment, love, and faithfulness. This note is just a small way of saying thank you, Pastor Finney, Liza, and boys, for giving of your lives so willingly and serving with love and enthusiasm—even when it was difficult. Thank you for being faithful in God’s house! You are loved and appreciated by all of us! May our Lord Jesus continue to bless you and lead you in His harvest field!
“For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe” (1 Timothy 4:8-10). Today you don’t have to convince people of the importance of physical exercise. Gyms are everywhere. Sports of all kinds are wildly popular. The virtues of running and walking are well known. The Apostle Paul, in his travels through the Roman Empire, undoubtedly saw a lot of athletes and competitions. With his mind on the spiritual, he teaches us the importance of learning from exercise. Why is it that so many believers speak about faith while at the same time don’t “practice” their faith? As a young Christian I was surrounded at church by people who practiced a daily devotional time with God. They set aside time (usually in the morning) for reading and meditating on the Bible and for prayer. This practice became such a part of my “routine” that I feel weak and spiritually “run down” when I neglect this. Don’t misunderstand me…the routine isn’t what saves us or keeps us. Jesus is the Lord. He is the One we need. The reason I have devotions each day is to communicate with Him, and to listen to His voice through Scripture. The morning exercise of prayer and Scripture helps me stay strong through the day. I become sensitive to others and my environment. The Lord helps me keep my mind on Him as I say yes and no to the many thoughts that come my way. I also practice my faith by getting together regularly with other believers because I know I am stronger with them than without them. My encouragement to you is to practice your faith. Get yourself in the habit of presenting yourself before the Lord. Exercise yourself to quietly wait in His presence. Remember the words of Paul who taught us that godliness is of great value! Keep practicing your faith!
“Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, ‘This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: “You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites’” (Exodus 19:3-6). The Lord never meant for us to feel as if serving Him was a loathsome burden. Some see God as a taskmaster who takes away their fun and replaces it with rules. How far from the truth that is! God spoke to Moses to convey a special message to the Israelites shortly after they were set free from Egypt. Before God entered into the covenant with them, He reminded them of what He did for them. He said, “I carried you on eagles’ wings.” Imagine this…the Lord is carrying us! Those who study eagles tell us that the mother eagle carries her young on her back until they are ready to fly themselves. I try to imagine myself as a little child who is being carried by the Lord through life—especially in those anxious, stressful times when life seems so hard. Others may not read the Bible because they have preconceived ideas about God being harsh or unjust. But I read in the Word that God is the One who loves us me more than anyone else and who gives me power and strength for each day. And in my hardest moments, I am reminded that He holds me in His mighty hand! Let the Lord encourage you today.
“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5). As a student for many years, I have taken plenty of exams! The most important test for any course is the final exam. This special test usually takes a longer time to complete and rehearses the entire semester, revealing the student’s proficiency of the subject. The Apostle Paul spoke of a “final exam” in 2 Corinthians 5:10: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” Of all the exams I have ever taken, I am concerned about this last one most of all! I desperately want to pass this test and hear the words “well done” by the Lord Jesus Christ. So, how can I be assured of passing this test? In 2 Corinthians 13:5, Paul challenged the people of Corinth to do a “self-examination.” Some vital questions of this exam are “Am I in the faith?” and “Is Christ in me?” Living the Christian life is not a matter of merely going to a church or believing some things other Christians believe. True believers are those who live in Christ…and Christ lives in them! How do you know if Christ is in you? Paul, in the Book of Ephesians, called those following Jesus “children of light.” He went on to explain, “For the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth” (Ephesians 5:9). As “students” of the Lord Jesus, we are challenged to examine our lives before the great final exam. If Jesus is in us, we will bear the fruit of His life. We will trust in Him with our lives, and, from this faith, we will manifest a love for goodness, righteousness, and truth. Don’t be afraid to do a self-exam. By doing so, we will not have to worry or wonder if we will pass the final test!
In Isaiah chapter 6, the prophet paints an amazing word-picture of God’s temple in Heaven. He describes God on His throne, high and exalted—but God is not at the highest point in the temple: “Above him were seraphim…and they were calling to one another: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory’” (Isaiah 6:2-3). I’ve always thought of heaven as a place where God’s people declare their praises to Him for all eternity. However, notice that the angels Isaiah describes are not declaring their praises to God, but to each other. Think of it this way: Imagine that you bought a car, and you really appreciated the heated steering wheel. If you were really impressed by it, you might reach out to the car’s manufacturer to let them know how great it was, but you would certainly tell your friends, your family—even strangers on the street—how incredible the feeling was of getting into your car on a winter day and wrapping your fingers around the heated steering wheel. This is how we should be as Christians. Yes, it’s important and appropriate to send our praise and worship to God, but we must also praise Him to others—our brothers and sisters in Christ, our friends and family, and even people we don’t know. When Jesus tells us how to reach people for His Kingdom, He doesn’t tell us that we should show them the error of their ways or convince them of the horrors of hell. Rather, He says that we are to proclaim to them the good news about God (Mark 16:15). Be like the angels! This is our call, as followers of Christ. Wherever we go, with everyone we meet, let us, with our words and—just as important—by our lives, declare the greatness of our God!
“A voice says, ‘Cry out.’ And I said, ‘What shall I cry?’ ‘All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever’” (Isaiah 40:6-8). The longer I live, the greater the awareness grows within me of the brevity of life. I had a call from a friend yesterday about a man who recently started attending Bible study and services here at Highway. Ed developed a blood clot in his leg and had to go to the hospital. After receiving medication and rest for a couple of days, he was discharged on Thursday. On his way out of the hospital, he collapsed just inside the entrance doors. His heart stopped…he was gone! I am so grateful to have met Ed at the Love in Action ministry on Tuesday nights at City Hall. From our conversations and praying together, I was assured by Ed that he loved the Lord and had given his life to Christ. Our physical life on earth is compared to a breath in the Book of James. COVID-19 also reminds us that life is fragile. The best we can do in this brief speck of time is to love and follow Jesus! Make your plans in the light of seeking God’s will, remembering the words of James: “Why you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (4:14). Also, may the Lord help us not to be intimidated by those who confidently ignore God. Many today mock the idea of serving God and look at Christians as hopelessly “outdated” and out of touch. Try to picture them as you would the grass in a vacant lot. It can be long and very visible one day…and mowed down the next. Don’t be intimidated by people who pass away, but love and fear the Lord who holds eternity in His hands!
Just when you think you have your day all planned…something happens, and you have to say good-bye to all your plans. This past Wednesday did not start well for me. As I got out of bed, I felt as if the room was spinning. My unfriendly intruder, vertigo, had come to see me again! On average it “visits” me once a year or so and does a number on me (I won’t go into the unpleasant details). However, I am so grateful vertigo doesn’t stay long with me…about a day. But it’s a very long day and the only thing I can do is lay around thinking about how lousy I feel and praying I recover quickly! For those of you who suffer with an ongoing issue, my vertigo challenge may seem quite miniscule. However, let me share with you some of my musings concerning sickness. First, I am so grateful for the cross of Jesus and the healing that flows from our Lord and His great sacrifice! No matter what you go through, what a great comfort to know that Jesus loves us, keeps us, and heals us. And yet, who hasn’t struggled with questions like, “Why am I not healed?” or “Why is this taking so long?” I don’t pretend to know all the answers, but I do know the faithful ONE who sustains me through every health challenge. My imperfect faith in Jesus is seen through the clouded lens of living in a fallen world beset by sickness and death. As a believer, I don’t expect never to get sick. Nor do I look at other believers who suffer as somehow lacking faith. Only God knows certain things, and it’s best for us not to pretend to know it all (remember Job’s friends)! The best I can do is trust Him to bring me through and stand on what He speaks to me through His Word and the application of His Word through the Holy Spirit. On Wednesdays I usually attend the phone prayer group with Pastor Finney and Liza. I did not feel well enough to call in, but I did send a text asking the group to pray for me. Interestingly, I felt a great improvement in my condition right around 8 PM, the time when group prayer ended. Coincidence? I don’t think so. Even though I don’t expect a pain-free, perfect body this side of heaven, I do rejoice in the power and presence of Jesus who promised to never leave or forsake me! “Praise the Lord, O my soul; and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases” (Psalm 103:2).