God’s Deliverance

“And Moses said to the people, Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” (Exodus 14:13-14)

Each time I read these two verses, I find myself amazed. The context of this passage is the crossing of the Red Sea, where God delivered Israel from the hand of Pharaoh. What’s amazing to me is that right from the beginning, this is clearly the Lord’s battle. Through his servant Moses, He would win the victory and destroy Egypt. God was not looking for assistance from His people, just obedience. Their task was only to “be silent” and watch “the salvation of the Lord.”

I will be the first to admit this does come naturally to us, Christ’s followers. To sit in the passenger side of faith and let God take control is not always easy because it requires total surrender, something essential in our Christian walk. Until we are willing to let God fight our battles, we will never experience deliverance. We simply don’t have the strength in and of ourselves to fight the enemy apart from God.

Not too long ago, I stumbled across a similar verse in 2 Chronicles. “You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you.” (2 Chronicles 20:17) Indeed, we find this same message through the Scriptures – God’s deliverance – when we trust Him by faith.

This all starts with salvation. “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the Kingdom of his beloved Son.” (Colossians 1:13) In salvation, we are delivered from sin and death and eternal damnation and given the keys to the Kingdom. But the battle doesn’t end at the point of our conversion – it’s just the beginning. As a child of the King, you will face temptations and trials for the rest of your earthly days (2 Timothy 3:12). Deliverance will only come to those who yield themselves to the power of God.

Friend, I don’t know what you are going through, but I do know the battle belongs to the Lord. If you are willing to step aside, surrender, and give it over to God, you will experience His deliverance. You might have to wait awhile (the Israelites were slaves in Egypt for 400 years), but take heart, “it will surely come, it will not delay” (Habakkuk 2:3).

Moving to New York

The past month has been absolutely crazy! In late April and early May, I spent two weeks in Georgia taking some seminary classes. Following that study adventure, we only had two weeks to pack before heading east to our new home of Waverly, New York. I feared that those two weeks would not be enough time to pack up everything, say goodbye to all our friends in Ohio, not to mention finish up all my pastoral duties at Hope Church. However, it was amazing to see how things came together. Yes, packing is a lot of work. Yes, it is emotionally draining saying goodbye to those you have come to know and love through the years. And yes, there are a lot of extra things that need to be done any time you change your address. But God has been faithful through it all.

I am sure that most of you have heard that I recently accepted the senior pastor position at Waverly Christian and Missionary Alliance Church (you can access the website at www.waverlycma.org). To say the least we are very excited about this new ministry endeavor. The people of WCMA Church have been amazing, helping us in so many ways. Last Saturday, a team of 4 men from the church made the trip out to Ohio to pack up most of our belongings in order to transport them to New York. By the time we arrived in Waverly, late Monday afternoon, a team from the church had unpacked everything from the moving truck and gave us a much-needed head start in settling down in our new digs. Each night this week, a family from the church has provided us with a meal for Supper, and we have been overwhelmed by the support of our new church family.

Every step of the moving process has been a step of faith. God has forced us to trust Him and then showed us His great sufficiency. With Stephane being 31 weeks pregnant with our 3rd child, the timing of this move was obviously not our choice, but Stephane has faired amazingly well throughout the entire process. God has given her strength and stamina, even during those late night packing adventures. Though life has been stressful at times over the past month, we praise God for giving us this new opportunity to serve Him and the people of Waverly Alliance.

So yes, we have moved to the Empire state of New York. You can call me a “Yankee” if you like, but as my good friend Randy Monk reminded me – I’ll always be a Canuck! He’s right.

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)

Be Still and Know

I love Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God. I will be exulted among the nations, I will be exulted in the earth!” I can’t tell you how many times the Lord has used this verse to minister to my soul. One of the reasons why this verse continues to speak to me is because my impulse is always to do the opposite. Instead of being “still” and letting God take care of things, I am inclined to do it my way. Being “still” means that I am placing my trust in someone else, which can be scary. I like control and progress, but I don’t like to wait and “be still.”

As much as we strive for control in life, we are forced to admit that we never have absolute control over our circumstances. Often, unexpected curveballs are thrown at us and our plans are frustrated. Unreached goals, unexpected illnesses, financial difficulties, marital problems and a whole host of other circumstances continually remind us that we are not in control. But when we finally come to realize that God is sovereign and in control, it is actually very freeing. Recently, I read something I think you’ll appreciate. “Good morning this is God. I will be handling all you problems today and I won’t need your help.” No doubt there is an element of truth to this little quote. As you already know, this is not as easy as it sounds. We are so thoroughly educated in the art of self-reliance that we tend to resist surrender.

Check out what David writes in another Psalm: “Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him” (Psalm 37:3-7).

Here we see that trust, surrender, and waiting are all vital components in this process. At the same time we are not totally passive. We are to “delight in the Lord.” We are to “commit our ways to the Lord.” We are to “be still before the Lord.” All these have a way of building faith into our lives. And when our trust is in our Heavenly Father, we can be confident that God will act and God will get the glory for how He works in our lives.

Let me ask you – is your trust in the Lord? Is your delight in the Lord Jesus? Have you committed your way to God? Is your life lived for purposes that further the Kingdom and magnify the glory of God? This will require some soul searching on your part, but if this is your desire, then be still before God. Wait patiently for him. Let go of your fear. And find your peace and acceptance in Christ. As Jesus said, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me” (John 14:1).

Hope for the New Year

Everyone needs hope. We might even say that hope is essential to life. When people feel like they don’t have hope, they get depressed. In the most extreme cases of hopelessness, some are willing to attempt suicide. And while most suicide attempts are unsuccessful, sadly 5% actually succeed.

You can make the case that there is a connection between faith and hope. The writer of Hebrews tells us, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” When we speak of hope, there is a faith or a confidence that life is going to be ok, or even that everything will turn out for the best. There is also a connection between “the future” and hope. We don’t hope in the past, although we sometimes long for the “good old days.” However, while we can’t change the past, we can shape the future and our hope is connected to a ‘better’ future.

If there is one time of the year for self-examination and reflection, this is it. People set goals and dreams for the New Year, with the hope of improving their lives. For some, the answer lies in getting a gym membership. For others, it involves setting aside more money for the future. Whatever it is, we have high hopes attached to our New Years resolutions. To be sure, many people don’t make any resolutions for the New Year, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have hope for a better future. It is simply found through different means.

I like how Christmas comes right before New Years because it reminds us where our hope is found. Of course I am referring to Jesus Christ, the hope of the world. 700 years before the time of Jesus, the prophet Isaiah said, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6) For hundreds and even thousands of years, people anticipated the coming of the Messiah. Now, 2000 years after the coming of Christ, we look back in wonder and amazement at the miracle of the incarnation, of how God became man and dwelt among us.

The bible tells us that God brought salvation to the world through the death of his Son (Romans 5:10). Jesus became our substitute on the cross, in order that we might have His righteous (Romans 1:16-17). Let’s not forget, however, that Jesus conquered death through His resurrection. As the apostle Peter explains, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a ‘living hope’ through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading, kept in heaven for you.” (1 Peter 1:3-4) Sadly, most people only have “dead” hope. They only have the hope of a better job, or a new car, or an early retirement, or something along those lines. None of those will last. They are only temporary and one day they won’t matter at all. In contrast, Christ offers us “living” hope, both for 2012 and for all eternity (John 3:16).

Where is your hope found, my friend? The bible tells us, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? Unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (2 Corinthians 13:5) If your hope is not found in Jesus’ blood and righteousness, then you will fail the test. It is my prayer that you will put your faith in Christ and know the joy of the Lord. Truly, there is no sweeter thing in the world.

Merry Christmas and a Hope-Filled New Year

The Heart of Man Plans His Way, But….

How often do you make plans? I can safely answer that question for you – every single day. Planning is a regular part of life and we can’t escape it. Be it something as small as what we will eat tonight or something as big as the person we will marry. Whatever it is, we all make plans. As the old saying goes, “when you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” No matter how you interpret that, it speaks to the fact that we all make plans.

Let me ask you another question: how often do your plans work out? If you are anything like me, sometimes your plans come to fruition and sometimes they don’t. I can’t give you percentages, I just know that sometimes things happen just as I envisioned and sometimes they don’t. I have yet to meet a person whose plans work out 100% of the time. If you know of such a person, please let me know, I would like to meet them.

Lately, I have been meditating on Proverbs 16, a chapter that has much to say about planning. Check this out:

“The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.” (Proverbs 16:1) “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble” (16:3-4) “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” (16:9) “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” (16:31)

As you read these verses, it is impossible to escape the sovereignty of God. Yes, we all make plans, but those plans are always subject to the will of God. Maybe that is why Jesus taught us to pray “your will be done.” (Matthew 6:10) By praying in that manner, we are acknowledging that God is in control.

Those of you who are familiar with the apostle Paul’s letters will be able to make this connection. Paul often made plans to visit a city or group of Christians and sometimes his plans came to pass, while other times they didn’t. He writes, “This is the reason why I have so often been hindered from coming to you. But now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I have longed for many years to come to you, I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while.” (Romans 15:22-24)

Paul was just like anyone else – he made plans. He knew better than anyone that those plans were subject to the will of God. We are not entirely sure if he made it to Spain, but we do know that he made it back to Rome. More importantly, we do know that God guided Paul exactly where He wanted him to be.

Just to be clear, I am not suggesting that we stop planning. That would be impossible. However, I am suggesting that we submit ourselves to the sovereignty of God. Give your plans over to God, and rest in the knowledge that He will do what’s best. Remember, “Commit you’re your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” (Proverbs 16:3) This will require faith on your part, but that’s a good thing. God is constantly working to build faith in His children. And know that if you are a genuine follower of Christ, you can rest in the knowledge that God will take care of you. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

“Death is the acid test of faith”

Matthew Henry once said, “Though the grace of faith is of universal use throughout the Christian’s life, it is especially so when we come to die.  Faith has its great work to do at the very last, to help believers to finish well, to die to the Lord so as to honor Him, by patience, hope, and joy so as to leave a witness behind them of the truth of God’s Word and the excellency of His ways.”

John MacArthur adds to that by saying, “God is glorified when His people leave this world with their flags flying at full mast.  If anyone should die triumphantly it should be believers.  When the Holy Spirit triumphs over our flesh, when the world is consciously and gladly left behind for heaven, when there is anticipation and glory in our eyes as we enter into the presence of the Lord, our dying is pleasing to the Lord…….. Death is the acid test of faith.”

Martin Luther on the Doctrine of Faith

“I have taken in hand, in the name of the Lord, yet once again to expound this epistle of St. Paul to the Galatians; not because I desire to teach new things, or such as ye have not known before, since that, by the grace of Christ, Paul is now thoroughly known unto you, but for that we have to fear lest Satan take from us this doctrine of faith, and bring into the Church again the doctrine of works and men’s traditions.  Wherefore it is very necessary that this doctrine be kept in continual practice and public exercise, both of hearing and reading.

And although it be never so well known, yet the devil, who rageth continually, seeking to devour us, is not dead.  Likewise our flesh and old man is yet alive.  Besides this, all kinds of temptations do vex and oppress us on every side; so that this doctrine can never be taught, urged, and repeated enough.  If this doctrine be lost, then is also the doctrine of truth, life, and salvation, also lost and gone.  If this doctrine flourish, then all good things flourish; religion, the true service of God, the glory of God, the right knowledge of all things which are necessary for a Christian man to know.”

Copied from the preface of Luther’s commentary on Galatians.