It Is God Who Exalts!

Psalm 2:5-6 – “Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill.”

It’s election time in the USA, and for the first time that I can remember, it seems like this election has been going on since about the time the last one ended. As a nation, I believe that we will engage in a collective sigh of relief when this election is over.

As a fan of talk radio, and as a man who now spends an average of two hours per day commuting to work, I’ve listened to quite a few opinions on this election. I’m constantly amazed when I hear people talk about candidates like they are the Messiah. Our country has experienced a couple of extremely volatile days on Wall Street. I listened yesterday as one announcer said that we were about to face the worse crisis in the American financial system since the Great Depression. It wasn’t five minutes later that a caller phoned in to say that if Obama is elected president this will all go away. Another caller phoned in and said that if McCain is elected president this will all go away.

There are those who are convinced that if the candidate from the party that they do not endorse is elected that our country will be destroyed.

And, it reminds me that we need to pray for our leaders. The expectations that are placed upon leaders is unrealistic, and difficult for anyone to live up to. King David, while writing a Psalm that included a stern warning to his enemies revealed a truth about God. God knows who the next leader of the United States will be. God knows who the next leaders on every nation on earth will be. And, God will be exalted no matter who is in power. While peoples of the earth have rejected God for centuries, God continues to reign. He may be mocked by human beings, but God is the one who is ultimately in charge. Don’t put your hope in leaders. Put your hope in God. He is the only Hope for ours and every nation.

Dear Heavenly Father,

You chose King David to be the ruler of the nation of Israel. He was insignificant, even to his own family; a shepherd boy whom you made a King. Help us to place our ultimate trust in You, not in people. May You give us wisdom as we make all the decisions in our lives.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

Who Are We?

Psalm 2:1-4 “Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against his Anointed One. ‘Let us break their chains,’ they say, ‘and throw off their fetters.’ The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them.”

Casting Crowns may be my favorite Christian band. I love their lyrics. I love the fact that the band started as a youth ministry band. And, I love the fact that the band is still doing youth ministry on a daily basis. Their song Who Am I? reminds me of these verses.

In Psalm 2:1-4 we find the Psalmist talking about the futility that comes when we conspire against the Lord. He is obviously speaking about the enemies of Israel in this passage, but he may as well be speaking about anyone who conspires against the Lord and the Lord’s plans.

When we were in the process of discerning where God would have us spend the next chapter of our lives when we were transitioning from Wooddale Church to a new ministry, my wife and I put certain limits on God. We were willing to go wherever it was that God wanted us to go so long as it meant that we didn’t have to move, our kids could stay in the same schools that they attend now, and our life wouldn’t be inconvenienced too much. Talk about arrogance. We were trying to manipulate our lives so that they would work out how we wanted them to instead of asking God what he wanted for us. When we finally completely yielded control of our plans to God, He took over. Our plans were in vain. God had something so much better planned for us. We just had to trust Him to reveal it.

The beautiful lyrics for the song Who Am I? are shown below. Reflect on the power of these words today.

Who am I, that the Lord of all the earth
Would care to know my name
Would care to feel my hurt
Who am I, that the Bright and Morning Star
Would choose to light the way
For my ever wandering heart

Not because of who I am
But because of what You’ve done
Not because of what I’ve done
But because of who You are

I am a flower quickly fading
Here today and gone tomorrow
A wave tossed in the ocean
Vapor in the wind
Still You hear me when I’m calling
Lord, You catch me when I’m falling
And You’ve told me who I am
I am Yours, I am Yours

Who am I, that the eyes that see my sin
Would look on me with love and watch me rise again
Who am I, that the voice that calmed the sea
Would call out through the rain
And calm the storm in me

Not because of who I am
But because of what You’ve done
Not because of what I’ve done
But because of who You are

I am a flower quickly fading
Here today and gone tomorrow
A wave tossed in the ocean
Vapor in the wind
Still You hear me when I’m calling
Lord, You catch me when I’m falling
And You’ve told me who I am
I am Yours

Not because of who I am
But because of what You’ve done
Not because of what I’ve done
But because of who You are

I am a flower quickly fading
Here today and gone tomorrow
A wave tossed in the ocean
Vapor in the wind
Still You hear me when I’m calling
Lord, You catch me when I’m falling
And You’ve told me who I am
I am Yours

I am Yours
Whom shall I fear
Whom shall I fear
‘Cause I am Yours
I am Yours

Dear Heavenly Father,

We don’t want to be like your enemies, who willfully plot against You. We want to be people who seek to live every day for Your glory, and for Your renown. Help us not to be people who live for our own vainglory, but for You. Thank You that You love us like You do. We choose to stand for You.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

S.H.A.P.E. and Spiritual Gift Inventories

I preached a sermon yesterday at Woodbury Community Church entitled The Church That Can’t Stop Serving. It was a part of our sermon series entitled The Church Has Left The Building. Many of you have requested copies of the S.H.A.P.E. Inventory which I talked about in the sermon, and a Spiritual Gifts Inventory, which I also talked about. Those inventories are now available, for free, on the Woodbury Community Church web site. You can find them by clicking HERE.

If you’ve never taken a Spiritual Gifts Inventory I’d encourage you to take the Spiritual Gifts test first. The Woodbury Community Church resource page features an inventory that comes from this website: www.kodachrome.org/spiritgift/. If you would rather take the inventory online, you can do so at the website. It is free to take the test, and the website produces a printout of your results.

The S.H.A.P.E. form is best completed with another person. I’d encourage you and a close friend, spouse, etc. to take it together. Print out a copy for each of you. Talk about each section as you go through the inventory. Ask your partner for input on some of the things he or she sees in you, and offer your partner the same. But, it is up to you and the Lord how you ultimately answer the questions. The last question deals with designing a ministry around your personal S.H.A.P.E. I’d encourage you to take some time to pray about what that might be and come back to that question a day or two after starting the process. The S.H.A..P.E. form works best in the context of allowing God to speak to you through the process. There is a great companion book that you can purchase on S.H.A.P.E. It’s called S.H.A.P.E.: Finding and Fulfilling Your Unique Purpose in Life by Erik Rees. You can read more about it HERE. The S.H.A.P.E. form was developed by the pastoral staff of Saddleback Church several years ago and has been a huge blessing in ministries that I have been involved with over the years.

I’d love to hear what God reveals to you as you go through this process. Drop me an e-mail at bschulenburg@wccmn.org and let me know how God is using this process in your life.

Sin Will Be No More!

Psalm 1:6 – “For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.”

The Psalmist talked about the judgment that would come to those who don’t follow Christ in Psalm 1:5. In this next verse he talks about the ultimate outcome of the way of the wicked. It will perish. Sin will someday be no more. And, I, for one, am glad. I think if we were honest, most of us would say that the word wicked describes us far too often, and we long for the day that our sin nature will be no more.

Isn’t it good to know that God is watching over the way of those who seek to follow Him? And, isn’t it good to know that if we have trusted in Jesus as our Savior and Lord that He no longer views us as wicked but as righteous? If you haven’t taken the time to reflect upon God’s grace in your life, do so today.

I ran across a story on the internet this past week about a man whose life was transformed by grace. It’s the story of Harry Monroe, and after reading his story, I did additional research on him. I opened my sermon with it this morning with what I had learned about Monroe’s life. I hope his story will bless you.

Harry Monroe’s life was a wreck. The Detroit native had been imprisoned for counterfeiting in the late 1800’s. Upon his release from prison, he traveled to Chicago. He had lost his dignity, his friends and family, and his very will to live. Monroe had not lost his will to drink. After a night of drinking, he decided to walk into Lake Michigan and drown himself. On his way to the Lake, in a drunken stupor, Monroe wandered into a new ministry in what used to be the Pacific Beer Garden. It was now called the Pacific Garden Mission. Sarah Dunn Clarke and her husband George had purchased the building for the purpose of reaching the down and out in a tough Chicago neighborhood. It was Evangelist D.L. Moody who suggested that they keep everything in the name of Pacific Beer Garden except the word Beer. So they renamed the property, and those who used to travel to the bar to forget their problems, now traveled to the mission to find hope.

Monroe didn’t know just how much his life would change that night. He slept through the entire message as the preacher spoke. Colonel Clark took pity on the man, and gave him a bed for the night. When he woke up, Monroe didn’t know where he was. Clark told him about his wandering into the Pacific Garden Mission the night before and began to share Christ with Monroe. The ex-con came to faith in Jesus Christ. And, for the first time in his adult life, Monroe had hope.

His life was a testament to the grace of God. He would later preach from the same pulpit that Clark spoke from, and upon Clark’s death, Monroe would become the superintendent of the Pacific Garden Mission. When Monroe died it took all day for the people to pay their respects. A newspaper editorial described him as one of the most useful men in Chicago! What made the difference in Monroe’s life? The world would not have missed a drunk, but God took his life and made him a masterpiece. And, the Pacific Garden Mission? Founded in 1873, the Mission continues to operate in Chicago on Chicago’s south side today. Their radio program, Unshackled, which is a dramatization of the testimonies of people who have been saved by grace is heard on over 1800 radio stations around the world in English, Spanish, Arabic, Romanian, Russian, and Polish.

Monroe’s story, the stories of thousands of others touched by the Mission’s work over the past 135 years, and your story and mine, if you are a follower of Jesus Christ could be summed up in Ephesians 2:8-10, which says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Dear Heavenly Father,

We will never be able to thank You enough for the grace you have lavished upon us. May we no longer walk like the wicked. Help us to chase after You. You have shown us the most excellent way. Give us the strength to walk in Your ways.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

The Sad End of the Wicked

Psalm 1:5 – “Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.”

All week long, we’ve been looking at Psalm one. Verse five continues to tell the story of those who are wicked. They will face judgement. Scripture is full of references that speak of this judgment. It will be awful for those who have rejected Christ. I don’t want anyone I know to be counted amongst the wicked at the judgment seat of Christ. When Jesus talked about this event he said that he would separate those who have accepted his gift of salvation from those who have not. This passage in Psalm chapter one seems to parallel Jesus’ teaching. And, it should compel those of us who know Christ to share His message of love and forgiveness to the world around us.

I was talking with someone recently who said, “I’ve only got so much time on this earth. Who cares if people make fun of me for my faith. I want to bring as many people to heaven with me as I can.” It’s a good perspective. Share your faith. You never know whose life will be changed for eternity.

Dear Heavenly Father,

It is humbling to think that You would allow anyone to spend eternity with You. We have repeatedly made choices to reject what you desire for our life. Help us to have the courage to share with others of Your great love and forgiveness. Help us to care enough about those who don’t know You that we would be willing to risk our petty human “reputations” to share Your love. Help us to open our mouths, and may Your Spirit speak through us.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

The Wind

Psalm 1:4 – “Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away.”

As I write this devotional, Hurricane Ike is working it’s way to the Texas coastline. Residents of Galveston Island, Texas have been issued a stern warning from the National Weather Service that states that they face certain death from flooding if they remain in their homes. This has been an intense hurricane season. Our thoughts and prayers are definitely with the people of Galveston, Houston, and all other areas affected by Ike’s path.

Today’s verse talks about the wind. Wind is one of the most powerful forces on the planet. The destructive force of the wind has blown away houses, reduced barns to timber, turned over trucks and brought large waves that have devastated cities and towns. Wind is also used in nature’s agricultural process to blow away the chaff. It takes away the dead leaves from trees. Wind spreads seeds so that plants can reproduce.

The Psalmist compares the wicked to chaff. Yesterday’s verse showed quite the contrast. When speaking of the righteous, the Psalmist tells us that they are like a tree planted by springs of living water. Their leaves do not wither and fade. The end result for those who would live a life that ignores God? Their life produces that which in the end is worthless.

Billions of people will go their own way
Ignoring the call of the Spirit today
Living a life built upon their own goals
To the detriment of their very own souls

May we not live our lives just for us
Missing the joy by making a fuss
Like children we think we know better than You
Help us grow up and see that’s untrue

The wind will not blow us off course if we stand
Secure in Your presence with You hand in hand
We long for the day that the battle is through
Until then for You may our lives stay so true.

Dear Heavenly Father,

We don’t want to be like those you describe in Psalm 1:4. To be wicked in Your sight is a terrible thought. And, yet we know that our righteousness is described in Your Word as filthy rags. When our hearts long for the world, more than they long for You, remind us of these verses. Remind us of the hurricane like force with which our enemy comes at us, seeking to drive us hopelessly off course in our walk with You. Thank you, that You are more powerful than any storm that Satan can throw at us. We trust You, and You alone with our lives, our salvation, and every situation that we face. We love You. Help us to live our lives in a way that honors You.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

True Success

Psalm 1:3 – “He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.”

We live in a world that loves to measure how successful people are. It’s usually based upon accomplishments, or financial resources, or perhaps their family. But God measures success differently.

Psalm 1:3 continues to tell the story of the blessed person. We know from yesterday’s reading that the person that Psalm one describes is the person who takes delight in the Word of God. Verse three describes the results of living a life for the glory of God. The man or woman who lives their life in such a way is compared to a tree that is planted by streams of water, doing what trees were created to do. The person is bearing fruit. Because the tree is planted by the stream, the leaf of the tree doesn’t wither. If our lives are planted close to God, our lives won’t wither either. We will be more alive than ever when we live our lives for His glory.

The verse ends with the words whatever he does prospers. Wow! Now that is an amazing promise. Those who live lives that are grounded in the Word of God, seeking after His desires, will experience true success. Want to prosper? Pursue that which God is passionate about!

Dear Heavenly Father,

You give us an awesome promise in Psalm 1:3. Help us to have the faith to believe that You truly do want us to prosper. Give us the perspective to know that prospering doesn’t necessarily mean monetarily. Your definition of what it means to prosper is very different than many of ours. Help us to adjust our lives to your definition of prospering.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.