Walking With God

Walking With God

"Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him." Genesis 5:24

You were made to walk with God. Before the fall, God would meet with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day to walk together in a place of intimacy. After they fell, He gave a promise and a picture of what He was going to do in Jesus Christ to restore the place of intimacy, but it doesn’t seem like anyone until Enoch really got a hold of what God was after. Enoch walked with God. It doesn’t say he did any great thing, or that he built any huge monument, or that he held any important position; the Bible just says that he walked with God. This is the heart of what God wants from me and you.

We owned a Siberian husky named Kayla who was very hard to go on a walk with. I’d get out of the house and be jerked forward because Kayla couldn’t wait to go as fast as possible, but was restrained by the leash that would practically choke her. To take the strain off, I would start to run with her and we’d go along for a while like that until she found something interesting along the way and then stop, so suddenly it would cause another jerk on her neck as I ran past her because I couldn’t stop as fast as she did. I’d wait patiently for a while and then have to pull hard, once again almost choking her, to get her to leave the thing she was enamored with. I just wanted her to walk by me, but that rarely happened.

I think this is a good picture of God and us. As young believers we are often filled with our own ideas and zeal so we run ahead of God. We get self-righteous because others aren’t doing as much as we are, or being as "holy" as we think we are, and the whole time the Lord is trying to pull us back to the place of intimacy where He is the center of attention, and not us. Or we get enamored by something along life’s way and we get stuck. It could be a sin, our work, sports, shopping, or even a hobby that so dominates our thoughts and attention that God is put aside. The Lord begins by pulling gently and then has to tug harder, because we aren’t responding.

My favorite part of our walk was when we got in the country and Kayla could run free because there was no danger. I loved to see her run uninhibited and then gladly run to me when I called her. This is the freedom God wants for each of us.

The Lord doesn’t want to have to continually discipline us to keep us safe, He wants us to draw near willingly and learn to simply walk with Him.

Have a great week,

Tom

Intimacy With God

Intimacy With God

"Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings. They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, ‘Where are you?’" Genesis 3:7-9

You and I were created for intimacy with God. After the fall, God came to the garden to walk with Adam and Eve and they were hiding from His presence. That walking with Him was a habit is evident by the reason they were hiding: "They heard the sound of the Lord walking…" How did they know it was the Lord and not an animal or the wind? I think it was the time of day He regularly came, and He never missed this appointment. You’d think that their sin would have caused the Lord to stay away, but He came as He always did as if to say, "I haven’t left the place of intimacy, you have."

He asked, "Where are you?", not to get information, but to bring this first couple to a place of confession. This is the first question God asked in the Bible and I believe that He is still asking it today: "Where are you?" People today are hiding from God and from one another and it is leading to emptiness and depression because we were made for intimacy. Some of us hide in our work, others in bitterness, still others in alcohol, entertainment, or pornography, yet God is still asking, "Where are you?"

Genesis 3:21 says, "The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them." The killing of an innocent animal to make a skin is the first physical death in the Bible and it points to the need for a sacrifice to make atonement. Jesus was the Lamb of God who was sacrificed for the sins of the world. All that was required for Adam and Eve to have God clothe them was to take off the fig leaves they had sewn to hide themselves, and put on the skin God had made. Today God calls us to lay down whatever front we’re hiding behind whether it be pride, religious behavior, or our own self-righteousness, and confess our faith in His sacrifice. He Himself then clothes us with the righteousness of Christ so that we can be forgiven and restored to His Presence. He’s still asking, "Where are you?" today because He still longs to walk with each of us in the place of restored intimacy.

Have a great week,

Tom

One Thing

One Thing

"The Lord answered and said to her `Martha, Martha, you are worried about so many things; but only a few things are necessary, really only one, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken from her." (Luke 10:41-42)

Mary chose the good part. She was "listening to the Lord’s words, seated at His feet." (Luke 10:39) She was enjoying the Lord, being refreshed by His Presence and changed by His words. Jesus said this was the one necessary choice. All the rest of life will flow out of this vital relationship if we will just make it our priority. Necessary means something you cannot do without.

Martha hadn’t made that choice. She loved the Lord but she was "distracted with all her preparations." (Luke 10:40) Jesus implied that she was living the bad part; serving Jesus without enjoying Jesus. Giving and giving and giving without receiving from His Word and Presence. Distracted from the glorious One by our busy lives that are supposed to be in service to Him.

Have you ever fallen into this trap? Life gets busy. Priorities get mixed up and pretty soon the urgent rather than the important starts dominating our lives. We stop really living and find ourselves barely surviving. We usually, like Martha, find someone else to blame. "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me." (Luke 10:40) What’s she really saying? "Lord, don’t you see that I’m burnt out – do something! "It’s Mary’s fault! or the church’s fault or my spouse’s fault or my boss’ fault"…the list goes on.

Jesus is gentle but firm; (my paraphrase) "What Mary has, she has chosen – she has chosen and she has chosen correctly. I’m not going to take away her joy because you’re miserable. Martha, you too can have what Mary has. Choose to fellowship with Me. Let your service be fueled by My Presence."

Jesus said, "Come to Me you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28) Do this one thing and continue to do it and everything else in your life will take its proper place.

Have a great week,

Tom

Bringing Goliath Down

Bringing Goliath Down

"As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground." 1Samuel 17:48-49

When Mad City and Lake City came together in 2010 to form City Church, there were unpaid bills and three and a half million dollars of debt that intimidated and spoke to me of certain failure like Goliath spoke to David. We were at a point when our short-term line of credit was maxed out at the bank, so there was nowhere to turn, but God.

All God let us do to confront this problem was to change our giving envelopes, adding a line called debt reduction, and to make a new bylaw that assured our members that if we paid this debt off, we would never borrow money again. I remember holding up a new giving envelope in a family meeting and saying something like this: "Only God can bring down Goliath. Alice and I are going to throw a stone at this debt every month and invite any of you to throw a stone with us."

Two years later we were able to burn the $125,000 line of credit we had paid off because of your generosity and God’s faithfulness. The next $200,000 given to debt reduction went to an in-house line of credit, so that if we ever experienced another downturn we could borrow from ourselves instead of from a bank. That took two more years.

Then we began putting all debt reduction money against our long-term debt in addition to the payments we had been making every month. Almost every elders meeting someone thanked God for our shrinking debt. Every time there was extra money, we would add to whatever was given to debt reduction; $50,000 one month; $100,000 six months later.

As of last Monday night’s elders meeting there was only $287,000 of debt left. We had over $400,000 of unrestricted funds, so this last Tuesday morning City Church’s debt was paid off. Goliath has fallen! The three and a half million dollars is paid off, and City Church will never go into debt again!

We would like everyone who considers City Church their home to save the date of Sunday evening, December 1st. We want to celebrate God’s faithfulness and your generosity with a free banquet for the whole family with the pastoral staff waiting on tables. That night we will burn the mortgage together!

Have a great week,

Tom

An Inconvenient Truth

An Inconvenient Truth

"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. Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others." 2Corinthians 5:10-11

In 2006, Al Gore released a documentary on global warming called, "An Inconvenient Truth," urging us to do something to make changes in the environment before it’s too late. It’s not just about us, he urged, it’s about the world we’re giving to our children.

While I’m all for stewardship of the earth and reducing carbon emissions, there’s another inconvenient truth that troubles me way more than global warming – it’s the final judgment. It turns out that our lives on this planet will one day appear like a vapor in light of eternity, and that the choices we’re making now determine how our judgment will go then. To live in light of that day is to know the fear of the Lord. To live ignoring our accountability to God is reckless and dangerous. As Hebrews 10:30-31 says, "For we know Him who said, ‘It is Mine to avenge; I will repay,’ and again, ‘The Lord will judge His people.’ It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God." That is, it’s terrifying to be completely unprepared for our judgment day.

Are we passing the fear of the Lord on to the next generation? Are we living in such a way that our children and grandchildren realize how holy God is and how sure His coming judgment will be? Or have we all but lost the fear of the Lord in 21st century America? Many young people today are asking what sex they are, and haven’t even thought about the possibility of pleasing God in their sexuality. Many are passionate about climate change, but haven’t seen the need to examine their morality, let alone, change the way they’re living.

Here’s the inconvenient truth that must be told: Jesus came the first time as a Lamb to save the world, but He’s coming the second time as a Lion to judge it. I want to be ready for that day and I want to persuade others to be ready as well. Let’s change our lives now; let’s serve God now; let’s seek His Presence now, before it’s too late. Jesus took God’s judgment on sin when He died on the cross, so that we could be forgiven. Let’s make our identity in Him and receive His love now instead of being exposed by His holiness then.

Have a great week,

Tom

PRAY 132

PRAY 132

"I will allow no sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids, till I find a place for the LORD, a dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob." Psalm 132:4-5

Since City Church began in 2010, we have had something called "Pray 130" four times a year. What it involves is people signing up for one or two hour shifts in our prayer room, so that the church can pray 130 straight hours; from 8:00 a.m. Monday morning to 6:00 p.m. Saturday evening. We are called to be a house of prayer by Jesus, so this has been one expression of answering that call. The most difficult hours to fill have been midnight to 6:00 a.m. it involves messing up people’s sleep schedule.

In Psalm 132, David is so passionate about being a dwelling place for God he makes a vow to pay any price for God’s presence including losing sleep. Later in this Psalm, we get God’s response to David’s heart: "The Lord has sworn to David…(132:11)", followed by a number of blessings that God is going to pour out because of His pleasure in David’s heart. God says He will put David’s sons on his throne forever (132:12); He will abundantly bless provision (132:15); He will clothe the priests with salvation and all the godly ones with joy (132:16); and He promises that David will shine while all his enemies will be clothed with shame (132:18). When we aim for the right thing, God responds to our response to Him, and we see the extravagance of His grace poured out on our lives and our world.

Our leadership has felt God calling us to pursue His Presence with more passion. We’ve extended Pray 130 to Pray 132, and we are now going to begin it on Sunday night at 6:00 p.m. and have it run through Saturday morning at 6:00 a.m. and we’re scheduling more time for us to be in His Presence together. The first Pray 132 will begin at 6:00 p.m. October 21 with a two-hour meeting in the sanctuary called: "Worship and Waiting." Then we will move downstairs to the family room for another meeting from 8:00 p.m. to midnight called: "The Night Watch." This will involve two different worship teams and different prayer leaders as we watch together to see all God wants to do and pray through us. (We will provide bagels, veggies, and coffee on the back table!)

Our pastors are so committed to this that we will be the first to sign up for two-hour shifts during the week between midnight and 6:00 a.m. in addition to being at the 6:00 p.m. to midnight meetings on the 21st. As a church, we want to express a similar passion as David did to our God: "Even if it costs me sleep and messes up my schedule, I want to contend for more of Your Presence on this earth." The church is not just called to say "no" to darkness; we’re called to rise up and say "yes" to the light of His glorious presence.

"Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn." Isaiah 60:1-3

Have a great week,

Tom

An Offering That Pleases God

An Offering That Pleases God

"Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account. I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:17-19

When Paul wrote to the Corinthians he reminded them that the reason he could preach the gospel to them for free was because of gifts he had received from his sending church. (2Corinthians 11:9) Here we find him thanking the sending church, the church in Philippi, and explaining to them the effects of their gifts beyond meeting his needs.

He says their gifts were a fragrant offering that pleased God. The goal of any offering should not be just to meet needs, but to please the One who can meet every need. This Sunday we are receiving gifts and pledges toward our missions’ goal of $245,000 for this coming year, but the bigger goal is pleasing God.

Then we see God’s response to their offering: "My God will meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus." Not according to their jobs, or the present economy, but according to God’s ability to provide. When we give with right hearts we covenant with God in our finances, and He opens up the windows of heaven to make sure our needs are met. In 2Samuel 24 we have the story of David’s offering to God. Araunah wants to give him the offering to sacrifice, but David replies: "I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God which cost me nothing." (2Samuel 2:24) David buys the land and the cattle to make the sacrifice, and then we hear God’s response to His offering: "The Lord was moved…and the plague was held back from Israel." (2:25)

Finally, we hear that their gift is credited to their account. What does that mean? Everyone of us has an account in heaven and when we give sincerely to God that account is credited. Jesus said it this way: "Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal, for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:20-21) Paul gives these instructions to Timothy: "Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life."

As our church makes this special offering I pray not only that the money needed for our missionaries will be raised, but that we will bring something individually and together that pleases and moves the heart of God.

Have a great week,

Tom