Pastor’s Update 5/5/2020

Pastor’s Update 5/5/2020


Good afternoon, my dear Grace Family,


     Has it been 6 weeks in the cocoon of our homes?

     Six weeks of an emotional and mental journey to “Who Knows Where?” Wish I’d kept a diary to look back on. What have I actually done each day? Who have I prayed for? What goals have I achieved? Did I minister to someone each day? What were some of the meaningful phone conversations I had? Did I write any letters of encouragement?

      Cathy and I were talking, six feet apart, to some teens in our neighborhood who have helped their mom de-clutter the whole house during this time. At the end of each day, they have driven over to Goodwill to unload their discards. The Goodwill employees are increasingly not as happy with all these gifts as they were a month ago. In fact, now they are refusing furniture pieces because they have no space in a closed store in which to put them. So now, de-cluttered items are meeting their demise in the dump. My daughter and her family have painted the entire outside of their new house along with repairing the roof. These, along with many of you, have certainly achieved a lot!

     Yet, how do you “achieve a lot” in the intangible life of your soul—your thoughts, emotions, and will? The Bible informs us that all we achieve in the tangible world of the senses begins in the intangible world of the heart and soul. And that seems to be the part of our world over which we have the least control.

     Why is scrubbing the kitchen to keep it clean easier to achieve than a squeaky clean heart? Why is it we will not tolerate popcorn, empty cups, and candy bar wrappers left on the family room floor before we retire for the night, yet the sticky goo of unsettled arguments, the litter strewn from our critical spirits, and the crumbs of apologies that should have been made don’t bother our consciences at all as we fall on the pillow?

      The Family Chore Chart and our Personal Planners adorned with stickers and calligraphy get the job done; yet, who do we recruit to help us empty the trash of our hearts? Seems like that is a job only we can do. But how?

        Of course, the standard answer is always, “Get into your Bible again.” And I’ve suggested, challenged, and beseeched the Grace Family to read the Bible each day during this time; yet, I just heard another sad story of someone reading his Bible everyday and getting nothing out of it. This nudges me to give more definition to my advice.

Unless the Word is read as a:

MIRROR to reveal to us what we really look like;

INSTRUCTIONS we are ready to listen to;

GUIDE because we know we don’t know where we are headed;

LAMP because the world is dark and we’re afraid of stumbling;

SURGEON’S SCALPEL to remove the tumors of sin in us;

COUNSELOR to give me understanding, discretion, and wisdom;

FREEDOM for it is THE TRUTH that sets me free from lies;

COMFORT and HOPE for in it God reveals the future;

SALVATION, not only of my soul from Hell, but daily deliverance from

my enemies, the world, my flesh, Satan, and my destructive self; 

its POWER will not be available to us!

      Why would you read the Bible with all those tools in mind? Look back at that list and tell me what disposition a person would need to have in order for him to see the Bible as all those provisions. I see he would need HUMILITY. 

      Why would you go to the Bible for advice if you judge the advice of your friends as more to your liking? Why would anyone want the pain of being cut open with the truth of God’s requirements just to remove sin, unless the bleak prognosis that this sin was going to ruin his life if he didn’t remove it was believed! Why would you listen to God’s instructions on how to unselfishly treat your spouse, train up your kids, submit to your boss, or love your enemies when you can just Google the experts? HUMILITY.

      The Book of Proverbs repeats variations of this phrase constantly: “My son, listen and heed the instruction of your father and mother.” The numerous sinful characters described within its pages did not listen or heed to instruction—in fact, many of them hated it.

      Were they all deaf? No; just as most of our own children are not deaf to the sound of the advice proceeding from our mouths. Nevertheless, even after looking at our eyes and hearing our voice drone on, the clothes on their bedroom floor don’t get picked up! And, worse, the friends they choose lure them away from godliness, not toward it. Instructions heard; advice ignored.

      As it relates to the Christian life, this is a malady we all share—we hear, we ignore. Is it just spiritual ADHD, not being able to keep our minds at task, or does it find its source deeper in the pride we nurture? Will it forever be our struggle?  

     Whatever the answer(s), we each need to surrender—to raise up the white flag, to cry, “Uncle”— to the Lord. We must come to that place where we humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God before we are humiliated by the consequences of our refusal.

      Why busy ourselves with all this spiritual work when the garden needs weeding? Because we need wisdom (the knowledge and use of what is best, most just, most proper, most conducive to prosperity or happiness). We need it more than we need wealth right now. We need discretion (that which enables a person to judge critically of what is correct and proper, united with caution); and we need prudence (the wisdom that foresees and avoids evil).

      The humble He guides in justice, and the humble He teaches His way” (Psalm 25:9). I want more than anything to be taught by the Lord. I need to understand justice and how to treat people. But, if I want this wisdom, I must be humble to receive it. When Cathy teaches kids about wisdom, she uses this illustration: 

How do you get wisdom? What door would you walk through to find it?

  Would it be like walking through a normal door into a large room filled with wisdom?

No. You cannot walk through wisdom’s door to get in.

Wisdom’s door is so short, you must get on your knees to crawl through.

Why? Because you cannot get wisdom any other way than through HUMILITY.

That’s why many rich, powerful people aren’t’ wise; that’s why NO proud person is wise–

because they won’t get on their knees and crawl through in HUMILITY.  

      God doesn’t waste His breath on the proud because they are not listening. If this affliction we are enduring serves to humble us, then it has been used by God as a mighty work in our lives because we are finally ready to listen. Keep praying that our Nation starts listening. Pray for your wayward family members to start listening. Pray, pray, pray for those unsaved friends to start listening before perilous times come when deception will make it harder than ever to hear from God.

      Please read Psalm 107. It speaks of these very things in our lives. We are so blind in our opinions and view of life that we are led into sin and its bondage. When we finally cry out to God from the pain of our chains, He forgives and restores us. It is beautiful.

       So, if you are taking this time to get back into routinely reading God’s Word and are experiencing dryness, could it be that your heart is not humbled? Instead of internally responding to the verses you’re reading with, “I never do that,” or “I don’t have a problem with that,” maybe you should ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you your true self. “Hold up the magnifying glass, Lord!”

      Ask Him to reveal your excuses to you. What are your excuses about Lying? Gossiping? Complaining? Laziness? Selfishness? Unfriendliness? Vengeance? Unforgiveness? We need HUMILITY.

      Have you ever compared your definitions of words or topics with God’s? Maybe you never ask forgiveness for pride because, according to your definition of pride, you don’t have it! Perhaps you’re never convicted of witnessing for Christ because your definition excludes shy people, of which you are one. But God’s definition of witnessing in Matthew 5:14-16 doesn’t exclude anyone, shy or vivacious. What do you do when you read Luke 6:28, “Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you?” What excuse exempts you from obeying? What re-definition of “bless” or ”pray” does your self-protective little mind come up with?

      I hope these further explanations of how to read your Bible help you in the days ahead. Remember that God’s Word is its own best commentary. If you want God’s definitions of words and topics, look up everything the Bible says on that topic. He is very clear.

      I pray fervently that our hearts would continually come to the place where they WANT to listen and obey. When they do, the abundance of the blessings of God on our lives cannot be imagined. Rivers of living water of refreshment will flow from us, quenching our own thirst and that of those around us. And HUMILITY is the starting place.

     In closing, as you clean your next toilet and give another lecture on conserving toilet paper, thank God for how He is cleaning out your heart! Be encouraged about every step forward and pick yourself back up after every failure. A righteous man rises up again and again! Praise Him for the strength He is building in your spirit to stand for godliness and against the Enemy. Fight the pride within you that clings to a spotless reputation and the need to look good. When God shows you a vision of your sinful self, it’s devastating; yet, it’s the only position He blesses–HUMILITY. And think of the victory, for up from those ashes you will rise like the eagle to soar. Let the tears stream down as you humbly thank Him for the better momma or daddy He’s giving your children because of your HUMILITY!

      In this regard, let me give a SHOUT OF PRAISE to Pastor Mark for his leadership of his small groups. Not only has he been challenging each person to have a quiet time in God’s Word each day, he’s asked the young families to strategically plan and execute a time of devotions in the Word with their kids. What blessings he’s received as they report back their experiences. Thank you, Pastor Mark, for your shepherding of this flock!

Tune in next week to learn how to talk to yourself! LOL!

Until then, start LISTENING!


In Christ,

Pastor John

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