GethsemaneThe Bible says, “Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near.” (Isaiah 55: 6) If you are thirsty, come. If you are weary, come. If you are full of yourself, turn around quickly and come. Call upon the Lord. Experience the transforming presence and power of the Holy Spirit and know that God overwhelmingly and unrelentingly loves you. This is the essential reality.

God has shared his passion with you through Jesus Christ and God still desires to love you passionately in the power of the Holy Spirit. Can we experience this power? Yes, we can. But, our expectation of this happening must be matched by the longing and desperation of our seeking prayer. We are called to come but we will only do so when our thirst moves toward the greatness of God’s promised living waters. We are called to come but we will only do so appropriately when our weariness is desperate for the strength and rest of the Lord.

Are you seeking the Lord with a passion to match His? Or, have you reconciled yourself to an experience of something less than the essential reality of God’s breathtaking passion and love for you in Jesus Christ? You’re thirsty, but not that thirsty so you never repent of your busy-ness or relinquish any of the other commitments you hold to much more clearly than your commitment to Christ. I’m tired but I’m not so tired that I will not keep on trying to do most things myself. I want a greater experience of God but not so much that I change any part of my schedule or routine, not so much that I turn to God with weeping, and fasting, and mourning, not so much that I pray with unrelenting desire to experience the essential reality of grace and love in Jesus Christ.

Let us repent together today and let us “seek the LORD while he may be found, and call ye upon him while he is near.”

P. S. Yesterday, we visited Yanghwajin Missioary Cemetery and the 100th Anniversary Memorial Church. It was a very sobering and deeply moving time as we learned of the zeal and sacrifice of the first missionaries to Korea. I hope at some point in the future I can show many of you the video we received as a precious gift yesterday. The lives of our ancestors still speak and their testimony of sharing the gospel is still bearing fruit today.

Fill in the blank. There are some days you just don’t feel like doing _______ . Is it ironic that this post follows one about making praise continuous? Maybe. Maybe not. All of us have times when we don’t feel like writing a blog post, going to work, doing laundry, cutting the grass, picking up after someone, reading our Bible, praying, going to another practice, filling out another report, going to a meeting, and a thousand other things.

God knows this is a common event for a creature of dust, even one remade into the image of Jesus Christ. We don’t let it get us depressed or let these moments or days put us in a state of believing our best days are behind us. These kinds of moments call us to remember we are Sabbath people. We were built for rest. We were built for reflection on our responsibilities, not just for being responsible. We were made for finishing a race, not just for racing. We were made for harvest and sharing, not just planting and cultivating.

Every farmer knows there are days when the crops in the field need to be given time to ripen. There are days between reaping and sowing again. There are times to let the land rest. But, a farmer can’t let himself be fooled by this feeling of restlessness or the feeling of being drained of motivation to keep him from doing his essential chores.

What are our essential chores? (Besides reading this blog.) Today, my chores are: go to early morning prayer, even if I don’t feel like praying. Write this blog post. Go with my group here in Korea and be attentive to the things we are doing. Other than that, there is not another thing I have to do.

What are your essential chores you have today? We may share in days where we are called to rest and only rest but today I pray you do the essential things you need to do, not grudgingly or reluctantly but wholeheartedly as to the Lord – even if you don’t feel like it.

P. S. I will share my friend and roommate, Bob Weeks’ blog post and video with you after I post this. I know you will be encouraged and inspired by what he writes to realize the importance of doing your essential chores – even if you don’t feel like it.

ppraisePsalm 34: 1 and 2a says, “I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make her boast in the Lord.” The next part of that second verse there is some evangelistic praise that arises from that but I want to first consider the beginning or the root of praise before we rejoice in the result of our praise. Psalm 33: 1: says that praise is beautiful or it can be translated, praise is the home for the upright. As you go through your day, are you living within your praise? Let’s face that question together so we can extend the roots of praise down deep, abiding in the presence of God each day.

Yesterday at Bupyeong Methodist Church we were bombarded from early morning until late at night with the praise of God from everyone. We heard it in the early morning (5:00 AM) prayer service. We took it in as we shared in a bountiful breakfast. All the meals, the way we were served, the generosity of their hospitality, all served to praise the Lord. The tour of the church magnified the work of God in their lives. The worship services, the concert we enjoyed, the world-class choir festival kept us in a constant framework of praise. But this day and this setting was exceptional. I know next Sunday night I will not experience a 600 person mass choir and orchestra, (Though that would be nice) but I will praise the Lord for the precious people who will gather to study His word and seek His face.

How can we in our everyday experience make our praise continual? First, recognize praise is not self-generated. Praise is not about us. Praise is not an expression of our mood or happiness. Praise is a recognition of God – His goodness and greatness. I’m glad I learned the common mealtime grace incorrectly. We didn’t rhyme when we said the blessing growing up but we recognized and gave praise to God. We said, “God is good, God is great. Let us thank Him for our food. Amen.” That was it. And that is the way we begin to make our praise continual. We recognize the goodness and greatness of God.

Secondly, we remember to repeat that recognition. We practice recurring recognition. We rehearse. Remember praise is to become our dwelling place where we live and move. So, get your key of faith out and enter into praise. Hold onto the doorknob of hope and swing wide the door of God’s mercy and power working in your life. Again, test the hinges of God’s grace and power. The door is oiled with the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Again, swing wide the door and as Psalm 24 says and “let the King of glory” come in. Let the King come in and wake you up, sing with you in the shower, sit with you at breakfast, accompany you to work, stand between you and that irksome person. Could you stay within your praise if you know when you react badly or speak in an ugly way, you are talking across Jesus?

Swing wide the door of praise and ask the King to come in and abide. Thank the King for coming. Thank the King for showing up! This is the final thing that helps make our praise continuous. Reach out to Him. Call upon His name. Let his praise be continually in your mouth. The old hymn says, “Tell it to Jesus” and that’s what we can do. Nothing is too great or too small to bring to Him. “Tell it to Jesus alone” and make your praise a continual offering to the Lord.

Yesterday, I told you I would share one of the things God stirred me up to think about concerning our shared ministry at Laurel Hill. One of the things that served as a prompt was the 11th Annual Choir and Music Festival that we will be a part of this weekend at Bupyeong Methodist Church. The other catalyst to these thoughts is the expected recording of Hymned in by Grace in December and the music we will produce and release in 2015. Churches everywhere consider it a ministry to provide a special music program and invite people to come and share in it. What if, instead of inviting someone to have to come to a particular place at a specific time, we could have that special music program be presented where that person was and as many times as they wanted to experience it, they could?

What if once or twice each year, we offered musical experiences on a CD for anyone to enjoy? What if through that experience they could learn how to share their testimony and witness of faith? What if they could better learn to pray, intercede, or express their praise to God? What if they could learn the steps to know the Lord and grow into His ways? What if they could better celebrate the Lord’s salvation? The incarnation? The passion of Jesus? The power of the Holy Spirit? Experience God’s peace? Or, better know the songs of faith?

The Apostle Paul twice tells us in both the letter to the Ephesians and to the Colossians that this ‘what if’ should be a normal occurrence in the pursuit of a holy life. Laurel Hill can be a storehouse out of which treasures of the gospel are drawn and distributed. Let us pray about how we will fulfill the scripture: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of God dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” cog

BupyeongAs Bob Weeks and I entered the sanctuary (at 5:00 AM) more than 1200 parishioners were already seated and worshipping the Lord. We had been seated for just a moment, our radio translators affixed on our ear, when I heard the most beautiful sound: the rush of a gentle breeze as the congregation opened their Bibles and the brushing sound of pages being turned to follow the reading of scripture washed across the room. Pastor Hong Eun-Pa shared from Genesis 18 and Abraham’s prayer for Lot. He preached and illustrated to us in many ways “the most beautiful prayer is the prayer for others.” Pastor Hong reminded us that it was Jesus that instituted the early morning prayer service and that is Jesus we follow as He cries out and intercedes to the Father for the salvation of the lost and the healing of the nations.

Bupyeong Methodist Church is in the midst of 50 Days of Special Morning Prayer Services and it was a delight to finish the first part of the service with a hand clapping rhythm to the fastest version of Blessed Assurance I have ever sung and then for that to give way to the earnest prayers of the faithful continuing over the next half hour.

For others, we are called to live. It was in the words of the sermon. It was in the intercession offered up strongly by the congregation. It was emblazoned on the walls of the church where one side of the sanctuary had a quote from a prayer of H. Z. Appenzeller, the first Protestant missionary to Korea, “to bring light and liberty to Korea” and the other side reminded us through John Wesley, “the world is my parish”.

As I prayed and reflected upon these early morning moments, I felt the tug of God on my own ministry at Laurel Hill and beyond. I am so thankful for the way we are blessed by God, but how can we produce more fruit for the Lord and how can we do more for others? What can we do at Laurel Hill that manifests the gospel in Varina and throughout the earth. You think about this with me and tomorrow I will share one vision for ministry which the Lord has already initiated in our congregation and which we can help bring to full flower. Love you all, Norman

This last Sunday, we read from John 14: 1- 6 that begins with the familiar “Let not your heart be troubled” and then the admonition is given to trust God, to trust Jesus. In one verse Jesus lays bare the two approaches to life that are currently on display in the world. One approach is summed up in the word struggle. Are you down for the struggle? Are you practicing jihad? Are you consumed and characterized by, as Hitler titled it, Mein Kampf, “My Struggle”. We immediately say, “No, that’s not me”, but don’t be so quick to dismiss the way you might be living. We all have at one time or another been living this way. We have all wanted to fit in, wanted respect or recognition and acted to get it. When we were young how many of us succumbed to peer pressure of one kind or another? How many of us gave into temptation and sinned because in life’s struggles it was easier and more expedient to live that way. So many people today waste their life away struggling to have the conditions of their lives change without fundamentally changing themselves. Their life totally dependent on someone else changing first so their lives will be improved.

The other choice is the choice to believe in and trust Jesus. This is the choice: following Jesus as He leads us to true change and victory. We are set free from our sins, our past, and our fears and are given a new life every single day. We learn that either He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life or we are struggling to be. These are our two choices.

The late Jim Rohn shares an inspirational word about the difference between the futility of struggling against the wind or the fidelity of setting our sail in a way that takes advantage of the wind that blows in our lives. Watch the video.

Just Read It!.

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