Monday, June 14, 2010

Revelation 22:17, Quench Your Spiritual Thirst

Have you ever experienced dehydration? During a working trip in Mexico when the weather was consistently near 100 degrees, we worked every morning from 6am-12noon outside, pouring the foundations for buildings, with cement we mixed by hand, into holes we dug with pick axes and shovels. Cutting edge technology. During one of those hot summer days, we were near completing one of our six foot by six foot by six foot holes in the ground, and when everyone else took a coke break, I kept working. I thought I was helping the team, and that if anything, people would think I was really hard working for skipping the break. I was wrong. On the ride home, something terrible happened to me. Suddenly I had a burst of energy, and remember talking really, really fast, and then my legs went numb, and the numbness and tingling went through the rest of my body. I said I needed help, and we stopped the van and pulled off the road by a drink stand. One of our helpers was a nurse, and she realized I was dehydrated, and according to her I was on the verge of heat stroke. She and others hauled me out of the van, and over to the drinking stand, and I drank 5 12 ounce Joya drinks in a row before I started to feel better. It took the whole ride home and the rest of the day to recover, and a lot of fluid later, but I finally did. I was desperate, and dangerously thirsty, and by God’s grace I was satisfied.

Need: Whether or not we’ve been to Mexico, whether or not you’ve worked all day without a break, all of us are thirsty this morning. We are thirsty spiritually for something that will satisfy

Look with me in your Bibles at Revelation 22:17. If you’re looking for a place to satisfy that desperate thirst, here it is. You can be a Christian and still be thirsty, or someone who has never heard about Jesus Christ and be thirsty.
This book of Revelation is just that—John’s vision from Jesus Christ Himself, as he was on an island as a form of imprisonment for his faith in Jesus. He is at the end of his vision and after everything he has seen, both the positives of the blessings of following Jesus that wait for us, and the judgment and suffering that waits for everyone who rejects Jesus, John says, “Come!”
Notice there are three parts to this verse: The Spirit and the Bride, the one who hears, and the one who is thirsty. All of them are different persons, but all of them are thirsty for the same thing—Jesus Christ.
Like a three leaved clover, they all have a life giving stem in common—the life giving Jesus Christ who died and is alive again so you can believe in Him and have that eternal life.
The first ones are the Holy Spirit and the Bride. The Holy Spirit was sent after Jesus went away, in Acts 2, to occupy every person who follows the teaching of Jesus Christ. He groans, in Romans 8, waiting for that time when Jesus will come back. The Holy Spirit’s ministry is to give you guilty feelings when you sin and to give you feelings of assurance when you are obedient to God, to open peoples’ eyes to Jesus Christ, to work through Jesus’ church until He comes! The Holy Spirit waits and desires for Jesus to come.
The Bride—which is the New Testament’s way of describing the Church (Eph 5). It says, “And the Spirit and the Bride say ‘Come!’” This is in response to Jesus’ words in verse 12 before, where he said, “Look, I am coming soon!” This is an informational statement, meaning “this is what the Holy Spirit and the Church do—they desire that Jesus Christ will come, and come soon!”
It means God the Holy Spirit and the history of Christians for 2,000 years have wanted this! Jesus is coming back in order to fix everything broken, heal, help, and to make “all things new.”
It means Jesus is coming back
A few days ago I was in charge of making my kids' lunch. I decided to have peanutbutter sandwiches and the first compliment I found was fudge. So I told my kids we were going to have peanutbutter and fudge sandwiches. You should have seen their faces! They were so excited because they were about to receive peanutbutter and fudge. Some of them tasted the fudge and were even more excited. That's expectation, and how we should feel about Jesus coming back!

The second group spoken of is “the one who hears,” and instead of John saying “people who hear say come,”
The word “say” here is a command. John commands the people who hear everything he has said to also desire Jesus Christ to come back. John wrote about the churches needing to be faithful, about how there will be evil to sway us away from following God, about how your faith will be tested, about how terrible judgment waits for people who decide not to follow Jesus, about how we who follow Jesus must endure to the end (the one who endures to the end will be saved) and then says, “let the one who hears say ‘Come!’”
In the Bible, Deuteronomy 6 is called “The Great Shema” among the Jewish people, and it says (quote), and when they said, “the one who hears” they meant “the one who hears and obeys.” Jesus said, “let him who has an ear, let him hear!” He meant “the one who hears and obeys.” John knew that all of you who are sitting here today would not understand or appreciate what he is saying. So he says, “let him who hears and obeys” say come!
Jesus said in John 7, “let the one who believes in me drink. Just as the Scripture says, ‘From within him will flow rivers of living water.’”
This is the picture of someone who has drank from the water of life Jesus has to offer and turns around, waving his hands, saying, Come! Come on! Trust me, it works!
A man was walking in the desert, and came to a jug of water by an old well pump. The jug had a sign on it that said, “you have to pour the full jug of water into the pump in order to get fresh, cool, clean water out.” The man hesitated, debating whether he should take what he knew was drinkable water (though it probably was old and had bacteria), or take a risk so he could get clean, pure water. He took the risk. He poured the water into the pump to prime it, and the jug was soon empty. He pulled the pump handle and worked it up and down, but nothing came out. Again he pumped it, and nothing. Again, nothing. Finally, he was thinking it was a hoax--a cruel trick, when he pumped one more time and water began dripping. He pumped again, and more water slowly trickled out. He pumped again and it became a steady flow, and the more he pumped the bigger it got until it ran all over the desert ground, and he filled up the jug and drank, and drank, and drank until he couldn't drink anymore. He filled up the jug one more time, put the cork on it, and took a pen (don't ask where he got a pen in the desert--just work with me) he wrote on the jug, “It works! Trust me!”

We who have tasted and know should say, "Hey! It works! Trust me!"
Desiring Jesus to come back is the natural outcome of a follower of Jesus.
The ones who follow Jesus, believing in His death and resurrection have had their thirst quenched, but haven’t drank enough! Because life has a way of making us thirsty for God! We try to find all kinds of things that satisfy, but only God satisfies.
Have you become satisfied with what little water you have received? Do you want Jesus to come back more than anything? Do you want His healing? His power? His new life?

3) The third group of people John appeals to are the people who thirst, and haven’t yet discovered that Jesus Christ is the ONLY way to relieve your thirst. This third part is for those who don’t yet have Jesus to quench their thirst, but they are thirsty.
What does God say in response to you when you need help? When you can’t make it? He says, “Come!”
In the Bible, God has always said, “Come” to those who are thirsty and needy.
The Lord said to Noah, “Come into the ark with you and all your household.”
In Exodus 32:26, Moses said, “Whoever is for the Lord, come to me!”
In Isaiah 1:18, God says, “Come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord, though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow.”
Jesus said to his disciples when he called them, “Come to me!”
Jesus said to go to the highways and byways and compel people to “Come in”
Now, Jesus says in Revelation, “Come! Come! Come! Come!” “I am the bread of life, so come! I am the water that you can drink from forever, so come! I am the comfort, the peace, the love, the awesome party you’ve been waiting for! Come! I am the father, who welcomes every rebellious son or daughter home and says, “Throw a party, he’s back! She’s home! Come!”
Like in Mexico, there was no doubt that something was wrong with me. I didn’t know what until the nurse started handing me drinks.
You, who don’t believe in Jesus Christ, you are desperately thirsty, and know that something is wrong with you! But you don’t know what. You don’t know it, but the thing that is wrong is there is a hole inside of you that is shaped like the 1st Century carpenter from Nazareth in Israel. It’s a thirst that water can’t quench, that only by giving up your life to Jesus Christ can you find this water of life!
At the end of Revelation, Jesus speaks again, and says, “Come! Come, all who are thirsty!” Do you hear his cry, see his hands with nail holes in them, see his feet and side, the head with deep thorn scars?
Are you looking for a high that will last longer than a bottle of brandy or roll of weed, or a weekend of sleeping around? Have you tried your best but keep coming up with emptiness? Are you lonely? You don’t know it, but you long for that water of life.
What did Jesus say, “And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wants it take the water of life free of charge.”
If you’ve never understood until now that you can have eternal life simply by believing in Jesus’ death and resurrection, and that He paid what you had to pay so you can have life with Him, and you want to believe in Him and have that life, then pray now and tell him.

Knowing God, Ruth

It was a cold day at Sunset Lodge in Michigan, and nearly 100 teens were gathered for our annual winter retreat. I was one of the teens listening to the speaker as he urged us to remain pure and godly, and he said something that shaped my entire dating life. He said to pray for your future wife, asking God to protect her, keep her pure, and make her more like Christ. From that point on I prayed that prayer every day. While I waited, I prayed, and allowed God to lead me to the woman I eventually married. After we were married, we had Trinity, and when Trinity was a little over a year, we wanted to have a second child. We again had to wait, because (for reasons we still don’t know) for a time we could not have anymore children. We came to the point of adoption, and began to discuss options with those who had already gone through a successful adoption process, and while we waited we prayed, and then God allowed us to have another child—Tommy.

You are waiting for something today. Either you are waiting on God for someone to marry, someone to call your child, the right job to open up, enough money for medical expenses, a cure for a sickness, someone who needs Jesus to come to Him, a friend or relative who is making bad decisions to make right ones, or world peace. Everyone is waiting for something to happen! While we wait—you must trust in God!

Today we’ll see 4 Lessons from Ruth as a model for what you can do while you wait for God

Ruth is someone who we should not even be talking about, an unlikely hero from an unlikely region—Moab, an unlikely gender—female. Our story opens with Ruth having married Mahlon, son of Elimelech and Naomi, from the 200 person town of Bethlehem. Mahlon and his parents, along with his brother Chilion, traveled from Bethlehem to Moab, going at least 50 miles around the Dead Sea to find food during a time of famine. Even though they were close geographically, it was possible because of the landscape for one area to have plenty while another had famine. In 1931, the same thing happened in that region, where Bethlehem had famine while the other side of the Dead Sea had plenty. In the land of Moab, Ruth and Mahlon remained married for 10 years until Mahlon, his father, and his brother all died. Ruth was a widow with only her mother-in-law and sister-in-law. So Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi, heard that God had provided for His people (1:6) and so she said goodbye, and Ruth’s sister-in-law decided to stay behind. But we’re told with very strong Hebrew language that Ruth “clung to” Naomi, with a strong, unconditional love. Ruth made a strong statement of faith and dependence on God, despite her desperate situation, saying “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God my God,” (1:16).

The first Lesson we can learn from Ruth, is while you wait for God, love people.
1) Love people unconditionally
God shows His unconditional love to His people, who are supposed to show it to others
Ruth took a step of faith by clinging to Naomi, disowning everything and trusting in Naomi’s God, and helping Naomi. God showed His hesed for Naomi in 2:20 through Boaz providing for Ruth and Naomi. So the way God shows His unconditional love for people is many times through other people!
It means that when you are hurting, suffering, praying, begging God for help, continue to have others in mind and devote yourself to loving others. If we stop loving others because we feel bad, there will never be a time when we love each other.
It’s like your family, how you stick together, stand up for each other, defend each other, give of yourself to each other—God’s people should be like that to their family, church family, and even those who aren’t Christian.
Who has God put in your path who is also hurting? Love them.

The second lesson we learn from Ruth is not only to love others unconditionally, but to:
2) Lean on God
God has a redeemer for those who decide to trust in Him, so trust in Him!
Leaning on God does not mean sitting still. In fact, Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God,” but doesn’t mean being sedentary or lazy. It means stop trying to do things your way and do things God’s way! Ruth did what the law provided for them—she gleaned in the fields of grain, picking up the leftover grain that fell as the harvesters cut it down.
Boaz noticed her, and her work ethic, and offered her better grain, more grain, and protection. Ruth met Boaz, who was kind to her and also trusted in God
While she waited for God to provide, Ruth did not just sit still, seek free money or handouts, or give in to laziness. Ruth worked in the fields gleaning grain in order to do what she could.
Leaning on God means we do our best and after you’ve done everything you can do, leave the rest up to God! Leave room for God! It means when your money runs out, your sin overflows, and you’re lonely and discouraged, you should stretch out to God and lean on Him!
Remember the words from that song, “Lean on me, when you’re not strong, I’ll take your hand, I’ll help you carry on,” is not just for one another, but for God! Lean on God more than anyone or anything else!
A few weeks ago Trinity and I were playing with helicopter seeds from a maple tree. We decided to take a few seeds and plant them in a pot of dirt I mixed together, and then we watered the seeds in. A few days later, someone accidentally took most of the dirt out of the pot, and Trinity was sad that the seeds wouldn’t grow. Two days ago, we noticed a healthy 4 inch maple shoot sticking up out of that pot. That’s perseverance!
You can be exactly like that, as you trust in God, despite life’s problems, in spite of people taking things from you, in spite of bad decisions, in spite of obstacles, you can still grow if you lean on God! God can provide everything you need!
Lean on God by trusting Him while you wait and persevere. Don’t give up! God has a redeemer for you who trust in Him! Now is the time when people need to see your faith in God. Now is the time people need to see a Christian who endures suffering! Now is the time when the world full of violence, fighting, crime, sexual perversion, abuse, broken families, crumbling nations, weak economics—now is the time they need to see that Jesus Christ didn’t just die on the cross for your sin once upon a time, and rise from the dead once upon a time, but He is alive today and giving strength today, and you have hope today in Him, and you know that you know that you know that you know you have eternal life, and an abundant life now! That’s leaning on God!
Steven Curtis Chapman came out with an album on November last year, called "Beauty From Ashes." The secular music industry praised it more highly than a Christian Contemporary artist’s album has been praised in a long time. Why? Because it was about how he still believed in God even though he lost his five year old daughter. The entire album is the story of his grief, worry, pain, joy, and hope. Leaning on God

3) Leap in faith by asking the redeemer to save you
when people want God’s redemption, they must take a step of faith
Ruth took a leap of faith in order to find redemption, by going to the threshing floor at night and proposing to Boaz. Read what happens in chatper 3 (3:1-18, skim). Ruth had already taken refuge under God’s wings (2:12) and Boaz noticed it. Now she knew Boaz was a redeemer, and Naomi commanded her to pursue it, and she did!
When birds are in a nest, there comes a time when they need one day to take a leap of faith! Don’t’ stay in the nest forever, you eventually have to go out in faith.

4)Let God work and be redeemed
God redeems those who trust in Him for redemption
Boaz showed unconditional love towards Ruth and Redeemed Ruth. But beyond Boaz, God was the One who orchestrated this marriage. God worked so that Ruth had been married for 10 years and hadn’t had any children before her husband died, and that must have hurt. God had planned for Ruth—someone who wasn’t supposed to be accepted in God’s community—to marry Boaz (someone who did not have to redeem Ruth) in order to provide for Ruth and Naomi, in order to provide for the line of King David (Israel’s greatest king and leader to this day), and in order to provide a Messiah for the world! Ruth 4 tells us how Ruth’s lineage led to David, and Matthew 1:5 shows us David was an ancestor of Jesus Christ.
This means that when you let God work to save you from your problems, you get better results than when you come up with a solution that is ungodly. This means that after you worked
Ruth’s act of faith
You may not need to be redeemed for salvation, but someone today does! And they are waiting to see if you will Love, Lean, Leap, and Let God work and bless you.

Nichole Nordeman sang a song "Brave," where she said "I am small and I speak when I'm spoken to, but I'm willing to give it all for you . . . so long status quo, I think I just let go, You make me want to be brave."
While you wait for God, love people, lean on God, leap in faith into God’s hands, and let God work.

4 Changes for Knowing God in an Ungodly Culture, pt 2

In his prime, Mike was sought after by Six Flags Great America and Walt Disney for writing music group performances, like the show Glee. In the late 1980’s, if you went to Six Flags Great America, you could catch a show or musical written and sometimes performed by Mike and his group. He was called to the ministry, and God used his music talent and athleticism to reach hundreds of young people for Christ, and to lead God’s people in inspiring worship every Sunday. I worked with him in praise and worship, and with teen ministries for several years. When I went to Moody, he was one of the only ones who kept in touch with me and encouraged me to continue in my call to the ministry. Unfortunately, one day Mike revealed some sin that had crept in, and ended up resigning. We were shocked and devastated, and it was an ugly church-split situation. Mike had everything going for him with his talent and skill, and yet spiritually he had become weak and gave into stealing. I love him still very, very much, but it caught up to him.
If you remember, we’re studying Samson in Judges 16. So far, we have said:
1) Change your lifestyle, before God changes it for you
If you don’t live for God, sometimes God will cause problems so you will start to live for Him.
When God’s people accept an ungodly culture, sometimes God causes dissension between His people and unbelievers in order to free His people from them.

2) Confess your sin, while God is patient
When God doesn’t punish you for sin, and still uses you, it isn’t because He thinks your sin is okay. It’s because He’s giving you a chance to repent.
God’s patience is not the same as God’s forgiveness

Follow the downward spiral with me, and see that in Judges 16:1-3, Samson continued his life of immorality.
Keep going and he meets Delilah, who, after her fourth attempt to seduce him into telling his secret, finally gets it out of him. Delilah is a Philistines woman (idol worshipper), and Samson not only wants a woman without marriage, but an ungodly woman. The Bible says that the first two attempts to get Samson’s secret to his strength came from the rulers of the Philistines, who supplied Delilah with the thongs and rope to tie up Samson, and offered her 1,100 shekels (28 lbs) of silver per ruler if she could subdue him. Knowing there were 5 top leaders of the Philistines, that would be 5,500 shekels, which was 550 times the annual wage of the average Philistine. If the annual wage were $25,000, Delilah would have been offered $15 million to seduce and subdue Samson. She could not resist.
Delilah was the driver the last two attempts, using everything in her power to get Samson to tell his secret, and finally succeeding. On the day she lulled him into her lap and shaved his head. Judges 16:18-21 tells us (READ IT)

I want to say two more truths about Samson and then I’m done.
3) Consider godly character as more valuable than anything else

God doesn’t care about your physical abilities or appearance as much as He cares about your character and conduct. It’s the motives that will be judged one day!
It means that though Samson had unmatched physical strength, it wasn’t enough!
God cares about the inside. Samson was unmatched physically, the most feared Israelite by the Philistine superpower of his region. He was the war hero, the mvp, the Olympic gold medalist, the NBA superstar, the hockey mvp, all of it! Yet spiritually he was weaker than a pee wee toddler just learning to play ball.
It means you can be the most handsome, beautiful, strong, fast, most skilled, but if the inside is full of ungodliness, in God’s eyes you are not handsome, beautiful, strong, fast, or the most skilled. Remember what Paul told Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:8, “for bodily discipline is of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life, and also for the life to come.”
God cares more about the inside of you than He does about the outside of you. God cares more about WHO you are, than WHAT you do for a career, or HOW MUCH money you make, or HOW MANY hours a week you work, or WHERE you came from.
This is important! Because some of you Christians think your musical or athletic skill is enough to please God, and you don’t care about growing spiritually! That’s just like Samson!
IMAGE: Would you drink out of a cup at a restaurant that was shiny clean on the outside, but dirty on the inside? God wants people who are beautiful on the inside as well as on the outside!
Everything physical is doomed to end one day, but godliness is forever!
Isaiah 40:6, 8, says, “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flower of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of God endures forever”
We need a group of Christians who will be the first to make spiritual strength their priority. It starts with disciplining yourself to act more like Jesus and follow His teachings.
Like in the military: Would the Army take someone who just came to a recruiting center and put a gun in their hands and send them to Afghanistan? Would the Milwaukee Brewers take just anyone who could swing a bat and throw a ball and put them on the pitcher’s mound and in the batting rotation (some would say yes). No! In the military, it would be bad for two reasons: 1) the army’s chance of success would drop dramatically without a trained soldier, and 2) your chance of survival would drop dramatically without training.
Spiritually, we are involved in a war far more deadly than anything physical, especially because you can’t see it! It’s a war inside of you, and all around you, where Satan our enemy disguises himself as an agent of light, and your sin nature (and mine) desire to follow the devil’s temptations. And without you spending time training, the mission of Jesus building His church will not benefit from your involvement, and 2) your chances of finishing this life committed to Jesus Christ will also drop drastically.
You need to become familiar with the spiritual disciplines. Here are some basic disciplines that all believers need to be aware of, as listed by Donald Whitney in his book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life: Bible reading/intake, prayer, worship, evangelism, serving, stewardship, fasting, silence and solitude, journaling what God is doing, and learning about the Christian life. Also, confession, accountability, humility, submission to authority, submission to each other, celebration, affirmation, and sacrifice are necessary. These take a lifetime to master, so you need to start now!
So today decide to search more for God and being like Him than any other goal you have! Young people graduating, if you want a happy life, make knowing Jesus Christ the most important thing in your life. If you get hooked on God, He will show you the good life.
Like Charles H. Spurgeon said
What the hand is to the lute, what the breath is to the flute, what is fragrance to the smell, what the spring is to the well, what the flower is to the bee, that is Jesus Christ to me;
What’s the mother to the child, what the guide in pathless wild, what is oil to troubled wave, what is ransom to the slave, what is water to the sea, that is Jesus Christ to me.

4) The last point I have is in Judges 17. Though Samson had been humiliated, and fell morally and physically, he had one more chance to be redeemed.
He was in the temple of Dagon, mocked and forced to perform for the crowd. With all the rulers in the temple, and 3,000 men and women on the roof (meaning it was full), Samson received God’s strength one more time in Judges 16:28-31. Samson sacrificed his life to glorify God!
4) Create a fresh sacrifice if you have fallen down.
If you have failed to
1) Change your lifestyle before God stirred you; and failed to 2) Confess your sin before God’s patience ran out, and failed to 3) Consider godly character above everything else in the world, then 4) Create a fresh sacrifice
God is slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness, and accepts people who humble themselves and repent.
It means you are never too bad to be used by God. It means God is the God of 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 10th, 100th, 1,000th, infinite chances to change! It means God is not cruel towards people who repent! If Samson could be used again, so can you! God has a purpose even for you in 2010, even after you’ve blown it, so get up, dust yourself off, and cry out to God again.
Like a gentle mother who carefully corrects her children, so God will keep correcting you, and open His arms to use you again.
Don’t get satisfied if you’ve fallen down. Get back up. Create a fresh sacrifice.
Did you hear the key word, though? Sacrifice. What did Samson give up to glorify God? Everything! He is listed in Hebrews 11 as a man of faith who served God, but he didn’t serve God by his life, but by his death. Look at Judges 16:30. It says, “thus he killed many more when he died, than when he lived.”
You, Christian, who are living with everything physical and nothing spiritual, you need to take your life and sacrifice it to God!
I have a box full of musical awards. This box represents 7 years of practicing, performing, playing music for church, school, the Christian Youth Center, Daycamp, jazz band awards in Illinois and Tennessee and in between. I say with Paul in Philippians 3, that “I consider them “skubula” that I may gain Christ and be found in Him!” That I may know Him more!
These physical abilities, mental abilities, looks, talents, and skills, mean nothing if you have no spiritual life! That’s why Jesus is so important, because He is the ONLY one who can give you life!
The great news is, no matter where you have been, you can CREATE A FRESH SACRIFICE!
Samson brought down the temple of Dagon, and all the Philistine rulers. He killed the rule of sin in his culture and in himself by one man’s sacrifice! If you will take this bold step today and throw yourself down at the cross of Jesus Christ, you will not only start clean in your own life, but God will demolish the hold of sin in your life! Do you need to break free from the habit of drinking? Create a fresh sacrifice today! Do you need freedom from the habit of gossip? Slander? Your wild tongue? Hurting yourself or others through physical abuse? Hurting your marriage through verbal abuse? Are you hateful towards your brother? All of these are traps that you can be free from! Throw it all down before Jesus Christ today. First trusting in Him as your savior by believing in His death and resurrection, and 2nd by giving Him the driver’s seat.

1) Change your lifestyle before God stirred you; and failed to 2) Confess your sin before God’s patience ran out, and failed to 3) Consider godly character above everything else in the world, then 4) Create a fresh start
Remember Mike? All talent and skill, without spiritual discipline? He was restored to ministry. He went through the hard work of confession and repentance, and God began using him again.
What about you?