Thursday, September 24, 2015

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Feed the Baby

Milk of the Word

I have two lovely daughters. I try to cherish every stage of their lives. Sometimes it is difficult. Sometimes it is pleasurable. And then there are times that serve as epiphanies and I end up thanking God almighty for using them to teach me something.

My firstborn did this and my second has recently started to as well. As I feed her from the bottle, she will reach up and try to wrap her hands around it too. It's as if she wants to make sure that she gets every last drop. Like she is afraid I am going to wretch the elixir from her toothless mouth and leave her to starve.

Sometimes as she places her best death-grip on the bottle she cracks open her eyes to give me a sideways glance. "Don't even try it," she threatens, "I don't want to burp, I want to eat." Both of my daughters have done it and I suspect it is a normal stage of development.

Desire the Word

Scripture urges believers to have this desire for God's word. If God's word is like milk, then the believer is like an infant. We have so much to learn and so many milestones to hurdle, we need nourishment. We crave it. We want it. We want to put away everything that potentially removes the Word of God from our lips. (I would say going in both directions, but that takes the metaphor further than intended, I believe. Maybe that's just from my personal experiences with acid reflux.)

That's not the part that brought a tear to my eye. This is:

She's not strong enough to actually hold her own bottle yet. I could easily draw it out of her lips. If I did not support the vessel, she would not receive a single drop of nourishment. She is willing, but very weak.

An infant — a newborn babe — doesn't do much other than scream and cry and be as annoying as possible. In this analogy, that is the believer. Peter is illustrating our dependency on God. Yes, we desire. But so does God and he gives us nourishment like a father who mixes formula for his child and settles into an armchair for a feeding at 4 am. God is like the mother who tenderly and willingly nurses her daughter though she is weary from all the events of the day.

Peter goes on to call Christ the living cornerstone. He is our support. We crave him. We want more of him. He will not disappoint us. He is willing to teach all who come to him with a willingness to learn. Without his support, we are lost & doomed to remain hungry.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Walk Worthy Weekend Conference

This conference has been going on annually for a few years now. I've heard great things about it. In fact, I am seriously trying to make it out to it this year. While I can't personally endorse it from my own experience, I can't imagine it would be anything but informative and encouraging. Plus, these conferences are only as good as your own attitude.

The conference is hosted by Christian Missions in Many Lands and you can register on their website. It will take place at Camp Horizon in Leesburg, Florida. Perhaps I'll see you there!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Friday, September 4, 2015

How Lovely V - Conclusion

Based on Psalm 84
A Sermon.

Dwelling Places

"To be homeless the way people like you and me are apt to be homeless is to have homes all over the place but not to be really at home in any of them."

Frederick Buechner
The Longing for Home

Coming Home

This quote hit me hard. I recently moved from Miami to Fort Myers and for a while rented an apartment while owning a condo. I was working in Fort Myers and had an expecting wife and a young daughter in Miami. I made a conscious effort to call one place home and to never use the term for the other. Can you guess which was home?

It seems like this is a trap for Christians everywhere. We might find ourselves homeless, not in the sense that we have no home, but we feel at home in many different places. I know, the first thing that comes to mind is the world and knowing that we are not of this world (John 17.16). But sometimes these homes can be made of more sinister materials.

Maybe I harbor a home of regret over previous failures. I need to remember that God has taken care of my guilt.

Maybe I harbor a home of superiority. I need to remember that everyone comes to God the same way.

Maybe I harbor a home of religious activity. I need to remember that God wants nothing to come between me and Him, even churchy duties. Am I, are you, at home with the Lord alone?

Too Dirty?

Do you still think you are too dirty to draw close to the Lord? This is a problem I see in the assembly, particularly in our worship meetings. I hear men, usually young but older men have done it too, stand and give a devotional at the Lord's Supper. Problem is, they focus a lot on their own shortcomings. Don't get me wrong, we need to acknowledge our failure and thank God for his grace. But our failures should never obscure God's goodness. We should never be the focus.

But why? How can we even think about approaching God's glorious presence? I have two related stories and one point for you:
  1. We finally sold our condo in Miami. But before then, I decided I would take my family to visit my old work buddies at FIU (Florida International University). We went to lunch. I fed my daughter some broccoli and milk, ate my cafeteria food and caught up on all the goings-on at the University. After a little while, my daughter escaped the table. She is full of energy and really curious, so I got up and decided to wrangle her back to the table in a fun way.

    I began a little faux chase. I completely forgot the immediate context of what we were doing (re: milk and broccoli). She gave chase. I caught her. I tickled her. I spun her around and flipped her upside down. Just as I got back to the table up came the milk and broccoli. Instead of turning out to barf on the floor she turned in and barfed in my shirt pocket.

    Milk and broccoli in my shirt pocket.
    I didn't have time to change before closing.

  2. After closing we went and spent some time at my parent's house. I got my shower and put on some travel clothes because we had to drive back to Fort Myers that night.

    We were sitting at the dinner table and I was holding our newborn. Our kids have strong necks (never wobbly) and weak stomachs (acid reflux) so I almost always hold them outward. That evening, I held her on my knee facing outward.

    After some time, I start feeling warmth on my lap. It seems to be spreading. I mentioned it to the table, but nobody saw her barf. I glance at my lap but don't see anything.

    Then, the baby farts (flatulence) and it's too late to take preventative measures. Poop flies out of her diaper in all directions and my lap is instantly covered in the brown-yellow-green goop that passes for infant excrement. My baby has just crapped all up in my lap.

These experiences were repulsive. They are gross. They are unbelievably nasty. They are the perfect illustration of our current discussion. Immediately following these extracurricular activities, they were un-cuddleable. Something had come between us. But these things do not change my love for them. I still loved them fiercely. How much greater is God's love than my human love? Hint: The answer is greater than you can imagine.

But it doesn't stop there. You see, I can bathe my babies and then cuddle them once they're clean. Our Lord has done that for us. In John 13, Jesus washes his disciples feet as a symbol. He says in verse 10 "He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean." He has declared us clean. We still get dirty and need spot work from time to time, but the source of Filth has been dealt with. He has cleaned us and now draws us near. We are family.


Do you know that God wants you as his honored child in his dwelling place? We are not second-class citizens in his presence. We are his guests of honor. We are his family.

This study has meant a lot to me. I hope that through this series of short devotionals you have caught a glimpse of Almighty God. I trust that a small glimpse of God is enough to change the viewer for all eternity. May we seek God's dwelling place continually and know that he wants to help us through the journey.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

How Lovely IV - The God you've always wanted to be with

Based on Psalm 84
A Sermon.

Dwelling Places

Behold our shield, O God,
And look upon the face of Your anointed.
For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand outside.
I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God
Than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
The Lord gives grace and glory;
No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.
O Lord of hosts,
How blessed is the man who trusts in You!

— Psalm 84.9 - 12


The psalmist has arrived! When you strut past the pearly gates and stroll into the Heavenly courts, what will be the first thing out of your mouth? What will you say to the Almighty? This is a scenario I imagine many people have considered. The poet says this: "Behold our shield".

The shield. A weapon of defense. The poet is defending his right to be there! What right do you have to stand in the presence of God? The poet goes on to state his claim: "look upon the face of Your anointed." In Israel's day, the hopes of the nation rose and fell with the King's righteousness. A good king will equate to a prosperous nation. Bad kings led to hard times. Just as Israel's hopes rose and fell with the righteousness of a man so our hope is joined to the Man, Christ Jesus. (Romans 5:17)

How Great it Is

The poet proceeds to use exaggerated language (Chiasmus) to express how great it is to be in the presence of God. He says:
  1. "a day in Your courts is better than a thousand outside." In other words: "I'd rather have a short, devoted life lived in step with my God than a long live far from him."
  2. "I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness." Or: "I'd rather forsake all comforts for the chance of a glimpse of Almighty God."
While it seems like the poet is advocating a life of asceticism, note that this is exaggerated language. He is stating that if there were a choice to be made, his preference would be obvious. Being near to God has its benefits as well. For instance:

Blessings All Mine

In stark contrast to the previous verses which hint at asceticism, the psalmist describes the incredible blessings which flow from God to his creation. God:
  • Gives liberally - The sun shines without discretion on all!
  • Gives what is needed - We needed a shield, He provided himself.
  • Gives directly - We do not need a trickle-down effect, we have direct access and direct blessing in his presence.
God wants to give and give and give to his people. We enjoy these blessings as we draw near to Him and recognize Him as the Source of ever good and perfect gift (James 1.17).

He's actually always wanted to be with you

Until know we have been reading this Psalm from the perspective of the pilgrim who seeks close proximity to His God. However, we must pause at this point and realize that we are not the aggressors in this scenario. God is the one who is actually pursuing us. Consider this reading from Mackintosh:
God had ever moved in the fullest sympathy with his people. When they were plunged in the furnace of Egyptian bondage, He was in the burning bush: when they were treading their long and dreary journey across the burning desert, his chariot travelled in company with them all the way. When they stood beneath the frowning walls of Jericho, He was there as a man of war, with a drawn sword in his hand, to act for, and in sympathy with, them. Thus, at all times, God and his Israel were together. While they toiled, he toiled, and until they could rest, he would not rest.

C.H. Mackintosh
David's House and the House of God
This is the God we have always wanted to be with, but as we look back on the journey we find that this is the God who has always wanted to be with us. He took the necessary steps to bring us into His presence and give us rest. He wants us to feel at home in His presence. He doesn't want us to constantly look over our shoulder or fear expulsion. We can rest in Him. He is home.


Have you stopped to consider the age-old question: "If God were to ask why He should let you into His kingdom what would you say?" Take a few moments and carefully consider your answer. Maybe write it down and read it back. Realize that He wants to be with you just as much as you want to be with Him — potentially more than you want to be with Him. He is willing to sacrifice Himself for your sake.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

How Lovely III - Strength to Get There

Based on Psalm 84
A Sermon.

Dwelling Places

How blessed is the man whose strength is in You,
In whose heart are the highways to Zion!
Passing through the valley of Baca they make it a spring;
The early rain also covers it with blessings.
They go from strength to strength,
Every one of them appears before God in Zion.
O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer;
Give ear, O God of Jacob!

— Psalm 84.5 - 8

Finding the Strength to Get There

No Guessing

The psalmist does not leave us guessing for long at all during this transitional period of the poem. He openly declares that we would have no hope of reaching God's presence if not for God's strength as well. Verse 5 plainly tells us where our strength is: in HIM. We are in dire need of His Strength to deliver us into His Presence. He is both our Object of our Affection and our Means of Deliverance.

In Your Heart

Note the literal rendering of 5b: In whose heart are the highways to Zion. Growing up, I was instructed not to talk about God being in your heart. Verses like: The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9) were emphasized. We cannot trust our heart. We cannot base our decisions on our fleeting, carnal emotions. But what do we do with a verse like this?

Note that this verse is not saying to trust your heart. It is telling you to equip or inform your heart. This guidance can be in your heart or not. In other words, guidance originates from elsewhere, you simply upload that information into your heart; hide it in your heart maybe? Of course, the Christian believes the best guidance comes from the scriptures and the Holy Spirit. The combination of these two should inform and guide the believer's decisions. Remember, this knowledge does no good as theory; it must become part of the person's core being.

Valleys & Rain

Once we get into the midst of this pilgrimage, we find that the journey is not easy. We are faced with obstacles that challenge our resolve to enter God's presence. However, the psalmist reminds us that these valleys and rains will eventually turn into springs and blessings. In other words, we journey from strength to strength. This is an incredible phenomenon that is hard to quantify, but easy to relate to if you have been there. We have joy because of Who is waiting for us in the end. Things can become dark and bleak and grim and worrisome, but it is through trouble that God reveals himself. It is in hardship when God proves his character to us in a personal way. I can marvel at God working things out for So-and-so, but when God does it in my family it becomes real.

This Psalm has inspired many songs. Petra's Road to Zion is clearly a re-working of this section. The final verse perfectly encapsulates the idea:
Sometimes it's good to look back down
We've come so far - we've gained such ground
But joy is not in where we've been
Joy is who's waiting at the end

There is a road inside of you
Inside of me there is one too
No stumbling pilgrim in the dark
The road to Zion's in your heart
The road to Zion's in your heart

Rest Assured

Rest assured, says verse 7, God has never lost one of His own. If you set out on this journey, you are going to learn some things. You are going to have some tough times. But you are going to make it because God will make sure you do. Jesus reflects this sentiment himself several times. "...I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of my hand..." (John 10.28). "...I guarded them and not one of them perished..." (John 17.12). This is a strong and steady fact. We can count on Him.


Do you have the strength to enter God's dwelling place? I'm not talking about your stamina or your worthiness. I'm talking about your guidance. I'm asking if you have the right Help. Have you reached out to the Lord and asked for His strength? Rest assured, He'll give it to you.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

How Lovely II - Where you want to be

Based on Psalm 84
A Sermon.

Dwelling Places

How lovely are Your dwelling places,
O Lord of hosts!
My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the Lord;
My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.
The bird also has found a house,
And the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young,
Even Your altars, O Lord of hosts,
My King and my God.
How blessed are those who dwell in Your house!
They are ever praising You.

— Psalm 84.1 - 4

This is where you want to be

The Fainting Soul

While the NASB translates this term to yearn, other translations choose the word faint. This word that describes the poet's reaction towards the thought of The Lord's courts in the Hebrew is fascinating. The original word is usually translated complete. So how does one get faint from complete?

There is one word that describes the use of faint instead of complete: Thanksgiving. That time when everyone gets together and that table is piled high with all sorts of good things to eat. There's an oversized bird, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, corn souffle, macaroni and cheese, cranberry sauce, stuffing/dressing, white bread, corn bread, ham, lechon, rice, beans, moros, platanos, yucca... (maybe only in my home-town). There's so much food and somebody's got to eat it!

So we indulge. We have seconds and fourths then comes the dessert (___ Pie, fill in the blanks)! We eat until we are satisfied. We eat until we are full. All words related to complete. Then we take our naps. We eat until we faint. Satisfaction/completion has always been tied to the idea of rest. Consume until you collapse.

So it should be with our view of God. Our impression of His loveliness should be so huge that the minor glimpses we are permitted to see leave us in a tryptophan-like coma. It is a problem to have a small view of God. A small view of God leads us to some pretty skewed versions of His Person (usually of the selfish variety). He is immense. He is awesome. The moment you begin to think that you understand the person of Jehovah coincides exactly with the moment you have no clue about Him. This fact should pique our interest to learn more about Him while realizing that we will never become experts. We, as Christians, should be OK with that reality. We should continue to seek our fill of Him.

How does He fill us?

  1. Aesthetics
    From Verse 1 - "How lovely are your dwelling places..."

    Through creation, we know that God is a creator of lovely things. He is majestic and loves beauty. Romans 1 is the popular passage when referring to God's greatness revealed in creation and those concepts certainly apply here. One can look to the heavens and the earth as a testament to God's power and glory. I have had the privilege of driving back and forth through the Big Cypress National Preserve for the past few months and I can personally attest to the beauty of nature as a reflection of God's own beauty. Whether discussing the sunset on the horizon or an osprey taking a catch to her nest, the majesty of the Almighty is on display.

  2. Identity
    From Verse 2 - "My soul longed...for you"

    Our soul can also be defined as our identity here on earth. It is the collection of our memories and applied knowledge. Our identity can and should be so wrapped up in our God that His character is seen in us. This is where Romans 12 come in to play as we are transformed into the image of the Son. C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity references two fairy tales that illustrate some of the mechanics behind this concept:
    • Beauty and the Beast - In this tale, a beautiful woman kisses a horrible beast and thereby transforms this monster into a man. Didn't Christ come into this world to "kiss us" with His grace and transform us into godly creatures? This is an inward reality that occurs the moment one believes on the Lord Jesus Christ.
    • The Man in the Mask - In this tale, a man with a horribly disfigured, ugly face is forced to wear a mask as a public service. However, he finds that the mask is actually improving his looks little by little until he no longer needs the mask to cover his ugliness. In a sense, this also occurs in the life of a believer as we become more and more conformed to the image of the Son of God. We daily take up our cross and follow after Christ. We make daily decisions to serve Him and confess our shortcomings. This is not magic. It takes discipline. That's why we are called disciples. The outward reality comes little by little, day by day, hour by hour.

  3. Reason
  4. Impulse
    From Verse 2 - "My heart and flesh sing for joy..."

    The heart, in the Old Testament, is where emotions were turned into decisions — it was the rational center of a person's being. The flesh is usually the opposite, it is the naturally selfish inclination of man as a creature. Wouldn't it be nice for our rational minds and primal instincts to find agreement? Wouldn't it be nice to see the civil war between flesh and sense in Romans 7 come to an end? It does! If only for a fleeting moment, these two currently opposed elements find harmony when we are immersed in the presence of the Alighty.


Is this where you want to be? Was your heart stirring at the thought of absorbing God's glory in His very presence? When we ask to see His face He will reveal Himself. He may, like with Moses, reveal only the fraction of His glory that will overwhelm us while protecting us. But He will respond. As always, seek and ye shall find.
Christopher M. Jimenez. Powered by Blogger.

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