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Good Riddance

Good and Bad Figs

After King Nebuchadnezzar* of Babylon exiled Jehoiachin* son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, to Babylon along with the officials of Judah and all the craftsmen and artisans, the Lord gave me this vision. I saw two baskets of figs placed in front of the Lord’s Temple in Jerusalem. 2 One basket was filled with fresh, ripe figs, while the other was filled with bad figs that were too rotten to eat. 3 Then the Lord said to me, “What do you see, Jeremiah?” I replied, “Figs, some very good and some very bad, too rotten to eat.” 4 Then the Lord gave me this message: 5 “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: The good figs represent the exiles I sent from Judah to the land of the Babylonians.* 6 I will watch over and care for them, and I will bring them back here again. I will build them up and not tear them down. I will plant them and not uproot them. 7 I will give them hearts that recognize me as the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me wholeheartedly. 8 “But the bad figs,” the Lord said, “represent King Zedekiah of Judah, his officials, all the people left in Jerusalem, and those who live in Egypt. I will treat them like bad figs, too rotten to eat. 9 I will make them an object of horror and a symbol of evil to every nation on earth. They will be disgraced and mocked, taunted and cursed, wherever I scatter them. 10 And I will send war, famine, and disease until they have vanished from the land of Israel, which I gave to them and their ancestors.” (Jeremiah 24:1-10) NLT

Israel is in a real pickle.

They have completely ruined their relationship with God. The northern Kingdom has been exiled. Judah is on the verge of exile and Jerusalem is about to be totally destroyed by the Babylonians.

In the previous chapters Jeremiah has been throwing down on the idolatry of Judah and her leaders. He has been teeing off on the prophets of Judah for their continuous lying and false prophecy.

Into this context, God gives Jeremiah yet another object lesson. This time he has him identify two baskets of figs. One is full of good figs and the other is full of rotten figs. A little weird if you ask me, but God always has a reason for the things he asks us to do. So Jeremiah plays along.

Much to my surprise and perhaps yours as well, God explains that the good figs represent those in exile and the bad figs represents those who are going to be made symbols of evil.

I didn’t expect God to say that those in exile were the good fruit. Think about it. Did you?

I suspect not. We don’t think of exile as a good thing and yet that is exactly what God is saying. In this case, to be exiled means to be cared for and watched over. It means to be built up and planted deeply. It means to be given a new heart that leads to wholeness. It means that God is going to work with you to make you better. God is going to reshape this remnant in exile into the Israel he has always wanted. They have lost their way and God is going to help them get back on track.

I know it sounds crazy, but exile can be a good thing.

It can mean that God is shaping you into the person he desires. It can mean that God is forming into you a new heart. It can mean that God is making you whole again. I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty amazing, even though the context is exile. I feel like I would take some exile to get those benefits. How about you?

Are you in exile right now? Are you experiencing the consequences of your own sin and disobedience? Have you been living separate from God? If so, just remember it isn’t over until it’s over. God is still able to shape you through these challenges and make you better. Matter of fact, Jeremiah seems to tell us that he does his best work in exile. I guess it is because we are ready to listen.

Blessings,

Pastor Daniel

What’s Your Word?

My word for the year is GROWTH.

I find it helpful to capture my “focus for the year” in a word, so that I can stay focused on one main thing all year. There are always things competing for our attention in life. Life is complex. Period. I am amazed at how busy we can get. It is very difficult to remain focused. They say in leadership, that “growing organizations always move towards complexity.” I believe this is truth. In addition, they also say, “that unless you put a system in place to deal with the complexities of the organization” you will always be overwhelmed and at the edges of capacity. Have a yearly word will help!

Organizations aren’t the only things that move towards complexity. I believe just about all of our world, family, relationships, etc move this way as well. So if this is the case, which I believe it is, we must put something in place to keep us out of the weeds.

Last year, my word was HEALTH. After praying and seeking the Lord, this was the word that kept sticking out in my mind. So I went with it. It really helped to keep me focused and on point throughout the year. I didn’t get everything done that I wanted to get done, but it kept me focused and when things or life got a little busy or overwhelming it was the word I could return to and find clarity and direction.

I know of one leader, who after prayerfully considering what God wanted him to do, came to the conclusion that the word that needed to guide his next year was the word, “NO!” I suspect some of you can relate to that as well. Learning to say “no” can be a very difficult discipline in life. For some of you, learning to say “yes” can be just as difficult. You always say “no” and your life is always the same.

So what’s your word for the year? If you will do this I promise it will help! Give it a try and see what happens.

Blessings,

Pastor Daniel

 

Practicing Joy

This past weekend at Elevation, I challenged everyone to begin practicing the discipline of celebration.

Most people don’t see celebration as a spiritual practice.

We tend to associate “disciplines” with things we don’t doing enjoy. It is usually something not fun and more than likely, laborious.

Here is the problem… the Bible instructs us, no, commands us, to have JOY.
C.S. Lewis said, “Joy is the serious business of heaven.”

I love that statement.
Our God is a God of joy.
He celebrates over us.
He loves us.
We bring him great joy.
We are his kids.

So, we serve a God that is joyful and calls us to rejoice. In Philippians 4:4 we are told to “always rejoice.” In other words, always be full of joy; so much so, that you can’t help but rejoice.

Jesus tells us that he wants our joy to be “full” in John 15:11. Not half-full… but completely full, of joy.

Okay…so if we are told to have joy, but we don’t, then what’s the reason for our joylessness (oh yeah, that’s totally a word)?

Here is one really big possibility: Our joy is directly related to our proximity to Jesus. In other words, if our relationship isn’t strong then how do we ever expect to possess the joy that only comes from the presence of Jesus in our lives? It is a complete impossibility.

Read John 15. You will notice a couple of reoccurring terms: “remain” or “abide”. This passage of scripture is telling us that our ability to be obedient and grow fruit is directly related to this lifestyle of remaining. We must remain in order to maintain.

I realize that this can be very simple in theory, but extremely difficult to live out. This is why the spiritual practice or discipline of celebrating is so critical for the believer.

(If you aren’t a follower of Jesus, you can change that today and begin to experience the abundant life that Jesus tells us about. Simply acknowledge your sinfulness and your need for a Savior. Invite Jesus into your heart and ask him to come and be your Lord. Commit yourself to living for Him alone.)

In John Ortberg’s book, The Life You Have Always Wanted, he talks at length about this idea of practicing celebration. He gives several steps to take in order to begin practicing celebration.

(1) Start now
(2) take a day a week to celebrate
(3) find a joy mentor
(4) take a week to fast from TV
(5) remember the biblical story of Jesus’ return.

I shared these in my message this past weekend and it’s so encouraging to see people starting to implement some, if not all, of these steps into their lives.

I also added one. I asked people to write down, tweet, or put on Facebook three things that they are thankful for each day, as we lead up to Christmas. I am looking forward to hearing the stories that will come out of this challenge.

When we have an attitude of celebration and have cultivated joy into our lives we will begin to experience the abundant life that Jesus talked about. This will not only help us but it will make the gospel of Jesus Christ all the more attractive to the world around us. People will be drawn to Jesus through his people.

If you are reading this you should start today!!!

Begin practicing the discipline of celebration; It will change your life.

If you don’t have a church or a commitment on Christmas Eve we would love for you to come and be a part of our celebration. Our worship gathering will be at 5:00pm on Christmas Eve. Go to our website to find out more: www.elevationstl.com

-Daniel

All Day Long

Romans 10:21 But regarding Israel, God said,
“All day long I opened my arms to them,
but they were disobedient and rebellious.”

“All day long”…

God has been revealing himself to Israel over and over again.
He has welcomed them into his loving arms “all day long”.

What was their response?
They were “disobedient and rebellious.”
They didn’t listen.
They didn’t respond properly.
They rejected the LORD’s invitation.
…They said, “NO!”

In the same way, God is welcoming us in his arms of grace.
So, what will be your response today?
Will you respond by turning towards God and receiving his embrace?
Or will you turn away from God and continue trying to do it on your own?

God is standing with his arms open wide and very clearly telling you and me that we don’t have to do it alone.

Whatever your situation looks like today…turn towards God, run into his loving arms, and feel his warm embrace.

He loves you and wants the best for you. You are not alone.

You don’t have to live another day without Him.
You don’t have to live without his guidance and peace.
Don’t just stand there, RUN to him.

How do you do that?

It’s simple.

Get on your knees, right now, and simply pray:

Dear God,

I need you in my life and in this situation. I can’t, but I know you can. I am running towards you today will you, please, embrace me in your arms. Forgive me for the times that I have been disobedient and rebellious. I turn from that way of living and ask for your power to live differently. I need you. Please, receive my prayer as a fragrant offering and change me from the inside out. Be LORD over my life, my circumstance, and my future. In the strong name of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen!

-Daniel

Have You Settled the Issue?

“Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our LORD has done for us.” –Romans 5:1

So, have you “been made right” with God?

That may seem like an odd question, but seriously. Have you settled this issue with God?

It’s not a matter of whether you are a good person or not. The Bible clearly states that not one of us is good. We are all in the same boat.

This is all about relationship.

We are separated from God because of our sin and THIS ISSUE must be addressed.

So, I’ll ask again…have you “been made right in God’s sight?” This is such an important question. So many people believe that if they are good people and they go to church that they have been made right with God.

But that’s so WRONG.

Romans tells us that we are made right “by faith” because of what Christ has done for us.
We have peace with God because of Jesus not because of us.

Now that you know that; have you “been made right” with God?

If you are uncertain today about your relationship or standing before God, then settle the issue. Put your faith in Jesus. He died for your sin, so that you might have life again and be free from sin and death.

If you want to say, “yes” to Jesus today simply pray this prayer:

God…I am a sinner in need of a Savior. Will you forgive me and come and live in my heart so that I can be free from sin and death. I love you and trust you with my life. Use me how ever you want for your glory. In Jesus name, Amen!

If you prayed that prayer, the next step is telling someone and getting into a bible believing church. I would love to hear from you, so send me an email at dtaylor@elevationstl.com.

If Elevation Church can be a help to you please let us know, and if you live in the area please join us for worship. You can find worship times on our website at www.elevationstl.com

Going Higher!

Daniel

Transparent

“They went to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and Jesus said, “Sit here while I go and pray.” He took Peter, James, and John with him, and he became deeply troubled and distressed. He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
–Mark 14:32-34


There is so much going on in this passage of scripture. It is an extremely powerful scene in the life of Jesus; one of the only places in scripture where we get really “up close and personal” with his humanity.

His humanity is up front and center, which could make many of us feel uncomfortable.

You see, we are very comfortable with the divinity of Jesus, but a lot less comfortable with the humanity of Jesus. Which are you?

Both are real. Both are important.

For us to fully understanding Jesus, we have to grasp both aspects. 


There is a lot that could be focused on in this passage, but I want to look specifically at Jesus’ wisdom in his vulnerability, honesty, and transparency.

We are told, in the Gospel of Mark, that Jesus went to the olive grove and told the majority of his disciples to sit and pray. He decided to take Peter, James, and John a little further. It is at this point that Jesus reveals himself.

He tells them he is greatly distressed and troubled.
He is in agony.
His soul is crushed and grief is closing in on him like a tsunami.

Notice how Jesus doesn’t reveal this to everyone. 
 


Here is the point: As human beings it is vital to have places where we can be completely vulnerable, honest, and transparent—but it must be with the right people in the right environments.

In order for those things to become clear you must seek wisdom from God.

A FOOL is vulnerable, honest, and transparent with everyone, but a WISE person is selective (like Jesus was with Peter, James, and John) with whom they share their heart.

It’s okay to not share with everyone.

There is this fallacy that says, “if you aren’t transparent with everyone, then you are lying and that is wrong.”

Don’t worry about what others say.

Follow the example Jesus laid out for us and I am confident that you will be more than all right! 


-Daniel

How Close Will You Be?

I stumbled upon this quote from George Whitfield in reference to John Wesley:

“A preacher, who talked at great length on Wesley and his companions, expressed once in the presence of Whitfield his doubt about Wesley’s salvation.  “Sir,” he said, “do you believe that we will see Mr. Wesley, when we come to heaven?” “No, sir,” answered Whitfield, “I fear that we will not see him, because he will be so close to the throne and we so far away, that we probably cannot get sight of him.”

This causes me to wonder … How close to the throne room will I be?

How about you? How are you living?

And is the way you are living moving you closer to the throne; or is it pushing you back?

-Daniel

Decrease

I discovered this quote the other day:

“A stage is a dangerous place to be, because a stage is a raised platform. Stages are built, so that little people can be seen more easily, by larger audiences. The lights are bright. The sound is big. Yet if we are not careful, those of us who lead worship can allow the stage to succeed, making more of us than we really are.” -Louie Giglio

I would encourage you to spend time thinking and praying about the reality of this in your life. Are you ‘making more of yourself than you really are’?

John 3:30 says that God must increase and we must decrease; I like to call that, “right sizing”.

We should always make much of God; not of ourselves.

Chew on that for a while…

-Daniel