~~i want to be everything you dreamed when you called my name~~

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Revealer of Mysteries

There is an old Petra song that I keep thinking about...I know it’s not Petra’s originally, but Petra is who I associate it with!  The song goes:

In heavenly armor we’ll enter the land – the battle belongs to the Lord.
No weapon that’s fashioned against us will stand – the battle belongs to the Lord.

And we sing glory, honor, power and strength to the Lord.

When the power of darkness comes in like a flood – the battle belongs to the Lord.
He’ll raise up a standard, the power of His blood – the battle belongs to the Lord.

When your enemy presses in hard, do not fear – the battle belongs to the Lord.
Take courage, my friend, your redemption is near – the battle belongs to the Lord.

This song has been on my mind this morning as I contemplate just how much do I think I need to do to be effective for the Kingdom.  So many times I try to manipulate a situation, or try my best, or...[insert behavior here] to give God a chance to show up big and bring glory to Himself.  And I’m humbly reminded that I have nothing to do with this.  Other than my weak ‘yes’ that makes me a pitiful vessel for Him to work through, I’ve got nothing!  And as I have been considering this song, I started to realize – I do have a part to play.  Not that God needs me to – He could certainly show up and turn the wrong things right without myself (and one day will!).  But God wants me, He desires me to take a part in this battle.  My part is to enter the land clothed in heavenly armor.  God’s part is to do battle through me, protected in His armor.  The following passage is probably not mind-blowing at a surface read for most Christians.  If I am honest with myself, it hasn’t been particularly mind-blowing for my own Christian walk until this morning.  Thank God for His tender desire for me to understand Him, and His willingness to reveal His mysteries to me!

Ephesians 6:10-20
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.  Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

Where to begin....I suppose I’ll just work through the passage and what God stirred up in my spirit.  The whole point of this passage is to equip us as believers to stand up to the enemy, and stand through the enemy’s schemes and attacks.  The devil’s schemes are many and varied.  We cannot fathom these schemes or, in our human ability, defeat satan.  Satan is a much more powerful being than we are!  We cannot begin to oppose him – only God, satan’s Creator, can overpower him.  Thus, we have to put on God’s armor.  We must be strong in His mighty power.  God and satan battle each other, we really have no part in it.  We, as Christians, become the battleground.  I think it’s important to understand – we cannot help God win!  God, however, can help us win!  We must relinquish ourselves into God’s ability, receive the armor, and stand and watch God win, in and through us, against satan.  It is our responsibility to put the armor on!  We can never overcome the enemy unless we wear God’s armor.

So what is this armor???  First, we must remember that we are to put on his FULL armor.  Not just parts of it.  No chink in the covering must exist.  It is only when He is protecting us thoroughly and directly that we are able to stand in the day of evil [insert specific circumstance here].  The more and more I studied this, I remembered that God enjoys teaching us about His nature.  And through this passage we learn, part by part, more about God’s nature as Paul compares the different pieces of armor.  God will protect us with His very nature – with WHO He is!

Belt of Truth:
In ancient times, the first step in preparation for battle was for the soldiers to gird their loins.  In battle, they would wear long, loose robes that were difficult to run in and could actually hinder their fighting if they weren’t tied up.  Because of this, they would pull the robes up and tie them around their waists with a belt.  From this belt, they would also attach other battle gear.  The belt of truth is that on which our other equipment rests.  The scabbard for a sword and the breastplate are both attached to the belt.

So what does this have to do with God’s nature?  God is TRUTH.  Christ said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life!”  With the belt of truth buckled around our waist, we are completely encircled on all sides by truth. 

Breastplate of Righteousness:
The breastplate guards our heart (Psalm 119:11).  Our basic defense against evil is obedience to the will of God as revealed in the Bible.  Wrong actions and thoughts are weak spots through which Satan can shoot his flaming arrows (see also Proverbs 4:23 – it is important for us to guide our minds and hearts because they determine our actions!)

Only God is RIGHTEOUS – or perfect.  Always right and never wrong – never capable of making a mistake.  Taken with the belt of truth, these pieces of armor cover our mid-section, chest, and waist areas – representative of covering our emotional self – our sense of well-being and integrity.  All of our most vital organs are protected with these pieces of armor.  Truth and righteousness keep us emotionally stable.  It is when lies and errors, dishonestly and wickedness abound in a person’s life that the resulting confusion begins to tear them apart and make them emotionally unstable.

Shoes Fitted with the Gospel of Peace:
Bad shoes can really have an impact on you in the battle.  If you have ever run for any distance with a bad pair of shoes, you understand the difference that good shoes can make.  The gospel is one of peace – peace between God and man.  Because of the peace we have with God, we are able to fight our battles (see also Romans 10:13-15).

God’s nature also contains the gospel – good news to mankind.  It is part of the nature of love – because God is love – to reach out and give to the object loved that which is needed.  Otherwise there is no love.  Feet cause us to go forward.  God went forward, condescended, to us, to love us, to know us, to touch us, and to rescue us.  And His rescue is characterized by PEACE!  God didn’t send Jesus to condemn or make war against us, though we fully deserved it.  No, God came in peace, bringing peace.  Jesus is the Prince of PEACE!  This is the beauty of the good news of salvation.

Like shoes needing to be the right size, so our application of God’s gospel to our lives needs to be fitted rightly to our individual feet.  The gospel can be delivered in many ways.  Our feet, or our method of influencing people for the Kingdom, need to be in readiness.  Scripturally, we know that we should always be ready to explain the hope people see in us.  We keep the gospel on the tip of our tongues – handy for any situation.  Paul says here that this readiness comes from the gospel itself.  By nature, God’s nature, there is eagerness to save people.  We can be eager because the message is so very good – salvation to whoever will have it – it is free, it is everlasting, it is able to completely save!

Being armed with the gospel of peace is a strong protection because our feet are for good, not evil, when we go with the gospel.  Our reason for living is pure and right and completely in line with God’s will.

Shield of Faith:
FAITH simply is trust in God.  The root of most sin is a lack of trust that God can or will meet our needs.  Because we do not trust God, we try to meet our own needs, in ways that are harmful to us.  God created us and knows us best, so He is best able to meet our needs.  Faith thus becomes our protection against harm.

This one is tricky, because how can faith be called an attribute of God’s nature?  “Faith, hope, and love, and the greatest of these is love”  We know that God is love, we know He is the basis and reason for our hope through redemption.  How is God the embodiment of faith, of our faith in His goodness?  We have faith in God, does God have faith in us?  Interesting thought, isn’t it?  To me, faith is very near the heart and attributes of God.  Faith perhaps could be said to be our end of God’s power at work.  We believe God is able – and so faith is our way to tap into God’s limitless power resources!  Our faith activates God as our shield.  Our faith brings God to accomplish victory on our behalf.  With faith, we can extinguish all that the enemy can hurl at us!

We are told in the Old Testament that God Himself is our shield.  Since we are weak and powerless, the shield (God) can be lifted and moved to any position of protection and be made to block satan’s attack.  He, literally His life and Who He is, becomes our protection.  God, our shield, extinguishes flaming arrows of satan. I believe that sometimes satan’s attacks seem nearer to us than God is near because satan comes at us through the realm of earth’s atmosphere – so right where we live.  Satan’s attacks come along avenues that form the works of our every day lives – parts of our circumstances, parts of our weaknesses, parts of our prejudices, etc.  The enemy has good inroads.  Also like arrows, the assault is well-aimed.  Again, satan knows our weak spots, the chinks in our armor. The weapons are individually aimed.  His arrow of condemnation hits us and we are tempted to cave in with guilt and disbelieve God, believe satan’s lie and, in doing so, fall wounded.  When faith is shattered by unbelief, we are spiritually dead.  But God also knows our weak spots, and His greatest desire is to make them strong through Him.

The shield of faith prevents the fire from touching us because God, in Christ, intervenes, preventing condemnation, both of me and of Who God is.  Notice that the shield not only provides a layer of protection, but it also extinguishes the fire of the arrow.  I’d like to think that as soon as the accusation that satan brings touches the mere concept of God, Who is all Truth and Righteousness, the fire immediately goes out!  Praise the Lord for Christ, who is our living truth and righteousness!

Helmet of Salvation:
The head is the most vital area of a soldier.  If a soldier looks above his shield, his head is vulnerable.  But with Christ as our Savior, we are no longer vulnerable.  The helmet of salvation is that aspect of God that is redemptive toward us.  It is within His heart to love and even to have created objects to love to display and enrich His quality of love.  Salvation is that display of His love to us as individuals.  The helmet covers the brain of a person.  The brain is central to making decisions involving the will, such as when we chose Christ in SALVATION.  The helmet protects the most important part of the human body.  Salvation is probably the most important doctrine of our faith because it begins our being united to God, and enables us to continue to learn more. First we are born, then we grow.  We must take salvation first.  Thus, the helmet empowers us to be able to wear all the rest, and it, again, is God Himself with us.  We cannot save ourselves. Only through Christ are we saved.

The Sword of the Spirit:
And finally, the sword, the only offensive weapon listed.  It is the only weapon adequate for spiritual battle.  Only through God’s Word can we fight our battles (see Psalm 119:11 and Hebrews 4:12).  Whenever a soldier goes to battle, he takes his weapons with him.  We are often involved in spiritual battle, yet we often leave our swords at home.  We fail to practice using our swords and then don’t even taken them to battle.  Memorizing scripture helps us to have our swords available at all times.  Christ always prepared for battle and armed himself with the sword (see Matthew 4).

The sword of the Spirit, we are told here is the Word of God.  Again I ask, what attribute of God is seen?  God is a revealer of mysteries.  We find this out in the Book of Daniel.  God’s Word reveals Himself to us.  Without His Word, we would know nothing of Him.  Thus the revelation quality of God, His openness, is very evident here.  And because God chose, lovingly, to be open with us about Himself through Scripture, we now have available a piece of armor unique in comparison to the others.  His Spirit has the most power of all the pieces of armor.  What God has spoken through Scripture, is cutting – a separator.  It is truth in action, shedding away lies and anything that falsely competes with the realism of God and Truth.  It is the weapon Christ used against satan in the wilderness temptation.  It drove satan away when it was truthfully applied; it did not help satan when it was misquoted and falsely applied against the Son of God.

We learn a very great deal about God from the armor He provides us to use.  When we take on the full armor, let us remember we are taking on God, literally, to our being, as our one and only aid.  We are called to suit up and show up – God is the One who will surround us in the spirit and fight!  Does that make it easy?  Certainly not.  But I think that is where our faith is strengthened.  That even when we are in the midst of a difficult situation, when we choose faith, God strengths our faith.

Take courage, my friend, your redemption is near!  May the God of Truth and Righteousness help us to encircle ourselves with WHO HE IS, His very nature.  Then believing Him utterly, accepting Him completely, so that we may stand against evil!  Father, enlarge our faith in Your faithfulness to us!  Help us to believe You will be our shield against the attacks of satan.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

YET, I Will Rejoice...

There have been a lot of things going on in the lives of people around me that are unexplainable. Take the earthquake in Haiti, and the devastation we see in the lives of the people there. As I watch these precious people on TV, I can't help but wonder if I would be singing praise to the Father on the streets mere hours after the earth shook. I also have a number of friends who are going through really difficult circumstances, not to mention the ever present "D" word in my own life (dissertation, that is). Well, I was reading in Habakkuk this morning and was confronted with my own spirit of unbelief in trusting God's best for my own life and the world around me.

Sometimes the prophets in the Old Testament strike me as a bit intimidating. They appear to be spiritual superheroes as they speak God's truth in the face of what I would consider to be nearly insufferable persecution and something surprising directives from God, "Hey Elijah, why don't you head down to the river bed - and I'll just send some ravens with your food each day!" (see 1 Kings 17). Many of us can relate immediately to Habakkuk, however. He began his book by complaining! Then, despite his numerous questions and doubts, he discovered amazing truths about his God.

Habakkuk's initial complaint seems quite valid (Habakkuk 1:1-4). He observed the moral decay all around him and wondered where God was. (sound familiar?) How could the Lord just sit back and allow these terrible injustices to go unchecked?

God's response was really interesting to me (verses 5-11). He wasn't preoccupied with other things. God was watching and keeping an account of all of these wrongs. And He was about to do something about sin and evil. The only problem for Habakkuk was that God's solution was the last thing he probably expected. Certainly God intended to judge the wicked - but He was planning to carry out that justice by sending the Babylonians to conquer the nation of Israel!

I was as confused as Habakkuk (verses 12-17). How can God punish evil with more evil? Doesn't that go against His nature? If God is holy and unable to tolerate impurity, how can he use it for his own purposes? Which relates this back to things like Haiti, my dissertation, my friends' present trials. How long, O Lord? And if You really do work for the good of those who love You (Romans 8:28), why all of this strife?

As Habakkuk complained again, "God, why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?" (1:13), God's response followed in the following chapter (2:2-20). In this passage, the Lord directed His people as to how he wanted them to live - despite the evil all around them: "The righteous will live by faith" (Habakkuk 2:4). This statement first implies that God's people accept God's methods and His timing, even when they don't understand. Habakkuk (and we) needed to come to terms with the fact that the despised nation of Babylon fit into God's plan - whether or not the Babylonians realized it. Everything - everything - is working toward an ending. I have to come to terms with understanding that spending 7 years in graduate school, and 3 years on one crummy dissertation, fit into God's plan. Beth Moore once said, "God means for me to cast my utter dependency only on Him. His plans do not depend on any human - nothing and no one critical to my God-planned future can fail to come through once God says it's time! No human has the power to overlook what God determines to oversee."

Living by faith means that God's people accept God's words. It means believing that even if every shred of evidence points in the opposite direction, God is in the right, and we can bank on God's word as our only reliable investment. There may be times when we doubt God's purpose because of our inability to see a situation from His perspective, but as we get to know Him better, we can declare along with the prophet Habakkuk, "Yet, I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior!" (Habbakuk 3:18).

I believe even Jesus struggled with these issues of trusting God's plan as he poured out His soul to His Father in Gethsemane just prior to his arrest. "My Father," he pleaded, "if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. YET not as I will, but as You will" (Matthew 26:36). Could good really result form such unspeakable evil? Could God's plan truly be to offer ultimate hope to humanity through the sacrifice of His own Son in one of the most bitter scenes in all of human history?

Notice that Jesus, like Habakkuk, used the word yet.
"Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, " asserted Habakkuk.
"Yet not as I will, but as you will," declared Christ.
Both are exemplary prayers of submission to the Father's perfect plan.

I pray that in the midst of unexplainable circumstances, we might all respond with Yet...knowing that in all things, God does work for the good of those who love Him.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

True Humility

Many of you know that I have been struggling through getting this PhD done. I feel like I am ramming myself into a brick wall every time I talk to my advisor, and have lost all confidence in my ability to be able to finish this because of him. But there are two things that God is refining in me right now...today I'm going to talk about humility - I'll leave the confidence issue for another day when I'm actually starting to LET GOD BE WHO I AM CONFIDENT IN!

So for the past while, God has been laying Philippians on my heart - and this morning I read a piece of it for the "first time"....I love that about God's Word - no matter how many times I read it, it's always new and alive and perfect!

Philipians 2:3-11
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to you own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

So this passage really spoke to me about what true humility is this morning. As for my dissertation, verses 3-5 hit me head on with God's command to me - Put others first! I get so caught up in how my advisor has wronged me, that I play the victim and completely miss what God may be using me for in his life. A wise friend once told me that she feels part of my stuggle with my advisor is because the spirit of evil is rising up within him as he sees the Spirit of God within me. Oh how I wish that I would initially see the spirit side of things before the natural!

What I love about this passage, though - is that Paul goes on to tell us what putting others before ourselves - true humility - is. In verses 6-11, he gives us a very concise and beautiful description of the meaning of Jesus' life - humility. He begins by asserting the Jesus is God himself (vs. 6 - in very nature God), God in every dimension of his being (Romans 9:5; Colossians 1:15-20). But Jesus was willing to forego his lofty position in heaven, choosing rather to humble himself to be born as a human baby so that he could die as the atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 2:2).

Paul describes this process in the verses following. First - Jesus MADE HIMSELF NOTHING (vs. 7). He did not stop being God, but he did lay aside his honor and privilege as God the Son (John 17:5). In so doing, he was submitting to the will of His Father (Matthew 26:39).

Second, Jesus was MADE IN HUMAN LIKENESS (vs. 7). The Creator became the created - the Word became human flesh and lived among us (John 1:14) - amazing! Jesus Christ was like us in every way except for one - He did not sin. He was bound as a man by certain limitations, and he faced temptation, but He never wavered from his purpose of honoring God (Hebrews 2:17-18; 4:15).

Third, Jesus lived a life of suffering and BECAME OBEDIENT TO DEATH, an agonizing and shameful death on a cross (vs. 8; Galatians 3:13; Hebrews 12:2). During his earthly life, He endured mockery and insult (Luke 18:32; 23:11, 36; 1 Peter 2:23; Psalm 22:6-7). Jesus knew what it was to be despised and rejected by men and was familiar with suffering (Isaiah 53:3).

After his humiliation, however, God the Father exalted him to his place of honor. The Son of God came back from the dead and returned to the Father - that one day all of creation will bow before Jesus and confess that He is Lord (vs. 9-11). The question is not, "Will you acknowledge Jesus as Lord?" - but rather, "When will you acknowledge Jesus as Lord?" We can do it now, accepting his payment for our sin and living in grateful obedience to his will. Or we can do it after it is too late - and pay the penalty for our own sin.

In verse 5, Paul reminds us that our attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. And what this passage has spoken to me today is, following the model of Jesus, we are called to be willing to give up our rights and position in this life and live in a way that will enable others to experience God's love. But that promise is ours as well! We and those who are drawn by our example will one day share in Jesus' glory in the world to come, where we will reign with him. Romans 8:17 tells us that if we are children, then we are heirs - heirs of God and co-heirs of Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.

Will you pray that my focus will shift from my situation to what God is doing through my situation? I want to live a life of true humility - one that brings honor to my Father. I have long said that this PhD is just a piece of paper, that it doesn't define me...but I think in this area of my life - I've lost sight of WHO does define me - and in the process extinguished the Light that should be emanating from me to my committee members.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

God of the Impossible

God's fingerprints are all over the book of Esther, but His name is not mentioned even once. And this led me to think about how many times I feel like God is silent or inactive...yet He's orchestrating something huge - as He did for His people in the time of Esther. Throught he courage of one woman, God supernaturally protected His people from annihilation and extinction. Esther reminds us that God is constantly at work behind-the-scences to deliver His own.

The story beings with Esther, a beautiful young Jewish girl, chosen by the Persian King Xerxes as his new queen (note that Xerxes was unaware at this point of her Jewish heritage). The wicked Haman, second-in-command of the Persian empire, plots to have all of the Jews killed as revenge for the refusal of Mordecai to bow down to him (Mordecai was Esther's cousin and former guardian, as well as a high-ranking government official). Haman convinces Xerxes that this mass extermination will be in the empire's best interest, and the execution is scheduled for a particular day according to a decree from the king himself. The date is chosen by casting lots, or purim. Even today, the Jewish people celebrate the Feast of Purim to commemorate God's deliverance from Haman. Mordecai asks Queen Esther to become involved, and she courageously reveals her heritage and exposes the plot to the king. Because of her love for her people, Esther risks her life by going against the king's law, saying, "If I perish, I perish" (Esther 4:19). The king has mercy on her and grants her request, and eventually Haman is hanged on the very gallows he has erected for Mordecai.

Esther's decision is similar to the one Jesus would make years later. Motivated by His love for us, our Savior became our representative in the courtroom of a holy God. It cost His life to save us from perishing (John 3:16). It seemed impossible for fallen humanity to gain a pardon from an offended God, but Jesus accomplished just that and then rose from the dead to prove it. Just as Haman was publicly humiliated and destroyed, so Jesus "disarmed the powers and authorities" of His enemy, Satan. "He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross" (Colossians 2:15).

That which appears to be a futile cause for human beings is never unattainable for God. In fact, I think God specializes in the "impossible" as a means for demonstrating who He is. Many people throughout history have scoffed at God's seemingly improbable plans and methods. When He had informed one Abram and Sarai that they were going to have a son - they laughed because of their old age - until the miracle birth took place (Genesis 18:13-14). And when Mary learned that she had been chosen to give birth to God's Son, she very logically inquired, "How will this be...since I am a virgin?" (Luke 1:34). God's angel messenger reminded her that "nothing is impossible with God" (Luke 1:37). And even in Persia, God was watching out for His people, quietly setting all the pieces in place for their deliverance.

Presently, I feel surrounded by some impossible situations...
...a dissertation I've worked for 3 years on - not being accepted by my committee...
...a house we are confident God has led us to - with unreasonable requests from the seller's realtor...
But in the midst of all of this, I know that God is sovereign over all things! I am glad I serve the God of the impossible - trusting that He will bring these dreams He has placed before me to fruition!
If I perish...let me perish...I am Yours...I am Yours...

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Serious Life...Serious Death

So a number of people have noticed this year that I’m not as outspoken about my Broncos…and I wanted to express that it has nothing to do with their mediocre season (I still love ‘em!)…rather, God has been working in my life over the last year about the place that sports hold in my heart and life…among other things. He has really revealed to me the way that I would get so wrapped up in and excited about the Broncos…from being convicted at how defeating trash-talking is within His Body, to ultimately Him developing a holy discontent about it in my spirit. I’ll see if I can explain it better.

I think it all revolves from a much deeper heart issue with us as believers that manifests itself in us as a dissatisfaction with the status quo in our churches. We often leave services wondering what was in that for me, we pick and choose which parts of the church we want to be involved in and which parts we will shop elsewhere for, and we begin to be lulled to sleep by the enemy of our souls because we deaden ourselves to the yearning in our hearts for a real, tangible encounter with God. And this is where God has really changed my heart about the Broncos (insert whatever team/activity/etc. here). God created us to have a passion for Him. Desperate hunger for more of Him is the currency of Heaven – it’s what causes us to empty ourselves of compromise and creates a holy dissatisfaction that drives us to our knees and makes us depend on Him. And I don’t think we can truly be hungry for God if we are being satisfied with other things. We become fascinated with the created, rather than the Creator.

When we get more excited or worked up over a football game (or insert whatever activity here!), than we do over the Word of God…that’s a serious problem!! Rather than allowing the Lord to cultivate serious life within our spirits, the devil is cultivating serious death within our minds – by lulling us to sleep. We constantly are nibbling on junk food from the world, and in the process have lost our appetite for the Holy of Holies! The really sad thing is, we often don’t even feel our hunger pains for Him. Satan has so lulled us to sleep, that we are starving for lack of His presence without even knowing it! The devil has on running on empty, and turning to everything the world offers to fill it…instead of turning to the only One who can truly fill and restore our souls. The issue is a lack of hunger – desperate, aching, unspeakable hunger for His presence! How hungry are we? We say we are hungry for God – that we want to know Him more and love Him more deeply – but are we? What are we hungry for? Perhaps a better question is what are we filling ourselves with? If we are already full from the lesser pleasures of this world, how can we have an appetite for God?

God has really taught me this last year or so that He cannot simply be added to my life like an appendage. He is not some lucky charm that I carry in my pocket and pull out when I need help. He is GOD!! He doesn’t (and can’t!) fit into our little boxes and our self-centered agendas. He wants to fills us to overflowing with who He is – and conform us to the image of His Son. I am confronted with the reality of Isaiah 64:7 – “There is no one who calls on Your name, who stirs himself up to take hold of You.” We stir ourselves up alright…over sports, over our education, over music, over our families and friends. Please hear me, I am NOT saying any of these things are bad!!! What I am saying, is that when they take the place, and we allow ourselves to be filled by them rather than God, there is a serious problem.

This lack of desperate longing for God has brought us to where we are as a Church today. The stale quality of our spiritual lives is (I believe!) a direct result of our lack of holy desire for Him. Jesus just waits to be seriously wanted and invited. Instead – we often invite Him only to the things we think He fits into. We are fascinated by the things of this world…Oh how I resolve and pray that God will instill in my heart a holy fascination for Him. Sure, it might look like I’m not normal or unconnected to Western ‘reality’ – but who cares! That’s what I was called to be, that’s what I was created to be! Revelation 3:20 says this – “Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with me” – and it is my desperate prayer that I will quiet the world around me to be able to hear his voice to open the door!

There has been a lot of hype and hoopla over the whole Colts/Pats game this past weekend. Last night I heard that a sportswriter here in Indy was comparing Bill Belichick with satan and I was heart broken. I’m not a big Bill Belichick fan – but all I could think about was God sees him as a LOST SOUL – one that we are called to love and pray for! (Ouch – I know…I have my own ‘Bill Belichick’s’ in my life. But we can’t lose sight of how God sees situations and people!) Anyway – my discontent over the hype of it all wasn’t that the Colts are the focus…I would have reacted the same way about the Broncos. I am just sensitive to the whole thing right now because my heart is tender over it with the Father. I don’t want to keep walking through my life, content and feasting on what the devil is laying on my table. I want to set aside those things and gaze upon my Father – knowing that His presence is what will sustain and restore me in the coming days. I don’t see the Broncos making those kinds of promises!

I guess I want to challenge each of us to season our days with Christ, and evaluate what makes us excited (or frustrated when it doesn’t go the way we would have hoped). Sport is just an easy example…because our society is so wrapped up in it, it’s easy for us to become wrapped up in it. Heck, my entire career is centered around it! But God is just wooing us, wanting to excite us that much and more!

Will we hear Him, and allow our bodies and souls to be filled with His Spirit? Or will we continue to allow the enemy of our souls to lull us to sleep and satisfy us with things of this world that will pass away?

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Hope ~ Psalm 16

1 Keep me safe, O God,
for in you I take refuge.

2 I said to the LORD, "You are my Lord;
apart from you I have no good thing."

3 As for the saints who are in the land,
they are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight.

4 The sorrows of those will increase
who run after other gods.
I will not pour out their libations of blood
or take up their names on my lips.

5 LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup;
you have made my lot secure.

6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.

7 I will praise the LORD, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.

8 I have set the LORD always before me.
Because he is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.

9 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,

10 because you will not abandon me to the grave,
nor will you let your Holy One see decay.

11 You have made known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

This is something I have been thinking on for a while, and it came together last night during Deep End. I think every time I have ever read Psalm 16, I always meditated on the sense of peace, hope, and immeasureable confidence and confort that verse 11 brought. These words afford us something to which we can cling to when the burdens of life seem unbearable. We can rest secure (verse 9) because we have the assurance that the God who loves us will never abandon us. That promise to us was sealed when Jesus came back to life after His crucifiction (interesting word picture/prophecy of this by the way in verse 10). Our greatest hope for the future is not simply that we as believers will live forever - but that we will live eternally with Jesus!

Sometimes I think the fulfillment of God's promises can appear to be so far in the future that we have a difficult time comprehending that those promises apply to us right now. While it is reassuring and sometimes comforting to know that things will work out "someday," we cannot help but ask the question - what about today?!? Psalm 16 is what has been called a Messianic psalm - there are about 36 of them throughout the book of Psalms - and they predict something about the coming Savior. Psalm 16 looks forward in time to God's promised Messiah, Jesus. In it we can glimpse something of the perspective of the promised One. And it comes as no shock, that when we view our situations (or mountains as Mark 11:23 calls them) through Jesus' eyes, we perceive a strong and sure hope for today.

First of all, we are invited to keep our eyes on God the Father (verses 1-2), the One who keeps us safe today and will continue to do so in the future. He is our place of refuge, a secure retreat to whom we can flee when we face attack or injury. Secondly, God wants us to know that we are a delight to Him. In Matthew 17:5, God identified Jesus as His Son, in whom He was "well pleased," and, now that we have been given the righteousness of Jesus (see 2 Corinthians 5:21), God takes the same delight in us!

Thirdly, we have the assurance that the circumstances of our lives are carefully assigned to us by our loving heavenly Father (verses 5-6). In Romans 8:28-29, we learn that God is working through all of the events in our lives to conform us to the likeness of His Son. I'm not saying here that God causes bad things to happen to us - hear me, satan is a big liar and a thief...He is lurking around every corner wanting to destroy us and our faith in God. Abba, the lover of our souls, will NEVER allow the enemy of our souls to do anything that God will not first provide a way out IN FAITH!!

Fourthly, there is a significant difference in outlook between God's people and those who disown Him. We can learn from others who know God and gain perspective on life's situations from them. When we keep our focus on loving the Lord, we will not be shaken by the changes and trials of life. This unique vantage point helps us to carry on in the present and look forward to the future.

As we live a God-centered life, we respond to truth in three ways:

We delight in our inheritance (verses 5-6)...
We thank God for being with us and guiding us each hour of each day (verses 7-8)
We celebrate constantly - because our hope in the One who raised our precious Savior Jesus Christ from the dead will last today, tomorrow, and forever (verses 9-11).

Imagine the sense of hopelessness unbelievers must feel when they face a crisis situation. I know I have a twinge of it whenever I am confronted with a new mountain in my life...but my faith in God has provided comfort in His promise that He never leaves me. I want to take this comfort to the world and remove the hopelessness that covers the faces of many I come in contact with every day. But is my life reflecting the glory of the Lord, the comfort of my King, the assurance of God's promise? Is yours?

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Prayer and Obedience

I've been thinking a lot about God's direction and leading in my life these last few days - and the Lord keeps bringing me to the Israelites. It was such a simple proposition for the Israelites to know what God wanted - He made His intentions crystal clear. When the cloud of His glory settled down to cover the Tent of Meeting, the people stopped, set up camp and stayed put until further notice. When the cloud lifted from the Tent of Meeting, the people pulled up stakes and followed wherever it led them. God made His intentions even more explicit at night, when the hovering cloud appeared like fire.

With a cloud by day - and a fire by night - I keep movin' on...

Although there was no advance warning, no date circled on a calendar, the people of God never had to wonder when to go. The cloud might remain in one place for a year, a month, two days or only a few hours (Numbers 9:21-22). God directed His people to stay or forge ahead whenever He chose - and they obeyed, every time.

You see - as straightforward as God's instructions were to the Israelites, understanding His desires today can be fully as simple. He never intended that discovering or doing His will should be a complicated exercise. He gave us His Word, the Bible, as our map and guidebook. God wants us to believe in Jesus (1 John 3:23), and trust that He will lead us exactly where He wants us.

With a cloud by day - and a fire by night - I keep movin' on...

There doesn't need to be any doubt or guessing game for us any more than there was for the sojourning Israelites. We take God at His word, trusting Jesus to remove the sin from our lives and repair the damage it has done. We take God at His word, and trust that He will lead us exactly where He wants us. We take God at His word...and trust.

Another of God's explicit commands is that we love each other. In the words of Jesus, "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that He lay down His life for His friends. You are my friends if you do what I command" (John 15:12-14). When we walk in God's love, we do so all of the time: "If anyone obeys His word, God's love is truly made complete in Him. This is how we know we are in Him: Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did" (1 John 2:5-6). Walking in God's love requires obeying His commands. And God reveals His commands to us in the secret place.

There's no more speculation about whether a cloud will remain stationary or be pushed along by a sudden gust of wind - what a great sense of freedom! We are called to listen - and hearing comes from intimacy with the Father - and intimacy with the Father comes from conversing with Him. Finding His will becomes so much easier when we are walking in communion with Him every step of our journey. We at times express so much concern about finding the will of God, but we often make this quest much more complicated than it needs to be. God's will is so clear cut that we often cloud the issue with all kinds of caveats and extenuating possibilities - instead of simply praying, listening for His sweet voice, and obeying.

With a cloud by day - and a fire by night - I keep movin' on...