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

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...