Monday, April 30, 2007
The story of Jephthah and his daughter is one of the most heart-wrenching stories in the Old Testament to me.
Jephthah doesn’t start off well in life, through no fault of his own… he is a bastard. Not only that, but his mother was a prostitute. Not a well-favored social position in his time. After he married and time had passed, his own sons, when they had grown, turned on him and basically ran him out of town and out of inheriting.
Later after he had left Gilead, a problem arose between the Gileadites and the Ammonites. Solution: Jephthah was a mighty man of valor and they needed help, so the elders of Gilead went out to obtain Jephthah’s assistance.
His answer was predictably, “No way! You kicked me out and now that things are bad, you’re all nice to me?!” Jephthah’s condition for helping subdue the Ammonites was to be given headship over Gilead… but only if he won. The elders of Gilead agreed.
In the heat of the moment, right before he went into battle with the Ammonites, Jephthah cried out to the Lord with an impulsive vow. I can imagine his thought process. He needed so desperately to win this battle in order to regain his position and earn lordship over those who had so despised him that he was willing to promise God anything in order to have his honor restored.
He promised he would sacrifice, as a burnt offering, whatever first came out of the doors of his house upon his peaceful return, having beaten the Ammonites.
God listened and the Ammonites were thoroughly beaten that day. Triumphant, Jephthah returned to his house, only to have his only daughter, his only child, come out to greet him with excitement.
A promise was a promise and his daughter agreed that he needed to perform his oath to the Lord, especially since the Lord has fulfilled His end of the agreement. What strength of character! She knew the fulfillment of her father’s oath would involve a horrible death for her, but her focus was on keeping a promise to God.
After two months of bewailing her virginity with her friends, she returned to her father and he sacrificed her to the Lord in fulfillment of the impulsive vow he had made.
Pride and impulsiveness do not go well together. It was only because of his shattered honor and reputation and the possibility of not only regaining this, but in being able to lord it over those who had turned him out, that Jephthah accepted his mission in the first place.
His moment of revenge meant so much to him and so clouded his judgment that he rashly promised God the life of whatever came out of his house to meet him. What a terrible thing! What was he thinking would come out the door first? A cat? A goat? His servant? The horror is unimaginable!
Jephthah’s impulsiveness is highlighted by the strength of character his daughter had. I have to wonder if Jephthah would have gone through with the sacrifice if his daughter had not been so strong of character and honor. Her first response to him was not of selfishness, but one of firm honor and commitment to God. Her father must do what he had promised, especially since the Lord had delivered Jephthah’s enemies into his hands. Her personal requests were second.
Not only did Jephthah’s daughter yield to her father’s oath, but after the two months of lamenting she had requested, she returned to her father. She didn’t run away, but with honor, dignity and strong character she came back to what awaited her.
As horrible as it was, Jephthah’s honor and character were strong too… he fulfilled the oath he had made to the Lord and sacrificed his daughter to Him.
The only example of human sacrifice to God in the entire Bible… a direct result of pride.
Our country is in the middle of a crisis.
I suppose that is no surprise - countries are necessarily in the midst of a crisis at every turn. The only way for that NOT to be true is if the country was founded on some non-violent and non-reactionary principle and, other than Solomon, each of the countries in modern history have reflected their very violent past. So we might, with some sort of apathetic personal calm, walk through the day with a pulsating 'awareness' of the judgment our nation is under, but no personal need to address it, no driving force to speak or act on it - certainly no drive to bring others into the fray, to generate a call to action.
Instead we are left, with growing abortion rates, growing suicide rates, an acknowledge lack of spiritual leadership in the high-office(s) of our nation, and no apparent resolution to any of it in sight. We live, daily with an awareness that things aren't right, nor balanced, and we are taught, and teach one another, that our tool for this is prayer. Because, if you're a believing Christian (or to put it another way, if you believe in the Father, Son, Holy Spirit, that only way is through the Christ who is Jesus, and that the only possible source of hope is Jesus) then you have SEEN prayer changes yourself, change lives, help you become a better man/woman, and have seen God change you personally, change the organizations you’re a part of, act on your behalf (through the wisdom of Christ) to intercede on millions of lives of others.
You have seen people saved who you didn't think could be saved but prayed for anyway (because you had faith for it).
You have seen lives changed when you didn't think there was a way (and there wasn't, but God can do anything).
You have been touched by a testimony or eighty, given by someone who was clearly on the wrong track, but God renewed them.
You have seen God give back the years the locusts have eaten.
You are a walking miracle observer, a source of hope in a world of hurt, you have the potential to be a beacon to millions of lives through daily prayer, and you touch everyone's lives that you meet daily, even if you aren't aware of it.
So why do I target you, dear believer, who I dare not call Christian because the word has been defiled to mean whatever the listener thinks it should mean? Because unlike the gross majority of people on the planet, YOU can make a change.
Not because of how you die or where you were born,
not because of what you harvest or reap,
not because of who you have healed or who has hurt you or who you've hurt,
not because of how well you dance,
not because of when you laugh, or the people you weep for,
not because of what you've built,
nor when you've embraced someone who needed it,
not because of when you've been a part of a group,
nor when you've loved or hated anyone,
and especially not because of any kind of war you've personally fought in.
You can make a change, by faith, through prayer.
You may be thinking "I do pray" or "What do you mean, I pray xx hours a day" or even "Yes, God has been speaking to me about that and I have already started to do better".
If you can read this, you can pray more.
You can pray to begin the day.
You can pray to end or 'cap off' the day.
You can pray before meals.
You can pray before driving.
You can pray before eating, before shopping, before exercising, before working, before dressing, and before grooming.
However, if that is all you're doing, it isn't enough.
You need to pray in private, yes - this is a gift we can freely give to God ... a kind of sacrifice of praise or possibly a sacrifice of time.
You can also pray as part of a group.
If you have family, set aside time to pray communally.
If you have friends, set aside time to pray communally, if non-local, pray simultaneously on the same topics.
If you have believing acquaintances, set aside opportunities to pray together and do so communally.
If you have a pastor, visit your pastor regularly and pray with him or her or them.
If you have church elders, meet with THEM and visit them regularly.
We are a country under judgment - and the only way to stem the tide, as well as ensure our foci are all edifying foci, are to bring our sights aligned with God's will.
My call to action is simple:
Engage in an intentional sacrifice of worshipful praise.
Sing songs of thankfulness.
Write your own hymns and psalms, declaring your love for God.
Above all, approach God in spirit and in truth.
Friday, April 27, 2007
Psalm 211 - not intended to be canon
O praise ye the Lord, for His grace and His favor
His judgments are models of justice
His tears are models of forgiveness
His words are models of love
His presence is a model of wisdom
His hands are models of hope
Thank you for never giving up on me, Lord
I praise you from the beginnings of the earth to the ends of time, Lord!
I praise you with my soul's heart, and through Your spirit, Lord!
Yours is the kingdom manifest, the path of salvation!
You are the Alpha, the Beginning, the Christ, the Deliverer, the Excellence of love, spirit and truth, the Forgiving redemption
You are the Glorious grace, the Heaven sent heaven bearer, the Irrigator of our souls, the Just and wise help to the meek
You are the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Master of all creation, the Never-ending never wavering cause for hope
You are the Old man killer, the Purpose for all creation, the Quiet and the storm, the Redeemer
You are the Soul's rest and the weary's surcease, the Timeless presence beyond all reason
You are the Unicorn's creator, the Victorious Lord, the Willing sacrificial lamb and the Way Truth and Life
You are the Xerxes guider (through whom you revealed Mordecai and Esther)
You are the Y'shua, the Young and old, Yesterday today and tomorrow the same, Yet still you love us
You are the Zealot creator and inspirer.
You are my all in all, Lord.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
We have Jesus with His trusted twelve, including the betrayer. How often have you broken bread with someone who you know will break your trust, forgiving him even before he breaks you trust, knowing that he will?
We have Jesus indicating the meal was symbolically associated with the passover - in fact He's been so focused on it that 'with desire He has desired' to eat the passover with His disciples. How often have you been so focused on something that your very desire is not just for the event in question, but your desire is focused on the desire for the event itself? Or to phrase it another way, how often have you given a goal so much thought that you've put into planning the planning for the planning itself?
We have Jesus NOT drinking from the cup that he passes around. He fasts from drinking it "until it [the suffering/death of Jesus] be fulfilled in the kingdom of God". He passes the cup around, tells the twelve to divide it amongst themselves, and then reiterates that he won't drink the wine "until the kingdom of God shall come".
We have Jesus giving thanks for the bread, breaking it, and also passing it around the table, followed by instructions to do the same in remembrance of Him.
We have Jesus associating the cup (of wine, presumably) after supper with the New Testament. This is the cup mentioned in the twenty sixth chapter of Matthew, which Jesus also said to drink in remembrance of Him.
It is humbling to realize that some parts of that wine and that bread must needs be around in the world right now. At the very least, his twelve disciples were alive after Jesus died, returned, and left, so they "passed" the wine and bread and some of those molecules that touched the body of Jesus must necessarily be SOMEWHERE.
Another humbling note is that God prays. It is one thing to consider that Jesus prayed regularly and earnestly - it is quite another to realize that He was real and prayed to His father, just like we all do. How amazing is it that our king prayed for us? How amazing is it that He has no pride, no arrogance, all wisdom, and can be an edifying influence on us, even while residing in Heaven and our hearts? God is real and has waited all of our lives to answer his prayers with prayers of our own.
Yes, our king is humble - one of the more amazing of the miracles that comprised Jesus' life.
Call to action:
Ask for God to quicken awareness all the ways your life has been directly influenced by the attributes of God, as well as revealing that what you can do to emulate those qualities.
Use humility as means to doing daily work toward hearing God daily.
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Do I believe that women should not be educated? Absolutely not! Women are the ones who will be raising the next generation of humans… it would behoove their progeny to be well-educated.
Am I saying women should never work? Absolutely not! I believe very firmly in industrious women, but I also believe that they should focus on working from the home, in families, or near the home as opposed to being a career woman working away from home with other women’s husbands all day, five days a week.
A frequently raised topic is that of women in authority over men; a situation which occurs often in the workforce. Some contend it is not a biblical way to do things while others argue there is nothing wrong with it. One of the most quoted sections of the Bible in support of woman leadership is that of Deborah… and it is here I have to smile.
In reading the story of Deborah carefully, some interesting things come to light which do not at all argue for the position of women in authority, but work against it. Deborah was a judge, that is true, a position held (as far as we know) by men up to that point. Some like to pull out that Deborah was not only a judge, but led Barak and his army to victory against Sisera. Or did she?
By reading, we discover that Deborah told Barak that he was to go up against Sisera and God would deliver not only Sisera, but his entire army into his hand; Barak’s victory would be complete. Notice there is no mention of her going with him.
I’m not sure what Barak’s issue was, but he said the only way he would go is if Deborah went with him. Why, I’m not sure. Maybe he thought God’s presence would be assured if His judge was with him in battle… don’t know. Deborah agreed to go, but notice what she said to Barak.
The battle against Sisera would still be won, but Barak would now receive none of the glory for this. God would go before him and all the armies would be routed and destroyed, but Barak’s mission would have been for naught as he would get no credit for his military prowess. Not only that, but the life of Sisera would not be taken by him, but by a woman.
The story of Deborah is not one of females taking authority and surging to the forefront of battles and major events. Her story is one of Barak’s shame and to his discredit. Because Barak could not be a man and do what God had told him to do, God sent the consequences of no credit to him and Sisera’s life taken by a woman… not at all a triumph for the feminist camp.
So next time someone pulls out the example of Deborah leading the men, remind them of the full story and how God used some strong women to fill in gaps where men failed to be manly… an act that was considered shameful and lacking in valor.
Something else I noticed from today’s reading has nothing to do with feminism and the Bible, but rather with something Jesus told his disciples as they headed to the Mount of Olives, just hours before he was to be crucified. He asked his disciples to buy swords… and apparently they had at least two in the Garden of Gethsemane.
I have always been puzzled by the fact that Peter “just happened” to have a sword on him, especially since Jesus’ ministry wasn’t directed at taking over things by violence. But here in Luke, I found the answer – Jesus told them to buy swords just before going to Gathsemane… don’t know why, but now I know how Peter got the sword he cut off the High Priest’s servant’s ear. J
Let me, instead, point your eyes to the other offspring, our not-front-stage-other-main character. Here is a child who was faithful to father, who stayed at home, who worked the land and did the chores bidden of them, and was sitting in the home to which the prodigal son returned. And this is the same child that felt unappreciated when the father broke into song and dance at the arrival of his younger child. I believe this relationship between siblings is comparable to the relationship men have with women, in particular the difference in responsibilities and authorities between first-born sons and first-born daughters.
I believe that men are called, and should be trained, to be an edifying version of the prodigal son - to be as ready to be in the world (but not of the world) as possible, then strike out. They should be trained to lead in a productive manner, one of the most difficult lessons known to anyone, and to do so with grace. Through that training they gain a practical awareness of just how unbalanced and wicked the world is, and through those trials discover the character traits their father trained them up in, and when they return 'home', it is the home they built for the purpose of marriage. Thus, a newly married man can come home in a way far more profoundly than a single man can. So we have men as iterations of the prodigal son.
I believe that women are called, and should be trained, to be an edifying version of the older sibling - to be as ready to serve in the home as possible, then married out. They should be trained to wait in a productive manner, one of the most difficult lessons known to anyone, and to do so with grace. Through that training they gain a practical awareness of how unbalanced and wicked the world is from the protective confines of the home, and through the efforts at home discover the character traits their mother trained them up in, and when their prodigal son returns home, it is the home built for the purpose of marriage. Thus, a newly married woman can be home in a way far more profoundly than a single woman. So we have women as iterations of the faithful sibling.
There are dangers for each gender, though - the predominant danger of each is to identify too well with the other gender's roles.
I believe men can be led astray by being trained (through false modeling or poor personal habits) into believing that the path they should travel is that of the woman's - where staying at home is the most effective use of their talents. You see many examples of this in popular culture, whether it’s the stay-at-home thirty year olds (who have become a kind of American parable) or the professional gamer who "works" out of parent's basement. The result is a land that cries out for a leader and gets instead someone who visits the skirt and soups of his mother, has been trained to follow when he should be leading, and often will be responsive to events instead instigators. In this way spiritual death can enter the body of Jesus.
I believe women can be led astray by being trained (through false modeling or poor personal habits) into believing that the path they should travel is that of the man's - where leaving home is the most effective use of their talents. You see examples of this too in popular culture, whether its women who leave home to get away from abusive parents or women who leave home because they don't feel loved (sometimes motivated by latching onto some random boy the girl fell in love with). The result is a land that cries out for a healer and steadfast proponent of faithful support and instead gets a rebel who yearns to run free. In this way spiritual death can enter the body of Jesus.
Today's call to action:
Recognize what role you should be playing
One of the most effective ways to inhibit the body of Jesus Christ is if members of that body don't seek God's guidance as to what they should be doing in their various stations. The result is often members that don't work together as effectively as they might, who are easily irritable, who don't have the peace that passes understanding, and into whose relationship strife can easily work itself.
Your challenge is simple:
Pray to God to reveal your daily bread
If we remember from Revelation that John was given a scroll to eat, the result of which was him absorbing some biblical principles and events literally, and we come to that table knowing that bread is assumed to be a food-stuff, we can extend that to understand that today's 'daily bread' can be something other than food - it can be those aspects of scripture we are called to understand and absorb, it can be that aspect of our walk we are finally called to understand, and it can be that aspect of our day that we are finally called to act upon.
So pray to have revealed what God has for you today and remember don't hesitate - go boldly before that throne of grace!
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
In the past, I’ve often read this verse without thinking too much about it. Not until the past year or so have I started thinking about what it actually means to be a wise woman and to build my house.
Obviously, in order for a woman to have a house, she must have a husband… or does she? I’ve always assumed that for a woman to begin her Proverbs 31 act, she must have a husband and a home. I don’t think that now.
Habits are not formed overnight. Equally so, women of wisdom are not formed overnight. To be one of the Proverbs’ wise women, it has to start in the single years when there is no one. The cultivation of diligence, kindness, wisdom, strength, prosperity, etc. must begin from the very beginning and must be carefully tended throughout the growing-up process.
Building a house, I discovered, does not refer to the actual obtaining of husband and home. Building a house is the careful collection and connection of pertinent building blocks of life. Learning to cook and clean, studying how to raise children and how to discipline properly, making sure relationship with God is strong and secure, investigating whether or not God has been used to fill the holes in life because a husband and home never will, and so on.
I was blessed to realized that building my house is something I can do right now while I’m waiting. Every action I take from when I get up in the morning to when I lay down at night is training me for life as a wife and mother; training me to be a woman of wisdom as I build my house. My prayer is that I would take this revelation to heart and build my house, not tear it down.
In the forsake step, the children of Israel seek after other gods. Sometimes they are serving Baal and Astaroth, sometimes they are serving Baalim and the groves, but the scripture is clear - the children of Israel have left off serving God. God is not pleased with their decision to do so and punishes the children of Israel, mostly by taking away His protection ..., which always results in some form of oppression.
In the retake step, the children of Israel repent, realizing they still need Him, and seek after God. It does not include motive and such, but because it tends to follow some form of oppression, I would argue those seasons of seeking after God necessarily draw from that oppression. In addition, some time after their season of repentance, the children of Israel fall away again.
Anyone familiar with scripture should recognize this waxing and waning of the fellowship of the children of Israel with God.
Anyone familiar with people anywhere should recognize this waxing and waning of the fellowship of people anywhere with God.
It may even be why everyone loves an underdog - it reinforces our faith that when we are down, God will rise and provide aid, provided we seek after Him with a heart drawn to Him.
The point I should like to draw out here is simply this: our lives are full of daily opportunities to experience this same wave of fellowship with God. How often is it that that fellowship is waxing due to a wise decision on our part, followed by a season of waning due to a foolish decision?
I believe the goal of a believer, one who would fellowship with Christ, is to seek to cause the waxing season to be maximized and the waning season to be minimized. To recognize that both periods are inevitable for us, but they can be addressed and wisely considered.
Therefore, my call to action is: Minimize waning fellowship!
Document when you feel least close to God
There are few of us who do not feel inconsistent connectivity to God. This does not mean we ARE far from Him (for he does not leave us nor forsake us) but we can often FEEL that way. Record those periods when you feel less close to God and see if you can associate them with other events, thoughts, or situations. It is possible that those are periods where God calls you to seek His face or they might be periods of attack where your only resolution might be to claim 2 Timothy 1:7 and hold fast to God's presence.
Read scripture daily
Scripture says, "faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17) - and it is through scripture that we are girded from all sorts of mischief. Thus, one way we can reduce (or eliminate in large part) the destruction wrought by the arrows of sin and vice are simply to go to scripture. Pray before reading, seeking God's peace, and the delving into scripture will reap rewards and you will draw closer to Him. Likewise, your walk with Jesus will be greatly magnified and you will find the period of waning to be a great deal shorter.
Seek after God's heart
Take a moment today and ask God what you should be focusing on. Do not expect Him to answer in the next five minutes or hour, but consider that He wants to guide you and He will never forsake you, so it will be easier than you expect. But following the asking comes the hard part - the waiting. Often our faith is most tested between the requesting and the manifesting. If you find that praying for something rarely (if ever) provides the results that expect, seek God's counsel! This can take the form of other believers, delving into scripture, praying and fasting, or just simply daily prayer. In short, if an event could offer an opportunity to take away your faith, God will always provide a way to draw closer to Him through it.
Monday, April 23, 2007
Such an endeavor can be raising children - and I realize that a large part of raising children is to optimize the likelihood they will seek after the Lord's heart. Indeed, if we look to a person's heart as reflecting the teachings of that person's parents, their grandparents, and so on, we get a picture of the kind of framework God has always worked in, and where our part comes in.
This is appropriate to consider because it is one of the greatest trials any of us will ever face -
- Can you maintain for decades?
- Can you maintain long enough to teach others what you believe?
- Can you maintain long enough to be a resource of wisdom?
- Can you maintain in a position long enough to be of use to God?
Our model for the best a people can expect, to my mind, has always been the children of Israel. I have always seen them as having the best of the best and the worst of the worst. Certainly not perfect, but they run the gamut of attributes.
In the first chapter of Judges you see the children of Israel have just started to really take on the promised land. They've already had their various lands allotted to them and they are flushing out locals - but not enough. And we can see the same thing in our own lives.
God called the children of Israel to get rid of all the locals - predominantly to stop them from worshipping false Gods; but, in city after city, they leave a little here, a little there, the result being that God finally sends an angel to confront them about it. They repent, certainly, but the damage is done - and within a generation, following the death of Joshua, the children of Israel had already forgotten God.
Will YOU forget God?
My call to action - sustain:
- Find a promise
Spend ten minutes today in quiet solitude, asking God about a promise you've made. It doesn't matter how big or small, but ask Him to reveal a promise you've intended to keep but have forgotten about, one that you haven't forgotten but haven't gotten around to acting, or maybe one that you actually promised to keep but have set aside due to concerns of the day.
- Plan a promise
You see how easy it is to forget promises to yourself, promises to others, and promises to God - the resolution is to PLAN on keeping the promise. Set aside some time today and plan out HOW to keep the promise.
If you've promised to pray more, set aside time during the day to do so, while also making provision to not be distracted.
If you've promised to eat better, find a way to remind yourself at every meal, as well as before each meal, so that during the meal itself you're not two spoonfuls away from completion and then realize you had forgotten completely.
If you've promised to sleep better, plan it out that way, better organizing your responsibilities and resources so that it is POSSIBLE to sleep better.
- Keep a promise
Record your exploits and share it with someone you trust and to whom you can be accountable. If you promised to exercise every day, keep a record of how much you jog, bike, hike, or how many push-ups you do, and share in your joys and defeats with that person. Also remember that YOU picked the person, so if they offer advice, and after prayer it seems wise, do your best to accommodate that advice.
Friday, April 20, 2007
The first were the chief priests and scribes, asking him from where he got His authority. This was a big thing, because Jesus taught and spake as one with authority, something they didn't have, and so His presence in the temple, as well as his speaking, were evidence of their hypocrisy. Few people enjoy having their faces rubbed in their own hypocrisy - how much more the spiritual leaders of a people? These were people who had studied scripture, knew the words and thoughts of God that had been recorded, and were abusing that privileged knowledge for their own material gain, social influence, and worldly authority. And so Jesus, in addition to being all these things to these tainted leaders, was also a reminder that they were likely also lying to themselves, something that few people enjoy having their attention drawn toward. But Jesus' task was certainly not to appease people but to draw them closer to God. The people at this time were worshiping the laws of God and not the spirit.
The second happened soon after, when the same people who had approached Him before essayed him by way of spy, sending forth someone who appeared as a layman, for the purpose of again distorting His message and intending to catch Jesus by the words of His mouth. Again, I am quite certain Jesus was tempted to abuse the position of authority He had been given - instead he offered the same thing he did to priests and scribes before - a metaphor. This second metaphor was telling because it, even more than the first, led His listeners to His point - He wasn't there to pick on the priests and scribes any more than He was there to take their power away. Yes, both of these things were likely to come to pass, but His motive was simply to clean up the path that the children of Israel had muddied so badly, and to give hope to a people who had been faithfully believing would come.
The reality is that Jesus' approach could so often be justice - wherein
- Those of us who are abusing the stations we have been given
- Those of us who state we love the Lord but don't live it 100%
- Those of us who don't trust Him in the slightest and actually hate Him
SHOULD BE STONED or CRUCIFIED
For that is what justice demands and requires.
Jesus, instead, often doles out mercy like it were candy, aware that some will truly appreciate the temporary nature of its gifting and fundamentally seek after His heart anew when we realize how precious that candy truly is. He said as much when he mentioned seeds falling on fallow soil, rocks, or briars.
Jesus granted mercy to the priests and scribes when He did not bring forth justice when they questioned His authority. He granted mercy to the spies too when he only made mention of the coin, instead of again using the opportunity He held to judge both the spies and the priests.
And Jesus, daily, offers us mercy, not for us to take for granted, but to give us one more opportunity, one more inch of rope, one more life-line, one more second-chance, one more swing at the ball, and I used to think these second chances were there to give us one more day to clean it all up, to newly hearken.
I was wrong.
These are things that need to done - this is true.
The second chances are there for us to realize that, no matter how many times we get up, we can fall every single time. To stop trusting ourselves, our own sufficiency, and to give up trying again to do it all right, and
GIVE THE DRIVER'S SEAT TO GODSo my call to action today is:
- Take a decision you need to make today and give it to God. It doesn't matter how important it is to you, as this is a beginning decision; the only requirement is that the result must matter to you.
- Take this decision and give it to God to decide, and pray about it. Every free moment, every time you’re in the bathroom, or walking around, or doing something that doesn't need your full attention, thank Him for guiding you, and wait upon the Lord to provide the answer.
- After you've given the decision to Him, any time an indecisive thought about it comes up, give it to God too.
The point here is simple - most of us don't seek God's counsel sufficiently ... and most of us have aspects to our lives that are on the perpetual brink of collapse. Let God's wisdom eliminate those brinks and bring us more in line with His will for our lives!
By the way - The real challenge isn't to do this just today, but every day - trusting Him will lead to increased faith, which will bear more fruit.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Let my prayer come before thee: incline thine ear unto my cry;
For my soul is full of troubles...
…I am as a man that hath no strength:
Free among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, whom thou rememberest no more: and they are cut off from thy hand.
Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps.
Thy wrath lieth hard upon me, and thou hast afflicted me with all thy waves. Selah.
Thou hast put away mine acquaintance far from me… I am shut up, and I cannot come forth.
Mine eye mourneth by reason of affliction: Lord, I have called daily upon thee, I have stretched out my hands unto thee.
Wilt thou shew wonders to the dead? Shall the dead arise and praise thee? Selah.
Shall thy lovingkindness be declared in the grave? or thy faithfulness in destruction?
Shall thy wonders be known in the dark? and thy righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?
But unto thee have I cried, O Lord; and in the morning shall my prayer prevent thee.
Lord, why castest thou off my soul? why hidest thou thy face from me?
I am afflicted… while I suffer thy terrors I am distracted.
Thy fierce wrath goeth over me; thy terrors have cut me off.
They came round about me daily like water; they compassed me about together.
Lover and friend hast thou put far from me, and mine acquaintance into darkness.
Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.
Reaching out to me from the intense beauty of the Psalms, I found someone had already experienced and eloquently expressed my state of being.
The day I actually read this reading, this Psalm and verse from Proverbs didn’t strike me as hard as they did today… when I went back to write up what I had taken away from that day’s reading.
Today, this reading meant so much more.
I was up very early this morning; up and driving some people to the airport. The drive back from the airport was lonely and very quiet… not much traffic and a gentle rain. What better use for this time than to pray. As I started praying, I was struck by the weariness with which the words left my mouth as I prayed them. Part of me was concerned I didn’t really mean what I was saying, yet I knew the fervency of my heart was true – just didn’t sound that way.
Time passed and with its passing, my prayers became more intense… not in volume of tone or in energy of speech, but in the sheer fervency with which my heart communed with God. Tears flowed down my face as I beseeched Him for solutions, for mercy, for intervention.
Later, as I opened my Bible to catch up on my journaling, I realized that God had taken me to a very special spot… April 19. I realized that not only was this the anniversary of my Grandma’s death, but it also contained a perfect prayer for me within Psalm 88. Combine that with the verse the Lord has given me day by day for about two years now (Proverbs 13:12), and I realized the Lord had heard my cries and my prayers.
It’s not easy waiting and it’s not always easy to have faith and hope… but I know it will be worth it in the end. If I can have a little strength, can keep the faith, and not deny His name, I know I will be able to walk through that door which He has opened; that door no one can shut.
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes… oh… what a tree of life!!
In the 20th Chapter of Joshua, immediately after they split up the promised land, God has the children of Israel setting aside cities of refuge. God does not pick the cities, the children of Israel do, and in verse 7, they pick Kadesh, Shechem, and Kirjath-arba to be those cities of refuge. I claim that those cities were already prepared for their purpose (for God knew He would speak through Joshua to tell the children of Israel that He wanted them to set aside cities of refuge and He knew what cities they would pick as well as where those cities would be located and the environs of those cities).
I believe there were people involved in the selection of those lands and those cities that were not aware they were involved. Maybe they were unbelievers that were not killed but knew the lay of the land better and so God used them to help the children of Israel understand the lay of the land. Maybe some of the children of Israel were adopted from other cultures - they were loving adopted and an active part of the people of the children of Israel, but were also unaware of all the promises of God (for there are many) and so might have engaged in activities not specifically mentioned in scripture, but that led to the selection of those areas for the city of refuge.
In Luke 19, we have Jesus sending two of his disciples to a village near the mount of Olives where a man will have a colt tied. They are to take the colt, tell anyone who asks that it is for the Lord, and bring it back to Jesus. I claim that the man who owned the horse was prepared for it in some way, possibly through dreams, or it was an extra colt he was planning on giving for a sacrifice because it was particularly anointed, or something even more amazing. But the Lord prepared the way for even something as simple as the untying of a colt.
I believe there were men that God sent to the man with the colt that did not know they were doing the Lord's work. Maybe the man had been visited by four or five people and told him that his first-born colt was anointed of God and clearly something that should be given as a sacrifice. Maybe he was meeting his brother (who he had not seen in years) and was planning on giving the colt as a gift, but did not have peace and so did not quite know why he brought the colt - in such a situation, I would see the brother as working on God's behalf but NOT knowing anything about doing the will of God.
Over and over again, we see in Psalms and Proverbs that wisdom and folly are associated with certain choices and we see evidence of a system where wisdom appears when one is engaged in Godly activities and foolishness is evident when one is not. And most of the activities in which wisdom appears correspond to events that take some degree of preparation. Take for example when scripture says that there is wisdom in the multitude of counsel. That does not happen overnight. Sometimes that cannot happen for weeks or months. And that is one part of one verse in a set of scriptures loaded with such wisdom. So wisdom takes some planning and is not immediate and we are being prepared for it in the same way that God prepared the children of Israel to set aside those cities of refuge and God prepared the man's heart to part with his colt.
I believe that there are many who are not chosen by God to be aware of how our own actions will reflect an increase or decrease in wisdom, but are attenuated to the system of cause and effect God has placed upon our lives, such that they give us Godly wisdom or show us the results of foolish living.
And so I realize that we each are being prepared for many things, most of which we will never know about, often for events we will never be aware exist.
The call to action of the day is: Be a walking praise report and seek guidance!
-* Be a walking praise report *-
- Thank God for the things He brings to mind that He has made possible in your life, both all the steps leading up to them, as well as the realization of the reality of the event!
- Thank God for being a part of someone else's opportunity for testimony, knowing that your actions and thoughts are being used to guide someone else to Christ!
- In prayer, with fear and trembling, seek the Lord's guidance about how you can more closely walk His path for your life.
- Take literally the verse that commands, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God" and pray for insight as to how that can and should be manifest in your life.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
In one brief sentence, Jesus summed up his entire reason for being on earth; his mission was to look for, to find, and to save the lost. No wonder he spent so much time with sinners and unwanted persons. Throughout his ministry, Jesus was called to task time and time again by the Pharisees, the Saducees, and the Biblically-literate elite. And for what cause? Because he repeatedly violated the letter of the law in eating with sinners and tax collectors and prostitutes, in healing the sick and diseased and demon-possessed on the Sabbath, in not washing his hands before eating to make a point.
All these “violations” were, in fact, Jesus’ way to make his point… he had come to seek and to save that which was lost and the only way to do that was to put aside the legalism of the day and show them what true love and forgiveness was.
A friend pointed something disturbing (and something I’ve NEVER seen before) in a parable Jesus told about pounds.
Essentially, a nobleman decided to go away to claim a kingdom. Before he left, he charged ten of his servants to occupy until he returned, giving each ten pounds. Apparently, the citizens of his new kingdom didn’t care too much for this nobleman and sent a message letting him know they would not have him reign over them.
After the nobleman returned, having secured his kingdom, he called his servants to see how much they had gained by trading. The first one had gained ten pounds on the one and the nobleman put him in charge of ten cities with deepest thanks because he had been faithful in a little. The second servant had gained five pounds and the nobleman put him in charge of five cities. When the third servant approached, he returned the original pound wrapped up in a napkin and accompanied by protestations of fear of the nobleman.
The nobleman takes the pound away from that servant and gave it to the one who had ten, not heeding the protestations of others who pointed out that the guy already had ten pounds.
The tragic part of this parable – the part I’d never seen before – relates to the remaining servants. What happened to them? There were seven more, yet they are not even given a passing nod or mention. I’m not sure what happened to them, but it is tragic that they are never mentioned again, having fallen out during the wait.
God does not condemn increase of wealth. As a matter of fact, He encourages it throughout the Bible. It should be noted that the increase of wealth God encourages must have the correct reason for being gathered and that the heart of the gatherer must be to-Godward.
In Proverbs 13, the point is made that wealth accumulated by vanity or non-meaningful ways will be diminished, but it is the gathering made by one who labors that will increase.
God blesses labor and honest work of man’s hands and brings to nought and confounds the vain increase of those whose hearts are not right toward Him.
I have always understood it to mean that we must be a faithful steward of the resources under our control. I was tying it into the parable of the talents, as well as the parable of the 10 virgins - each of which have spoken to me about being mindful of our responsibilities and being prepared to ready instead of just being ready.
I took another at the parable of the pounds - there were TEN servants, each given a pound, and only three showed up when the nobleman came back. I always discounted this as Jesus being efficient, as the ten-five-one were effectively three "edifying" ways of responding to their shared commission. This never satisfied me, and I never saw why until today - what about the other seven? What did the other seven do and what did the nobleman say to them?
I believe this is actually revealed in Luke 19 as well and they are alluded to in versus 14 and 27 - his citizens hated him (14) and he calls that his enemies (which he defines as those which would not that he should reign over them be brought hither to be slain). There are, then, FOUR categories.
- The faithful, who when given a single pound are able to do much with it, and are given much in return.
- The seekers, who when given a single pound bear fruit - they are not as focused on the will of God but are still doing mighty things.
- The believers, who when given a single pound bear no fruit, focus only on the manifestation, and not the will of God.
- The others, who when given a single pound bear no fruit, lose or waste the fruit they have, and are called to be slain.
- 70% not accepting the gospel of Christ at all, and are actually hateful toward Jesus
- 10% accepting the gospel of Christ and, through distraction, bear no fruit
- 10% accept the gospel, do some good works, and are blessed for it
- 10% accept the gospel, daily die to self, and claim the greatest blessing
- Ask yourself which you number yourself among. Pray and be as objective as possible.
- Ask yourself which number you wish to be among. Also pray and be objective.
Clearly, as a believer, we are called to be among the top 10% of believers, but we have a wide proportion available - and God's grace is great.
- Pray for a change of heart to line up more literally, fully, explicitly, and abundantly with God's will for your life so that can be a perpetual witness of God's love AND so that you can be among the number to claim those ten pounds!
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Each one of us is guilty in one form or another of this same sin. Every time we deal with a situation in our own strength, every time we compare ourselves with others, every time we think we can handle the curveballs life throws us, every time we delight in what we have done by ourselves…
We are all guilty of pride.
It is interesting to note in Proverbs that “only by pride cometh contention.” The logical reverse would be that without pride, there would be no contention! Now think about that… every argument or disagreement arises from one standard, and thus one root issue. That standard is the belief that what I, for instance, believe is the correct belief and that yours is therefore wrong.
From this pride (root issue) that we hold in believing our case to be the correct one (whether this is true or not), we slide easily into arguing/discussing who is right. Now it may be that one is actually right and the other is actually wrong, but the contention arose because each felt he was right.
It is that pride that leads to contention.
Now I’m not saying that it’s wrong to discuss and debate issues because I do believe in a definite right and wrong actually exists. I just find it interesting that if pride did not exist, neither would contentions.
How many songs focus on a single person, or concept, and paint the world through the lens of that person or concept? Most of them do, and I claim that they are all love songs ... and I'll go one step further: they are worship songs.
Worship songs are a beautiful testimony to God, right?
They're supposed to be about ONE thing (in this case God) and they paint the world through that lens, right?
A second way to approach this is the realization that events can affect you, even if you’re not aware of that happening. An obvious example is advertising – most of us experience thousands of forms of advertising a day, and that immersion has an effect upon each of us. From name recognition to brand identification, each of us had been brainwashed into associating certain products with certain emotional responses. Politicians do the same thing with topics. The result of both is impulsive action. This is devastating to ones wallet, ones government, and ones walk with God. Because if we can be so influenced by people we can SEE, how much easier is it for Satan to influence with a thing we can’t see and a thing for which he has been designed to do perfectly – incite worship through music.
Another way to approach this is simply: anything can be worship, if done with the right focus, the right spirit. It is how we can execute our biblical commandment to pray without ceasing. We, as material and finite beings, need a means by which we CAN pray without ceasing. God does not give commands that are impossible to follow – He will never give us more than either we can handle. And if he calls us to do something, He will always provide the resources (though sometimes you’ll have to go to Him in prayer to receive those resources).
My challenge to you:
Take the next song you hear, that you recognize (at least as far as knowing the beat, or possibly the artist) and write down the title and artist. Ask for help in this if necessary. Take this song and do some research – look at who wrote it, what time in their life they wrote it, and the exact wording of the song: what are they conveying?
Then pray about the words and meaning of the song.
Repeat this five times.
One of two things will likely happen – you will be blessed or convicted.
Regardless, be aware that this type of influence is perpetually there and we are called to be prayer warriors – so you can look at this as if Satan is perpetually trying to get at your heart, the seat of your worship, through whatever song and dance routine he can come up with to distract you. And that God is offering a means of protecting ourselves - through prayer.
Monday, April 16, 2007
Turn us, O God of our salvation, and cause thine anger toward us to cease.
Wilt thou be angry with us for ever? wilt thou draw out thine anger to all generations?
Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?
Shew us thy mercy, O Lord, and grant us thy salvation.
I will hear what God the Lord will speak: for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints: but let them not turn again to folly.
Surely his salvation is nigh them that fear him; that glory may dwell in our land.
Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
Truth shall spring out of the earth; and righteousness shall look down from heaven.
Yea, the Lord shall give that which is good; and our land shall yield her increase.
Righteousness shall go before him; and shall set us in the way of his steps.
I believe the most ironic thing about the remainder of the commandments is simply that, were we to take the anti-idolatry commandment to heart, and put it into literal practice, most of the other commandments wouldn't need to be included.
On a related note, I have found a simple definition of worship that I think will tie in nicely to both idolatry as well as faithfulness. In short, worship is to have a focus, and to attend to that focus. We can say that one's idol (or God) is the focus and attention to that focus is faithfulness.
Applications of idolatry, then, can include the fanaticism of popular music and sports, hearkening to other literal gods and goddesses, and many kinds of abstractions, to include overly focusing on one's family. Clearly, the more abstract an idolatrous relationship is, the harder it is to detect, and yet the idolatry itself is merely an indicator - which you've chosen, on some level, to fall away from God.
So my challenge to you is simple and has two parts:
(I) Answer this question:
What would your perfect day be?
Put some serious thought into the question and answer it as clearly and completely as you can. The goal here is to paint the picture with as many details as possible.
When you are done, take an objective look at your painting. Those elements in your day will include those things you are most passionate about. And they will likely include those things that have the most potential for separating you from God.
(II) Answer this question:
Have I ever chosen anything from my perfect day over God?
It is likely you have – so draw your attention to this possibility.
Set aside time and pray, talking with God about your goals and rebuilding your relationship with Him. Yes, we are called to take care of things and be good stewards of resources and families – but that is not to be a justification to choose those things over Jesus.
Sunday, April 15, 2007
Healed, But Not Whole
Luke 17 recounts the story of Jesus and the ten lepers and raises some interesting questions in my head.
When Jesus had entered a certain village, ten lepers called out to him that he might heal them. As soon as he saw them, Jesus told them to go shew themselves to the priests. As the men went, they were healed from their leprosy.
One of the men, when he saw he was healed, turned around and ran back to Jesus. Falling at his feet, this man gave thanks and glorified God. An interesting note here is that this man was a Samaritan; Samaritans and Jews had absolutely no dealings with each other and avoided even being in each other’s presence at all costs.
Jesus asked him where the other nine were and re-verified that there had indeed been ten healed. This man was the only one who returned to give glory to God, and a stranger at that.
Jesus told the man to rise and to go his way, that his faith had made him whole.
It was this phrase that struck me. Although it appears all ten men did receive physical healing from their leprosy, only this man was made whole. It makes me wonder what the others ended up lacking even though they were cured from the disease. Healed, but not whole… and just because they couldn’t stop for a moment and give glory to God; they were in too much of a hurry to get the priest to confirm that they had indeed been healed.
How often do we remember to give God the glory and thanks for the miracles He does in our lives? How much more blessing are we missing out on because we are so involved in the effect a miracle has on ourselves as individuals? How often do we look to our friends to confirm a miracle God has done in our lives instead of thanking God from the bottom of our heart for that miracle.
Let us accept the miracles God places in our lives in full faith, thanking Him for working in a miraculous way… thank Him instead of seeking confirmation from friends or family.
Saturday, April 14, 2007
They disguised themselves as ambassadors, dressing in old and tattered rags and worn-out shoes. On their donkeys they placed old and torn sacks and old, battered, leaking wine bottles. In their provisions they had nothing but dry and moldy bread. This deceptive appearance complete, they set out to meet Joshua.
The story the men told Joshua was pitiful and Joshua’s initial perceptiveness became skewed. At the first, he posited that they came from one of the neighboring villages and that there was no way he would be able to make a league with them. The lie of who they were and where they came from and what their intents were stuck and Joshua and his counselors believed.
“…the men took of their victuals, and asked not counsel at the mouth of the Lord.”
Joshua made peace with the inhabitants of Gibeon and thus violated God’s commandment to utterly destroy all the inhabitants of that land. Not only Joshua, but all the princes of the congregation swore that they would be let to live in peace. When the Israelites entered their cities, they did not kill a single one of them because of their oath and because of the fear of what God might do if they broke their oath.
Yes, Joshua cursed these people and yes, their culture and people became servants to the Israelites from that moment on, but they existed as a thorn in the side of the Israelites, a culture God had commanded them to destroy and now could not because they had taken it into their bosom.
What is it in our lives that has disguised itself and has proclaimed a tale of woe. What enemy of God and of our future prosperity stands before us now begging us not to destroy it but to make a league with it? What are we overlooking in our desire to be the “good guy” and thereby bypassing God and what He has to say?
It’s a bit frightening to think we can be deceived in this way. I don’t believe Joshua’s downfall in the Gibeonite situation was that he was deceived, but that he went ahead and did what he felt was right… instead of asking God what he should do about it.
Friday, April 13, 2007
Jesus told the story of a rich man’s steward, accused by his master of wasting his goods and not taking care of things as he should have. Alarmed, the steward quickly found a way to be sure that he would never be without place to stay or food.
What he did was to take other accounts of his master’s debtors and decrease the amount owed by them to his master. I never understood why he did this until today. The steward was taking steps to ensure that his future was provided for. How? By making other people feel indebted to him personally.
All these people owed his master money and now he was telling them, “Quickly, write on your bill that you only owe this much.” To me, this never seemed a very commendable thing to do, but in the parable, this steward’s master commended him on his actions. He had made the best out of a potentially disastrous situation and had turned the tables, providing for his future security.
Not only did the master commend this action, but so did Jesus. He pointed out that making friends of the world – the “mammon of unrighteousness” – was a worthwhile pursuit. Why? “That when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.”
We are supposed to prepare now for our futures. Not in a concerned, worrisome, obsessive way, but with wisdom and prudence. I see it as a sort of positive stacking of the decks; making connections and acquaintances which can be called upon in a moment of need… “when ye fail.”
Jesus went on to tell about how your level of faithfulness and justness can be judged just by how you handle the little details in life. Faithfulness and justness in dealing with even the minute details of your life can affect your future.
Did you ever think that how faithfully you brush your teeth could communicate to others your level of trustworthiness? Did you know the balanced state of your checkbook can be a witness to your consistency in life? Think about it!
Every thing we do, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, is a testimony to the way we view our responsibilities in life. Being faithful in the minutiae of life is an indicator of how you will do when handling larger issues.
“And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own?”
Yes… We are specifically challenged to be faithful in the small matters. It is only by proving ourselves in these that we can demonstrate a capacity for dealing with larger, more important details and tasks.
How faithful does your walk have to be before you would choose God over your loved ones?
It is easy to choose God over a stranger - or loved ones you have kept at bay for one reason or another - but how close must your walk be that you are able to truly, not just pray for, but actively give up for stoning. Clearly, the question is phrased wrong because I myself find the question hard. A better worded question would be: Is your focus on God clear and focused enough that you think first of God's hurt before your own?
As a brother or sister, are you focused on God enough that, if you learn of them doing wrong, you help them root out the problem and let God's judgment fall where it may?
As a parent, grandparent, uncle, aunt, cousin, niece, nephew, or adopted child, are you focused enough on God that, having just learned about a wrong-doing, your first response is focused on resolution and righting that relative with God?
There are a list of hard questions most of us live out our lives answering one way or another, and this is clearly one of them. And I don't ask you to ANSWER this question right now, but to pray to God for guidance as to how you can live your life in line with His obvious preference - for in the natural, we are built to make exactly the wrong decision take exactly the wrong stance on this matter.
Today's call to action is simple - but will take some time to do it well:
WRITE A LOVE LETTER TO GOD
- Write how you appreciate what He's done for you, what He does for everyone you know.
- Write about His wondrous works, how His will for you has changed your life for the best.
- Write about Who his guidance has made you become.
- Write about how you are excitedly expecting to bear His fruits because you've been praying for them.
- Write about you can wait for His second coming.
- Write about all the books you've been reading about Him.
- Write about your favorite scripture and thank Him for touching your life through them.
- Write about those people He has brought into your life and how His anointing has brought them close to Him.
- Write about how amazed you are at the fellowship that is possible between discordant personalities.
- Write about Him, a poem, a sonnet, a short story, a haiku, a novel, a psalm.
- Write about requests you have and prayers you haven't asked for.
- Write about Him.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
In Joshua 5, the Bible talks about how Joshua made sharp knives and circumcised all the Children of Israel. I have no idea how many men this was, but the Bible states he did so at the hill of foreskins – which seems to indicate quite a few. What struck me about this mass circumcision was not the shear numbers involved in this act, but the fact that there were so many uncircumcised. The very act God had used to seal His covenant between Himself and Abraham… the very act demonstrating God’s promise to Abraham’s descendents… the very act that embodied a specific covenant had been ignored and neglected for over 40 years!
What a sad picture of where the Israelites were in their relationship with their God and the One who had established His covenant with them, who had brought them out of slavery, who had performed so many miracles for them, etc… Astonishing!
I had forgotten, but the day after the Israelites entered into the Promised Land, the manna stopped… yet one more proof of God’s miraculous intervention in the Israelite’s affairs and in their preservation as a nation. After entering the Promised Land, never again would they eat of this miraculous food – spoken of by God as “angel’s meat.”
I’ve heard that the harmonic vibrations and frequencies of a group of people marching in step can cause structural damage and for this reason, troops of soldiers break step when crossing bridges and such – to keep from causing whatever structure from being destroyed by the power of their combined rhythm.
It seems to me God created this amazing coordination of frequencies and vibrations because He did command the Israelites to march around the walls of Jericho for seven days, the seventh day consisting of encircling the city seven times and then shouting together along with the simultaneous blowing of trumpets.
Can you imagine the vibrations caused by over a million people marching in step without speaking a single word to detract from this impact? Can you imagine the stress to the walls caused on the seventh day as they did it seven times?! Can you imagine the ferocity and fervor in over a million voices as they gave utterance after six days of silence?! Wow!! I have to wonder if it was indeed the vibrations which weakened the wall and the impact of the sound waves which ultimately destroyed the city of Jericho. Granted, I do know this city was delivered into the hands of the Israelites by God and only through Him it was that they triumphed… but wouldn’t it be just like God to use some beautiful concoction of His creation to bring glory to His name? I think so.
I find it fascinating that Joshua’s curse, delivered in Chapter 6, verse 26, random though it seems at this point in history, would eventually come true. Not only that it came true, but that the Bible saw fit to document this curse from its inception and delivery to its actualization. Later on, the Bible describes how, indeed, the foundation of rebuilt Jericho was laid on the firstborn of the man who built it and how the gates were set up in his youngest (can’t recall the actual place, but do remember reading it).
It is a hard lesson to learn, one that cannot be easily captured on paper:
YOU DON'T APPRECIATE WHAT YOU TAKE FOR GRANTED.
Few will truly hearken to those words without having lost (and sometimes regained) a treasured resource. Yet we are all called to believe the reality of this - that we can claim the resources of God's grace, God's mercy, God's hope, God's love, if we but realize that our lives are particularly empty without them.
It never appears that way at first - for we are under and individuated share delusion that our way is superior. Over and over we make this claim, sometimes softly, sometimes loudly, but always with the foreknowledge that SOMEHOW we are "really" plugged into what is REALLY going on and our take is best. We do this with the primary things (like breathing, thinking, eating, and driving) and secondary things (like buying groceries, writing notes, telling jokes, and calling on friends).
But where does this glaring assurance come from?
Where did we learn that we knew how best to decide things, to connect the dots, to derive best practices?
We certainly can't claim to have been trained by completely reliable models - how many of us fashion our lives after people who make NO mistakes?
We also cannot claim that we are only responsible to God - for although it is true that we ARE responsible to God, part of that accountability is (I believe) expressed through effective and Godly stewardship of those in our charge. Likewise, we see over and over that scripture consistently reveals that wisdom is found in the counsel of others.
Again, I ask: where does this glaring assurance come from?
I believe we are taught it, just as surely as we are taught anything else, by whom we focus on. Thus, the fruit we bear is in direct proportion to our election to focus on Jesus.
My call to action is this:
Ask yourself the last time you had the most assurance that you were hearkening to God. It is likely immediately following when you were under the most spiritual attack and occasionally comes when you are particularly humble - regardless, you have had SOME time when you felt like your actions, thoughts, or heart were particularly aligned with Jesus.
Find out what about that time defined your relationship with God differently than now.
- Was your faith simpler?
Go back to first principles and study scripture, really delving into what the Word says, through prayer and humility, not what you think it says or what someone else tells you it means.
- Was your walk more pure?
Earnestly seek out that sin which is most glaringly separating you from God and give it to Him - He would love for you to trust Him. By doing so, He can build your faith.
- Was your sight more focused?
Look at your hour - your day - your week - your month ... however you judge how well you've spent your time. How much of that time was earnestly defined by a literal and simple seeking of God's heart?
The day you come back to Him is the day you too will be His prodigal child.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
With these words, Jesus began his parable that outlined appropriate humility and echoed the Proverbs motif of humbleness and lack of pride. In this parable, the reason for not assuming you were the most important person invited to the wedding was because the possibility existed that the one who invited you might have invited someone whose rank and importance was higher than yours.
Instead of being kicked out of your self-claimed seat of honor when one of a higher rank appeared, you would avoid that shame by claiming first the lowest room. By claiming the lowest position, the one who invited you would be able to call you up and you would be exalted in the presence of everyone who was there.
“For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”
Imagine yourself in the position of the man in this parable and live through the utter shame and embarrassment of being removed from a self-claimed seat of importance. Equally, imagine yourself having elected to seat yourself in a less-important seat and the jubilation and honor that would accompany being called up to a higher level.
There is nothing to be lost by being humble, but there is much to be lost in being humbled.
Following the story of the wedding, Jesus gave instructions as to what kind of feasts to give. Not feasts for relatives or friends, but feasts for the homeless, the poor, the crippled, the blind. Why? Because there exists a very real possibility that your relatives and friends, after being feasted by you, would return the favor by inviting you to their own feasts. A homeless or poor or crippled person can never return this favor to you. They will not be able to repay your kindness and there is no hope of reward for you in giving them a feast.
But this is how Jesus said we are to view others… and it comes with it’s own reward.
“And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.”
Changing the verb to 'keep' certainly adds a bit of a darker undertone - one that I believe does NOT detract from the original meaning, nor expand it unreasonably - and with this slight alteration we reveal the actual perspective of the children of Israel. We see that the children of Israel truly wish to support their king, but that they are asking God to "save" their king ... and so one might very well ask "from what?" Asking this question adds relevance to the suggestion to change the verb "keep", for certainly the suffix applies to this second verb as well.
So what are the children of Israel asking God to (save/keep) their king from?
The children of Israel asked for a king because they wanted to be like all the other kids. The other kids had kings who fought wars, gave them a feeling of continuity, and tied them to the land and location. Certainly the children of Israel had been traveling for quite some time, so the need to identify with others and to establish roots was likely something they found desirable. A king would give them someone to blame when things went wrong, someone to appeal to when they wanted their way, and someone to apologize to when they messed up.
At this point in their history, the children of Israel had spent the last few centuries having no real home. Clearly they didn't exist at the time of Abram, didn't exist in the time of Abraham, didn't exist in the time of Isaac, but even then there were hints of a future place, a future home, and you know the teachings of Abraham made it very real in their eyes that such a place existed. So this establishes a need, generations in the making, for a home, and one that had been unavailable most of the lives of the children of Israel. So I suggest that desiring a king was, in addition to wanting to be like all the other kids, a desire to not move again. They clearly didn't trust God thoroughly and were likely asking for some assurance that they wouldn't be moved AGAIN.
God, grieving because He had something better, and because He knew the type of king Saul would turn out to be, warned them through the one man they associated with God, that of Samuel. And they didn't hearken. They clearly listened ... at least waited until he was done talking ... before shouting "We want a king".
And so God gave them their king.
A king that never wanted to be king.
A king that only acted kingly when the Holy Spirit fell upon him.
A king that tried to kill his son, torture his son-in-law, and not long after his reign began, threw it away because he had no patience.
How many of us are like Saul - wanting something other than what God wants for us, passively aggressive when we should be obedient, hearkening when it is convenient, and ultimately ruining the plans God has for our lives?
I believe that God wants every believer to be a king. However, many fail at the task - not because we could not be placed there by God, not because we wouldn't want to do good, and not because we couldn't listen to wisdom - but because to be a truly righteous and good king, we need to listen to God.
Every time Saul was doing the right thing, or was in the right place, Saul was either doing what God had asked, or had the Spirit of God on him.
My challenge today is this:
Ask God to reveal to you in what way you are like unto the children of Israel.
Ask God for the revelation of both the good and the bad, and praise God for both.
- Praise God for the manner of your spiritual proximity to God's chosen people.
- Praise God for the potential that being grafted into the family of God allows.
- Praise God for the hope that being literal and earnest worshipers of Jesus brings.
- Praise God for revealing our weaknesses so that we can know where we need to trust God more fully.
- Praise God for revealing our poor decisions so we can make reparations and bring them more in line with God's heart.
- Praise God for revealing our hearts, showing us what we've been begging for that doesn't match God's will.
and because this whole process can be painful and laborious ...
Praise God for giving us the grace and patience to listen to EVERYTHING He has to tell us.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
When the time came for the Israelites to enter the Promised Land, the Lord took Moses up into the mountain where He revealed some more information to him. Having taken down all the information the Israelites would need in the generations to come, Moses transferred his spiritual authority to Joshua, the new leader of the Israelites.
I have to wonder, that in transferring this spiritual authority, Moses’ purpose on earth was finished and therefore his need to be alive. God had promised Moses that he would be able to see the Promised Land, although he would not be allowed to set foot in it. Also, God very clearly told Moses to go up into the mountain where he would deliver the final words God would speak through him, see the Promised Land, transfer leadership of the Israelites to Joshua, and die. He would not be coming back down the mountain.
It can also be inferred from the number of occurrences, that Joshua was not the most brave or bold or secure of men. Apparently, he was afraid to lead the Israelites (with good reason, I would argue) and fearful of what lay before them, even though he was one of the two spies who brought back a good report of the Promised Land.
Moses encouraged Joshua repeatedly to be strong and of good courage and after Moses was gone, God Himself encouraged Joshua to be strong and of good courage… that He would not leave him and would not forsake him, but would lead him and the Israelites into the land He had promised them so long ago; they would be a nation yet, God’s chosen people.
Each of us might find our own capacity for any one of these three to be superior to the others. Those of us who are distinctly aware of our abilities and liabilities will often wage war against our own potential, in the hopes of optimizing outcome. Thus, by focusing on results, we are often the most productive of the three. We often lose sight of God earliest because our focus is not on what God wants from us, but what we can do for God. It is a short walk from claiming one knows what one can do for God to telling God what you will do for Him.
Those of us who are distinctly aware of our incomplete skill sets often pick a second area of attention, that of investing in ourselves. Thus, by focusing on research, we often have the most resources. We have studied finance (and so know the best investments), engineering (and know the best load bearing structures, optimal flight paths, or mathematically optimal way to use game theory to resolve conflict), or art (and so are aware, by training, what colors or textures are most effective in a different scenario). We often lose sight of God because our focus is not on what God wants from us but what we think God means. It is another short walk, interpreting the scripture and wisdom of God to suit a perspective.
Those of us who find our focus is not on individual talents or research often find our energies focused upon our capacity to network with others. We find it innately rewarding to engage in discourse with many people, seeking first quantity, then quality, of connection. Those of us engaged in building relationships can find it rewarding to define the quality of our walk by the quality of our relationships – and can run the risk of focusing on relationships for their own sake. It is a short walk from maintaining a relationship with a small group of Godly people to personally engaging many non-believers, because we might be focused more on reaching out than being led by the Lord.
So the question is – what do we do?
Each of the three has a place in each of our lives.
Being mindful of ability, resources, and relationships provides us a comprehensive paradigm, and is a properly proportioned perspective. Knowing where your strengths and weaknesses are can help you be mindful of exactly where you need God explicitly, and where God has graced you with sufficient talent or experience to act in faith with wisdom. Knowing how to invest your strengths and gird your weaknesses through research and timely training can help you be mindful of how God wishes your own set of strengths and responsibilities to be exercised. Likewise, it can indicate to you where investment can be less than fruitful, and thus we can often find wisdom in relying upon the wisdom of others, instead of investing in the research ourselves. Knowing when to literally and comprehensively trust God, by establishing a relationship with Him, can be the single-most effective tool in guiding one’s life.
Today’s call to action:
Take stock of your own life and ask yourself which of these three you are too heavily focused on.
If your life seems to revolve around personal growth, possibly for its own sake – try volunteering or spending time every day deliberately praying to Jesus, engaging in intercessory prayer for those around you, or evaluating what forms of personal growth can glorify the Lord.
If your life seems to revolve around physical activity, try electing to set aside time out of your week to study scripture, or ensuring that the activity you are engaged in gives you more peace and draws you closer to the Lord.
If your life seems focused on predominantly networking, evaluate whether the people you are networking with are bringing you closer to Jesus and whether more of your own personal time might be better spent networking with Jesus.
As always, if you have some testimony concerning this, please share!
Monday, April 09, 2007
“Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”
Bad things happen to good people and that’s the simple truth. Nobody knows why or for what reason, but even Jesus, during his stay on earth, referred to this. The people who were affected by tragedy or horror were not more sinful than anyone else; they really hadn’t done anything to merit destruction or mistreatment, yet they still suffered and were killed.
As a believer, we know that all things work together for good to those that love God and for the ultimate glory of God, who uses all events and attacks of the devil, flipping them around and using them to serve His purpose.
Bad things do happen to good people… and it doesn’t mean God isn’t looking or isn’t in control.
One other verse that hit me was the one where Jesus likens the Kingdom of God to leaven. A little bit of God has great effect on much around it. The most interesting part of this analogy is the fact that during the observation of Passover, leaven is a representation of sin; a little sin affects everything it touches. How interesting that Jesus also likened leaven to the effect of God in people’s lives.
Give me a heart to recognize YOUR will in my life, YOUR song in my heart, YOUR joy in my walk, YOUR peace in my perception, YOUR hand in everything.
Give me a heart to hearken to YOUR Word, to intend every minute that every thought be held under YOUR spotlight, to seek YOUR heart and YOUR redeeming grace.
Give me a heart to know YOU, to touch YOUR heart, to seek YOUR smile and to sing those songs that YOU wish to hear.
Give me a heart to be YOUR drummer boy in a land of non-drummers.
Todays call to action is simple:
I. Find a single, integrated focus for your walk with Christ today
This can be a single phrase uttered in a moment of perfect service to God, a particularly stirring scripture, or possibly something you only overheard that brought you immense personal awareness of God's desire for your heart to be aligned with His.
II. Find a free moment to discourse with God.
Again, not a difficult thing, but it requires a personal decision on YOUR part - what is a free moment? Is it five seconds at a stop-light? Is it the time when you're pumping gas in your car and you don't have anything else to do but stand there and wait? Is it those moments when you are mid-state, waiting for something else?
Are your free moments of a different kind? Are there moments in your day when you're effectively on auto-pilot, and aren't directly involved? Do you have areas in your life where your presence matters but your input does not? Does the make and model of you day reflect a complete lack of these things and the result is that you are nearly running at top speed every day, from the moment your feet hit the ground until you, exhausted, finally take a few hours to rest?
The second half of this call to action is simply: are you taking enough time out of your day to listen to God? Most of us have a reliable enough walk we can earnestly say we talk to Jesus - how many of us can say we listen enough to Jesus? Every single prayer request to our Lord Jesus Christ have something in common - they are answered in God's time. So the second half of my challenge today relates to this - are you giving Jesus time to answer the questions you've asked him? Are you giving Him an opportunity to share with you what He wants you to know?
Sunday, April 08, 2007
“When ye see a cloud rise out of the west, straightway ye say, There cometh a shower; and so it is. And when ye see the south wind blow, ye say, Thee will be heat; and it cometh to pass.”
In another passage of scripture, Jesus also talks about how when the sky is red in the morning, a storm is coming; when the sky is red in the evening, tomorrow will be fair.
But the overall point Jesus was making here was that these people were incredibly discerning about the sky and the signs therein, but could not discern the times. By discerning the times, I believe Jesus was referring to the fact that they could not see he was the Messiah and had fulfilled so many of the prophecies announcing his coming and walk on the earth.
How sad. The signs of the sky and what they foretold were better known to these men then the signs of their Messiah and his coming in the flesh.
Saturday, April 07, 2007
There was a man trapped in a less-than-desirable life and, though he had an inkling of an idea that he was called to a higher plane of being, he couldn’t see his way out of his cage.
That is, until he caught a glimpse of where he wanted to be.
Like the man in the parable, he had found a pearl of great price and wanted it more than anything else in life. To obtain it, he would have to give up so much and work much harder than he ever dreamed possible. To him, this vision of his future, this pearl of great price, became his inspiration and the impetus to propel him along the path to greatness and happiness.
To obtain this pearl, he had to turn his back on his past. He had to deafen his ears to the calls of gratification and convenience. He had to step completely out of his comfort zone, facing uncomfortable situations. He had to give up everything that meant something in order to earn that vision he had caught a glimpse of.
By now, I’m sure you are thinking, “I’ve seen that movie. Yeah! That’s that movie, The Pursuit of Happyness.” and you would settle back in your chair, nodding your head with contentment and the self-assurance that comes with knowing a particular piece of information.
Then I would tell you this. The story I told you is not about Chris Gardner and the plotline is not from the movie depicting his life, The Pursuit of Happyness. This story is about a man who caught a glimpse of a better future; a man who went in pursuit of happiness.
Unlike Chris Gardner’s character in the movie, the woman who loved this man never left him, but increased her level of already unwavering support for his dreams. She knew his potential but also knew there was much he had to do on his own… she just had no idea how much he would have to go through and how much pain and hardship lay ahead for both of them.
This woman also knew she could not do what the man needed to do for himself and, in light of this knowledge, set out on a hard path of support and love, armed only with dogged faith, unrelenting prayer, and a belief that could not be shaken.
This man’s name is Jason Cooper… and his story is only beginning.