Monday, September 24, 2012
While contemplating the desire of God to be with us, it occurred to me that we were not only created in His image, we were given a gift of immeasurable honor: the gift of speech. Image, if you can, God walking through the Garden with a cow and discussing who He is and why the cow is a cow? That would be a very lopsided conversation since cows can’t talk. Cows are definitely curious and they will seek out other critters just to stare at them and hope to find out some juicy gossip, but they cannot gossip or talk about being cows or anything else because they cannot talk. And, yes, God could read their mind, but did God give them words to even think with? That is, a language like we use? Not likely. So it is probably safe to say they we are the only creatures who use actual words as language the same as God uses language to communicate with us. Other creatures use noises and body language, but we have been given words and speech. How often do we stop and thank God for words and the ability to speak them?
Knowing some people cannot hear and have trouble speaking because of that, makes me stand in awe of Helen Keller even more. She couldn’t see or hear, and it was years before she grasped any form of language. When she did it was mostly about “things.” This is this and that is that. Then some “ties” were made concerning using those things and her language prospered. But how did ideas begin to form for her. How did she become so literate that she could express things as complicated as philosophies? (Just my wandering brain asking questions.) She has been quoted over and over again as to her thinking on many subjects. Where did she develop these word skills. How did she learn to think, let alone learn to express her thoughts? Isn’t it amazing to know that even the ability to think is God given? How often do we thank God for the ability to think?
Now, don’t get me wrong. I know that His creatures can communicate with each other and can praise their creator, and they somehow know that He IS. But they have a different type of intelligence given to them specifically to glorify God even in their very existence. And they are wonderful to get to know. But they cannot articulate what is on their minds and share it with others because they do not have words with which to speak. (Have you ever put “words” in an animals mind? If you have and love animals, you have.) God gave us words, even though it became necessary to split us up into different languages to keep us from plotting against His Holy plans. He also gave us the ability to learn each others languages so that we would not be isolated from sharing Him with each other. How often do we thank God that we can communicate with and translate for people who speak languages other than English and thereby share God’s Word and Love with them?
Imagine just how special and unique it is that God gave us these abilities so that we can walk with Him and talk with Him and sing praise to Him because “He walks with me, and talks with me and He tells me I am His own… and the Joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.” How often do we “walk into the garden” to be with Him alone and listen and know that “He speaks, and the sound of His voice is so sweet the birds hush their singing.” And how long do we “stay in the Garden with Him” listening to all He has to say and relishing it in our hearts?
Some people say that this song “In the Garden” is not scripturally correct. I have no idea why, unless it speaks to them that someone else is more special than they are. That is not the point of this song at all. The point is that God desires to be with us and when we come to Him in the sanctity of our relationship with Him, He is always there to hear us and to speak with us. And that is Joy, pure and simple.
Imagine that you are Eve, before the fall or imagine that you are Mary when Jesus appears to her, or better yet imagine that you are you and you are the one Jesus meets with every time that you seek Him. That makes it pretty scriptural to me. We are His heart’s desire and we are His treasure. He is deeply invested in us and He will be there when we seek Him and He will commune with us on the spot.
May we all seek Him new while “His mercies are new every morning”. And may we all know that He is there where we are, when we are. May we always be praising God that He seeks us, speaks with us and longs to bring us home one day. Come Lord Jesus.
Saturday, September 22, 2012
Has anybody heard that phrase before? If you live in the Northwest (or almost anywhere else in the world) and you have not heard it you have had your ears pretty tightly closed. Nike Shoes ads used this as their “catch phrase” for many years. Basically, I guess, they were telling us to stop making excuses and just get out there and do what you have to do. As “catchy” as that was and still is, Nike is not the first and will not be the last to say that. The first to say that was God. And He said it dozens if not hundreds of times. “Just do it,” He told His people. “Just do it.” “Just turn from your wicked ways and follow me. Do what I tell you to do. Be who I want you to be.”
Now in this discussion of my rambling thoughts some may be offended with picture I will draw. Some may think it is irreverent. Some may think I have crossed a line somewhere. But I hope you will just see the picture of a love filled heart expressing the awesomeness of the God who loves me and you so much that we can not comprehend it.
In the beginning, God created…. “WHY?” is the question that people often ask. Why did He create us at all? Why are we here? What is our purpose? Wouldn’t we be better off not being here? Or, as the Israelites often queried, “Wouldn’t we be better off back in Egypt where at least we had 3 squares a day and clothing and shelter?” Foolish, foolish question, but asked frequently during the walk in the desert.
Frankly, we are here because God wanted us. We are created in His image so that He could walk and talk with us, commune with us. His idea of Paradise was having conversation with us in a quiet place of pure beauty, where He could provide for our every need and talk with us about Himself. He desires to be with us and for us to be with Him. Adam and Eve failed to be satisfied with that and spoiled the immediate closeness of their relationship with Him, but He already had the plan in mind to bring us back together one day. And He immediately announced the plan and put it into action. He desires for nothing to come between Him and us. He wants us. In fact, He wants us so much that He is willing to keep asking us to come to Him. “Just do it” is His plea.
But how much does He really want that? He wants it enough to throw Himself at us, face down, over and over again. How many times have we seen Moses and kings and prophets throw themselves face down on the ground before God pleading with Him to save His people from themselves. As I was studying the Kings and Chronicles, I kept seeing God, Himself, throwing himself at the people pleading with them to save themselves from themselves by simply turning back to Him in humble surrender and obedience. I am not trying to bring humiliation on God here, I am trying to get us to recognize just how much He desires us, and desires the very best for us. He repeatedly told them that none of the prophecies would have come true if they would just turn from their wicked ways and follow Him. This very constant pleading with us could be considered a humiliating thing to do. But, for God, this is a magnificent, awesome act of love and desire for our good outcome and pleasure. What a picture! What a deal!
In our current study of God’s desire to be with us, we are quickly finding him seeking to be with us. He desired to walk daily and often with Adam and Eve. They spoiled that. He desired to walk closely with the leaders whom He gave to His people. He spoke to them in dreams and through messengers and even coming Himself to walk with them for a few moments here and there. Yet strong trust was hard to come by for them. But He had promises to give and promises to fulfill and He kept on trying. He would not, did not and will not quit trying to get our attention. He wants to be among us. And now that Jesus died for our sins, He desires to be withIN us, always. That is His desire and that is what His plan is all about. He is no longer in a place among us that we must go to in order to be with Him. He is in us and with us to the end of the age. And then we will be with Him, forever and ever. He pleads with us to come, to listen, to trust, and to obey. He pleads with us to “just do it.” And He does that so that we may know our own little paradise right here on earth and that we might be with Him forever in Heaven.
May we all stop making excuses for not stepping up to the plate and accepting the promises of God and following Him moment by moment, and aging year by aging year. May we all “just do it” as He leads the way! May we all live life more abundantly in the Joy that He gives us so freely. May God bless you and me with overwhelming love for Him.
Saturday, September 15, 2012
King Cyrus of Persia knew about the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob… the God of Israel. And King Cyrus knew that he was appointed by the God of Israel as King and as ruler of the “world.” He also knew that his duty was to let God’s people go and return to Jerusalem after 70 years in exile in Babylon so that they could re-gather and rebuild the temple and God could once again live among them. He even returned all the temple pieces which had been taken all those many years ago and prayed a blessing on those who went.
Personally, I get chills even thinking about the awesome God who brought all this about. He had proclaimed this would happen and He saw to it that it did. I would love to ask how it was that King Cyrus knew these things. He and his people did not worship or believe IN this God. He was not even a twinkle in his father’s eye when these things were proclaimed. Obviously, then, someone took note of what God had said and the words were passed down over time. The “whole world” knew about this by the time it happened. And, yet….
Knowing and believing IN could not be more separated than we see here. He knew, his people knew, the Israelites knew and even the conquered people of Babylon knew. But, basically, only the Israelites actually BELIEVED IN this God. And they wavered as though what was happening was too hard to believe. Many did not choose to return. They liked the life they were living in Babylon. But, by God’s Grace, many did return and much was accomplished in the next few years, including getting back to the keeping of the Law and the sacrifices and festivals. The rest of the world sat by and watched.
And this brings me to my point of today’s blog: The Word and knowledge of God was spread around into the European, North African, and Middle Eastern world though these circumstances of exile and through even more of the world through trade. He was not unknown. We have too many examples of leaders of other countries who acknowledged his existence and His power. But He was ignored. He was believed to be the most powerful God of all the gods, but He as not BELIEVED IN.
How sad is it that some can come so close to God without ever stepping out in faith to believe IN Him. I believe that one of the most difficult situations we deal with as Christians is to know and even love someone who is constantly hearing the Word of God, taking in knowledge and then being satisfied with knowing about Him but not at all willing to commit to Him, in faith. It can be so frustrating that our desire to take them by the shoulders and shake them into believing grows stronger and stronger.
And yet we cannot do that. No one can make someone else believe. We are instruments for God to use to bring the message, but He is in charge of their believing. We tell them of Salvation and then put them in God’s hands for the final outcome. And this is often where we are the weakest and ask “Why, Lord, why?” Why didn’t my family respond to you? Is it my fault? Was my testimony that bad? Can I hope that You worked a miracle that I am not aware of? What is my hope for them? How do I let go of the guilt and go on serving you?
And I am reminded of the many testimonies of pastors and missionaries that went on and on for years and years before the light began to shine in those who received it. And then those ministers come before the people and all the people want to know is “How many souls have been saved in your ministry?” I also ask myself that question and come up lacking and wondering if I am doing anything worthwhile at all. J. Vernon McGee (a well known radio evangelist and teacher), in his autobiography, says that “My job is not to save souls but to preach (teach) the Word and leave the results up to Him.”
Many of us take it for granted that people who are proud of what they do have a problem feeling humble. But what about those who are feeling so useless that staying humble is a backbreaking ordeal. It isn’t easy to stay calm and not stand up and shout to be noticed. But in the Body of Christ, the church, even the appendix is important in the work that it does (and no one has figured out what that is) but when it tries to do the job of the bowl, it gets infected, causes a great deal of pain, and needs to be cut out.
May we all keep ourselves aware that we must be doing for Christ, but also may we all be joyful and content in the jobs we are given to do.
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
(continued from previous blog - ADDICTED?)
To me, having been a part of the recovery system, addictions are basically body tingling, mind numbing, reality avoiding, running away, substitutionary behaviors. There is nothing about addictions that make our lives better. They are life destroying, flesh and mind eating bacteria that pull us further and further from the real world and encourage us to seek refuge in our absence of conscientiousness.
Being a Christian, following Christ and preferring the company of other like-minded, heart-connected people is definitely not a life style of avoidance or other-reality. It is a life-style of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. The “high” perceived in the study done about Mega Churches is called JOY. We who truly love the Lord Jesus Christ have been filled with the Holy Spirit and from Him we learn how precious life really is and how important it is to keep involved through faith and not run away from pain or sorrow.
Do we long to see more of each other? Yes. Do we deliberately plan gatherings of smaller groups during the week between Sunday Services? Yes. Do we find ourselves full of love and joy in these circumstances? Yes. Does this mean that we are hiding from the real world and finding an escape in being together? NO! It means that we are gathering love from one another and celebrating the greatness of God whenever and wherever we can.
My own church could not be described as Mega. It can just barely be described as large. But it is a place where people get excited over Jesus and love one another and make a point to gather for things from formal church services to picnics in the park; from a celebration of recovery on a Friday night to a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) meeting two Thursdays a month. From Youth Group meetings to lunches for the over fifty crowd. And let’s not forget all the Growth Group Bible Study meetings for various mixed and not mixed age and gender groups. Nor all the deliberate gathering together as friends simply for personal enjoyment.
The bottom line is that we are excited to belong to Jesus, excited to belong to a church family, and excited to learn as much as possible about Christ, God’s Word who walked among us, and about the eternal dedication of God to keep His promises of salvation.
Do we also look forward to the day when we will leave this world and arrive at the side of Jesus in Heaven? We sure do! But we determine to live in this world to the Glory of God until we are called home. That is exciting. That is a high of the heart! That is abundant living not destructive escapism. That is life as a Christian believer. That is life in the really real world…
May we all live life fully and abundantly from hearts filled with JOY and LOVE. And may we truly “in honor prefer one another” as brothers and sisters of one heart in Christ.
But let us also find ways everyday to let the world know who it is we represent and love by reaching out to them, even if only with a smile and a nod.
Monday, September 10, 2012
I want to say that we have been insulted, but I am a preacher of the philosophy that one cannot be insulted unless one wants to be and gives permission for what is done or said to be an insult. And, frankly, we see a lot of that today, especially in the realm of Political Correctness. So… I am rethinking… How about, “we have been slandered, defamed, vilified?” Is that better? No. But slander is a one of the synonyms for insult: Reviled, persecuted, insulted, defamed, vilified, cursed. We were warned of this and we were shown by Christ Himself how to react, which is basically, don’t react. We can trust the Lord to take care of HIS and our reputations. Arguing or planning revenge is not our job. But I think that discussing what is going on may be very relevant to keeping ourselves and each other healthy in our thinking.
So, this is what came up in the Not News, as I like to call it because it is hardly ever not already known while being shouted out as something we possibly missed the last 300 times it was told to us. And, no, I am not sure that anyone else even heard this news that is not news, let alone felt insulted by it. It was quick and sharp and hidden under the guise of a news story. (Imagine that.)
But to the point: It seems that some mindless “study takers”, took it upon themselves to compare evangelicals (especially those in Mega Churches) to dope addicts. They have concluded that going to a big church is a “high” very much like that of a drug addict and that we become so dependent on the “high” that we make excuses to meet frequently during the week in order to keep our “high” going. This refers to “small groups” and other gatherings of smaller portions of the church throughout the week. Hmmmm They actually indicate that we are “jonesing” for (craving) these get-togethers the same way druggies “jones’ or “die for” the substances they abuse. Honest. They said that. At least CBS Evening news reported it that way. :)
*For those of you who are not familiar with “jonesing” it is the overwhelming desire to repeat an experience of being “high” on drugs or whatever. Frankly, I will never argue that worshiping Christ is not the best “high” ever, but calling it an addiction and comparing it to the evil of substance abuse is going a bit far.
For one thing, the various definitions of addiction are absolutely negative in terms and description of results:
the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.
2. Addiction is the continued use of a mood altering substance or behavior despite adverse dependency consequences, or a neurological impairment leading to such behaviors.
Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.
Addiction is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death.
In some ways this is just supporting what we often tell people who are looking for excitement about how exciting it is to be a part of Christ’s family. However, I think it goes a bit far to accuse God and Christ of being addictive substance and that following our God is somehow an overwhelming addiction comparable to seeking relief from the pain of this earth into a misguided, evil practice of blowing one’s mind with chemicals.
King Sennacharib of Assyria defamed God while King Hezekiah trusted God about as well as anyone could (see II Kings 18): And God set Sennacharib straight: “Who is it that you have insulted and blasphemed?” “By your messengers you have heaped insults on the Lord!” Sooo… perhaps it can be said that God, being who He is, can be insulted and has every right to take offense. I am not convinced that we have the right to take personal offense, but I am pretty sure we can take some offense on God’s behalf in this particular absurdity, though He will be the one to avenge this blasphemy against Him.
I will be attempting to write a response to this whole idea… something for discussion. Perhaps you would like to consider what your own response would be if someone asked you about this study. Let’s put on our thinking caps just in case someone besides me noticed this story at all. (to be continued) :)