Friday, February 24, 2006

The Voice of the Lord

"What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops."
--Matthew 10:27

Christ will tell us things secretly; He will tell us things quietly. The still small voice of the Spirit of the Lord is with us daily as we wander around throughout the day and if we do not stop to listen, we may never hear it.

How often do we rise in the morning seeking solitude and silence in order to be in the presence of God and hear the voice of His Son directing us in every aspect of our lives?

And even if we do hear His voice, will we obey? The words of Christ--His guidance, His teaching, His leading--are rarely, if ever, easy. Naturally, we become hesitant and afraid that obedience will lead to loss. That fear is a reality because discipleship is costly. Though this is the truth we are not to fear the possibility of loss, but rather He who has the power to take everything away.

We must not be deceived by the softness of His voice; the voice of God lacks no power whatsoever. For this same gentle voice is majestic! It breaks the cedars of Lebanon, it hews out flames of fire, and shakes the wilderness of Kadesh (Psalm 29:3-9). We must remember that "God said, 'Let there be light' and there was light" (Genesis 1:3).

Our lives are to reflect loudly the voice that commands our every step. In the chaos of the world, we are to be both the light and speak boldly in the light, both a city set on a hill and a people proclaiming on housetops!

By His Grace...
...For His Glory.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Prosperity or Comfort? (A Rough Draft)

Today at church we went through Genesis 13:5-18. The background information behind this is as follows:

Abram and his nephew Lot are returning from Egypt, journeying back to the "place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai" (Gen. 13:3). Now both Abram and Lot were very rich in livestock, so rich in fact that the land they were in could not hold all of their possessions. Strife developed between their herdsmen so before real division and fighting began, Abram called for peace saying, "'Please let there be no strife between you and me, nor between my herdsmen and your herdsmen, for we are brothers...Please separate from me; if to the left, then I will go to the right; or if to the right, then I will go to the left'" (vv. 8 & 9).

Lot ended up chosing for himself and his possessions the valley of the Jordan, which was rich with land and was "well watered everywhere" (v. 10), revealing that he chose the more fertile land. Unfortunately, this land was also near the city of Sodom, a city where the men "were wicked exceedingly and sinners against the Lord" (v. 13).

Then the Lord makes a promise to Abram, telling him that all the land will be his and that his descendants will be as the dust of the earth, so that if the dust could be numbered, then so could his decendents (vv. 14-18).

Finally, further on in Genesis, we read that Lot paid a dear price for his choice, which he thought would bring much prosperity. In Genesis 19:1 we read that Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom, greeting two angels; it has been speculated that this indicates Lot had become a citizen of Sodom. Lot had gone from setting up his tent near the city to greeting the two angels at the gate of the evil city!

Today we were taught to beware of the danger in pursuing prosperity. This passage is a clear indicator of what could happen to anyone if selfish motives cloud proper judgment. Abram, seeking only peace, allowed Lot to choose wherever it was he wanted to go; Lot, knowing he had this choice, looked around to see which part of the vast land before him could make him prosper most, even if it meant placing himself and all he cared about in the clear presence of evil. We were warned not to take the most lucrative job offer or promotion simply because it means more money; we were encouraged to continue to rely on the provision of God, making sure that the things of this world do not hinder us from that relationship with Him or with those whom we love so much.

But I began to think more about the message we received in church, and I do not believe that prosperity is what is truly dangerous. Yes, the Bible does say that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Tim. 6:10) and that as a result of pursuing it, many have wandered away from the faith. I do also adamantly agree that money can easily become the number one idol in our lives, replacing the everlasting, eternal God with treasures that rust and moth destroy.

If we really think about it, there is something much more dangerous that may or may not involve money--that is a lifestyle that finds its comfort in this world. This can be characterized in a lot of different ways, whether it be having possessions that make us comfortable, jobs that make us comfortable, living situations that make us comfortable, relationships that make us comfortable, or routines that make us comfortable. Regardless of what or who we find comfort in, if it is of this world, then it is far more dangerous than prosperity in this world.

Important to distinguish is the difference between having things that are comfortable and finding comfort in those things. I wrote about my leather jacket in a previous e-mail and how I believe it is okay to have something that is nice and comfortable if I am able to sacrifice it any point for the good of another and the glory of God. That is the difference between having something comfortable and finding comfort in it. It is the same for any other thing listed above; anything may be comfortable to us, but if we begin to find comfort in it, that is then a comfort of this world.

Another way to recognize a comfort of this world is to evaluate those various things that may be comfortable to us. I may have been in a job for 10 years and I am comfortable with it, but if I am no longer growing or learning or being challenged in that position, but am merely there because it is a job, then I have found comfort in the security of having a job. My life has grown stagnant in that area. I believe this is why many marriages fail; married couples allow being comfortable with one another develop into finding comfort in knowing that there is a spouse there for needs. Again, it must be clarified that this is not a situational comfort, like going to my spouse because I am sad and need to be comforted; instead, this is a perpetual comfort that takes my spouse for granted. In other words, instead of being happily married, they have become safely married. If a 20 year marriage is not growing, if they are not learning to love each other in new ways, if they are not being challenged to know each other deeper, the marriage will either last many years unhappily, or it will end unhappily.

These are just a few examples, but they focus on the underlying issue that can result from pursuing prosperity--that is comfort of this world. As Christians this is particularly dangerous because we are not meant for this world. Jesus asked, "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul (Mark 8:36)?" This question bears much weight when we really look at how much comfort we seek in the world on an everyday basis.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Simply Astounding...

I was reminded of something simply astounding this morning (thus the title for the post...haha). To some of you this may mean nothing; to others this may impact you as much as it did me. Either way, I want you all to think about it and meditate on it after you read this:

As Christians, we all pray to the God of the Bible.

Dwell on that for a moment. Think about the fact that when you get on your knees, stand and raise your hands, lay in your bed before you sleep, bow your head at church or wherever--the words and meditations you bring before the God of your hearts are being brought before the same God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.

"'I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.' Then Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God." -Exodus 3:6

Moses was afraid to look at God after hearing these words. He was in the presence of God Almighty, the God of men who lived hundreds of years before him. It is also in this chapter where Moses asks the question to God, "'Now they may say to me, "What is His name?" What shall I say to them?'" And God replied to Moses with the eternal words, "I AM WHO I AM" and again, "I AM has sent me to you" (v. 14).

He is the great I AM. The words here apply just as much to us in this day as they did to Moses on that mountain thousands of years ago!

How could this not be simply astounding to us all who come before God in prayer? In mentioning the names Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, a flood of history passes through our minds, and I believe this is the intention of God with His people. Moses hid his face from God after hearing these names because he knew he was in the presence of the Living God, but the Israelites had yet to experience some of the greatest miracles ever recorded in the Bible. Yet the Old Testament is filled words from the prophets and God Himself telling His people to remember who He is and what He has done for them. Why? Because we are not simply astounded all the time; we forget about the history of our God, the God who eternally is.

But as Christians we still pray to the God of the Bible

When we are praying to Him, in whatever posture physically, are we coming before Him with a posture spiritually that recalls who God really is--the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and not stopping there, but also the God of Moses, of David, Solomon, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, John the Baptist, the apostles, Paul? So many other names could be listed, for He is the God of everyone who has ever lived, but these names should elicit a reverence for the God who used all of them to reveal His perfect and masterful plan of redemption through His Son, Jesus Christ and ultimately the final and eternal establishment of His Kingdom!

"Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen."

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Fear and Trembling; Grace and Love

It is a matter of remaining in awe...
And how can we not? The Almighty God demands awe simply by His name!

I confess that in my arrogance and pride, the fear of the Lord which is so evident in Scripture, is something I don't have.

Yet in this confession I sense this fear within me--the proper fear of His power and the reverence of His majesty.

In a very outdated statement of purpose on my website, the words quoted from Proverbs 1:7 continue to ring bells of truth in my ears:

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge..."

I trust this not to be just a knowledge of useless facts or trivia, but as the context provides, a knowledge that connotes wisdom and a proper understanding of the things of God. A real fear of God--a Scriptural fear--allows us to come to the knowledge of our sins and see His love for us through the provision of Jesus Christ. This fear should and can only lead us to brokenness before the Lord, crying at the foot of the Cross.

"Be gracious to me, O God..." was how David opened his famous psalm of confession and pleading. David was definitely in the need of God's grace and forgiveness as he knew his sins were against God alone. In confessing any wrong to anyone in our lives, is there not even the slightest bit of fear and hesitancy in doing so? Yes, there is sadness, but the throbbing, constant beating of the heart is a nervousness caused by fear of confessing a wrong against someone. Even moreso should it be then for us in front of God--the One who gives and takes away; the One who could destroy all creation in a single breath. Although He knows already, we use that as an excuse and in turn attempt to hide our sins from Him. Confession and forgiveness begin not with sadness, but with a fear of the Lord that leads to brokenness. Therefore, it is in fear and brokenness where true confession takes place.

Also written in Scripture is for us to "work out our salvation in fear and trembling." This reverential fear causes us to fall to our knees with out faces planted in the ground, praising our Lord Jesus Christ for His majesty and glory. My salvation is solely dependent on the truth of His gospel which grants me freedom from sin through His death and everlasting life through His resurrection. In recognizing this and knowing that Jesus Christ is risen, is exhalted, and is seated at the right hand of the Father--how can I not be with fear and trembling? I have a very close, awesomely scary, extremely personal, amazingly frightening relationship with my Savior, my King!

This fear brings me to love; this fear must bring me to love. The God of heaven and earth, the Ruler and King over everything, loves me. I fear God because He is God. I love God because He first loved me. David knew that God's grace is in accord with His love, and sought Him out under this truth. I love Him because the fear of His power and reverence for His great majesty leads me to realize that even in His greatness He has chosen to extend His mercy, grace, and love toward me, a sinner among a world of sinners, through giving His only Son to become sin for me, so that His justice, His wrath, may be executed the only way He knows how--perfectly.

By His Grace...For His Glory