God Himself

Recent circumstances (namely – getting laid off a few weeks ago) have given me and my family another opportunity to learn to walk by faith. We have the opportunity to take God at His word that He will not only provide for our needs but also direct our paths.

While I am actively looking for my next job, I have been reading through different scriptures. Most recently I was reading in Deuteronomy (where Moses gives Israel the law, again, just before they enter into Canaan – 40 years late).  In chapter 31, Moses is reminding the nation that God will go before them and will be with them as they enter the new land and fight many battles in order to conquer and claim the land. Verses 3 and 8 caught my attention:

“The LORD your God himself will cross over ahead of you.” (v. 3, NIV)

“The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you.” (v. 8, NIV).

What really stands out to me the is the emphasis of “himself”.  Who is “himself”?  I know, an obvious answer, but really think about it – this is the God who created everything that exists with a few words and this is the nation that had a knack for perpetual rebellion against God.  God could have sent an angel to lead them – after all, they’re pretty bad dudes, one of whom could wipe out an entire army on his own.  But God chooses to lead His people himself.  He will fight their battles.  This is dripping with grace, that God steps down to lead a grumbling and rebellious people to the fulfillment of a promise that He gave to His chosen people.  He’s giving good things to those who haven’t earned it.  Absolutely amazing!

And the best part is that this was a precursor to Christ, who came, humbled Himself to take our place on the cross, offered us His righteousness, and who will himself lead us into the eternal promised land for those who believe in their hearts and confess with their mouths that He is Lord.

iGod

I like being in control.   I like the fact that there are online radio services like Pandora and Last.fm where I can choose what type of music I want to listen –  I can even vote on the music so it’s even more tailored to my preferences.  Our culture is geared towards customizing things just the way we want them.  Look at cell phones… there are tons of apps so you can do exactly what you want when you want it.  You can access a world of info in just a matter of seconds.  And if things aren’t fast enough for you, just wait a few months because things will get even faster.

So when I approach God with my thoughts on how things should be, should I be surprised when He doesn’t respond like I want?  The reality is that life isn’t about me.  Honestly, I want it to be about me.  I think most of us do.  After all, that’s where sin entered into the picture to begin with – Eve & Adam choosing what they wanted instead of what God wanted.

I’ve been reading Crazy Love by Francis Chan.  Chan dives in from the get-go and is quick to remind us that things aren’t about us and that all things are made for God’s purposes (Dan 4).  He highlights how big the universe is and how small we are in comparison.  He delves into the intricate design of a caterpillar.  He points out that God is the One who has made all these things and that, quite frankly, He gets to set the rules and the purpose of everything.

To be honest, I struggle with all of this sometimes.  I struggle with the whole idea of surrender.  Following Christ means letting go of what I want and of how I think things should go.  Scripture makes it clear that God can do greater things in my life than I can even imagine, so the issue isn’t about what I get in exchange.   The issue comes back to faith.  It comes back to pride.  It comes back to me embracing all that Christ is, wholeheartedly, setting what I want aside.

I am thankful that God is patient.  I’m thankful that He pursues me.  I’m thankful He took the first step.  He is the Mighty King and yet He knows how many hairs I have on my head.  He offers us the opportunity to experience joy for all of eternity.  He is the One thing that won’t be changing.

May His name be praised.

What do to when life sucks

Over the past few decades there have been numerous books that proclaim to have the knowledge you need in order to have an incredibly successful and fulfilled life.  The authors tell you that if you’ll follow their plan, you’ll have more than you could imagine.  Some of these authors are “spiritual” and propose something akin to karma.  Others title themselves as Christians and may even use Bible verses on occasion, however, they are simply teaching karma by another name.

The sad part about these books is that many of us have bought into their bookstand philosophies.  We approach God with the expectation that when I do something good He’ll reward it with what I want.  We also expect the reward to be immediate.  We’ve lost a sense of the eternal.

And another thing…how can someone proclaim to the mother who just lost her child to cancer that she can have her best life if she’ll just follow these steps?  How can we expect the person who just lost everything to have a more positive mental attitude (or PMA for you motivational junkies)?  What happens to the self help philosophy when everything we’ve achieved and hoped for is falling apart?  We look to something bigger than us, to Someone eternal…

Sometimes life just sucks and there’s no making it right this side of heaven.  Did you catch that?  It doesn’t all work out while we’re spinning around on this big blue ball.  The Bible tells us repeatedly to focus on things beyond the temporal: “we walk by faith, not sight”, “set your hearts on things above”, “store up treasures in heaven”, etc., etc., etc.  We’re also told that things will be difficult, especially for those who follow after Christ.

But sadly we have built our theology on the sand of our own expectations.  We are sorely disappointed when God doesn’t play by our rules and do what we want.  We’ve lost sight of the fact that, for one, we are created for His purposes and for another, that we are in a fallen world that is marred by our willful sin.

We need a theology that addresses the reality of life.  We need a God Who put on skin and suffered along with His creation.  And thankfully, we do.  Christ came as man and God.  He walked in our world.  He was killed by people He gave life.  So He understands our pain and our cries.  (Read Psalm 69 as it’s considered a prophetic passage, indicating some of what He was wrestling with before He went to the cross).

My hope is that we begin to discover that the worth of the gospel is in Christ Himself.  Christ tell us in John 17:3 that eternal life is knowing God and He tells us repeatedly that we can only know God through Him, that is Christ.

So what do we do when life sucks?  We look for Christ.  What else do I do?  We keep looking for Christ.  And after that, you keep looking.  And you will find Him.  Anything else will give fleeting hope at best.  We need something more than just a great life here and now.  We need something that’s eternal and that can’t be taken away.  And that is only in Christ, for He overcame our sin, our enemy and our death.

May His name be praised.

Trusting like Abraham

The reality of faith is one that is, ironically, scary.  To trust is to give up control to someone else.  When I trust myself, I plan & determine & try to control the outcome.  Faith in Christ means I don’t always know what He’s going to do, where He’s going to lead or how He’s going to provide.

We like faith when we’re comfortable.  It makes for a great story line.  But when we are called to enter that story line & to step out in faith, we get a different perspective.

Abraham is certainly one who sets a great example of trusting.   In Genesis 22 we see that He willingly trusted God with his only son Isaac, even when what God called him to seemed absolutely ridiculous.  And by this point in Abraham’s life, there was no questioning when it was God who was giving him direction.  I love Abraham’s faith, but what I love even more is how God provided.  God required a sacrifice and yet He ended up providing the sacrifice Himself…

11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. 12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” 13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

I often want God to send me an email with explicit instructions, yet it is usually after we’ve stepped out in faith that we see God come through.  More and more I realize that faith is often the place where I will completely fall on my face unless God steps in.  May we find Him faithful today.

A spiritual whore?

I may have caught your attention with the title of this post.  It’s based on a song I’ve heard several time’s lately.  It’s Derek Webb‘s song, Wedding Dress.  Here are the lyrics:

If you could love me as a wife
and for my wedding gift, your life
Should that be all I’d ever need
or is there more I’m looking for

and should I read between the lines
and look for blessings in disguise
To make me handsome, rich, and wise
Is that really what you want

I am a whore I do confess
But I put you on just like a wedding dress
and I run down the aisle
and I run down the aisle
I’m a prodigal with no way home
but I put you on just like a ring of gold
and I run down the aisle to you

So could you love this bastard child
Though I don’t trust you to provide
With one hand in a pot of gold
and with the other in your side

I am so easily satisfied
by the call of lovers so less wild
That I would take a little cash
Over your very flesh and blood

Because money cannot buy
a husband’s jealous eye
When you have knowingly deceived his wife

I was caught off-guard the first time I heard this song as most “Christian” songs aren’t this blunt.  Yet it’s a great description of how our lives are often lived.  Far too often we seek satisfaction in things other than in Christ.  Like Israel, we become lovers of things other than God Himself.   C.S. Lewis stated it best:

Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

We have access to the deepest riches and pleasures in God’s presence (Ps 16:11) and yet we often settle for that which is worthless.  Thankfully, God’s grace exceeds our greatest sin and He loves us for reasons I do not understand.   He  pursues us and continues to be faithful even when we’re not.  The greatest demonstration of His love is that He came into the slums to pull us out of the mud.  May we recognize the depth and richness of His grace and His love.  And may He be praised.

Hearing God – Part 2

I’m still thinking about some of what I wrote in my last blog on hearing God and some of the comments I received.  In particular, one left by my uncle on recognizing God’s voice: “Abraham, Isaac, and so many Bible heroes recognized God’s voice regardless of the dizzying traffic surrounding their sometimes chaotic lives. Why? Because they learned to recognize His voice.”   As I’ve been thinking about this, I thought about Samuel hearing from God for the first time in 1 Sam 3…

2 One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. 3 The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was. 4 Then the LORD called Samuel.   Samuel answered, “Here I am.” 5 And he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”   But Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” So he went and lay down.  6 Again the LORD called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”  “My son,” Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” 7 Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD : The word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him. 8 The LORD called Samuel a third time, and Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”   Then Eli realized that the LORD was calling the boy. 9 So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.’ ” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.  10 The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”  Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

Samuel learned what God’s voice sounded like.  Have we?  Can we distinguish His voice in the midst of so many others?

As a father, one of the joys I have is to hear the voice of my children (ok, it isn’t all that joyful at 3 in the morning:)).  And I can normally distinguish my child’s voice/cry from other children. Because I’ve learned the sound of their voice.

I daresay the more time we spend in Scripture, in prayer, in God’s presence, the better we’ll do at distinguishing His voice from the noise of life.  For when we hear His voice, something in us knows it’s Him.

May we hear & may we follow.

Love That’s Enough

I was reading in Psalm 57 today and was greatly encouraged.  It’s no secret that life is difficult.  There are joys to be experienced, but also monotony, challenges  and difficulty.  We try to do everything we can to avoid these things, but inevitably, they find us.   But in light of these things,  I’m thankful that God Himself walked this earth as a man (sinless) and can share in the pains and the joys of His own creation.

So when I read a Psalm (like Ps 57), I take great comfort in knowing that God can relate to our difficulties and our frustrations and our questions –  He can  “sympathize with our weaknesses” (Heb 4:15-16).   Thankfully, He does not reject our prayers and He does not withhold His love from us (Ps. 66:20).

Something that I’ve been reminded of lately is that God doesn’t work on our timetable.  He works from the perspective of eternity which means He’s not in a hurry.  His answers may not come when I went them to, but they will come.  Somethings may not be resolved, even in this lifetime, but they will be resolved.

I guess the point of this is simply to remind us that God’s love is greater than we understand and it is more than sufficient for our greatest needs.  And for that I’m grateful.  I hope you have a great Memorial Day.