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.

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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.

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.

Hearing God

Elijah was terrified.  Jezebel promised to kill him in the next 24 hours.  So he runs.  And then God shows up:

11 The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.”  Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. (1 Kings 19)

Stillness.  Quietness.  A whisper.  There is a distinctiveness to when God speaks.  Elijah knew the difference.  There was something in the whisper that made it very clear that it was God speaking, so Elijah moved closer.

There are times when we just have to wait until He speaks.  And we need to actually listen, to look for His activity, to pay attention so we’ll recognize Him when He moves.

Maybe today is the day you finally hear what you’ve been needing to hear.  Maybe it’s not.  Question is – are you listening?

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.

The Waiting Room

17_waitingroom_invI have those days, today being one of them, where it feels like I’m just waiting on God to do something.  The thing about faith is that it means waiting.  We’re told to wait on God (Ps 37).  It’s like going to the doctor’s office, there’s a waiting room, and then you go to a smaller room where you wait some more (this is a Seinfeld bit, BTW).  Sometimes you wait a little, sometimes a lot.   I’m not quite sure what I’m waiting for, just that it’s what I’m supposed to do.  I’m not good at the waiting, the being still.  I’d rather be doing something.  But even when I’m restless and hurrying up to wait, even then God is still moving & working in some form or fashion.   That’s my hope.  And that is the essence of faith, isn’t it?  Being sure of what we hope for & certain of what we don’t see?  I look forward to when the waiting is done.  But until then, I’ll wait some more.