Monday, January 25, 2010

Trust is Beyond Our Comfort!

A few days ago, I took the opportunity to make a long drive home during the night. From 8PM until 4AM I drove across long stretches of highway. I discovered many things during this time alone with God.

The miles that I drove on that night were quite familiar to me; I have driven those same miles many times over the years. Because it is mostly through Wyoming, little ever changes.

So what could one discover from such a trip?

There is an interesting parallel between my trip and life in general. Throughout the night of driving familiar sights were consumed by the dark. Mile after mile slipped by with little notice. I was surprised over and over again by the progress I had made as I stopped for gas or to walk around and clear my head. The little things that previously had been reminders of the slow progress that I was making were invisible to me.

Life without Jesus is very similar. I suppose that having Jesus only on the periphery of one's life would be quite the same. Life slips by with little regard for the things out of sight. One awakens from this autonomous slumber from time to time in the dramatic realization of how fast life is slipping away.

Jesus identifies His true friends as those who are involved in others' lives. He doesn't necessitate our involvement, He knows that it is "losing our lives in others that we will truly find life". It is our choice!

No, it is not easy in already busy lives. It won't necessarily give us more time, more energy or more resources. As a matter of fact, like after driving all night, there is a cost. The immediate cost is so much less that the long-term cost of ignoring the invitation.

A long-time friend of mine sent me some thoughts that might coordinate with the above message:

It is amazing to me how parallel are words can be not exact but similar. Last Wed. I was reading Daniel. Early in the book when he is still a young man he declines the king's food. He "overcame" being taken out of everything that gave him comfort - family, culture, surroundings. The familiar was gone, instead there was a promise of good food, comfort, leadership and influence after 3 years of training. He (actually there were 4) would not let go of God for earthly reward.

Their faith was rewarded. Daniel never doubted God is in control. Daniel definitely placed his trust outside of what he saw and what he knew had been taken from him.
Dennis Lewis

Monday, January 18, 2010

Choose For Yourself (this one is pretty long and very, very important so come to it when you have several minutes)

Now the LORD said to Abram,
"Go forth from your country,
And from your relatives
And from your father's house,
To the land which I will show you
Genesis 12:1

So the story begins. “Leave everything behind Abram and I will take you to the land that I have prepared for my people.”

Often referred to as the “Promised Land”. Of all the places in this world that God could have selected for His people to dwell, the “promised land” seems the least likely in common sense.

Surrounded by enemies on all sides, Egypt on the South, Israel sits precariously on the edge of total destruction yet it is the very land that God planned for His people.

If you are at all familiar with Israel's history, you will know how tempting it has been to have Egypt directly to the south of Israel. It seems that, often, when things got tough due to economic hardship or drought Israel would run to the help of Egypt. It may be helpful for you to reread the final several chapters of the book of Genesis to remind you about these events.

Over and over again, when things got tough, God's people would run to Egypt to escape their plight. Tragically, God finally gave the whole nation of Israel to Egypt as servants and slaves for over 400 years.

Why is this story important to us today?

Just like Israel, the church of Jesus in the United States has been planted in the midst of hostile enemies. More importantly, is that we have also been planted very close to Egypt. As we now move on beyond the Christmas season and face the coming bills associated to our recent decisions we have become little more than servants and slaves to the Egyptian system.

God never intended for us to live this way. He certainly give us the choice but it is not His design nor is it His desire of us. We tend to listen to the Egyptian hierarchy and react accordingly. Economic downturns? High unemployment? The newest in the long line of flu scares? Can you not hear the siren's luring songs?

Read the following words of God very carefully; see if they apply!

Isaiah 30

Woe to the Obstinate Nation

"Woe to the obstinate children,"
declares the LORD,
"to those who carry out plans that are not mine,
forming an alliance, but not by my Spirit,
heaping sin upon sin;
who go down to Egypt
without consulting me;
who look for help to Pharaoh's protection,
to Egypt's shade for refuge.

But Pharaoh's protection will be to your shame,
Egypt's shade will bring you disgrace.

Though they have officials in Zoan
and their envoys have arrived in Hanes,

everyone will be put to shame
because of a people useless to them,
who bring neither help nor advantage,
but only shame and disgrace."

An oracle concerning the animals of the Negev:
Through a land of hardship and distress,
of lions and lionesses,
of adders and darting snakes,
the envoys carry their riches on donkeys' backs,
their treasures on the humps of camels,
to that unprofitable nation,

to Egypt, whose help is utterly useless.
Therefore I call her
Rahab the Do-Nothing.

Go now, write it on a tablet for them,
inscribe it on a scroll,
that for the days to come
it may be an everlasting witness.

These are rebellious people, deceitful children,
children unwilling to listen to the LORD's instruction.

They say to the seers,
"See no more visions!"
and to the prophets,
"Give us no more visions of what is right!
Tell us pleasant things,
prophesy illusions.

Leave this way,
get off this path,
and stop confronting us
with the Holy One of Israel!"

Therefore, this is what the Holy One of Israel says:
"Because you have rejected this message,
relied on oppression
and depended on deceit,

this sin will become for you
like a high wall, cracked and bulging,
that collapses suddenly, in an instant.

It will break in pieces like pottery,
shattered so mercilessly
that among its pieces not a fragment will be found
for taking coals from a hearth
or scooping water out of a cistern."

This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says:
"In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength,
but you would have none of it.

You said, 'No, we will flee on horses.'
Therefore you will flee!
You said, 'We will ride off on swift horses.'
Therefore your pursuers will be swift!

A thousand will flee
at the threat of one;
at the threat of five
you will all flee away,
till you are left
like a flagstaff on a mountaintop,
like a banner on a hill."

Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you;
he rises to show you compassion.
For the LORD is a God of justice.
Blessed are all who wait for him!

O people of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you. Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it." Then you will defile your idols overlaid with silver and your images covered with gold; you will throw them away like a menstrual cloth and say to them, "Away with you!"

He will also send you rain for the seed you sow in the ground, and the food that comes from the land will be rich and plentiful. In that day your cattle will graze in broad meadows. The oxen and donkeys that work the soil will eat fodder and mash, spread out with fork and shovel. In the day of great slaughter, when the towers fall, streams of water will flow on every high mountain and every lofty hill. The moon will shine like the sun, and the sunlight will be seven times brighter, like the light of seven full days, when the LORD binds up the bruises of his people and heals the wounds he inflicted.

See, the Name of the LORD comes from afar,
with burning anger and dense clouds of smoke;
his lips are full of wrath,
and his tongue is a consuming fire.

His breath is like a rushing torrent,
rising up to the neck.
He shakes the nations in the sieve of destruction;
he places in the jaws of the peoples
a bit that leads them astray.

And you will sing
as on the night you celebrate a holy festival;
your hearts will rejoice
as when people go up with flutes
to the mountain of the LORD,
to the Rock of Israel.

The LORD will cause men to hear his majestic voice
and will make them see his arm coming down
with raging anger and consuming fire,
with cloudburst, thunderstorm and hail.

The voice of the LORD will shatter Assyria;
with his scepter he will strike them down.

Every stroke the LORD lays on them
with his punishing rod
will be to the music of tambourines and harps,
as he fights them in battle with the blows of his arm.

Topheth has long been prepared;
it has been made ready for the king.
Its fire pit has been made deep and wide,
with an abundance of fire and wood;
the breath of the LORD,
like a stream of burning sulfur,
sets it ablaze.

God's word says:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5

It sounds so easy when we simply read the words. It get so very difficult when we keep hearing the Egyptians' invitations for comfort, success, accomplishment, and wealth. So where is your trust? Is it in your understanding or is it truly in your God?

Behold, God is my salvation,I will trust and not be afraid; For the LORD GOD is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation." Isaiah 12:2

The past is past. What we have control over is what we will do next.

Joshua 24:15 states:

If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD

Choose for yourself whom you will serve!

Monday, January 11, 2010

New Year or New Life?

I am never ceased to be amazed of how our God provides what we need. Just today I was flooded with His grace as I was considering what to send out to you as a brief message. It seemed every time I turned around today there was another message to share. I will start with this one:

I had just finished my workout this morning when I walked by one of the personal trainers that I know who work in the place where I workout. I asked him, "So are you staying busy with all of the people who want to get back in shape?" His response is what struck me, "Yea, I keep busy, what I can't figure out is how to get them to listen to what I say."

Sure, they listen to his instructions as they are working out together, what he is saying is that they expect him to absolve them from all responsibility. "I paid you to help me get thinner but it isn't happening" is the type of thing he is talking about.

So this occurred to me:

Jesus said, "You call me lord, lord but you don't do what I say".

Do we listen to Him only when things work for us or when it is convenient to our otherwise self-planned life?

Jesus said, "I have come that you may have life and have it to the full".

So do you hear Him?

Jesus said, "I am the vine you are the branches if you cling to me you will bear much fruit".

Do you understand His invitation to "cling" to Him?

Jesus said, "Abide in Me and I in You" and "the things I do you shall do and greater things shall you do because I go to the Father."

Is there room in your life or in your theology to "Abide in" (or live in) Him?

Jesus said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.

Are your ears still open?

Please, please, please note that this message is not about your "doing"; it is about your "believing". The "doing" will never lead us to life, "doing" is only the RESULT of the life obtained by truly believing.

The words of Jesus that state "but you don't do what I say" are in response to His statement about people claiming He is Lord.

If we truly believe in His lordship then it would directly result in our trusting Him that what He as said is for our best interest. This is, after all, why He came!

Isn't it time that you fully surrendered? Is He really Lord, Lord?