Monthly Archives: January 2013

Trustworthiness

So this morning Ken and I were discussing atheists and their desire for God to show himself physically, if they are to believe.  We talked about how God gives us what we need to believe, but it is up to us to overcome our hubris and admit that life is about more than just our little circle of self-focused existence.  To develop faith, we can look at the fine tuning of the universe.  We can look at the artistic and noble nature of man, his ability to be altruistic.  We can admit that self sufficiency isn’t enough, that we need some sort of “higher power.”  I said that the question of faith can be like the question of why God allows suffering.  If we don’t have suffering, people can’t display goodness by making good choices in spite of the suffering.  If we can’t plainly see God, people can’t demonstrate an ability to admit that life is about something bigger than themselves.

All of this to say that God is faithful to provide what we need.  Today I decided to explore what it means for God to be faithful, for Him to be trustworthy.

The word used for trustworthy in the Bible is “pistos,” which also means “faithful,” “believing.”  The definition includes fullness of faith, believing the faith that God imparts. In Matthew and Luke, it is used to describe people, “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time?” (Matt 22:45)  It implies that the servant is someone who can be relied on to do the right thing.  The same is true in Matt 25:21, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.”  A faithful person is someone who is reliable, who takes responsibility for something and executes it righteously.

But it is in Corinthians that I found the verses about faithfulness that I was looking for, “Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.”  Now we are talking about God, not people!  He is the one who is reliable, who takes responsibility for something and executes this righteously.  And what He takes responsibility for is us!  He gives us spiritual gifts, which are probably part of what will keep us strong until the end.  But the awesome part is that He is committed to making us spiritually strong and able to hang in there until we die.  THAT is faithfulness!

“And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (I Cor 10:15)  This is another super encouraging statement about God’s faithfulness to us.  He will not let something have control over me.  He always provides a way so that I am not oppressed, not in chains.  He provides a way so that I can fight against it.  It doesn’t mean that he just takes it away.  But he provides a way so that I can contend with the situation, not just feel powerless and helpless.  It’s great to think how this is a reflection of prophesies about how God would break the chains of oppression and set the captives free.

May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.  (I Thes. 5)  But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.

It is interesting that the ways Paul mentions that God is faithful have to do with fighting against temptation and evil.  I would think that it would have to do with God answering our prayers or taking care of our day to day needs.  But when Paul talks about God being trustworthy, he talks about God being at our side in the most serious battle we face, the battle for our soul.  Day by day, I want to feel discouraged and defeated.  Paul says that God is absolutely trustworthy in this battle.

He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. Titus 1:9  The word is trustworthy.  It is reliable.  We cannot go wrong with it!  Not only does God act towards us in a faithful manner, he gives us truths, words, that will not let us down, tools that are perfect, that can demolish strongholds, that can hold up to any argument, that can fix any complaint of the heart or character.

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The Eyes of the Lord

“I will remove those who have turned away from following the LORD and those who no longer seek the LORD or ask him for help.”  Zephaniah 1:6

This was the indictment against Judah, that they did not seek God, and that they did not ask for his help and guidance. 

And at that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps and punish the men who settle down comfortably, who say to themselves: The LORD will not do good or evil.

Men do not search for God, but he searches diligently for them. For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him (II Chronicles 16:9) There are billions of people, but God is watching each person, from the poorest person in India to the celebrity and rich man, and one day everything will be brought to light.  Once again, the nakedness will be exposed.  There will be consequences for our actions.  He allows us to think that we are somehow obscure because there are so many people.  We are lulled into thinking we live to ourselves.  Satan lulls us with comfort and complacency.

The phrase for complacency here is like wine left on dregs.  Wine will continue to take on the quality of the dregs.  God allows us to fully ripen in the state in which we have chosen.

They will build houses but not live in them; they will plant vineyards but not drink the wine.   We spend our efforts building a comfortable nest for ourselves, but it is not going to last.  We should not have our treasure where moth corrupts and thieves break in and steal.

What have I learned recently?  I have learned how invigorating it is to fast and go out and share; to get out of our comfort zone and live in the deep waters!  Our whole congregation was buzzing with energy yesterday after they had participated in this. I have learned  important it is to dream, and honor God by believing that he will bless those dreams that are also His dreams.  To fight for our dreams.  That the remembrance of how God saved us can be the mustard seed of faith that is the catalyst for greatness and change.

In being in a cross study, I learned how great the grace of God is, that he would have his son die for mankind when mankind was only wicked at the time of the crucifixion.  Everyone, from Jesus’ friends to those in government, to the numerous Jews in the crowd — everyone was wicked.  No one stood up for what was right.  Yet God still went through with the crucifixion.  That is very great and utterly amazing grace.

And I came to that conclusion because I have been reading Deuteronomy, and the minor prophets, and I see how people have constantly fallen into wickedness, throughout history.

One thing that is interesting about Zephaniah is that God says he will destroy the whole earth because of Judah’s wickedness.  In the fire of his jealousy, all the earth shall be consumed; for a full and sudden end he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth.  It is like the flood all over again.  Peter says, But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.

So to summarize, the eyes of the Lord watch each individual., He is searching for those who will be devoted, and He sees when we become independent, when we become comfortable and our hearts gradually lose their thirst for Him. Let me not think that I am different than those present during the Passion.  I am just like those in the Old Testament, and I will drift into wickedness, any sin left undealt with will mature.  All of us will be called to account for this.  There is always a judgment day.  God, in His flood of mercy, has provided a propitiation for us.  But His wrath will take its course, the whole world will be destroyed at some point, and only that which is built on Christ will remain.

What can I do?  I must seek God and RELY on Him, ask for His help and guidance, moment by moment.  I must seek to live in the deep end, and push myself to get out of my comfort zone by fasting, sharing, and practicing self denial as a lifestyle, not as something I do and then come back to the ease of the shallow waters.

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Shepherding and Civilian affairs

O king of Assyria, your shepherds slumber; your nobles lie down to rest. Your people are scattered on the mountains with no one to gather them.”  Nahum 3:18

One of the big indictments against Assyria was that the leaders were not leading in a helpful way.  They were entirely self consumed.  They were corrupt, and the people became corrupt, not just in imitating them, but drifting into whatever sin and indulgence their hearts desired.

How scary it is when people don’t think they need to have a leader.  People today think it is their right to go their own way, to do as they please.  They little think that they may only be alive by the grace of God, only have their health by His grace, only have wealth by His grace.

And how scary it is for me that I might not shepherd others.  Jesus had compassion on people because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Today I go out to share.  The people I meet will also be without a shepherd.  They hear conflicting voices from false shepherds.  There is no one to gather them, no one who cares enough about them to point them towards the true way their life would work.  Jesus said that He was the good shepherd and he came to give life.  He said the thief didn’t care about the sheep.  So it was with the Assyrian leaders, and so it still is today.  My prayer is that I would truly care about the sheep.

Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding”  (Jer 3)  In the time of the prophets, there were few good shepherds.  God talked about a time when there would be shepherds who knew Him, and understood Him, a time when there would be a revelation of the truth, and the Spirit in man’s heart.

Here are some other sayings from Jeremiah.

I will cure you of backsliding. 

Circumcise your hearts to the Lord

The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority and my people love it this way.”

They dress the wounds of my people as through it were not serious

“Is there no balm in Gilead?” 

But let him who boasts boast about this – that he understands and knows me — that I the Lord act out of love, righteousness and justice.

The shepherds are senseless and do not inquire of the Lord, so they do not prosper

Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who rely on human strength .. Blessed are those who trust in the Lord And have made the Lord their hope and confidence They are like trees planted by the water

They will be turned into dust because they have forsaken you, the Spring of Living Water

I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing

Here is something I have been thinking about — how I need to stay in the deep end, but how I want to live in the shallow waters, foray into the deep end, and then come back to the safety and comfort of the shallow waters.  A couple of days ago I read how God would expose Assyria’s nakedness, and how in Revelations they did not realize they were naked.  Then I had a friend come over who has been doing a lot of searching, and realizes that serving others and being forgiving are worthwhile things, and that those who strive for success are chasing things that are not as worthwhile.

“No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.”  (II Tim 2:4)

We can’t get involved in civilian affairs.  When I do, I begin to clothe myself with emptiness, and I begin to love the shallow waters.  I have to have no place to rest my head.  I have to lose my life in order to save it.

There is a dilemma with those who have a form of godliness, but deny its power.  They are like me, wanting to live in the comfortable shallows, and all the while saying they love God with all their heart.  Yet not everyone who says, “Lord, Lord,” enters the kingdom.  And even more, those who serve God with a divided heart get hurt and broken along the way.  That is the way I was when I was in my 20’s.  That is the way it was with people I study the Bible with.

So people are harassed and helpless, and the shepherds out there don’t reflect a knowledge of God, and don’t tell the people how to save their life by losing it.  They allow people to think you can be comfortable and clothe yourself with the comforts of the world, and still serve God.   This is what I must combat, in my own life, and in the minds of others.

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Thoughts on Nahum 3

Woe to the city of blood,

full of lies,

full of plunder,

never without victims!

 

Woe to those who profit from others.  Oppression and justice is such a huge theme throughout the prophets and the old testament.  Last night at church we learned about fasting, and we read this verse about true fasting.  “Is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice…Is it not to share your food with the hungry…Then your light will break forth like the dawn. ..then your righteousness will go before you…The Lord will guide you always.”  (Isa 58)

I have been exploring the idea of light and its connection to righteousness.  So much of being righteous has to do with helping others.  So much of being right with God starts with doing right to others.  So much of sin has to do with only thinking of ourselves, often at the expense of others.

Another translation of Nahum 3:1 is “She is crammed with wealth, and never without victims.”  Does this mean that riches usually signify that someone is being oppressed along the way?  We are wealthy at someone’s expense.   “Dead bodies without end…all because of the wanton lust of the harlot, the countless whoring”  It has to do with desire, lust, for other things.  People are seduced away from God, away from what they know is right.  They sell themselves for greed.  How much do I want the things I have?  The very first way John the Baptist told people to repent was for those who had two tunics to share with the person who had none.  It all has to do with a self focus, with a feeling of entitlement.

Behold, I am against you, declares the Lord of hosts, and will lift up your skirts over your face; and I will make nations look at your nakedness and kingdoms at your shame.”

The irony is that we clothe ourselves with many possessions.  We furnish our houses with wonderful furniture, the latest designs.  We fill up our lives with the things that ads have told us define us.  Yet we don’t realize that the more things we put in our life, the more we are actually naked and poor.

I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.”  (Rev. 3:16-18)

It is only with God that we are rich.  It is only when we are poor in spirit that we have the kingdom.  It is only when I consider everything rubbish that I find Him, having a righteousness that clothes me more than any trappings could.  And every time I placate myself with my nice house, my nice house, my nice book to read I move further away from true comfort. The more I have, the more I perpetuate the illusion that I am clothed.  I am the emperor who had no clothes.  Can others see this?

What gold can I buy?  What white garments?  What salve?  I should certainly do good to others, that is what God desires.  I should certainly appreciate the blood of Christ, it is my only hope, every moment of every day.  I should certainly build on the foundation of Christ — every other foundation will be burned away.  Everything false in my life will be exposed, sooner or later.

Let me clothe myself with humility.  Let me embrace weakness.  May I truly care for others, place a spiritual hand of blessing on them in prayer.  May I cut off every line that connects me to sin, so I do not return to it, play with it, flirt with it.  May I seek holiness, the holiness that only comes as I empty my being of self.

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The Matrix of God

This day is not my day

These possessions are not mine

Time and physical existence

Are the Lord’s domain

A matrix of God

In Him we live and move and have our being

My heartfelt desire is to be in sync with my beloved Father.  All of life is teaching me.  Let me share some lessons I have learned lately.

Yesterday I bought some lights for my kitchen.  I have three indoor floods in my kitchen, and one of them went out.  Then another started to get dim yesterday.  We kept replacing the light that was out with the wrong bulb, so I have been in semi darkness for about a week.  Last night I finally installed the right bulbs.  When they warmed up, it was so bright, and it made everything look better, it made me feel better.  I had been letting some dirty dishes sit in the darkness, procrastinating about washing them.  In the dim light, it didn’t seem so important.  Once the kitchen was bathed in bright light, I was positively motivated to wash the dishes.  It wasn’t a chore, it just seemed like the right thing to do.  I could have gone on for a long time with the dim lights, forgetting how great it would feel to have bright lights and clean dishes.

So what are the parallels?  When we are doing well, when we have our life in order, it feels great and it seems natural to address those parts of our life that need changing.  But if we procrastinate, keeping our focus on other things, we can live a half life, forgetting the radiance and joy that could be ours.  Things could be so clear, but we’re going to have to install a bright light!

“When one rules over men in righteousness, when he rules in the fear of God, he is like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning, like the brightness after rain that brings the grass from the earth.” (II Sam 23:3-4)When I do right, I am bright, like the light in my kitchen.  Doing right is synonymous with fearing God. It means we always bow to Him in our heart.  God had so many kings and leaders who did not fear Him.  And there would be many more to come who would stray far away.  His people would put themselves on the throne and bow to their own whims.

So when we are righteous,when we fear God, it is that light that shines on a hill.  It makes it clear to others what life should be. It makes our own life clearer. It also is refreshing to God.

“Is not my house right with God? Has he not made with me an everlasting covenant, arranged and secured in every part? Will he not bring to fruition my salvation and grant me my every desire?” (2 Samuel 23:5)  I can feel confident in God.  My covenant is with Him. I love that God’s covenant with me is ordered and guaranteed in every detail.  There are no loopholes, like I might fear in the world with a legal agreement.  God’s relationship with me is completely orderly, everything is just as it should be.  He is watching over me. His son is interceding. He has an angel in place.  He has good works planned for me to do.  And I don’t need to worry that one of these factors will mess up.  Jesus will not be lazy, nor will the angel.  God won’t forget His plan, or let it be corrupted.

The picture below reminds me of God’s care.  He is holding our hand.  When I was holding Layla’s hand and walking through the woods, sometimes she slipped on pine needles or exposed roots.  But because I was holding her hand, she didn’t fall all the way down and get seriously hurt.  The same is true for me.  I may stumble, but God is holding my hand.  It is orderly — he has provided a support for me.  It is secure.  That support will always be there, nothing can take it away.

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