Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Voice of the Lord

Have you ever planned out something, an event, something rather important in your life and then have it either get cancelled or just not work out? Today I had plans. Plans I had been considering for six months. All the various ways it could have turned out. But I woke up this morning, looked at the date, the 29th, and I thought about what I was going to be doing today.

Quartet rehearsal at 10.

Grandparents coming in to stay for the week in the afternoon.

Leading worship for the Young Discipleship Group tonight at 7.

Where had my plans gone? This occasion that could have been life-changing was nowhere to be found. As I lay in bed I started to feel uneasy. Almost a little sick. Realizing for the millionth time that I have zero control over my life. I can hope to do things, I can wish for events to happen, I can plan all I want to. But in the end God has sovereignty over my life and will take me in the direction I need to be taken.

So then, what should my reaction be today? How should I act today? I think I need to fall back on the word: Contentment. I need to be content. Seek God's greatest will in my life and not my own. Stop worrying about what will happen and listen to God.

I posted not too long ago about the Still Small Voice of God. How if we just keep calm, pray, and seek God He will speak to us. Well, God in His incredible work showed me Psalm 29 this morning. The psalm for the day of the month. I had a small freak out when I read it, because not only does it tie all of these rambles together, but it once again gives me hope that God will lead me down the path I need to go. I can fear not for God is with me.

Psalm 29:  A Psalm of David. Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. 
Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness. 
The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD, over many waters. 
The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty. 
The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars; the LORD breaks the cedars of Lebanon. 
He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox. 
The voice of the LORD flashes forth flames of fire. 
The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness; the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. 
The voice of the LORD makes the deer give birth and strips the forests bare, and in his temple all cry, "Glory!" 

The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD sits enthroned as king forever. 
May the LORD give strength to his people! May the LORD bless his people with peace!

The Lord is powerful. He is beyond powerful. I think we should take up the charge of David and live with the moto: May the LORD give strength to his people! May the LORD bless his people with peace!

We may not know what lies ahead, we may create plans that fall to pieces, but God is at the helm. He is leading us through life, through battle, through peace-time. God is with us. Listen to His voice, follow His guidance, and we will all one day stand at His glorious throne.

If God, who's voice is more powerful than any mortal army, is with us, then who can stand against us?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Mustard Seed

Often times things come up in my life that seem impossible. Whether it be a stage in my life of hurt and healing, or simply a task I must perform. I think to myself, "Good heavens this is way too hard. It just isn't even worth it." Yet, the next week, or day, or even the next hour, I find I have completed said task and have come out just fine, if not stronger.

Now, to say this is all my doing would be foolish and downright wrong, however I WAS able to accomplish a task I thought to be impossible.

In today's post I would like to posit a simple philosophy: Nothing we are called to do is too difficult to accomplish.

God gives us missions. Just as soldiers are sent out to fight or gather intel, we too are sent out for God and His purposes. Some missions will be rather easy and quick, but others will be long, hard, vicious fights where we drain every ounce of strength from our bodies.

But of one thing we can be sure, God will never EVER assign us a task that is impossible for us to complete. If we abide in His strength and will then nothing is too much for us. Now, if you think this is ridiculous, if you think it's silly to think we can do everything with God on our side, then let me make one caveat:

If God has truly called you to do a certain assignment. You CAN do it and the only thing that will stop you is yourself. I can tell you with absolute certainty that if the entire time you follow God's calling and realize that He is guiding you (not yourself) then you will succeed.

This principle lies in one crucial aspect of Christianity: Faith. We can do all things if Christ is leading us and if we have absolute faith in Him.

This is illustrated beautifully in these verses from the Bible:

And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” -- Matthew 17:14-21

Furthermore, when times are tough is when God is most evident. In Philippians we see that God allows us to do all things, hard or easy, through His strength and His alone:

"I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength." -- Philippians 4:10-13

So today I exhort you to trust God in all times. Do not have joy and faith only when times are easy and you are feeling blessed, but learn to rejoice and have faith in every circumstance. Never forget that when assigned a calling by God, even when it seems like you are at the end of your rope, that you have nothing left, you still always, always have God. Nothing God gives you will be too hard for you to get through. You will get through on Christ's power and through His glory. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Still Small Voice

I am sure we have all heard the phrase the "Still Small Voice". When talking about God speaking to us we always say we must listen closely. Now this phrase didn't just come out of the blue, it came from 1st Kings chapter 19 in the King James Version:

"And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:

And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.

And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?" (11-13)

Now, a lot of this probably sounds a little funny because of the old English, but let's create this image of the situation. Strong winds are blowing, winds that "rent" (define: A large tear in a piece of fabric.) Mountains. This wind is probably like a hurricane. A horrific storm. So powerful as to break rocks. Then, after all of this wind, an earthquake happened, after that an all-out fire storm. Now, the Lord was not in any of these, but God had caused them to happen. Where was the Lord? He was in a "still small voice".

God shows His awesome power and might but waits to speak until He can do so in a whisper. He speaks to Elijah through the torrents of the storm in a small voice. No shouting or commanding, just a simple, loving whisper.

I posit this question, how many times have you sought God's help and felt like you heard nothing? You knew it would be a still small voice, you knew it would come in times of trial, so you waited and waited yet heard nothing? This is always disheartening because of these passages of scripture:

Mark 11:24 -- "Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours."

Matthew 7:7 -- "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you."

We live in this misconception that asking will automatically grant us our wish. Let's be real friends, God isn't a genie in a bottle. We can't simply say "I.... wish for a million dollars. I'm asking for it full faith God and You WILL give it to me!" That is never, ever going to work.

I think we need to look to the Psalmist to find our reality check:

Psalm 22:

"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest." (1-2)

I think it's safe to say this is me a lot of the time. I cry out to God, I seek His help and guidance, but feel all alone. But David then goes on to say...

"Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame." (3-5)
No matter if we hear from God or not, He is still there. It doesn't matter if we get an instant response, just because we live in a world of instant gratification does not mean God must adhere to that lifestyle.
I love David's words near the end of Psalm 22 when he says:

"I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you: You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him.

From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will perform before those who fear him. The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the Lord! May your hearts live forever!

All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations." (22-28)

I encourage you to wait for the still small voice. But if you don't hear anything right away, don't worry about it! Just keep praying and pressing into God!

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Hated People

Often times I get frustrated, annoyed, even angry at the world for the attacks against Christianity. For the personal strikes at Christians who are just trying to live by their faith. I get so fed up with people calling Christians bigots, homophobes, etc, especially when most of the time it isn't true. Yes, there are those bad apples in the crowd but as a whole we just want to serve God and love people.

Pastor Mark Driscoll opened my eyes to 1st John chapter 3 and to something that made me laugh. I laughed because it is so simply and blatantly stated. It has entirely changed my view of how the world thinks of me as a Christian.

1 John 3:12-13 "We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother's righteous. Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you."

This is so very simple! I love Jesus, I follow Jesus, much of the world does not. In fact, a lot of the world hates Jesus! So... Why on earth am I surprised that the world hates Christians?

Throughout the Bible we see references to the World being one thing and God/Jesus being another. We cannot have idols, we cannot serve two masters, we must be in the world but not of the world, the list goes on. The world is a dark, lost, horrific place. The only way for hope and peace is through Jesus Christ. However, because as humans with our sin nature we are constantly in rebellion to God, the world seeks to tear Jesus down.

So let's put it this way, if the world seeks to get rid of Christ, and I seek to express Christ, speak about Him, glorify His name, what is the world going to think of me? Obviously they are going to try to get rid of me as well.

It comes down to this basic question, do you want the world to love you, or Jesus to love you? We cannot serve two masters. We cannot be loved by the world and by Jesus at the same time. Yes, there are those in the world who will love us, we all have people who love us, but as the whole we cannot have a world who wants the best for us because the world does not believe in the same ideals that we do.

That being said, we CAN love the world and love Jesus simultaneously. Do not love the world in the way you love Jesus, but we are called to love everyone. We are to bless those who curse us, love those who persecute us. We are to show kindness and love to our enemies. It is a tall order to fill because no one likes to be loving and kind to someone who doesn't like them. However it is not impossible to accomplish.

I say we at least try. This week if someone says an angry word to you, if someone "attacks" you whether for your faith or just because they can, love them in return. Bless them in return. If we all do this the world will be just that much better of a place to live in. Not to mention, it will give God all the glory, and that's our purpose. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Light

John 1:1-18

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

He was in the beginning with God.

All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.

In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.

He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him.

He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.

He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.

He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,

who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

(John bore witness about him, and cried out, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.'")

For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known.

      I believe we are called to be lights. I think the Bible is pretty clear on that:

      Matt 5:14-16

      "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.

      Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."

We are lights in the darkness. The world is a wicked place and evil has darkened it. We, with Christ shining through us are lights, lights that show others the way to Truth.

But in my Bible study this morning I discovered something that I had never seen before. (Don't you just love it when that happens?)

We all know that many times we are called to be Christ-like:

1st John 2:6 "Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked."

1st Cor 11:1 "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ."

Eph 5:1-2 "Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."

However, for as many times as I read John chapter One I never noticed that Christ came into the world as the Light. Let's look at the metamorphosis:

John 1:1 -- We have the Word. The Word is suppose to be the Spirit, many commentators have said the Word is the Spirit and apart of God.

1:3 -- All things are in the Word (Spirit).

1:4 -- In the Word (Him) was the light of men.

1:5 -- The Light (Word... Him... Spirit... God) shines in the darkness.

1:7 -- He (John) came to bear witness about the Light.

1:14 -- The Word (Light... Spirit...God) Became FLESH. (Jesus!)

1:15 -- John bore witness: "This was He of whom I said 'He who comes after me ranks before me, because He was before me.'"

The "He was before me" is a call-back to John 1:1. The Word was in the beginning. The Word was before John.

I had never realized that through this chapter we get the Light of life as it is fully God, fully man, and fully the Holy Spirit. We have the divine trinity explained clearly for us to see. The fascinating part is it also proves that Jesus is not merely a man, but fully God.  For in the first verse it says the Word WAS God. But then as the chapter goes on the Word morphs into the Light, the Light into the Flesh, and the Flesh is Jesus Christ.

I see now that we are not only called to be Christ-like, not only called to be the light in the darkness, but we are called to be both simultaneously because they are one in the same. Now, I could be way behind the times on this realization, so maybe you know all this already, but even if so I want you to consider this:

What type of calling is it that says we are to be LIKE Christ? Is that not the greatest calling man has ever been given? We see men are born to be great leaders, generals, kings, presidents, people are born with the "upmost of callings". Yet us, as Christians, every single one of us great or small has the SAME calling! We are all commanded to be like Christ. But look at it this way... this is the greatest calling because by telling us to be Christ-like, we are being called to be like a Divine spiritual being that is fully God, fully Spirit, and fully Man. We are called to live our lives in a way that mimics that of a spiritual Being that was around before the foundations of the world.

This is a great calling, this is a calling we simply cannot refuse. It is by far the hardest to achieve, but farther still the greatest to be rewarded. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Sharks and Satan

Hello readers! I apologize for the respite in posting, the week got away with me and other excuses that most likely aren't true.

Anyhow, this week marks the start of the 2012 Shark Week! For those of you who don't know... The Discovery Channel picks one week a year to air shows, movies, documentaries etc in honor of Sharks. The idea is to get the general public aware of the dangers of sharks and how powerful they are. Indeed I believe somewhere upwards of 72 million people now participate in Shark Week annually.

In this post I would like to talk about Sharks and Satan. There are many people (and I am guilty of this as well) who like to mock the devil. They like to call him stupid and lame and that God is far stronger than he is. Now, all this may be true, but I think this generation has lost sight of something incredibly important. The devil is still the devil no matter how dumb he may seem.

Afterall, he has turned righteous leaders into wicked sinners, rich prosperous men to poor begging fools. Sure he may have to talk to God before he can do these kinds of things (see the book of Job) but he is still incredibly powerful.

Let's talk about sharks. Sharks are awesome in the true sense of the word. (Extremely impressive or daunting; inspiring great admiration, apprehension, or fear.) We look at these massive creatures and I know some of us tend to think of just how amazing they are. Shark Enthusiasts study their habits, their nature, their being. However, how many of us have actually SEEN a shark? Like in real life, in the ocean. I know I haven't. Pretty sure no one I know has. Or maybe you have seen a shark, but just its fin. Only seen it swimming around far off.

We can't honestly understand the great danger a hungry shark poses unless we experience it first-hand. In the same way we can't realize the danger the evil one is unless we realize his power first-hand.

Let me tell you something about myself. I am allergic to medical sedatives. Things like NyQuil, Advil PM, etc. Now, whenever I take one or another of said medicine I fall into horrible hallucinations until the effects of the pills wear off. I, for obvious reasons, have not partaken in any of these medicines in quite a few years, but before I knew I was allergic I had these hallucinations quite a few times.

I vividly remember...

Sitting on the couch in the living room. Sick with a cold. It's pitch black everywhere. Roughly 3 AM. Then the room started to turn slightly. I looked at my left hand and saw it swelling up. I couldn't feel my legs. Then a mass of little black circles came from all sides of me and started enveloping me. My right leg disappeared somewhere I started screaming. At this point I couldn't control myself. I knew I was moving. Or at least thought I was. Furniture was sliding around. I kept getting attacked by these random circles. I felt so much pain all over and I just kept yelling for help. Hoping, of course, that I was actually yelling and not just dreaming it.

All this happened while I was perfectly awake. As the medicine wore off I realize the sun was coming up. Nothing was wrong. I was just a little sick. Nothing had moved. I was fine. What I have never been able to shake off is the feeling of being absolutely and utterly lost for control of my own body.

Why do I share this? I think the devil can do the same. The devil can make us do or say things that we wouldn't ever mean. He can turn best friends against each other, he can turn families inside out. He is crafty and will do anything to stop us from glorifying God. He can make us lose control of ourselves.

I think it's time that we took with gravity the idea of the enemy. That we stop thinking we are in control of our lives and God will always protect us. Yes, God will protect us,  but He will also allow for temptation and trials. We cannot be apathetic. The devil wants us, he desires to trip us. We must understand that he can and will do this if we don't watch out and pay close attention to what we are doing.

Let's heed God's Word when He says,

"Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world." -- 1 Peter 5:8-9

"Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints." 
-- Ephesians 6:11-18

It is time we stand and fight. 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

God is More than Enough

Have you ever considered God and His goodness? 

In this post I would like to make a few observations I have gained this past weekend. I attended the Seasons of Life Seminar by Mr. Gregg Harris and he gave me some insight into God's goodness. 

Question, have you thought of food and how it tastes in relation to God's goodness? 

There is a LOT of food that tastes absolutely delicious! There's Pizza, Alfredo, Ice creme, Cheese burgers the list goes on. All of this food is satisfying and filling. But have you thought of how God didn't have to make this be? He could have simply created tasteless edible food that's only purpose was for nutrients. But what did He do? He created incredibly delicious satisfying food. 

God is good. Very good. 

So that is one small portion of what I learned at the seminar. Now today I was studying this a little more and found my own insights:

God is absolutely more than enough. God doesn't just satisfy our needs, He goes above and beyond our needs. God sees a situation that we desperately need help from and God saves us, then goes a step further. 

Jesus is known to have said: 

Mat 5:41  And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.

This is of course where we get the adage "Go the extra mile". Interestingly back during the time of Jesus this was a fascinating political commentary. One with historic effects. 

Jesus was instructing the Jewish people of the time to passively fight against the Roman oppression. The example in this verse of "going the extra mile" was in regards to the Roman Impressment Law. Under this law if a Roman Soldier passed you he could (by law) force you to carry his pack for up to one mile. However, by law the soldier could not force a Jewish person to carry the pack one inch further than one mile. Jesus telling the Jews to go another mile with him, was a tricky way of exposing the injustice that was happening. Simply put, at the end of the mile when the soldier asks for his pack back, simply say, "it's ok, I'm good" and keep walking. Eventually this soldier would be pleading with you to get the pack back or else he may get in trouble. Furthermore Jesus was planting a seed in the minds of his listeners that it doesn't hurt to do a little more. It doesn't hurt to bless those who curse you. Also looking upon His words of saying bless those who curse you. 

But I see a connection between all of this historicity and what God shows us in creating tasty food. God is good and God is more than enough. God is our greatest role model for life and is proving that through the words of Jesus. God wants us to go the extra mile just as He goes the extra mile for us. We are slaves to Christ, we are fools, we are evil sinners, God does NOT need us. Yet even with all this what does He do? He loves us, gives us good food, and is more than enough for all of our needs. 

What has God done in your life that has proven He is more than enough? In what ways in your life has God gone the extra mile for you? 

I think it's fair to say we should do the same for those around us. Practice what your preach, God practices what He preaches, we should do the same!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Saving Grace

Yesterday afternoon I was shocked with the news that my little nephew Andrew had fallen out of his bouncy-chair and onto the floor. My brother and mom rushed to her place to see what happened and take the poor kid to the Dr and see if he needed to go to the Emergency Room. Upon arriving there the Dr. examined him and found that he had probably broken his nose, but that he would be alright in time. Precautions were made and my sister brought him back home.

After his appointment he looked pretty badly bruised. Last night he look pretty bruised but improving. I saw little Andrew this morning and he was grinning and happy and barely bruised at all. In fact, at first I couldn't see anything at all wrong with him! God had healed him quickly, miraculously.

This experience has taught me a couple things that I would like to share with you.

1) Prayer works. I sent out a facebook prayer request that was responded to by quite a few people. I was praying, my siblings and parents were praying. A lot of people were praying. I can tell by this traumatic situation that the prayers worked. People kept their cool, and the baby was brought home safe and sound.

2) God is watching over us. ALL of us. Even the little ones. God watches, protects, and keeps his children safe. Even when something horrible and life-threatening happens, God is there. 

3) God has a saving grace. We are just like my nephew. Children, babies, to God. We are His children. Just as He can pick up an infant and save him from harm, he can save us. He is willing to save us. He will do everything to take our heart and love us. We must simply choose to follow Him. If we do that, we can be just like Andrew. Saved from a dangerous world, saved from harm and brought into His saving grace.

God is ALWAYS good. And God is ALWAYS there.

Psalm 139: 7-18--
"Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, 'Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,' even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand — when I awake, I am still with you."