Love Confirmed…(see last post!)

Quote

From the Daily Office for Jan. 1st….

You shall no more be termed Forsaken,
and your land shall no more be termed Desolate,
but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her,
and your land Married;
for the Lord delights in you,
and your land shall be married.
For as a young man marries a young woman,
so shall your sons marry you,
and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
so shall your God rejoice over you.

Isaiah 62: 4-5

Advertisements

Wrestling with God

thinking businessman Everyone wrestles with God. Even the atheist, though he may not know it. At some point in every life, we are desperate, and we ask the hard questions–the really good questions. Why? Why me? We may even shout, “No!” We find something in this life that is unbearable and for a time, be it a night, a week, or years, we fight with God. We grab hold of Him, whether we understand Him or not, and we wrestle. We are always overpowered by Him. At that point, we decide who He will be to us. Some reject this God they cannot understand or will not accept. The believer, equally exhausted, grabs hold like a child to a parent and cries, “Bless me!”

And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. 25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, Let me go, for the day has broken. But Jacob said, I will not let you go unless you bless me. 27 And he said to him, What is your name? And he said, Jacob. 28 Then he said, Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.  (Genesis 32)

(2+2) x God

Math Teaching Assisting StudentBy myself, I am a simple addition problem. Me, plus whatever I have done. My name, plus all my mistakes and all my talents. But God is a factor that changes the whole equation. As He hovered over the first waters of the earth, when we decide to respond to His call, He hovers over the sum total we have made of ourselves and makes us something that, by ourselves, we could never be.

We are no longer 2 + 2.

We are (2 + 2) x  GOD.

We are Us + forgiven.

Us + changing.

Us + hope of eternal life.

Us + a reason for this life.

Us + comfort.

Us + a million brothers and sisters in Christ.

And it goes on and on. When we are in Christ, we not only are changed but we see the entire world in a new way. Like a 3D movie, meaning jumps out of creation, out of our sufferings, and out of Scripture. It’s an exciting way to live- in this Christian dimension.

“I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” C.S. Lewis

Has God Offended You?

He did everything right. He was filled with the Spirit before his birth. He renounced physical comforts. He lived in the desert, focusing on God and His service. He traveled relentlessly up and down the Jordan preparing people to receive Christ when He came. He faithfully proclaimed a message of repentance and he ostracized himself from elite society by pointing out the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees. He recognized Jesus when He came and even baptized His own Lord in obedience. People started to follow Jesus and his own ministry declined. He accepted it in humility without jealousy. Let’s face it, John the Baptist was a pretty awesome individual.

So why is he left to waste in prison–Herod’s prison–a nasty fellow, a man of total depravity? Jesus is God’s Son, right? He’s devoted everything to Him. Jesus is performing miracles and John is still in prison? Would it be so hard to free him? The days go by and John’s faith is tested to the breaking point. Finally he calls two of his followers to him and sends them to Jesus. He just needs to know that he hasn’t gotten everything wrong. And here we have one of the most poignant interchanges between a suffering servant and his Lord:

‘And John, calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to the Lord, saying, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”

And he [Jesus] answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”’ Luke 7

Jesus’ answer said it all. Yes, He was the Messiah, doing all the miracles the Coming One would do. And then Jesus said something that still resonates in the heart of every believer. “Blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

I never considered that I could be offended by God. I love Him for all He has done for me. But following Him is not a bed of roses. Actually, maybe it is, come to think of it. His presence graces our days with beauty and the fragrance of truth, but thorns are there for anyone who follows long enough. Obedience pricks the fingers of those who live in God’s garden. He asks us to do hard things, to love difficult people, to deny ourselves for the good of others. Doing all this for a short time is one thing–but when the trial is protracted? When hard situations hold no promise for change? How do we feel then? Angry? Cheated? Offended? Hopeless?

Jesus said, “Blessed in the one who is not offended by me.” When we are tempted to be offended at our lot, and yet choose to believe God’s promise that He loves us, has good plans for us, disciplines us for our good, and is preparing a place for us, we do something we could never have done without walking through trials–we honor Him, we glorify Him, and, best of all, we express true love to Him. “We become a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing unto God.”

So my  rose garden has now taken on new meaning for me. I will remember that the thorns of obedience will always be with me in this life…after all, who am I to complain? Jesus was crowned with them.


A Fearsome Possibility

Spielberg’s Jaws scared me more than Tolkien’s orcs. I shudder to think about what Spielberg could have done to Jaws if the special effects capabilities available to filmmakers today existed back when he created his infamous killer shark. I probably would have never stepped in the ocean again. I’ve always felt safer with fantasy. In fantasy you can comfortably assure yourself that nothing like this could ever happen. But thrillers about killer sharks, spiders, and viruses are another issue altogether. Those shows leave me looking over my shoulder for a swarm of bees or some other menacing insect looking to colonize my home.

Here’s something else that scares me–something that has happened to others. Starting well and finishing poorly. Case in point: King Solomon. He amazes me–and sobers me. Here is a man to whom God granted the singular privilege of building His temple here on earth. Even King David was not allowed the honor of doing so. Solomon was spoken to by God, blessed by God, allowed to work for God, and saw God’s glory fill the temple. That’s pretty amazing when you think about it. But for all that Solomon did, for all that He saw of God’s power and majesty, he didn’t end well. He spent the latter part of his life more in love with women than with God. I Kings 11 tells us,”4For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father. 5For Solomon went after  Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites.” All this happened because he disobeyed God’s command to not take foreign wives. Why would he do this? Maybe he thought he was too strong to be tempted by their religions. What is clear, however, is that Solomon “clung to them [his wives] in love.” ( I Kings 11) At some point his love for God waned. Maybe it was never that strong. Only Solomon and God know.

I want to end well. My take-away from King Solomon’s life is to continue to pray like David did:

23Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
24And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalms 139

Only God can give me the grace to resist loving this world. And wonderfully enough, God wants to help us do just that! Jesus says that all who ask will receive. So Heavenly Father, in the name of your Son, I ask you to make me faithful. Do as You promised for You have said, ” He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6

6So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and did not wholly follow the LORD, as David his father had done. 7Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem.” I Kings 11.

Enduring Obedience

I write having failed in this area not two hours ago.  I should have been up at five. However, when my alarm went off my half-awake self started talking to my good intentions. It’s still dark. You didn’t sleep well last night. Just one more half hour. You deserve it. I yielded to the siren call of sleep and woke two hours later. Wow, Elizabeth. What a fighter you are. I definitely did not obey what I felt the Lord wanted me to do. One thing I certainly did NOT do today–endure obedience.

Have you ever thought of obedience as something to endure? I usually think of obedience in terms of making the right decision at any moment in time. Enduring obedience takes this to a higher level. It’s making the right decisions faithfully over a long period of time and bearing any pain that comes because of it. Hebrews says of Jesus Christ, “that7In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. 8Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.9And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him”. Jesus didn’t learn how to obey, he was sinless, but he learned or experienced what it was to obey to the uttermost. Because he did it perfectly, he became our perfect high priest, able to save because of his sinless sacrifice and able to sympathize with us in all our temptations. Jesus endured his incarnation and his obedience won salvation for us all!

So, are you enduring something now? Is being obedient exacting a high price? Are you a parent, who needs to be faithful in the never-ending cycle of housework, meal preparation and child care? Do you have to go to a job you don’t like day after day in order to provide for you family? Do you have to care for someone who is sick? Do you have to face the work of overcoming an addiction? You’re in good company. Jesus knows what it is like to obey and to do it for a really long time. Don’t give up! Talk to Him when it is hard…He knows! Remember that if you are His, you belong to a great company of others who have endured too.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and the sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-3)

For Those of Us Who Are Really Angry

Ok. So someone hurts your feelings. Or steals your parking spot. Maybe they are late to your event or didn’t RSVP. You’re angry.

Or…someone molested you, killed a relative, stole your creative work, broke their marriage vows, abandoned you. You’re REALLY angry.

You just can’t lay hurts like that down and call everything happy. You may want to. You may try. But it never magically goes away.  I’m writing this post because letting go of anger is more than just trusting God to be just. It’s about looking at something that actually happened. That something that happened is as real and as horrible as what happened to you. That something can save those of us who are REALLY angry. In fact it saves us TWICE.

When we have been hurt, deeply hurt, we cry. Elementary. The tears heal and they let others know we suffer. Something else is born in us, too, though you might not believe it. A cry for justice. You can deny it but it’s true. It’s actually not a bad thing in itself. It shows that what was lost has intrinsic value. That cry is a kind of anger. Here’s the clincher. Your need for justice has been satisfied. You didn’t even have to fill out a report, call a lawyer, or attend a court date. No jury deliberations necessary. God knew every wrong that would happen to you and kept a record. And He exacted justice. About two thousand years ago.

You can have a front row seat to that event. In fact, you probably should take one. If you have a deep hurt it’s the next thing you should do after reading this post. Go somewhere by yourself and take that hurt to an ugly hill with three crosses on it. On one cross is an innocent man. He’s been nailed there and left to die. His name is Jesus. You can imagine a crucifixion. Stay long enough until you realize that God exacted justice for your hurt on Him. I don’t know how long you will need to see Jesus writhing there before you realize that He took your perpetrator’s punishment in full. It will happen though. At that point you will have been saved from your cry for justice. Each time the anger comes back take it to the cross and you will realize it again. But it will take less time.

Be sure to do one more thing before you leave the cross. Stay there long enough to realize how many of your actions Christ suffered over. You’ve hurt others and offended God with your sin. Accept that He took that punishment for you, and let Him be Lord of your life. At that point you have been saved TWICE. Once from anger and once from your own unrighteousness.

What a Savior!

If you want to know more about this awesome God who loves you this much you can send me a reply or simply visit my church’s website at www.clovisevfree.org. We have great pastors and elders who would love to talk to you. (And some great sermons to hear, too.)