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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Father in the Heavens

Our Father who art in Heaven
Hallowed be thy name…

This name, this title...

There is an odd reaction to this title.


Of all the words to cause such extreme reactions…


For some this word conjures a very positive idea… we love our fathers… our fathers love us. The relationship is healthy… it is safe. Your dad is the provider, protector, and is a great role model.

For some this word conjures up all of those feelings… but in mourning. We loved our fathers… wishing they were still around… you are separated by death, custody after divorce, or by some other means.

For some this word conjures a very negative sentiment within you. Father was absent. Father was gone. Father treated you bad. Father… doesn’t deserve to be given a proper name. Father is the extent of your relationship. Maybe he was embarrassing, maybe he was cruel, maybe both…maybe more. Father leaves a bad memory. Father is something you are avoiding… hating… needing to be released from.
Violence, legalism, abuse, absence…are words that you associate with ‘Father.’

For some… you never knew your father.
There is no feeling except a longing to have one.


We all have different responses… because we all have different journeys… we all have different experiences with the word, the person, and the idea.
This is the name God chooses to identify himself as.

As a Father.



Though God is the transcending and all powerful Elohim… he is also a Father to his creation.
As a father provides for his children with as much power as he has, so God wishes to be a father using his power to the good of those who love him…and… for those whom he loves.

All of a sudden we are introduced to another concept: God is love.

But some of us see this differently.

Some of us can’t tie father and relationship to… love.

It’s not possible.

When we pray we don’t want to call him father… we feel God is deserving of a better name… or we can’t pray… we can’t get this idea of God loving us… because we don’t understand this idea of a father actually caring for us.

This is real.

This division.

This feeling of isolation from God…
 it’s real.

There are people missing out on love… missing out on God…

Not because of a lack of belief…
Not because of a lack of faith…

People are missing out on Him… because of a lack of understanding because of a past hurt.

We can’t relate to God… the way we need to relate to Him… the way Jesus taught us to relate to Him… without bridging the fallout with the relationship with your father.

God is your Father.
God is my Father.
God is everyone’s Father.
God is everything to the ones with nothing.

Because we all need a heavenly father.

Psalm 10:14 states,
 “But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted;
   you consider their grief and take it in hand.
The victims commit themselves to you;
   you are the helper of the fatherless.”

Psalm 68:5 tells us,
“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
   is God in his holy dwelling.”

God describes himself as a father, to the fatherless, and as a father to all.

Jesus used the Hebrew term, Abba, which in our culture would mean ‘Daddy’. One of the most intimate names to use for a father figure.

God wishes to highlight his desire to be in a relationship with His creation.
God as a perfect father… God as a heavenly father… God, great enough to be Elohim… yet intimate enough to care about your needs, my needs, as if we were his only child… the only person he wished to help.

In Romans 8 we see the reality of what God is trying to do within our relationship with him…
“So don't you see that we don't owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There's nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God's Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go! This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It's adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike "What's next, Papa?" God's Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children.” (8:12-17 The Message)

God’s spirit beckons.

This life with God as our father is an adventure… a journey. And he wants us to cry out to him asking, ‘What’s next, daddy?’

And how do we get this new life?

Jesus said in John 10:10 “…I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

Why did Jesus come?

To give us this new life.

He is the way, the truth, and the life.

He, acting on our behalf, saving us, laying down his life for us, as a Savior, as a big brother, as a father, as someone who loves us.

Loves us?
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

God wants his children to be reconciled with him… children who have gone astray and rebelled against him… he has done everything to get us back.

Forgiving us.

Giving us a position in His family.

Children of God.

God as Father.

God could have used many different words, ideas, and analogies to communicate his desire for an intimate relationship with us… why does God WANT us to relate to Him as our Father?

I believe because he wants to drive home a few concepts:

Protection and Provision.
God watches over us. His strength, power, majesty, and wisdom no one can compare to.

He delivers us from Evil.

“He refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
   for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
   through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
   for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
   they comfort me.
 You prepare a table before me
   in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
   my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
   all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD
   forever.” –Psalm 23:3-6

Many times this passage is used to convey God as a shepherd… watching over us.

Sheep aren’t guided for a name’s sake…
Sheep don’t sit at a table…
Sheep don’t get their heads anointed with oil…
Sheep don’t dwell in the house of the Lord…

Children are.

Father’s give names.
Father’s prepare tables… provide for the table.
Father’s anoint…
Father’s provide shelter in a house…
Fathers do those things.
God is our father… he protects and provides.

The second concept is adoption.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will” Ephesians 1:3-5

For those with that negative feeling to the word Father… for those with no father… God has adopted you.

He chose you.

He desires… you.

Adoption to sonship (or daughtership... the original Greek means both son and daughter) through Jesus Christ… our big brother, our savior, our Lord.

He gives us love, He gives us His name, He gives us purpose,  he gives us direction… He didn’t have to.
He’s God.

But He chose to.

He chose to take on the responsibility for your sake, for my sake, because He loves us.

He chose to be a Father. A Father that some of us never had, wished we had, and even a Father that goes above and beyond what we already may have. God is giving us new lives.

God will never fail us.

Our father in the Heavens is fully capable of re-parenting… He is fully capable of taking whatever brokenness we have and holding our hearts.

“This, then, is how you should pray:
   ‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
   on earth as it is in heaven.
 Give us today our daily bread.
 And forgive us our debts,
   as we also have forgiven our debtors.
 And lead us not into temptation,
   but deliver us from the evil one.’” –Matthew 6:9-13




He loves.

He loves Us.

Your Father… 



Sunday, March 27, 2011

Simple Sunday: Gift's Response

When you get a gift, you respond with a thank you and you feel like you need to do something for the person who gave you that gift, with God we don't need to do anything... yet there is a feeling still that a simple thank you will not suffice. What does God then say when he gives us the gift of grace? We can't earn it, we can;t repay him... yet there is still this feeling that we must. We can fill it with simply obeying and trusting in the gift and the God who has given the gift of grace. Some people however.... and when I say some I mean all... can treat Grace like a license to disobey... we've grown so accustomed to the act of asking for forgiveness and moving on to fight another day... but that's just the issue. A license implies that we have a privilege. A privilege to drive, a privilege to hunt, to fish... for some a license or a privilege to kill. Licenses... privileges... can be revoked. Grace cannot. Grace isn't a license. Grace demands a response of repentance. Grace demands us to worship. Not because God demands it, but because deep within ourselves we demand it... it's that little piece of God's image shining through the decay of our sinful lives. And you know what... that pleases God. It pleases Him so much, that through the grace that we have responded to... this idea of salvation comes out.
This system, this cycle, this journey was all and is all God's idea. I don't know about you but a God who comes up with things like that... a God who shines His love and mercy through our lives in this kind of a way... that is a God that I can and will worship. Through my darkness, my sinfulness, my decay, my death... Worship for such a holy and righteous God seems to burst through.
How about you?
This week will you make worship a priority?
This week will you make repentance a daily factor in your life?
If your answer is yes, welcome to the journey.

I'm going to be posting short posts, simple posts... hopefully to challenge or be a part of your weekly or daily devotions every Sunday. Hence the title: Simple Sunday ;)

Friday, March 25, 2011


So for the past few weeks...well for the past month and a half... I've been posting mostly on two different topics, the different aspects of suffering, trying to answer the questions:

Why does suffering exist, when God is love?
Why does suffering exist, when Salvation is here?

Whether I've done a good job of answering those or not... I've also been posting on a different topic.


Seeking God's Heart, Face, Voice, and Word.

Now a new question.
What do seeking and suffering have to do with each other?

Well, what one thing do they have in common?


Today, I'm going to add a third dimension to this blog of complete chaos... but just so y'all know, it's perfectly organized inside my head... and when I say that I mean I got a few things rattling around up there and I need to talk about them but I have no clue when, how or what I need to say around them for it to make sense... thank God for the Holy Spirit. ;)

So without any further ramblings on nothing... I'm going to dive in.


We all have them.

Sometimes we wonder what our parents were thinking... but soon find out that our name ends up fitting our personality down the road.

What do you mean?
Names have meaning.

And what you name someone or something seems to eventually or always carry that meaning out.

God has given us names.

Man or mankind.

Addam: which means from the ground, where we get the name in English: Adam.
Adam named his wife woman. And later made her name more personal, Eve, because she was the mother of all humans.

What we name ourselves, what other people name us, or call us invokes a reaction within us... it creates a notion of what we believe about ourselves.

God has given us names... His name. A name we can accept or reject. It describes us, creates something new within us, redefines us... or if we choose to reject it... it does nothing.

He names us Christians. Christ-ians. Christ followers. God followers. His disciples.

He calls us beloved.
He calls us forgiven.
He calls us Holy.
He calls us new.

What we are called and accept what we are called... does something to us.

We begin to strive to be what our name means.

God has a name.

Multiple names.

And he is named these names not because he has to strive for them but because it's His nature, His character.

We will begin with Elohim.

Elo- what?


Pronounced ELLO-HEEM.

You know some of us can say that we have known God for a long time, others maybe a lot shorter than 'a long time' but because He is spirit and we are flesh there are many times we forget who He is, we are so easily distracted... and that is why I made this blog... if nothing more to remind me of His nature, of His character, of who He calls me... of who He is.

And that's really where those two other topics come in...

Who is this God? Who is OUR God?
Who do we seek?
Who do we suffer for and suffer because of?

Are we seeking... to suffer?

Does this God who we now have explored His face, heart, word, and voice, have a name?

Genesis 1:1, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."
The Hebrew word for 'God' in this instance, which just so happens to be the very first name God describes himself as, is Elohim.

In the beginning Elohim created...

This was the name that God wanted to be known as when speaking of creation. It's not personal. It's general. Every other god that claimed to be in charge of something, that claimed to be the creator of... they all have names, we see this when we look at world religions, we see this when we look at Greek and Roman mythology. We see that there are all these Gods... they all have created or have been put in charge of something. Elohim however has created EVERYTHING. This was the name the Israelites used when discussing Him with people from other nations.

But I've never heard of this before? Surely, if this was the name God decides to call himself when discussing all this might and power to create the heavens and the earth... that is all the fire breathing stars, that is the mighty ocean, the power of the volcano, the force of wind, the strength of rock, the beauty of the clouds... the LORD Almighty.

The name is translated even within the Hebrew text... and thanks to a popular song by Amy Grant, thanks to many Hymns we may have grown up with we may recognize Elohim by another name which is the Hebrew translation of Lord Almighty...

El Shaddai.

The God who is all powerful.

Then why Elohim?

Remember when I said we all have names... names.... not a name... but names.

Elohim is plural.

Yet it translates into a single name.
This is the part I mentioned before about mind blowing.

Is God revealing himself, his true nature, in the very first verse of the Bible?
Do we see an accurate view of the trinity in the very first verse?

Or is it that God was revealing something else...
something even crazier?

That the god that the Greeks worshiped as the god of the sea, the god of the sky, the god of love, the god of war, the god of... etc. etc. is actually all the same God?

Does this reveal something about human nature as well?

We are created in His image.

And we were created AFTER this revelation.

This God is so immense, so powerful that he completely surpasses and at the same time encompasses all descriptions, all powers, all might, all forces, and all pieces of mother nature.

Surpassing and encompassing... that's as crazy as something being over and underneath.

So crazy that I was forced to create a new word... yeah my blog title.

Same idea with the writers of Genesis.
A new word... a new name. God inspired.

Because that's the name God wanted to be described as... 'In the beginning'.

Before all other things.

Before all other names and descriptions... he was named indescribable.

As if the Hebrews were saying, all of your other gods, together, still can't even come close to the power of this one true God. Because he surpasses and encompasses all of them.

What a statement.

What a reality.

What a truth.


The possession of all power.

Shouldn't we just relax and meditate on that simple reality that really isn't so simple... the majesty and power of God. The might and strength of El Shaddai.


So now what? I knew God was mighty and strong and all that... I didn't need a name for it.

Yes we do.

This name for God isn't just a name for Him... it's a call to us.
This call is a low blow to the notion of self reliance.
We may believe in God... but sometimes... we believe in ourselves more.


Because we are raised in a culture that promotes it so vividly.

Sayings like...
If you put your mind to it... you'll accomplish anything.
You can do this.
Shake it off.
Stop wallowing.
You are stronger than you think.
A human's greatest weapon is their own mind.
Movies that show how the good guy always comes up with crazy almost unthinkable things and does the near impossible to 'save the day'.

On second thought... we are drowned in a culture that promotes it so vividly.
Self reliance.

What Elohim does to us is state, 'Look where self sufficiency got you.'

Look? Look where? At what?



Hanging on that bloody tree.

Nails through my feet and my wrists.

Nails that you drove into me.

Nails I allowed, Nails I created.

Driven into a tree that I created, that I grew.

By you. MY creation.

Look where self sufficiency got us.

Self sufficiency got us to a point where we could no longer live... But Elohim decided to give us a way to stand on His efficiency.

To trust in His sufficiency.

Isaiah 9:6 says, "For to us a child is born,
   to us a son is given,
   and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
   Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
   Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."

Did you catch that?
Mighty God.
El Shaddai.

But we can clone things.
We have iPhones.
We walked on the moon.
We have studied the stars.
We can blow up the entire planet with all of the weapons we have created.
We can heat things up.
Freeze things down.
We can channel the might of the ocean.
Harness the power of the wind.
Recreate lightning with our electric power plants.
Break apart cells and atomic matter.
We can magnify and trap radiation.

We can be... God?
We think we can be God.

And sometimes...
God has to do things to help us see how far we are off.
Sometimes it takes a tornado to prove to us...
Sometimes it takes a tsunami...
Sometimes it takes cancer...
Sometimes it takes ____________ fill in the blank.

This same species that has walked on the moon, built skyscrapers, made the internet, can be shown what we truly are by one small clot in one small artery.

We all will be brought to what we truly are... dust. Beautiful dust. But dust nonetheless.

We aren't God.
We are nothing like the Everlasting Father, the Mighty God, Elohim.
We are lost in ourselves.
Sin does that.
We become lost in another path.
What does it take to wake up from the delusion that we were ever mighty?

Sometimes it takes... God to come to earth and show us a different path.

A path that leads to a cross.
A path that leads to a choice.
A path that leads to a grave.
And He says... look at my might.
I am mighty to save.
Sin has no shackles, death has no sting, Hell, has been defeated.

The grave could not hold... the Lord Almighty.

There is a song by Hillsong called 'Mighty to Save' and it takes a knowledge of just one of the names of God to shed a whole new light on the meaning of the song to me. I encourage you to listen to it if you don't know it.

He can move those mountains that we can't cross, the mountains that takes the one true God to break apart.

He is Mighty to Save.

He is Elohim.

But there are times that we forget that.
Times that we wallow in ourselves and it can feel good, it may be a mountaintop experience... but suffering is inevitable.

It's what sin does to humanity.

It's a mechanism that God uses to shout to our deaf ears.

Much like Job.

And I love chapter 38 of Job...

God speaks.

But God speaks in a way that only God would, in a way that only God could.

Out of a storm... some translations say a whirlwind or twister.

“Who is this that obscures my plans
   with words without knowledge?
Brace yourself like a man;
   I will question you,
   and you shall answer me.
“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
   Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
   Who stretched a measuring line across it?
On what were its footings set,
   or who laid its cornerstone—
while the morning stars sang together
   and all the angels shouted for joy?
“Who shut up the sea behind doors
   when it burst forth from the womb,
when I made the clouds its garment
   and wrapped it in thick darkness,
when I fixed limits for it
   and set its doors and bars in place,
when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther;
   here is where your proud waves halt’?
“Have you ever given orders to the morning,
   or shown the dawn its place,
that it might take the earth by the edges
   and shake the wicked out of it?
The earth takes shape like clay under a seal;
   its features stand out like those of a garment.
The wicked are denied their light,
   and their upraised arm is broken.
“Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea
   or walked in the recesses of the deep?
Have the gates of death been shown to you?
   Have you seen the gates of the deepest darkness?
Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth?
   Tell me, if you know all this.
“What is the way to the abode of light?
   And where does darkness reside?
Can you take them to their places?
   Do you know the paths to their dwellings?
Surely you know, for you were already born!
   You have lived so many years!
“Have you entered the storehouses of the snow
   or seen the storehouses of the hail,
which I reserve for times of trouble,
   for days of war and battle?
What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed,
   or the place where the east winds are scattered over the earth?
Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain,
   and a path for the thunderstorm,
to water a land where no one lives,
   an uninhabited desert,
to satisfy a desolate wasteland
   and make it sprout with grass?
Does the rain have a father?
   Who fathers the drops of dew?
From whose womb comes the ice?
   Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens
when the waters become hard as stone,
   when the surface of the deep is frozen?
“Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades?
   Can you loosen Orion’s belt?
Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons
   or lead out the Bear with its cubs?
Do you know the laws of the heavens?
   Can you set up God’s dominion over the earth?
“Can you raise your voice to the clouds
   and cover yourself with a flood of water?
Do you send the lightning bolts on their way?
   Do they report to you, ‘Here we are’?
Who gives the ibis wisdom
   or gives the rooster understanding?
Who has the wisdom to count the clouds?
   Who can tip over the water jars of the heavens
when the dust becomes hard
   and the clods of earth stick together?" (38:2-38)

Sometimes God speaks and says, I am Elohim. And our self sufficiency clouds our understanding. The very name of God demands a response and it is total and complete surrender.

But you see, it works both ways... sometimes we can have so much self doubt... so little assurance of what God has blessed us with, that we remain stagnant and depressed.

We can feel defeated.
Like God is against us.

Elohim is a call to the doubting too.

Sarah was so discouraged by decades of infertility of feeling like a failure to Abraham.
Hannah was bullied by Elkanah's other wife constantly because she was barren, yet Elkanah loved Hannah more.

It was hard to accept the good news when it came... that Elohim was doing something great.
They both had sons in late age, Sarah especially, and both sons became major factors in the Bible.
Isaac, a patriarch and father of Jacob. Samuel, a major prophet who anointed the first two kings of Israel.

God changes lives. El Shaddai is mighty enough to take whatever depravity, whatever problem, and create something new, something great, something majestic.
Your very existence is the handiwork of the great Elohim. The God who created EVERYTHING takes the time to fashion you, a masterpiece in His eyes. And He cares for His creation. Because He can.
He does.
He will.
He is Elohim.

The world will push it aside, tell you to pick up your boot straps... try to make you forget, to move on, to learn from you past... Elohim says, no.

Your pain is part of the story.
Part of the journey.

It matters.

Because you matter.

Setbacks are just that, setbacks.
Not the end.
Because Elohim is powerful enough to give everlasting glory.
Everlasting goodness.
Everlasting love.

With man some things are impossible but with Elohim all things are possible.

All words from Elohim will never fail.

It's not about how powerful we are or how powerful we can be... but what God has already done. 

We need to be reminded that no matter what... no matter how deep the waters may be... no matter what this fallen world creates... nothing is impossible with Elohim. He powerful enough to hold you, hold me. To cry with us, to suffer with us, to dance with us, have fun with us.

But there is something else that God can do.

Despite our sin. Our failures. Our disobedience. Our wrongs. Our hate. Our rejection of Him.

Elohim is powerful enough to say, 'I love you.'

No matter what.

Next series of posts...

The Names of God. Picture Copyright Jeremy McMurray, Legacy Christian Church, 2010.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Reality of Nothing

Have you not been paying attention?
   Have you not been listening?
Haven't you heard these stories all your life?
   Don't you understand the foundation of all things?
God sits high above the round ball of earth.
   The people look like mere ants.
He stretches out the skies like a canvas—
   yes, like a tent canvas to live under.
He ignores what all the princes say and do.
   The rulers of the earth count for nothing.
Princes and rulers don't amount to much.
   Like seeds barely rooted, just sprouted,
They shrivel when God blows on them.
   Like flecks of chaff, they're gone with the wind.
"So—who is like me?
   Who holds a candle to me?" says The Holy.
Look at the night skies:
   Who do you think made all this?
Who marches this army of stars out each night,
   counts them off, calls each by name
—so magnificent! so powerful!—
   and never overlooks a single one?
Why would you ever complain, O Jacob,
   or, whine, Israel, saying,
"God has lost track of me.
   He doesn't care what happens to me"?
Don't you know anything? Haven't you been listening?
God doesn't come and go. God lasts.
   He's Creator of all you can see or imagine.
He doesn't get tired out, doesn't pause to catch his breath.
   And he knows everything, INSIDE AND OUT.
He energizes those who get tired,
   gives fresh strength to dropouts.
For even young people tire and drop out,
   young folk in their prime stumble and fall.
But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.
   They spread their wings and soar like eagles,
They run and don't get tired,
   they walk and don't lag behind. "
                                                                -Isaiah 40:21-31 The Message
Emphasis added by me.

First and foremost, this is one of my absolute favorite passages in the Bible, and I love how 'The Message' phrases it all.

There's not going to be a lot of my writing in this post... mostly just reflecting on what this passage is saying.

And it's saying a lot.

You know sometimes, we can lose sight of God.

Real quick.

You know where I'm going...
School, work, hobbies, people, things, feelings, food (yeah this definitely needs to be mentioned), ourselves... all of these things... are not bad things.
But they become bad.

Not by what they do, what they are for, how they are used... but by our attitudes, by our thoughts, by our initiatives, actions, beliefs, and general perception.

Our culture craves these things.

Life craves these things.

And God says, 'Crave me.'

Maybe we need to sit and let that soak in.
God says, 'Desire me.'
All of a sudden this passage takes on a new meaning.

"Have you not been paying attention?
   Have you not been listening?
Haven't you heard these stories all your life?
   Don't you understand the foundation of all things?" (40:21)

Can we really stand here and say, "Yes, actually we are paying attention, we are listening, we do know your stories, we do understand the foundation of all things."


We do?

If that's true... wouldn't that make us... gods?

What did God say to Job out of the storm?
'"Who is this that obscures my plans
   with words without knowledge?
Brace yourself like a man;
   I will question you,
   and you shall answer me.
“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
   Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
   Who stretched a measuring line across it?
On what were its footings set,
   or who laid its cornerstone—
while the morning stars sang together
   and all the angels shouted for joy?"' (Job 38:2-7)

Oh and it get's really nasty after that... God let's him have it.
What is God saying?

We all have idols.

We all have things that we aren't letting go. We aren't surrendering. We aren't paying attention to God when we are in the midst of these things.

It's different for all of us. How do I know that we all have this problem?

Because it's a human problem.

Sin in it's most basic form is playing God.

It's forgetting God.

It's putting something before God.

We all sin... Everyday.

We all have idols.

And sometimes............................................................................... it's us.
God is expressing is incredulity towards idol worshipers, even though worship of God has reached back to 'the foundation of all things'.

"God sits high above the round ball of earth.
   The people look like mere ants.
He stretches out the skies like a canvas—
   yes, like a tent canvas to live under." (40:22)

We could pull so much out of this little verse here... but what I see is probably not the most common theme.
God sits high above... sovereign over all. And he provides shelter.

He provides.

He could stand up there and throw lightning in our midst.

He could stand and shout.

He could stand and swallow the earth in the brilliance of His majestic creation.

But instead he sits.
Instead he provides for us with that same creation.

When you provide for someone... you are expressing a love toward them.
YaHWeH- yireh: The LORD who provides.

"He ignores what all the princes say and do.
   The rulers of the earth count for nothing.
Princes and rulers don't amount to much.
   Like seeds barely rooted, just sprouted,
They shrivel when God blows on them.
   Like flecks of chaff, they're gone with the wind. " (40:23-24)

God is sovereign, God orders all things.
And He holds power and might to reign.

But then the tone switches... it's no longer about what God can do.
It becomes who God is. His nature. And this is why I bolded and underlined certain phrases:

'"So—who is like me?
   Who holds a candle to me?" says The Holy.
Look at the night skies:
   Who do you think made all this?
Who marches this army of stars out each night,
   counts them off, calls each by name
—so magnificent! so powerful!—
   and never overlooks a single one?
Why would you ever complain, O Jacob,
   or, whine, Israel, saying,
"God has lost track of me.
   He doesn't care what happens to me"?
Don't you know anything? Haven't you been listening?
God doesn't come and go. God lasts.
   He's Creator of all you can see or imagine.
He doesn't get tired out, doesn't pause to catch his breath.
   And he knows everything, INSIDE AND OUT.
He energizes those who get tired,
   gives fresh strength to dropouts.'

There are times in life where we all want to throw in the towel. Where the situations and cirumcstances in life seem too overbearing. We feel as if, 'God has lost track of me' or that 'he doesn't care what happens to me' We begin to feel that God has abandoned us.
Israel felt the same way.

Enslaved in Egypt.


Persecuted by kingdom after kingdom.

Exiled in Babylon.

It's not a new problem and feeling...it's a human problem and feeling.

And so here is my manifesto, here is my purpose of this post:
Why does Isaiah repeat himself, he again asks the same questions 'Don't you know anything? Haven't you been listening?'

He's contrasting us to God.

We, who know nothing about him compared to 'He knows everything, Inside and out.' (Ha... that phrase reminds me of this really cool blog out on the interwebs... you should tell your friends about it ;) )

But seriously... We, who know nothing about Him... compared to the fact that 'He knows everything, Inside and out.'
He hears our struggling, our cries for help. "He energizes those who get tired."

Why is he contrasting us? Aren't we made in His image? Aren't we supposed to be "like Him"? Isn't that the goal?

Because sometimes our biggest idol, the biggest thing we need to get over... is ourselves. Us.
The ants that God needs to give shelter to. Humans.

Jeremiah 9:23-24 state, 'This is what the Lord says:
   “Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom,
      or the powerful boast in their power,
      or the rich boast in their riches.
 But those who wish to boast
      should boast in this alone:
   that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord
      who demonstrates unfailing love
      and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth,
   and that I delight in these things.
      I, the Lord, have spoken!"' (NLT)

Micah 6:8 tells us, "He has told you, O man, what is good;
   and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
   and to walk humbly with your God?" (ESV)

In both of these verses we get a sense of Humility.

The ONLY thing we should boast in is IF we can say that we 'truly know and understand the LORD'
What does God require of us?
'To walk humbly with your God'

But here again is the 'LORD who demonstrates unfailing love' that he would even invite us to walk with Him. That He would even show His nature that we may know Him.
And that He would keep us close enough to call us His own:

'But now, this is what the LORD says—
   he who created you, Jacob,
   he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
   I have summoned you by name; you are mine. "' -Isaiah 43:1

We are HIS.

And even more, that you are so close to Him that he says He has '...engraved you on the palms of my hands...' (49:16)

God is a provider. A lover. A strengthener. A comforter. And He is mighty to be all of those things. Nothing can change Him. Nothing can force His hand to change His mind... to change His heart.

Nothing can come before Him.

Why then, do we try to put something before Him?

The next time you are going through an issue, a suffering, a rocky road... examine your motives... examine your heart... examine YOUR nature. And then see that NOTHING can come before God.

This is the nature of God. And through this nature we see His character, through His character we see His love.

That He is who He is.

That He involves us in His journey... His story.  (I can't get over this idea, this truth... and I probably never will.)

And that He IS love.

No matter what our hurts, our trials, whether it is the cause of our own idolatry, or another form of suffering... Know. Listen. Pay attention. Hear the stories. Understand the foundation.

God provides.

God strengthens.

God loves.

God is just.

God will pull you through.

Because that's what He does. That's what He's about.

"God doesn't come and go. God lasts.
   He's Creator of all you can see or imagine.
He doesn't get tired out, doesn't pause to catch his breath.
   And he knows everything, INSIDE AND OUT.
He energizes those who get tired,
   gives fresh strength to dropouts.
For even young people tire and drop out,
   young folk in their prime stumble and fall.
But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.
   They spread their wings and soar like eagles,
They run and don't get tired,
   they walk and don't lag behind. "

'His love is over, it's underneath. It's inside. It's in between' -tenth avenue north

Friday, March 18, 2011

Singing the Gospel and Raising the Roof

“ God-defiers are always in trouble;
God-affirmers find themselves loved
every time they turn around.

Celebrate God.
Sing together—everyone!
All you honest hearts, raise the roof!”
-Psalm 32 10–11 (The Message)

“Sing together… all you honest hearts, raise the roof.”

Far too often in churches, we feel content in our worship. When we sing, we feel like we have done enough for that week in terms of our “Jesus” life. We view singing as an action that is done either on a Sunday morning or in the car, alone, at a red light.

But, I don’t believe this is what the Psalmist is speaking of when he says, “Sing.” The action of singing isn’t just performed with music. Our LIVES should be singing. There are those in the world who need to hear the song of God, the gospel song. If we contain worship to an auditorium, we are falling short of what we were put on Earth to do. In the Great Commission, Jesus says that we should “Go out and make disciples of all nations.” This means taking our “gospel songs” out to the world. We need to be the hands and feet, and sometimes even the vocal cord of Love to people, locally and around the world.

The beautiful thing about music is that it transcends cultural and language barriers. In Costa Rica, our group sang songs with some great people from the surrounding villages. This area (named “Hell” from the locals) was bogged down by crime. Prostitution was rampant, as were drugs and violence. This was their way of life. A large proportion of the population was families. Kids. Children, created in the image of God, having to walk to school surrounded by these things. Yet, through all of it, these families keep hope. They don’t lose sight of their mission. They “sing” their gospels to their neighbors because they want everyone to sing with them, and experience the joy that they have found.

That, my friends, is the meaning of the gospel. WE should be a chorus, together and loud, singing the gospel (even if it’s a bit off key). May God grant you the courage to sing, not only at church and at red lights, but in the world that so desperately needs to hear the song of redemption, grace and love.

-Ben Langevin
Co-founder of Devo's Without Denominations

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Voice of God

In the Bible there is a guy named Eli who was the head priest at one time, he ministered to the LORD in Shiloh, where the tabernacle, or house of the LORD was located. We see his story in the book of 1 Samuel.  Eli had two sons, Hophni and Phineas, who were corrupt and did not know the LORD. They had no respect or reverence for their priestly duties and did not heed God's law concerning them. They also showed very little respect towards people and God's other laws. The Bible tells us that 'the sin of the young men was very great before the LORD...'

This small story of Eli's sons is very important when we consider how it shows the social and religious decay in this time... so when we come to chapter 3 and read, "In those days the word of the LORD was rare; there were not many visions."(3:1) It doesn't surprise us. God isn't speaking, because no one is listening, no one is turning their ear to heaven. Now when we read the phrase 'the word of the LORD' in the old testament, it means God literally speaking or showing visions to humanity. God spoke to the prophet Jeremiah, "I have put my words in your mouth." God's voice was heard. Samuel however ministered before the LORD even as a child, he took his apprenticeship with Eli very seriously, and yet even in the midst of the chaos and corruption God's voice was finally heard.

This occurs later in Eli's life, the Bible states that he was advanced in years and his eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see at all. On usual nights he would probably walk through the house of the LORD, check on his apprentice, check to see if the lamp of God had gone out yet, and then went to lay down in his usual place. But tonight is different. Something different happens. We get two other details about this setting. The first is that the lamp of God had not yet gone out, but Eli probably hadn't noticed because he can barely see, and that Samuel was lying down in the house of the LORD, where the ark of God was.
Samuel is trying to get some sleep next to the ark of God, but he's probably wide awake waiting for the lamp to go out, but then he hears something... his name. Immediately, he yells,
'"Here I am." 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. 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.”
Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD: The word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him. A third time the LORD called, “Samuel!” 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. 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. The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”
Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
And the LORD said to Samuel: “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears about it tingle..."'

It took Eli three times to realize that God was speaking to Samuel. That Samuel was indeed hearing the voice of God. And what was his reaction? He told Samuel to answer, 'Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.'
God then came and stood there, calling his name again as before.

Remember the Lamp of God had not yet gone out.

God is standing before him.

Samuel should have been able to see that someone was standing before him.
But nothing is mentioned of Samuel seeing the LORD. He only hears. He was given instruction by Eli to seek God's voice.
And the LORD spoke, "SEE, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears it tingle."

See. Look. Watch. All who hear what I am about to do will have my voice tingling in their ears.
The verb has just changed. Samuel has heard, now it's time for him to see.

It's everyone else's turn to hear.

Samuel's journey has just begun. He was told to seek God's voice, and now he is hearing, he is listening, and God tells him it's time to see.

But here is where Samuel's story becomes our story.

Where his journey meets our journey.

The same God who spoke the world into creation, the same God who said, "Let there be..." is the same God who speaks to us, calls to us... non stop. Even in the middle of the corruption, in the midst of our depravity, God's voice is tingling in our ears... Are we listening? Are we seeking God's voice?

Now unlike in Samuel's day, we have a complete Bible... we have God's word written down for us to use, read, study, memorize, and meditate upon. And God speaks to us through it, God's voice is heard. But God's voice isn't confined to the pages of a book, no matter how living and active it is, no matter how authoritative it is.

Before the heresy red flag is thrown at me... let me make one thing clear. The Bible, the written word of God is our final authority while here on Earth. We have already talked about seeking God's word, with 'Eating or Burning'.
As the theologian J.C. Ryles stated, "We are to measure everything in this world by the standard of [God's written] Word."

But what about the sounds of creation?

What about the noise emanating from the starry host?

What about the preacher's sermon that tears us apart inside when convicted?

What about the whisper in our thoughts?

What about our circumstances we are placed in?

What about our pains and sufferings?

In his book, The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis writes one of my favorite quotes, "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world."

The sad thing is not that God needs to use something like pain to get our attention, but rather that he needs to do anything more than a whisper for us to start listening.
God's voice is expressed through many different means, and seeking his voice is not as hard as it may sound or appear.

Sometimes the easiest way for us to hear is for us to stop talking.

Sitting in silence.

It's deafening.

Because all of a sudden we start hearing thoughts, passions, ideas, plans, and new directions.
Our minds become filled with noise and our journey comes to a pause because we now need to discern what we are hearing.

When we are truly seeking God's voice our journey brings us to a mountain, a mountain that stops us.

It did for Elijah the prophet.

And this is where discernment comes in.

In 1 Kings 19 we meet up with Elijah coming off of a major victory in which God proved himself by sending fire down from heaven on Mount Carmel. Elijah however falls into a fit of depression because his life is still in danger, and he flees to Mount Horeb.

Scripture calls this place the mountain of God.

'And the word of the LORD came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
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. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
The LORD said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram.  Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him." ' (19:9-18)

God's voice demands a response, but sometimes we don't know where his voice is leading us, sometimes we don't know which sound is his voice. Elijah stood waiting, discerning, between the sound of the wind, the sound of the earthquake, the sound of the roaring fire, and then a gentle whisper. Elijah reacted when he heard the whisper. He pulled his cloak over his face and stood before his God.

Is it unlike God to speak through the wind? No, he spoke to Job out of a whirlwind. (Job 38:1 ESV)

Is it unlike God to speak through the earthquake? No, God most definitely communicated something with the earthquake when Jesus died that left 'the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus...terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!” ' (Matt. 27:54)

Is it unlike God to speak through a fire? No, God spoke to Moses through a burning bush (Exodus 3:2-4) In fact, it was upon the same mountain that God spoke to Moses that he has just spoken to Elijah,  Mount Horeb.

And isn't it odd how God answers Isaiah about how he will come to his rescue...

"But your many enemies will become like fine dust,
   the ruthless hordes like blown chaff.
Suddenly, in an instant,
 the LORD Almighty will come
with thunder and earthquake and great noise,
   with windstorm and tempest and flames of a devouring fire." (Isaiah 29:5-6)

God's voice speaks to each of us in different ways.

For some of us it is with a calling in the middle of the night.

For some it is in a still small voice, a whisper.

For some it is with power and might.

For some it is through other people.

For all it is through His Word by His Spirit.

God's voice can be heard through a heartbeat.

God's voice can be heard in a newborn baby's cry.

God's voice can be heard in a loved one's last breath.

God's voice is all around us.

Are we seeking it?

Are we listening for it?

If not, what are we listening to?

And how do we silence it?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Eating or Burning

Three guys in the Bible.

Three very different guys.
Three very different stories.
Three very similar situations.

The first guy is named Josiah.
He was a King of Judah.
We can find his story in 2 Kings 22:

"Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem thirty-one years. His mother’s name was Jedidah daughter of Adaiah; she was from Bozkath. He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and followed completely the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left." (1-2)
Now to put this in some perspective... Josiah was not David's kid. But Josiah lived as if he was.

Josiah was actually the son of Amon... who was so wicked in his ways that God only allowed him to reign for two years... Amon's father, Josiah's grandfather was named Manasseh. Manasseh was potentially the most wicked King the world has ever seen... the description of his 55 year reign is found in 2 Kings 21:2-9...

"He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, following the detestable practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites. He rebuilt the high places his father Hezekiah had destroyed; he also erected altars to Baal and made an Asherah pole, as Ahab king of Israel had done. He bowed down to all the starry hosts and worshiped them. He built altars in the temple of the LORD, of which the LORD had said, “In Jerusalem I will put my Name.” In the two courts of the temple of the LORD, he built altars to all the starry hosts. He sacrificed his own son in the fire, practiced divination, sought omens, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the LORD, arousing his anger. He took the carved Asherah pole he had made and put it in the temple, of which the LORD had said to David and to his son Solomon, “In this temple and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put my Name forever. I will not again make the feet of the Israelites wander from the land I gave their ancestors, if only they will be careful to do everything I commanded them and will keep the whole Law that my servant Moses gave them.” But the people did not listen. Manasseh led them astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the LORD had destroyed before the Israelites."(WOW! We all know how God felt about those people... and this guy was worse.)

Josiah did not have any Godly influences in his life when it came to his family... we do not know much about his mother... she could have been the person who taught him all his ways. But we do not know.
What we can assume though is that the people wanted a King just like Manasseh and Amon... that is why they placed Josiah on the throne at such a young age.
He's young, and he only has the wickedness of his father and his grandfather as an example of how to lead a whole country...yet God gives him a heart for righteousness. A desire to do good.
Josiah rejected complacency.
He refused to follow the path that was expected of him.
He decided to stop being comfortable and instead to be in a position where God would use him.
We can do that too.

Josiah is an encouragement for those of us who have a bad history... a bad gene pool. By the power and grace of God we all can decide to follow God instead.
In 2 Kings 23:25 we see this final description of Josiah's reign,

"Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the LORD as he did—with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses."

Neither before nor after... David, the man 'after God's own heart' Solomon, the 'wisest of all kings' Hezekiah, the great reformer... they don't compare to the way Josiah turned to the LORD.

Now that is a statement.

What happened, what did Josiah do that so merited this to be said about him?
A reaction.
It began with one reaction to God's Word.
During his reign he decided to do some construction on the Temple of the LORD, and what was found in a storage closet, was the long lost Book of the Law... many scholars believe it was Deuteronomy. Between the 57 years of wickedness... God's Word was actually lost.

This is Josiah's reaction...
"When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his robes. He gave these orders to Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Akbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the secretary and Asaiah the king’s attendant: “Go and inquire of the LORD for me and for the people and for all Judah about what is written in this book that has been found. Great is the LORD’s anger that burns against us because those who have gone before us have not obeyed the words of this book; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written there concerning us.”(22:11-13)

And this is what God had to say:

"Tell the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the LORD, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says concerning the words you heard: Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the LORD when you heard what I have spoken against this place and its people—that they would become a curse and be laid waste—and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I also have heard you, declares the LORD. Therefore I will gather you to your ancestors, and you will be buried in peace. Your eyes will not see all the disaster I am going to bring on this place.’" (22:18-20)

Tearing of the robes was a visual physical sign of grief, repentance, and guilt.
Josiah took God very seriously.
He didn't ask for different translations, different opinions, or try to swindle himself out of what the Word said.
He admitted his guilt.
When the Word of God corrects us... it demands a response, a reaction. How do you react? How do I react?
Do we humble ourselves, acknowledge our fault or our folly... or do we try to get around God's laws.
You know some of us may have just enough Bible in them to be dangerous and we use other scripture and bend it to what we want to hear... misinterpreted, out of place, but when it comes down to it we have only two responses we can make.

Eating or Burning

Which leads us to our second guy.
He was also a King of Judah.
And his story is found in 2 Kings as well... but to be honest in this instance, I don't care about his story.
Because his story is just a repeat of the previous wicked kings' stories.
But there is one thing Jehoiakim did that we need to discuss... because he too was faced with God's word... he too was in a position where God demanded a response... a reaction.
God tells Jeremiah the prophet to “Take a scroll and write on it all the words I have spoken to you concerning Israel, Judah and all the other nations from the time I began speaking to you in the reign of Josiah till now. Perhaps when the people of Judah hear about every disaster I plan to inflict on them, they will each turn from their wicked ways; then I will forgive their wickedness and their sin.” (Jeremiah 36:2-3)
And eventually this scroll gets brought to the Jehoiakim the King.

"After they put the scroll in the room of Elishama the secretary, they went to the king in the courtyard and reported everything to him. The king sent Jehudi to get the scroll, and Jehudi brought it from the room of Elishama the secretary and read it to the king and all the officials standing beside him. It was the ninth month and the king was sitting in the winter apartment, with a fire burning in the firepot in front of him. Whenever Jehudi had read three or four columns of the scroll, the king cut them off with a scribe’s knife and threw them into the firepot, until the entire scroll was burned in the fire. The king and all his attendants who heard all these words showed no fear, nor did they tear their clothes. Even though Elnathan, Delaiah and Gemariah urged the king not to burn the scroll, he would not listen to them. Instead, the king commanded Jerahmeel, a son of the king, Seraiah son of Azriel and Shelemiah son of Abdeel to arrest Baruch the scribe and Jeremiah the prophet. But the LORD had hidden them." (Jeremiah 36:20-26)

Jehoiakim did not learn from his father. Instead of heeding the Scripture that is calling him to repentance... he burns it. Correction: He cuts the scroll apart... then he burns it. And none of his servants react either.
They are passive.
They are proud.
They are complacent.
In them... there is no fear of God.
What is going on here?
Did he think that he could scratch out, erase, disqualify the very words of God?
With words, God created all things.
With words, Jesus taught.
With words God redeems.
God has revealed his character, will, and plan of salvation through words, the way we react to them is of vital importance.

What is going on here?
A fool who surrounded himself with fools.
A person who surrounded himself with people who agree with him... don't we do that?
Don't we pick and choose sometimes.
Don't we 'burn' God's Word with our actions...when we decide to be apathetic in our pursuit of knowing the Bible?
We don't go to our Bibles with the passion and zeal that we claim to believe.
And this is where our seeking... our searching comes to a stop sign.
God is telling us to go. Green light.
Maybe a yield sign...
And we treat it as a red light, as a stop sign...
We sit and idle, in one spot.
Our tires aren't flat.
Our engines are fine.
But before we know it our car stops, our engines aren't on... the car won't fire over.
We wonder why we seem to run out of steam midway through the week... we wonder why Monday morning makes us forget everything that Sunday was.
We wonder why by Thursday we are are still trapped in our sin, why by Friday our relationships are strained again.
Have we ever stopped to consider our response to God's word?
Our gasoline.
Because while we sit in idle... our engine is burning our fuel... but we don't go anywhere.
We need to stay fueled.
The way we listen to his Word being preached.
The way we read his Word.
The way we evaluate his Word.
We need to approach God's word with a passion for allowing it to fill us. To give us energy. To be taken in... as if eating it.
Which brings us to our third guy. We've already mentioned him.
He was probably just a little younger than Josiah.
He wasn't a King.
He saw the rise and fall of five Kings of Judah.
He was a prophet... God's prophet.
The weeping prophet.
And there is only one thing I want to show concerning Jeremiah's attitude toward God's Word.
I pray that you can chew on this one verse found in Jeremiah 15.
That we all would react to Jesus Christ... who is the Word of God (John 1:1) in this manner, that He would live within me, within you, that He would be our joy and our hearts delight.

I pray we are encouraged by Josiah's example, that we are sobered by Jehoiakim's ungodly actions, and that we would understand what God is saying to us as we go after Jeremiah's prayer.

"When your words came, I ate them;
   they were my joy and my heart’s delight,
for I bear your name,
   LORD God Almighty." (15:16)

And what is God's response to Jeremiah's prayer?

"I will make you a wall to this people,
   a fortified wall of bronze;
they will fight against you
   but will not overcome you,
for I am with you
   to rescue and save you,"
            declares the LORD.
"I will save you from the hands of the wicked
   and deliver you from the grasp of the cruel."

Why? because that's what God does... He does it all. It's His story... and when we react to His story in such a way... he brings us in, he allows us to be a part of His story... becoming our story.
He's the hero... How will we respond to Him?

What's the bottom line here: We need to seek God's word... but that we would seek it with Godly intentions.

Monday, March 14, 2011

After God's Heart

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” -1 Samuel 16:7
Possibly my favorite verse in the entire Bible... I'm not known for my size or height. I'm not known to be a guy the world would look at and suggest that I couldn't amount to much of anything...but it doesn't matter. Because God doesn't view me in that manner... God doesn't view you in that manner.
God's opinion really is all that matters...And the good news is that God looks at your heart.

Hebrews 4:12 tells us that Jesus, "...judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart."

As we saw in last week's post, God tells us that we have new hearts too.
Hearts with His law written on them... Hearts that know God. Hearts that God seeks. (Jer. 31:31-33)
Life is a journey.
And on journey's we all are seeking something.
I want to build on last week's post about seeking God's face by talking about seeking God's Heart.
Because the bottom line is that we are to seek God.
Seek first the Kingdom of Heaven.
Seek first our King.
Our creator.
Our redeemer.
Our lover.
When you seek someone, you seek their face.
When you seek someone you love, you seek their heart.
My prayer is that you have seen God this past week. Whether in a sunrise or sunset, in the clouds, the ocean, animals, a person, or in the brilliant night sky. God is all around us.
It's time to build upon that. Building on our knowledge of God, we must dig deep into Himself... His word.
Jesus told us that the greatest commandment is to "Love the Lord your God..."
When you seek someone you love, you seek their Heart.
Do you love God?
Some of us may have to stop right here and ponder that.
Some of us may have to stop right here and pray.
Some of us may need to stop and let that question sink in.
And anyone who thinks they don't need to stop right here and think about how to react to that question...needs to stop and think.
Truth is we don't.
We can't.

Without God's help to love Him, we could never love Him. Our very being is in rebellion against Him.
I'm pretty sure 1 Corinthians 13 doesn't define love as rebelling.
1 John 4:10-12 gives us the answer though: "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us."
We can love because of what Christ has done.
He has opened the ability to love God... by loving others.
His love is made complete in us by us loving one another.
We love because God loved us first.
And so this whole sidenote brings us back to us having to seek God's heart.
And though there are plenty of characters in the Bible we could look to for this insight... one character is given probably the highest compliment in the Bible... other than Jesus.
"a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do." -Acts 13:22
This verse was referencing a verse in 1 Samuel concerning David.
David... the liar, the adulterer, the murderer, the man who was probably the worst father in the world... yep. That guy.
Because though David made mistakes aplenty... His heart was right in God's eyes.
David's example proves that though we sin, though we make mistakes, God forgives and forgets, and searches our hearts... not our history.
But let's look at what made David a man after God's own heart, and see if we can pull anything from his example.

David knew the Word of God, he quoted Jewish history, God's law, and lived his life according to it.
It is through the Bible that we get a glimpse of God's very character and nature. Without a doubt, David understood as much about God as was possible, it states 'the Lord was with David'. And he knew that God would rescue and redeem him.
How is our knowledge of God's word?
I like to view the Bible as God's song to us, most songs tell a story, every time you listen to it, you grasp something knew, you get a picture of the artist's creativity and desires. That's what the Bible does. How much do we strive to know, study, and memorize God's song?
How many lyrics do we know?
How many quotes do we know?
Compare that to how many verses we know.
Whose hearts are we seeking?

David loved to pray, if you read any of the Psalms of David, you'll notice this very quickly, most of them are directed straight to God himself, as if it was his prayer journal.
David seemed to pray nonstop.
How is our prayer life?
Whose heart are we truly seeking?

David loved God's creation, from the moment we are introduced to David, we are told he was tending sheep.
And then we see in his response to Saul just before David went to fight Goliath that he took his small shepherd job very seriously... to the point of fighting bears and lions away from his flock.
He valued human life. We see this by reading all the times he spared Saul's life. He wrote about how awesome God was in creating the world, praising God for fearfully and wonderfully making him. David loved to praise God, building his life around worshiping Him. He began construction of the temple of the LORD, brought the Ark of the LORD to Jerusalem, and rebuked idolatry within Israel.
David trusted in God. We can see this in numerous instances, probably one of the best ways we can see this though is David's response to Goliath the Philistine giant.

"David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”- 1 Samuel 17:45-47

Now thems fightin' words. But it wasn't that big or long of a fight was it? David trusted in God's deliverance. When the entire nation of Israel stood aside, allowing their own fear to consume them, allowing this one enemy to blaspheme and stomp on the name of the very God who granted them life, land, the God who rescued them from Egypt... David, who was there to be delivery boy for his brothers, became God's warrior.
Psalm 32:10, written by David, tells us:
"Many are the woes of the wicked,
   but the LORD’s unfailing love
   surrounds the one who trusts in him."

So what does this all take us to...where does it lead us?
Seeking God's heart.
It's not a bunch of dos and dont's.... though my list above may seem that way.
It's measuring our lives and bringing ourselves into conformity with the character of God and obedience to the will of God.
Seeking God's heart begins with seeking God's face.
Seeking God's face begins by realizing that God already began this seeking relationship... and is waiting for us to begin the journey.
Are we ready to start?
Maybe we already have...
Are we ready to keep going?

I know I for one would love to be known as 'a man after God's own heart.'
Do we, can we, even imagine what that would be like?
What is God's heart really like? That he would die for you and me.
That he would love us.
That he would save us.
That he would bring us into His story?
It demands a reaction.
To either seek farther... or to disregard it all.

God is searching our hearts... even now.
Maybe you have a tough decision coming up...
Maybe you are going through a struggle...
Maybe you just don't know what to do anymore...
Maybe you are perfectly fine...
The same God that came to David's rescue is the same God that can come to yours... the same God who blessed David abundantly... is the same God who may be blessing you right now.

He never changes. But we do.
And that is why we need to seek His Heart.
In that search we find His love, we find His healing, we find His companionship... because when two hearts are seeking each other... others see it.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

New Poem: One

One word that would describe you,
One sword that could stab you,
One passion that you cleave to,
One desire that will never leave you.

The story of Life.

One, just one.

For me,
I say with liberty:

Waiting for His One direction
Waiting for that One special connection
Waiting for Him to make Himself known
Waiting for His glory to finally be shown.

Yes, the One word would be waiting,
not so much with associating
surely not liberating
certainly not elating
And Oh how I so wish it would be relating.

But no.
Just Waiting.

Still patiently I wish
but my feeling,
it's flipping and flopping
like a dying fish.

One day I know it will be congratulating
One day I know it will be unmistakably recreating

Confusing, yes.
This one saying will definitely need


Oh how I wish I would hear some.
yet even now I lie still: I refuse to start complaining.
After all it's just one word... used to describe my whole life?
Totally absurd...
But real.


I won't start thinking of some kind of deal,
I'm just hoping someone else will being to feel.


Yes that ability is tangible
but through it, explaining becomes possible.

And so I'll speak
not because I need some kind of a critique
No, for me...
I'll speak just to see.
Just to stay open,
Just to believe there is a midnight sun.
Here is me, here is me, I am One.

Waiting may be the game to play
But not to sit in dismay.
What sword that could stab us?
It's the issue that breaks us.
A passion, a desire.
A need, One thing to inquire.
One direction when it feels like there are a ton.
Hoping God will just show One.
One connection, One sense of acceptance
A future I know will come, living with her presence.
Waiting on love? But that's unspecific.
Waiting for One. Not so simplistic.
To make Himself known,
Why the wait... I'm ready now I want to enter that combat zone.
Where He's sending me, where He is leading,
I'm ready to show His hope, His love to the needing.
To see His glory shown,
I know that day is coming,
when forever I'll be worshiping at His throne.
For Him to say, 'Time! It's up, it's done.
Just One.
My one word is waiting,
But my life, it's not devastating.
More along the lines of simple contemplating.
When will this end?
When will I be done?
I have just another question.
One word, What's yours?
One word. One.
Your time has just begun.


I know I'm in a series of posts that revolve around the idea of suffering... and I know how crazy chaotic some of these posts are. Organized Chaos.
I love it.
Because that's what life is isn't it?
Even when we have everything ordered... it's chaotic.
This blog is just my ideas and ideas of other people a million times smarter than me mixed and mashed together to create something new... new perspectives, new musings on God's nature, character, and love.
And who doesn't love to discuss some theology?

So I'm going to start another 'series' here... about Seeking God.
What does it mean?
What does it look like?
Are we really seeking what we should be?
I'm going to start off with that last question.
Are we really seeking what we should be?
Sit and ponder these scriptures with me...

1 Chronicles 16:11
Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.

2 Chronicles 7:14
...if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 

Psalm 24:5-6
They will receive blessing from the LORD
   and vindication from God their Savior.
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
   who seek your face, God of Jacob.

Psalm 27:7-9
My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”
   Your face, LORD, I will seek.
Do not hide your face from me,
   do not turn your servant away in anger;
   you have been my helper.
Do not reject me or forsake me,
   God my Savior.

Psalm 105:4
Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.

Now we aren't literally supposed to seek God's face... no matter how hard you try, a face is not going to magically appear some day with clouds surrounding and lightning shooting out of it's mouth. And speak to just you.
How do I know?
Because the day that happens... is the day we will all see God face to face. When Christ returns. And boy will that be a day.
Personally I can't wait.
But in the meantime, how do we grasp this concept... seeking God's face?

I want to bring close attention to a specific group of verses that were listed above.
Psalm 27:7-10

Hear my voice when I call, LORD;
   be merciful to me and answer me.
My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”
   Your face, LORD, I will seek.
Do not hide your face from me,
   do not turn your servant away in anger;
   you have been my helper.
Do not reject me or forsake me,
   God my Savior.
Though my father and mother forsake me,
   the LORD will receive me.

The Psalmist says 'Hear my voice'
and then doesn't mention speaking again.
Instead the text states 'My heart says of you, 'Seek His face!" '
The heart is doing the speaking.
Because God has given all who called upon Him new hearts.
If you are a Christian, you are a new creation... Do not forget that.
And you have a new heart... a heart that speaks to us and tells us to, "Seek his face!"
Hearts that have His law engraved on them.
Hearts that KNOW the LORD.
Jeremiah 31:33-34
“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
   after that time,” declares the LORD.
“I will put my law in their minds
   and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
   and they will be my people.
No longer will they teach their neighbor,
   or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’
because they will all know me,
   from the least of them to the greatest,”
            declares the LORD.

And from this heart God seeks us:
“I the LORD search the heart
   and examine the mind,
to reward each person according to their conduct,
   according to what their deeds deserve.”-Jeremiah 17:10

Christianity ceases to be a religion at this point.
Christianity ceases to be rules and regulations.
Christianity ceases to be about morals.
Christianity ceases to be like the world.
Our hearts cry out to us to "Seek his face!"
And God is seeking our hearts.
Like a Groom who seeks after his bride who has cold feet.
Like a Husband who seeks after his wayward wife.
Like a Father who seeks after prodigal children.
Like a Shepherd who seeks after the runaway lamb.
Like a God who seeks after His creation.
A relationship.
There are a few other somethings I would like to note about the Psalm 27 passage...
We see a piece of a key doctrine of the New Testament... Adoption.
"Though my father and mother forsake me,
   the LORD will receive me."
Jesus Christ has made us a way to get back to a Father who will NEVER forsake us, will always receive us.
And Jesus will never forsake us either. That connection will always be there. We are His children. Adopted back from sin by the blood of Christ.

But you know... That passage isn't done speaking to us.
And this last statement I'm going to end with... only to pick back up in a later post.
We notice the Psalmist, who in this case is King David, praying in verse 9:

"Do not hide your face from me,
   do not turn your servant away in anger;
   you have been my helper.
Do not reject me or forsake me,
   God my Savior. "

My translation:
'God please don't hide yourself from me, I'm seeking you as you seek my heart, which is telling me to seek you. You have helped me before as I strive to keep my focus on seeking your face, don't turn away from me now, I need you more now than before. You are my Savior, you alone can forgive, please Father forgive me, and do not be angry."

God's hands of providence, God's helping hands, God's protective hands, God's giving hands, God's providing hands, God's allowing hands, God's mighty hands, God's loving hands were with David.
Because David was seeking God's face.
To answer the question we started this with:
Are we really seeking what we should be?
God's got your back.
You are SO important to Him, no matter what stage of life you are in. He is always with you, always loving you.
You matter.
But if you are looking for God's handiwork to start helping, providing, saving, etc. to do something big in your life... I want to highlight something for you.
The passage shows David seeking God's face... and getting God's hands.

Are we really seeking what we should be?

Stop seeking God's hands, start seeking His face.

*More to come* :)