Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Stop, Already!

God gave us minds to think, but we are so dumb sometimes.  We have always been that way.

The carpenter cuts down cedars...half the wood he burns in the fire...he warms himself and says, "Ah, I am warm;" from the rest he makes a god, his idol; he bows down to it and worships.  He prays to it and says, "Save me, you are my god."...No one stops to think.--Isaiah 44:14-19

No one stops to think.
No one stops.

Go, go go.  Round and round.  Motion is work.  Be not a sluggard.  Keep going.  Don't give up doing good.

Good grief.  Stop already.  Think.

We fashion our gods from our own hands.  We fail to see the wooden gods we have made.
He feeds on ashes, a deluded heart misleads him.  He cannot save himself or say, "Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?"--Isaiah 44:20

We hold our gods in our right hand, bowing to them, reverencing how they make us feel: useful, effective, efficient.  It doesn't work that way. What do we call them?
Our job.
Our to-do list.
Our church activities.
Our blog.
Our club.
Our vacation.
Our recreation.
Our quiet time.
Anything.  Absolutely anything, even an immovable and inviolable prayer time, can be turned to serve a purpose that is not God's.

God wants only one thing from us:
Remember these things, O Jacob, for you are my servant, O Israel...Return to me, for I have redeemed you.--Isaiah 44:21,22

You are my servant.  Return to me.
How can we ignore Him?
Our idols lie dead in our palm but He lives, vibrant and expectant, waiting to share power and glory.
Stop spinning and look up.  How can we say 'No'?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

God's Hand--Why Murder is a Sin

I don't easily obey authority.
Admit it.  Neither do you.

I have trouble with people, who I know are just as broken and sinful as I am, telling me what to do. But God says that, if they are in a position of authority over me, I am to do what I am told as long as it does not contradict His Word.  And I don't like it.

I once saw a visual of this that actually helped a lot, however.  It was lineup of sorts:  I face my authority, but Christ stands behind him, quietly, firmly, with unwavering sinlessness.  I might not want to obey the person, but no matter what, I can obey my God. I may see a flesh and blood person, but God stands behind him bearing authority I cannot, do not even want, to debate. 

Now I correctly understand authority.   It resides, all of it, not with a man or woman, but with God.  I obey not because people are right or just, but because God is.

The same logic, God says, applies to how I deal with my enemies, and this is why:
Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.--Ephesians 6:12

Just as I look at my authorities and obey because I see God working through them, I, in the same way, look at my enemies and see not my battle with them, but God's battle with evil. I have to remember that the battle is not mine, but God's. 

Men themselves are not evil.  God made them, every one of them.  They are, however, twisted and used by evil.  Through it all, God is fighting the battle to win them back right in front of our eyes.  

I am to engage in that battle, but not against their flesh. I am to battle the evil that controls their flesh.  Murder only kills the flesh.  It does not defeat the enemy.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Pushed into Shape

Life applies constant pressure, but I have a bad habit of ignoring it.
It pushes and I push back.
It takes my head in both hands and turns me in one direction and I look longingly to another.

And all the while, I do not see that the hands that redirect are God's.

I went down to the potter's house and I saw him working at the wheel, but the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands, so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.--Jeremiah 18:3-4

God gave me the right to go my own way, but He did not consent to make me comfortable there.  He promises to correct, to amend, to shape me relentlessly.

He, and only He, knows my intended shape, and this is it:
I am supposed to look like Him. 
He builds and rebuilds, always to the same model: His own.  He knows I mess myself up and constantly applies the pressure necessary to re-form me.

My God, my Creator, wants me to recover my original design.
Everything that He brings me in the course of living is designed to achieve this.
As long as I wake up every day, I am not finished.
My most important job is not to preach, or teach, or witness, or work.
It is worship Him and thus, to return fully to Him.  Period.

I work not to get a job done, but because God works.
I sacrifice not to achieve an end, but because God sacrificed.
I love not to further a relationship, but because God is love.

Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand...--Jeremiah 18:6
For every living soul belongs to me...--Ezekiel 18:1

Every time I yield to Your touch, I come closer to Your side, O Lord.  The pot you are making bears the marks of Your hands, but when you release it, looks like You.

Saturday, June 16, 2012


What are we made of?  Blood and bone, of course, but isn't there more?  Carl Sagan thought men made of 'starstuff' and although he was a scientist of sorts, that is hardly a factual explanation.  Still, he wondered what men have always wondered...

What is man that You make so much of him, that You give him so much attention, that You examine him every morning and test him every moment?--Job 7:17-18

What, indeed? 

I know my flesh is fragile, that my life is short, and that I make many mistakes.  Yet, somehow, I know that I matter.  I just can't figure out why.

God, however, tells me not to fret too much about that.

Now we have a poor reflection in a mirror, then we shall see face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.--1 Corinthians 13:12

He says that He only knows what I look like.  He only knows all of what I am and what I am to become.  And I am a reflection.  A reflection of Him.

He made me and filled me with Himself.  I don't live very long, but I am made of the same substance that is God.  His glory passes through me and washes over me from the inside out.  I am but a breath, but if I am His, I am all His breath--a long, careful exhale, beautiful in power.

Starstuff, indeed.  The star that rises up bright in an otherwise darkened sky, the star full of fire and light.

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.--Isaiah 60:1

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

By the Spirit

Ever try to explain the Holy Spirit to somebody?  How did you do it?  The flames on Pentecost?  The dove at Jesus' baptism?  Those descriptions can sound pretty lame, not even close to what we want to express in the third Person of the Godhead.

By experience and through God's Word, we know that the Holy Spirit is more. Teacher, Promise, Comforter, Enlightener.
But even these fall short.

The Holy Spirit is not just some inclination, some whisper that teaches me, guides me, and helps me to understand.  He is all those things, but more.
The Holy Spirit is God's VERY POWER.

He embodies all of God's strength.
He provides the motive power by which God shapes the world from a creative idea. That's why He seems like wind--He supplies the motion for the work of God.

That's how He completes the Trinity.
Father, Son, Holy Spirit.
Concept, Flesh, Work.
All Holy.

The Spirit gives life.--John 6:63
We know that we live in Him and He in us, because He has given us His Spirit.--1John 4:13
He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit, who lives in you.--Romans 8:11

The Holy Spirit is the face of God inhabiting the world today.  Moses saw the Father.  Peter and Paul saw Jesus.  We see the Holy Spirit.  His voice speaks and His hand reaches out.  He brings more than a feeling.  Jesus sent Him with intention to fill us and walk with us along the way as Christ once walked with His disciples.  

Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord.--Zechariah 4:6

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Defining God

Who is God?  What is He?

We talk to Him, we pray to Him, we witness regarding Him, we experience Him, but can we explain Him in a few words?

This is my definition of God:
He who has the power to give life to what has none, 
to call out that which is not as though it were,
to promise with unfailing power and confidence,
to fulfill every promise made in perfect will.

I am the Lord, the God of all mankind.--Jeremiah 32:27
Ah, Sovereign Lord, You have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm.  Nothing is too hard for You.--Jeremiah 32:17
Not one word has failed of all the good promises He gave to His servant Moses.--1Kings 8:56

God lives in an infinite creation of His own making.
He surrounds Himself with Himself, perfectly sufficient and powerful.

I, as a human being, share my existence with a man, a cat, or a tree, but do not, cannot, share all my essence with them.  I am part of God's world as they are part of mine.

We know that God, by His very nature, surrounds us, and yet we still say we need to find Him.  We reach for God, but grab His creation instead.  Knowing God means that I expend less effort in finding harmony with the world, but yearn instead to find harmony in God, allowing the world to fall in line next to me as we all worship Him.

I honor God's power and marvel at His miracles, all the while looking for His face all around them.  God is Himself.  There is no other.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Annoyed and Overwhelmed

Emotional words bear layers of meaning.  Take 'annoyed' for example.  When I am annoyed, I experience irritation--a rough, edgy state because I must deal with a trivial situation or unreasonable person.  That is the first layer.  The second layer, however, is realizing that my annoyance always begins with a feeling of selfish superiority, a state in which I believe myself too wise or too important to deal with that person or circumstance.  Once I know that, also know that I am not only annoyed, I am in sin.
      Annoyed = Selfish Pride

So, too, are the layers of declaring that I am overwhelmed.  What is overwhelmed, anyway?  Strictly speaking, being overwhelmed means being swept away, like the damage wreaked by a tornado or tsunami.  But when we say we are overwhelmed, we are rarely truly defeated, and never dead. Why, then, do we say we are overwhelmed?

Maybe the answer lies in the second layer of feeling here, too.  Jesus illustrated this second layer when he met a man feeling overwhelmed by his son's epileptic-type seizures.

"How long has he been like this?" Jesus asked.
"From childhood...If you can do anything, have pity on us and help us!"
"If you can?  Everything is possible to him who believes."
"I do believe.  Help me with my unbelief!"--Mark 9:21-24

We believe, but like that father, our belief is incomplete.
Jesus said the man felt overwhelmed because he lacked belief. He would say the same to us.
     Overwhelmed = Unbelief

Belief is God's gift to us...His gift and His promise, and the key to heaven.
You are my witness and my servant whom I have chosen so that you know and believe me and understand that I am He.--Isaiah 43:10

That is the grace of it.  We flail around in sin, like when we feel annoyed or overwhelmed, but God is always so close, so close.  If I concentrate, I can usually feel His sweet breath--and feel Him push aside my own pride, my own agenda and desire.  It is then I reach out to Him, where there is no reason to be annoyed and no room for being overwhelmed.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Jumping Out

We talk about slipping into sin, about backsliding.  Get real.  I don't know about you, but I got into that black pit not because I fell.  I leaped in with both feet, and with full, despicable knowledge.

But, by God's grace, I didn't stay there. I didn't know it then, but when He gave me a way out, we made a deal.  He calls it a covenant, but in plain language, it's a contract to which both parties bring binding agreement.  The God of the universe made a promise to me and I to Him.  This is it:  I will believe in Him, worship Him only.  I will wear proudly the gift of faith.  In return, He will defend me and give me peace.

You see, the world hasn't improved any since my days of deep sin.  In fact, it's gotten worse and will continue to do so.  I am in more danger from sinful surroundings and tendencies now than I ever was.  But I to not have to fear this disintegrating world. 

I am the Lord your God who teaches you what  is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.  If you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have flowed like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea.--Isaiah 48:17-18

Though the mountains be shaken and the earth be removed, my unfailing love for you will not be shaken, nor my covenant of peace be removed, says the Lord who has compassion on you.--Isaiah 54:10

And the mountains will undoubtedly be shaken.  Some days, it feels like their rumblings already threaten.  But, as the earth tends more to violence and degradation, God's peace increases correspondingly--always faithful, always plenty. 

I do not need fear.  I am out. We have a deal.

If God is with us, who can be against us?--Romans 8:31
Remain in me and I will remain in you.--John 15:4
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts...since you were called to peace.  And be thankful.--Colossians 3:15