Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Walking with God

'Tis not always easy.

God never promised it would be always easy.  He didn't promise a smooth path with no detours or bumps in the road.

Take Ezekiel for example.

God sent Ezekiel to speak the truth to a rebellious, impudent and stubborn people who continually transgressed against Him.  Read Ezekiel 2.

And He said to me, "Son of man, I send you to the people of Israel, to nations of rebels, who have rebelled against Me. 

Sounds like a difficult assignment.  Sounds like Ezekiel is walking into a den of lions who won't care what he has to say, any more than they care what God has been saying.  But God sent Ezekiel.  And God gave him this assurance:

They will know that a prophet has been among them.

Don't worry, Ezekiel.  That bunch of rebels will know that My prophet has arrived.  I'm going with you, so don't be afraid.

Be not afraid of them,
nor be afraid of their words;
though briars and thorns are with you
and you sit on scorpions.


God was letting him know ahead of time that it wasn't going to be easy.  There would be nasty words, briars and thorns, scorpions.  Ouch.

It's the same for us.  God wants His people to be courageous, to not fear when accusations come.  He wants us to walk the path He has laid out for us, knowing that He is our shield and our rock,

Proverbs 2

For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding; He stores up sound wisdom for the upright;  He is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of His saints.

A child of God always has this assurance.  He is a shield to those who walk in integrity.  He watches over us every step of the way.  The path may not be an easy one, but it's easy to trust a God like that.

Psalm 125

Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever.  As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds His people, from this time forth and forevermore.

God keeps His children solid and immovable, like a mountain.  He encompasses His children like the mountains that surround Jerusalem, always guarding, always protecting, always shielding.

This is the God we serve!  He calls us to serve Him in the midst of thorns and briars and scorpions - yet He is with us, protecting and shielding us in spite of the pain.

Romans 12 is such a practical chapter. 

I appeal to you therefore by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

A living sacrifice.  Sacrifices in the Old Testament were always killed; the blood was shed to appease the wrath of a Holy, Perfect God.  But there is no more need for the shedding of blood because Jesus is the Propitiation for our sins.  He shed His blood and paid the price.  No more sacrifices are necessary for redemption.

But Paul is teaching in Romans that God is so rich in mercy and grace that we ought to present ourselves wholly to Him, to be used as instruments of righteousness in this wicked world.  Just like Ezekiel obeyed God's call, we ought to serve wholeheartedly.  Ezekiel was motivated by a vision of heaven.  We are motivated by more.

We're motivated by the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God.  He always does what is right and good - including sending His children on a difficult journey.

We can't head off into the thick of things without being prepared, and the only way to be prepared is with a renewed mind.

Be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect!

Testings and trials will come as we walk humbly with our God.  Every saint in the Bible endured suffering - and so will we.  But we have the joy of knowing that God is with us, that He is using us for His glory, and that despite the briars and thorns and scorpions, our lives can make a difference.

Read Romans 12:9-21 to see how to humbly walk with God:

Marks of the True Christian

9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Do Whatever You Want!

Visions of God

I saw visions of God. ~ Ezekiel 1:1

Ezekiel was in exile, far from home, in a land unfamiliar to him.  He was among the other exiles in the place in which they had settled by the Chebar canal, and the hand of the Lord was upon him there.

God was preparing Ezekiel for the difficult task ahead.  He called him to be his spokesman, a prophet with a purpose - to proclaim the message of God to His exiled people.  

To do the job, Ezekiel needed to see God.  Read the first chapter of Ezekiel to know what he saw.    It's an amazing, wonderful awe-inspiring sight.

One of the many visions was that of the four living creatures with four faces - 

  1. human - demonstrating intelligence and understanding
  2. lion - demonstrating power and courage
  3. ox - demonstrating strength and steadiness
  4. eagle - demonstrating swiftness and sight
Wherever the Spirit wanted to go, these angelic beings went.  They did the bidding of God with intelligence, power, strength and speed.  

Near the end of the chapter, we see that Ezekiel saw a likeness with a human appearance, filled with brightness and glory.  

Ezekiel's eyes were opened to see an astounding vision of God's power and glory and control.  He saw the living creatures ready and able to do everything God desired.  He saw a glorious human appearance, and he fell on his face.

Pray with me:

That's all we can do, Lord, when we catch a glimpse of Your glory.
                           We fall on our face, and worship.
We are so privileged to be where You've put us in history.  
    We've not seen the vision You gave to Ezekiel.   
          We've not witnessed the creatures or the wheels full of eyes.
We've seen so much more.
     We've seen, through eyes of faith, the cross of Jesus.
           We've seen, through Your infallible Word, the grace of God.
                 We've seen the grand unfolding plan of redemption, 
when You sent Your Son as a tiny babe with the greatest task of all.

We see Your grace, and we fall on our face in worship.

We know that You look on us (wretched creatures) and You do not see 
    the filth
    the shame
    the depravity...

We know that You look on us and see brightness and glory, righteousness and truth.

You look on us and see Jesus.

This is impossible to comprehend apart from Your Spirit, who teaches us all things.

All we can do is thank You.
     All we can do is sing Your praises.
          All we can do is love You, by loving and serving Your people.

Help us to do the work You have prepared for us to do.
Make us faithful.
     Use our feeble hands
             our faltering feet
             our stammering tongues
             our clouded minds...

When we are weak, Show Yourself strong, and use us for Your glory!

Whether we're in exile, like Ezekiel, trapped in a place not of our choosing...
   Or whether we're in a palace, like David, surrounded by riches and blessings galore, 


So, do with us as You will.
         Use us where we are.
Make us worthy to be called Your sons, with the courage of lions, the strength and perseverance of the ox, the speed of eagles, and the intelligence and understanding of Jesus.

Be thou our vision, we pray, with thanksgiving for Your grace.  Amen.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

You don't have to fight alone.

Make no mistake, you ARE in a battle, if you are a child of God.  There's a war going on, and Satan is at the helm of the enemy lines.  He is out to destroy.  He wants to 

  • ruin lives, 
  • ruin marriages, 
  • ruin testimonies, 
  • ruin families.  

We are not ignorant of his devices.

2 Corinthians 2: 10 Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, 11 so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs. (Satan's designs are to destroy the mutual forgiveness, love, and unity that is to characterize God's people as those who have been reconciled to God through Christ.)

We are not ignorant of his devices.  

  • He wants to separate friends.  
  • He wants to keep us suspicious of one another.  
  • He wants us to be jealous or envious or greedy or selfish.  

The attacks come when we're alone, and vulnerable.  They come when we are out of sorts, feeling abandoned, feeling hurt and forsaken.  Satan and his minions are not idiots.  They don't bother us when we're strong, when we have our "peeps" in our corner.  They lie in wait, biding their time, until they get the chance.  

This is why we MUST NOT be alone.

God didn't plan for His children to be "lone wolves".  He planned for us to be in community, in families, in churches, walking side by side with others in the same battle.  

When you're under attack, tempted to sin, feeling yourself slipping away, ready to fall, what do you do?  Do you retreat into a pity-party, telling yourself that you need that thing, or want that illicit relationship, or can't live without that... whatever.  

When you're under attack, do you retreat?  Do you try to stand on your own two feet?

That's the last thing you should do.

Jay Adams (in his book, The War Within) tells us what to do.

When you're in need of  help, 

"It is not wrong for you to ask for it.  Indeed, you could do nothing more important, if you find yourself in the thick of the battle, losing your fight with the flesh.  Call; call now!  Call for reinforcements.  Don't wait until you have lost the battle.  Don't wait until someone else must call for the stretcher-bearers.  Call for others to stand beside you and help you, so that you may win the battle for the sake of Jesus Christ.

Did you notice those last words: "for the sake of Jesus Christ"?  Yes, that should overcome your reluctance to seek help.  You are not merely fighting a battle of your own; this is the Lord's battle, and it is to be won for His glory.  

How dare you assume that this battle is yours?  Who do you think you are?  How can you say, "It's my business whether I win or lose?"  How can you tell others who want to help you to "mind their own business"?  Fighting the Lord's battles is the business of the whole church." 

We are all in the Lord's army.  There are no private battles.  If you're struggling with sins of the flesh, with the lust of the eyes, with the pride of life, call for help.  If you're struggling with relationships, with your marriage or family, with sinful patterns that are entrenched in your life and affecting your loved ones, call for help.   If you go it alone, your marriage will fail, or you'll fall into sin, or you'll make the wrong choice.  

We're in a battle, but we're not in it alone.  Swallow your pride, and seek reinforcements.  Call for help.  

Bear one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.  
                                                              ~Galatians 6:2

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Who are we fooling?

Linda introduced me to Brooke Fraser's music.  This one moves me to tears:

So we're back here again 
Tip toeing round the edge of the end 
Wondering who will be last to admit 
That we're finally over 

Turned twenty one on the day that we met 
Terrible shoes, implausible dress 
It's funny how sad the funny things get as you grow older 

Better or worse 
But what else can we do? 
And better or worse 
I am tethered to you 
If it's not either of us 
Tell me who are we fooling? 

I learned the art of biting my tongue 
I'm tired of trying to guess what was wrong 
Both agreed on where we should go 
But not how to get there 

We tried and tried to loosen the knots 
Thinking once we're untangled we'll be better off 
But it's these failures and faults that hold us together 

Better or worse 
But what else can we do? 
And better or worse 
I am tethered to you 
If it's not either of us 
Tell me who are we fooling? 

This beautiful tangle that's bruising us blue 
It's a beautiful knot that we just can't undo 
Together we're one but apart tell me 
Who are we fooling? 

Cause real love 
Is hard love 
It's all we have 
It's a break-neck 
Train wreck 
It's all we have 

So we're back here again 
Turning away from the edge of the end 
Arm in arm 

Better or worse 
But what else can we do? 
And better or worse 
I am tethered to you 
If it's not either of us 
Tell me who are we fooling? 

This beautiful tangle that's bruising us blue 
It's a beautiful knot we just can't undo 
If it's not either of us, tell me who are we fooling? 

Together we're one, but apart tell me 
Who are we fooling?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

God So Loved the World

This brings back memories of my childhood.  I was in church choirs from the time I could read, at 5 years old.  I loved the beauty of the voices and instruments swelling in harmony, guided by a choir director who knew her stuff! 

We also were in an adult choir years ago.

Our children haven't experienced a large church with a choir.

More's the pity.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Worship is a Transitive Verb

D.A. Carson writes, in Worship: Adoration and Action, p.15.

Should we not remind ourselves that worship is a transitive verb?  We do not meet to worship (i.e. to experience worship); we aim to worship God.  'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only':  there is the heart of the matter.  In this area, as in so many others, one must not confuse what is central with the byproducts.

If you seek peace, you will not find it;
           if you seek Christ, you will find peace.

If you seek joy, you will not find it;
          if you seek Christ, you will find joy.

If you seek holiness, you will not find it;
          if you seek Christ, you will find holiness.

If you seek experiences of worship, you will not find them;
         if you worship the living God, you will experience something of what is reflected in the Psalms.

Worship is a transitive verb, and the most important thing about it is the direct object.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

I love Paul!

Some day, I'm going to tell him so.

I also love the two books of Corinthians.  Paul's letters to the Corinthian church are a smack-down.  The Corinthians were some of the most talented, blessed folks around, yet they were sinners in need of correction.  Paul was just the man for the job.

I've been reading 2 Corinthians for some time now.  I love how Paul defends himself as an apostle to these stubborn people who have been listening to naysayers.  He is reluctant at first to say anything, but finally feels compelled to let the Corinthians know that he is a legitimate apostle.  He was chosen by God on the Damascus road.  In Chapter 12 he speaks of being caught up into heaven and shown incredible, unbelievable things (We can't even begin to imagine how incredible heaven will be - Paul couldn't even articulate it.).  

Paul was given "a thorn in the flesh" to keep him from becoming conceited after his incredible experience with God.  When he begged God to remove the thorn, God denied his request, saying, 

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.

Paul goes on to tell the Corinthians,

For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.

The weaker the human instrument, the more clearly God's grace and power shines.  

This is true today, too.  The weaker the human instrument, the more clearly God's grace and power shines.  You can see it if you look for it.  Look at the struggling Christian.

  • the spouse dealing with an unfaithful partner, yet forgiving again and again. 
  • the missionary labouring for years and years without a single convert
  • the pastor preaching faithfully for year after year with no growth in his congregation
These weak Christians are instruments of grace in others' lives.  Look at them, and see what God is doing.

Paul was weak, too.  He likely wasn't a fine physical specimen.  People were criticizing him and denouncing him because he didn't demand money like the other "missionaries".  Paul finally defended himself and told the Corinthians how much he loved them and longed for them to grow.

Paul did not want to go back to Corinth and find the Corinthians in the same sorry condition they'd been in before.  He longed for them to grow in grace.  He desired that they would repent of impurity and immorality.

He blasted them with a furious pen, a passionate pen, a pointed pen.

But he did not give up on them.

1 Corinthians 12:19 Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? It is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ, and  all for your upbuilding, beloved. 20 For I fear that perhaps  when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. 21 I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practiced.

Notice Paul's purpose - all for your upbuilding, beloved.  He loves them, and wants to build them up.  Paul longs for "his children" to lead godly lives.

Isn't that what we long for in our loved ones?  Don't we want them to do better, to put off sin and put on righteous living?  Aren't we heartbroken when we witness others struggling with the same old sin patterns?

Paul plans to come back to Corinth, but worries about what he'll find.  He fears that when he comes he won't find a group of mature Christians, loving one another, serving one another, pouring out their energy to help others.   Instead, he might find people struggling with quarrels, with jealousy, with anger, with hostility, with slander and gossip and deceit.  He fears that he'll encounter disorder.   He dreads that God may humble him before them, causing him to mourn over those men and women he taught and prayed for and admonished and loved.  

How about you?

Is there someone in your life that is a pain in your neck?  A thorn in your flesh?  A burr in your saddle?  Is there someone you've prayed for and longed for, crying out to God to deliver from besetting sin?  

One of the things God calls us to do is to LOVE.  It's the first and greatest commandment.  We're to love God first and foremost, and love our neighbour as ourselves.  Jesus makes it clear that our neighbour is everybody.  

God brings people into our lives and we're to love them.  

Sometimes, that's not easy.

William Carey was called to be a missionary to India.  He was the first missionary sent out by the Society, and he took along his wife, Dorothy, and his two sons and his sister-in-law.  God called him to go, of that he was certain, but Dorothy didn't get it.  She refused to go at first, only agreeing when her sister said she'd go, too.  As soon as she lost sight of Britain, Dorothy regretted her decision... and things went from bad to worse.  When they finally landed in India, they discovered they were illegal and weren't allowed to preach.  They moved into a hovel when their funds were gone, but there was no work for William.  They moved again, and their son died.  Dorothy never recovered.  

She blamed her husband.  She railed at him, sometimes attacking him and making him bleed. She bitterly destroyed his prize flowers, and refused to get out of bed.  She screamed and hollered and cried out against William and India and God and her entire life.  She was a mess.

It would have made sense for William to commit her to an asylum, but when a fellow missionary suggested that, William was horrified.  He married her for better or for worse.  He stuck by her until the end.

If we evaluate Dorothy as a wife, she was a failure.

  • she refused to keep house
  • she would not cook
  • she was bitter against God
  • she attacked her husband
  • she did not take care of her children
  • she did not work alongside William in his work as a missionary
Not much of a wife.  

Yet God gave William the grace he needed to remain faithful to Dorothy.  He patiently put up with her yelling and screaming and her destructive ways.  He continued to be kind to her and speak well of her.  He did not give up on her.

Just like Paul.  Paul didn't give up on the Corinthians, even though they were a sorry bunch.  He prayed for them, and longed that they would live godly lives.  But even though he dreaded that they might slip back into their former behaviour, he never gave up on them.

William didn't give up on Dorothy, either, even though she was a sorry mess.  He prayed for her and longed for her to accept her life in India.  He hoped that she would find joy in service to others, and even when she refused to listen, he never gave up on her.

Is there someone in your life that you want to give up on?  Is there someone you've prayed for, longed for, agonized over?  

Don't give up on him!

Just like Paul, be willing to mourn if need be.  Be willing to pray, again, for that wretched sinner that God has put into your life.  Don't worry about what you will find in his life - it's not up to YOU.  Spiritual growth is a work of the Spirit.  We are called to love.  God does the rest. Just don't ever give up.  Never give in!  NEVER SURRENDER!