Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Seek!

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

What does this mean, with ALL your heart? We see a lot of verses like this throughout the Old Testament and the New, but what is God asking for here? I mean doesn’t God know we are busy, doesn’t he know we have responsibilities, jobs to go to, kids to raise, errands to run? How do we even do this seeking with all our hearts stuff, and if I do that who will go to work, who will raise my kids, who will run my errands if I give all my time to “Seeking”
I mean come on lets be realistic here, I can’t make time for that kind of a commitment can I? He knows I have a lot going on and will understand that I just don’t have time to read or pray like I should right?........Right?

Remember when you first met your spouse and fell in love? You couldn’t get enough of that person; you had conversations into the wee hours of the morning getting to know one another. You thought about that person all day when you were at work, when you were running errands, apart of you was always thinking about when you might see that person again, where you might go and what you might do, and you could hardly wait. As you spent time in that relationship getting to know that other person the relationship deepened more and more. The commitment deepened also. The level of attachment grew and this person became a fixture in your life.
 After being in that relationship you find that you have changed because of it, you look back and the person you are now has been changed from the person you were then because of this relationship, this other person has had an affect on who you are, the decisions you make, and ultimately the life you live.

I would like to propose a hypothetical situation.
Let’s say we fall in love with this person and after a very short time they grow busier and busier until your really not even speaking to this person very often and spending any real time with them has been relegated to maybe one day a week, and even that day is sometimes skipped. When this person does make some time its brief and superficial, they have a lot of really good reasons for just not having the time, they tell you their sorry and they will make time in the future when they are not so busy, but they can’t tell you when that will be. What would we be left to think?

What are we leaving the Lord to think?

We have all had people in our lives, whether it’s a family member, coworker, or a friend of a friend that we’ve known superficially. Maybe we run into them once a week or every couple weeks while around other closer friends or just in passing. We’ve gathered some bits and pieces of information together over some months or years but never really gotten to know them. We may have put some assumptions together or even made some judgments of them based on second hand information or just brief encounters. Its not that we don’t like this person it’s just we have never had or taken the time or the interest to really get to know them until one day we do and we find that this fictional caricature we’ve put together in our minds was always way off from who this person really is. 

I am afraid these types of relationships occur with God far more often than we would like to admit to ourselves or to other people. I am also fearful for the people that don’t recognize they are doing it.


We attend Church weekly, we pray occasionally, and we read his Word even less.
Maybe at some point we committed to the Lord, and that experience was real, our commitment was real, but then over time the Lord has become just another thing we wish we had more time for.

Maybe we have never really had or known how to have a deep relationship with Jesus. Maybe he has always just been the reason for the friends we have or the place we go once a week. From the family we have grown up in, or from our friends we have learned some bits of information over the years, enough we think, to know who he is as much as anyone else can. It’s possible we have just never been in a place in our lives where we desperately needed God or at least felt that we did.

Some of us have convinced ourselves that an arms length, cold, superficial relationship with the Lord is enough to get us into Heaven so that’s good enough for us. Others of us have rationalized that what we are doing is more than what some others do therefore it is enough, after all you only need to believe right?...right?

Still others are under the illusion that we have time, plenty of time, we look to some future date, maybe our retirement or after the kids are raised and say to ourselves I will do it then!
 When I read the testimonies in the New Testament and I see what Jesus Christ himself has to say to those that are holding something back or have something they need to go do before following him. His answers to an attitude like that are clear. I don’t always like them but subtle they are not, the Lord doesn’t do subtle. Jesus doesn’t want to be our acquaintance. Jesus doesn’t want to wait till we have time.

I spent years with an unreal caricature of God in my mind and I was miserable because of it, my life was very empty, my soul was starving for nourishment. Christ really is the bread of life just as he says; he can give us spiritual food that transcends any nourishment we can find here on earth. But we don’t get that nourishment from osmosis, we need to do something, Jesus demands action on our parts.

The word Seek in all its forms appears in the Bible roughly three hundred and nine times.

The definitions of the word seek in the Merriam-Webster dictionary tells us the word “seek” means to search after or try to get.

Getting to know Christ has been, for me, a lot like falling in love but much much more. He was this figure in a book that I hardly read, he was the topic of discussion at my Church or in certain circles of friends, I mentioned him at the end of my prayers, then I volunteered for a prison ministry called Kairos and I watched the invisible hand of Christ change hardened convicts into love filled men on fire for the Lord in just days. It changed me also. I think for me and other people also, we can say we believe something with our mind and mouth but not really make that full connection of belief in our hearts and souls, or we can have that and grow cold due to inactivity.

Seeing the power of the living God make new creations of people right in front my eyes made the reality of God’s existence a tangible thing. We are such physical beings we need to see things, touch and feel things to know or be reminded that he is present, that he is alive, and that he wants a relationship with us. When we are walking other people into belief in Christ we are again walking ourselves there as well, in giving it away we get to keep what we have, we fan the flame of desire for the Lord and we are seeking him and finding him all over again.

We don’t all need to volunteer for Kairos to feel this; we can all be doing activities that are leading people to Christ, there are opportunities all around us. As Christians we have all been called to ministry, we just need to find out what ours is and do it. I have never felt closer to Christ than when I am watching someone else be changed by him, heart, mind and soul.

As I was saying, when we first fell in love with our spouses we had long drawn out conversations, sometimes until the wee hours of the morning. Weren’t we searching this person out, finding all there likes and dislikes and all they had been through? We wanted to know all we could know about them. This is what the Bible, Old Testament and New, calls us as believers to do with God. We can get to know him through his Word, feel his presence through our prayer, and watch him work in others.  

When we put action, reading, and prayer together we’ve got seeking, when we seek we fan the flame of desire for the Lord. We get to know him more and more, but unlike falling in the love with another human, the getting to know him never ends because his depth, unlike ours, is limitless. We will begin to think on eternal terms rather than worldly terms. 
The Lord doesn’t ask us to seek him for his benefit, but for ours.
We were created to be in relationship with him, that relationship was an easy one to have until the fall and sin entered the world. Now we must strive to stay in contact with him, this is why Paul compares it to a race we are running, he is saying it takes diligent action and consistency to stay on this course, but man what an awesome course it is! 



The Lord says in John 14:15 “If you love me keep my commands.”
The hard truth that Christ tells us throughout the Gospels is that Love is action. If we don’t seek him, we can’t know him, if we don’t know him, how can we truly love him? We can’t, and if we don’t truly love him how will we follow his commands?
We won’t.


But if we seek him we will fall in love with him in a deep and real way, heart, mind, and soul, then following his commands will not only come easier  but will be something we are also seeking and striving for. 

Friday, January 22, 2016

Pray for the Lost, there but for the grace of God go I…

The Lost
The Maker made the man from dust upon the earth. He formed him in his own image and gave him his own worth. From the Maker’s love the man was given the power to decide whether he’d stay in the Maker’s love or take the Serpent’s Bribe. The Maker’s heart was broken though he knew it’d come about, that the man he made would love himself and take the wider route.

Now the Maker he suffered with the man through every sinful selfish act, hoping he might grow sick of his life, repent and then turn back. The Maker sent his children to deter the man from his path, but the man was so sure of his way he was blind to the coming wrath.

Now the Maker he stood there with the man at the end of all his days, and watched the man be ruined by his own selfishness replayed. The man stood condemned with no excuse for the evil of his ways, and the Maker had to tell the man the time for choosing had passed away. The Maker told how his son had come and laid his life down for the man but the man had better things to do than take the Savior’s hand.


“I chased after you, I called out to you, I tried to stop you in your ways, but you only pressed on harder convinced you had more days. You loved your sin; you loved yourself, an empty life you lived, thinking never of eternal things or what you had to give. I gave you the very breath you breathe and you used it for yourself, never using the gifts I gave to go bless someone else.”

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Timeless

Titus 1:2
2 in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time,

Time is the great oppressor of our lives. Every human on the planet can feel its touch and see its passing. We look at our children when they are little and know one day they will need us no more. We look to our parents when they begin there role as grandparents and know we will also have that role one day. We know that our hair will go gray, our bodies will degrade, and our time at least here on this planet will come to an end.

I say time is an oppressor because, like it or not, we are under its rule. It is marching us forward; our days are ruled by the tick of the clock. Whether we are more obsessive than others and tightly arrange all our minutes and hours or we are of the laid back procrastinating type time is ultimately our dictator. Time invades every aspect of our lives.

This all makes it very hard to imagine a place without time. This is however where God is, he is outside of our time; he has actually created this structure of time. I say he is outside of time because for him to be inside of time would be to say he is just another created thing inside of our universe and to say that would send us searching for what created the universe and in turn also created God. We see in Genesis God creating the universe, specifically he’s seen creating our planet, moon, and sun. We see him also creating time in dividing the day from the night. As we read through the Bible we see him enter our time and become apart of our history, and each time he does he makes it clear that he sees and knows not just what is but all that will be.

Even main stream science admits the universe had a beginning and that something can never come from nothing. This triune God we worship created this incredibly vast universe with galaxies, solar systems, and stars all finely tuned like the inner workings of a clock. He created all this and dialed it all in to enable life here on our tiny little planet then he creates us down to the smallest structure in the human cell. As if all that were not amazing enough he then strikes up a relationship with us and wishes to be apart of our individual personal lives, this timeless, boundless, limitless God wishes to have us as his children.

God’s timeless qualities can be seen in the Bible from the very beginning.
In Genesis we read that before God created the first humans he had already created time, why? He created Adam and Eve to live forever why have this structure called time?

Are we to see the Lord as this author that has begun writing a book with no idea where it might lead, with no real narrative in mind, or no ending decided on? Is he a God that, like us, changes his mind back and forth not really certain which way he might turn? Is he a God that has set creation in motion and then is running back and forth putting out fires and trying to make sure everything goes right?
This is likely what God would look like if he were constrained by our time and just another facet of our universe. I myself had this kind of picture of God when I was an unbeliever and still somewhat as a believer until I began to read and study his word. I was greatly reducing God to fit with my perspective instead of allowing God to stretch my perspective to fit with who he really is. Without the aid of his Word we can find ourselves doing this in many different ways. God has given us the Bible so he might be revealed, so that we can know at least in part the incredible depth of his character and the vastness of his attributes. We cannot, in this life, ever fully know God or his mind but we can study what he has revealed and know what he has made possible for us to know.

Being timeless this triune God knew this human being he was about to create would disobey him; even more he knew all the suffering that would come after the fall of man down to the smallest detail.

So why create a being that can disobey?
If your spouse were really a mindless automaton unable to disobey you would that be a relationship? Or if they were forced against there will to be with you, would that be Love? Would either of these scenarios be something Love would do? No, and God is Love. He has created us out of Love to Love and to Love him. He created each of us believer and atheist alike with the intent and desire that we would choose him, but being Love that he is he has given us, through his grace, the ability to choose.

So why create a being that will suffer?
God, as we professing members of Christianity understand and worship him is not uninterested in our suffering; he is also not a God that intended the suffering. But he is a God that created all we see and know knowing all that would come because of it. He is not a God uninterested or unaffected by our suffering. Our Lord suffers with us in our moments of despair. He walks with us as we grieve for lost friends and family, when we are diagnosed with illness, loose jobs, and loose hope, he is there strengthening us and giving us a peace that transcends all understanding.

Mothers across the planet right now are making the choice to carry a child knowing the suffering and pain that will entail. We who have made the choice to have children knew when we made that choice they would likely disobey us, curse us, and even say they hate us at some point but we do it anyway. Those who have grown children remember the troubles and suffering they themselves have gone through raising those children. They also remember having to watch those children go through suffering of some type. Would they go back in time and choose to not have that child, choose for that child not to have existed at all because of the suffering they the parent and the child had to go through? No!

Our Lord knew the suffering he himself would need to go through with us from the beginning, he also knew the suffering we, his creation, would need to go through but still chose to create us to Love. He, being outside of time, could see that out of all this suffering would be born a people of his own, a people that would freely choose him and that he would choose as his very own children to enjoy fellowship with him for eternity.

Many times we can find ourselves wrapped up in this story the Father has written. We can get frustrated with the details and depressed and angry with what we see on the news, and we should feel for these people we see, but we should not loose sight that the details we are wrapped up in and the situations we see being played out around us are just the tiniest glimpse of this story he has written that will all end in his glorification.
 Trying to make sense of the events of the day or week as they compare to the over arching story and plan God has already ordained is like trying to make sense of a six thousand page book from just two of it’s letters. We can find ourselves rejecting this story and even being critical of the Author.

We need to trust and have faith in the Author of the book. He hasn’t left us in the dark; he has revealed himself and much of his story in the book he has written, and it has a great ending! The Father shows his timeless nature in many places throughout the Bible, using his prophets to predict events well in advance of there happening. He was in control then and he has the same control today.

Much more than any human mother or father, God created us knowing he would need to give a very dear part of himself. He knew at the creation Jesus would be beaten, spit on and nailed to a tree to atone for the sin we humans would choose. It is amazing to think that he knew while creating us that he would also have to save us. When we look at the world around us and see the suffering taking place we can know that the Father not only suffers with us but that he suffered for us more than we humans can ever imagine. We can know that he is sovereign and will make everything work for his glory whether we can see that now or not.

Through the atoning sacrifice that was planned from the beginning of time we can have our sins removed so that we might approach the Father and have fellowship with him here in this life through the Holy Spirit. We can claim Jesus as our brother and be called a child of God, a new creation!

Time is marching on just as the Father has designed it to.
Like all people time will one day march us to deaths door but for us, the children of God, that door will lead to a house of many rooms.

Rooms without clocks! 

Friday, January 1, 2016

The Temple of Me !

Judges 17:6
In those days there was no King in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.

Sound familiar? It should. We don’t need to look far in the Western culture we live in order to see this growing mentality. The famous people we idolize live extravagant lives of self worship and their lifestyles are then envied by our youth and our adults alike. We can see them on just about any TV channel or the tabloid rack at the supermarket. They live lives most parents would never want for their children yet somehow it’s our own form of worship we give these people that has made them the wealthy Idols they are. We see them fly through relationships using people up, they build grandiose homes, drive cars worth six figures, and wear clothes worth more than most of us make in a month. We think they have it all the looks, the stuff, always the attractive person on their arm, and they look so happy when we see them, but are they? We now even have some preachers that have begun to warp the message of the Gospel to promise us the financial prosperity we see others enjoying telling us not only that it’s ok but that God wants to give it to us.

Our culture tells us that our own happiness should be our guide in life that we all get to create and follow our own truth. Our culture preaches that we are all just a highly evolved intelligent form of animal that is the result of chemistry and chance. So why not live only for the material possessions we can gather and the pleasures we can enjoy? If this philosophy is true and right shouldn’t we see the fruit of this in our society? Shouldn’t we easily see a culture of very healthy, happy, and peace filled people?

In Greek mythology, the son of the river god Cephissus was a character named Narcissus. The myth tells us that Narcissus was a very good looking man that became so mesmerized by his own image in the water of a spring he remained there until he died.



An article in Psychology Today tells us that a study conducted thirty years ago found 30 percent of American youth to be narcissistic and they say that number has doubled since then. Connected to a narcissistic personality they also found empathy to have decreased by forty percent. Our main stream music today glorifies anger, revenge, and resentment. It tells us to exalt ourselves over others and to seek money, power, and sex. This article says the words “us” and “we” are disappearing from the lyrics of our mainstream music and being replaced by the words “I” and “me.”
Our most popular video games are the ones full of mass murder and lawlessness. Our action movies depict individualistic heroes motivated by revenge and adhering to no set of underlying morals, we often see them use the very same tactics and behaviors seen used by the “the bad guy.”
Even most of our dramatic movies are centered on the main character finding happiness for themselves, most times a relationship, job, or attaining a goal that benefits them and allows them to finally be satisfied.
  The article points to the self-esteem movement as a contributor to this spreading sickness in our population. Many parents are so concerned that their children feel good about themselves it results in an attitude of personal exceptionalism and an actual decline in real self-esteem in the child. The article states the massive decline and turning away from things like mutual respect, compassion, tolerance, and selflessness toward a narcissistic attitude of indifference, egotism, and individualism is creating a gradual tear in our society.

2Timothy 3:24
For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.

(Judges 17:6) The verse we are focused on today is found in the story of Micah. We find that Micah has created for himself Idols that he can worship at home in his own way. He then sets himself up two priests that he himself pays and that live there with him in his home; one is his own son, the other a Levite traveler. Micah and his Mother wanted to worship but only in their own way. They had no interest in seeking the Lords guidance for them; they created for themselves a false God. The priests served the purpose of making them feel comfortable in their disobedience. Next we see the Danites come and plunder Micah’s home taking his Idol and ephod. We then, not surprisingly, see the Levite Priest become enticed with the Danites offer of serving their clan in Israel and helped them carry off the plunder.

Our current culture tells us to “follow your instincts!” “Do what’s right for you.” “Do what makes you happy.” And my favorite “Follow your heart!”
 When we get engaged we are asked if our significant other “makes us happy.” When we get a job people ask if “we like it.” It’s as if the highest authority we could use as a guide for our lives is us and our fickle feelings and pleasures. Is it any wonder we are a people heavily medicated for things like depression and anxiety? We think we are responsible for everything!
Is it no wonder we are a people of ever changing relationships, jobs, and homes?

 Most social media is all based on us and we love it! “The selfie” has become a household term. We love to take and post pictures of ourselves, our cars, our motorcycles, our clothes, and sometimes even our dinner.
We buy and own more clothes and cars than ever before in history. The fastest growing form of relationship has no covenant and produces an ever growing rate of fatherless children. Our country has the highest incarceration rate of any other country on the Planet. I would easily say that ninety-nine percent of those people incarcerated were guided by their own pleasures and interests in some way shape or form. These are the fruits of a society based on self worship! We are a society staring in the mirror, we are sick, and we are dying.

We have been deceived by the father of lies. Turn on your radio, flip on the TV, or talk to people of our culture and you will hear his sermon being preached. We are captured by it, mesmerized by it, why? Because it tells us everything we want to hear! It’s all about you! You don’t like your job? Quit! Your spouse not keeping you as happy as they used to? Leave!
People are streaming to mega-churches that only preach grace and forgiveness for their listeners. They spend little or no time on the consequences of the many forms of sin or how to turn from it. They speak of Jesus as if he were a personal coach that is going to help you attain “your goals.” We have set up a priest inside our home to tell us what we want to hear.





There is Good News! We need only open our Bibles to hear the Lord speak into our lives. If we honestly seek he will shine the light of truth into our hearts and we will see how insignificant and lacking these things we’ve been focused on are, that includes us. Abiding in him we will recognize the beautiful lies and snares of the evil one and with the power of the one true God avoid being seduced by his sweet sermons. We can walk away from our reflection and break the spell of self-centeredness. The lies we are being told have been the same since the first one told in the Garden, they are ancient deceptions but they still work if we aren’t abiding in him. Grace and forgiveness are real attributes of God but that’s not all, we need to read his word to be sure we are not being seduced by those same old lies.

Jesus certainly didn’t die on the cross so that we could feel good about worshiping our stuff and ourselves. He came down off his throne of perfection in Heaven into our filthy sinful mess so that we may know true happiness, contentment, joy, and fulfillment that can only be found in him. He doesn’t offer us physical wealth but a wealth that cannot be bought with dollars, a peace that defies all human understanding and a love that has no limits. We are chasing empty trinkets and fast fleeting pleasures when he offers a treasure worth so much more. But he doesn’t tell us it’s going to be easy, he tells us we must deny ourselves, be willing to lose our lives and pick up our cross and follow him Matthew 16:24-36. He tells us that if we love anyone our parents, our spouses, even our children more than him we are not worthy of him Matthew 10:37.  He tells us if you love me you’ll obey me John 14:23
Jesus is saying we need to forget about our stuff or the seeking of it and be willing to throw it all away. He is saying we need to forget about ourselves and our plans. He is even saying his will should be greater than the interests of your own family.
No one likes to hear this and Jesus ran people away by telling them this but he knew by being our very maker that we could never have true life guided by our own fickle sense of happiness. We can do nothing without him! John 15:5


What does this mean for us who are trying to follow him? It means our relationship with him should be our most valuable and treasured possession. His love and fellowship should be the single most important thing in our lives, above any other relationship. If he is in his proper position in our lives, not only will we have contentment but we will have true life and real fulfillment. That is something other people and things cant give us, and it certainly isn’t something we will find in the mirror. There are going to be a lot of times that his will is leading us somewhere we do not want to go, somewhere that we think we can’t be happy but he is more concerned with our maturity than our happiness, he is concerned with our readiness for his Kingdom not whether we are totally content with our job or not. 

Satan wants us to focus on ourselves, he wants us staring in the mirror and running from one useless thing to the next like nervous sheep without a Shepard attempting to lead ourselves, when really he the father of lies has become our Shepard. We find our happiness in Jesus, we find our direction and guidance in Jesus, and we find true life living in a relationship with him. Contrary to popular opinion there are no gray areas in the Bible, Jesus himself said it in many ways but he is always clear that there are but two paths to walk, he is the way, lets take it.