Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Our Answers are in Him

Below is a paraphrased excerpt from a letter wrote I about 6 years ago. I have edited out the "juicy" parts, but nevertheless it is a candid expression of what I was dealing with at that particular season. Many of you may identify with it to some degree. I would encourage you to follow it up with Psalm 73, which encourages God’s people to find their peace and solutions in the presence of God.

A personal letter, Summer of 2003:
“My life has come to a place of overwhelming shock to me. It is like waking up from a dream and finding I am in a nightmare. To start out with a vision for great things and to end up at the bottom has been a great and shameful disappointment to me. My life has been filled with wonderful signs of God’s presence and horrible pits of darkness at the same time. I have always tried to follow what I thought was the Lord’s way and direction, yet now I realize how I have been so influenced by my fears, anxieties, laziness, and lack of discipline. Over the years I have struggled with all sorts of mental weaknesses that have stunted and dwarfed my potential. The lines between these inherited mental infirmities and undisciplined self-centeredness have been blurry, and have made it hard to tell where one leaves off and the other begins...

Yet I have learned to be content with the Lord Himself rather than needing ministry to make me happy. I have set my focus to facing my own inner monsters and destroying them. I have been making progress and am rejoicing in it…With the victory that I have moved into over this last month I have received tremendous hope for myself and the possibilities of further changes to come. I plan to climb a step daily and take advantage of whatever grace and plans the Lord still has available for me. When I say “hope for myself” I am referring to areas in me that need change, and changes in the areas that affect my family and the other important concerns of my life.

…I have faith for God to change me. I have faith for Him to continue the good work He has been doing in me in this season. And “ministry” does not matter. Changing, pleasing the Lord, and blessing my wife and family are what matters. [At this point in my letter I made reference to a specific area where I needed to see victory, and then said…] We just have to endure while the Lord defeats that enemy too."
-BL, summer, 2003.

Psalm 73
Whether a person is disillusioned because he has been genuinely disappointed by some hope, or simply going through a difficult and perplexing time, his answer and deliverance are in the presence of the Lord. David saw the wicked prosper while the people of God suffered. He saw the ungodly appear to sin with impunity while he himself was chastened every morning. His first reaction was to feel his efforts at righteousness had been in vain. What he saw troubled him, and his reaction to it grieved him deeply. "It was all too painful" he said— until he went into the presence of God. He would have given up had he not sought the Lord.
It is at Jesus' feet that we gain the right perspective. It is there that we get our bearings and reference points. We present our hearts for cleansing, open the Bible and see what God's word says, as we listen to the Holy Spirit and let Him minister to us. David's conclusion was, "I have put my trust in the Lord God."

Job 42: 5-6
Job was tested to the limit in his suffering and did not understand what was happening or why. I am sure that in his extreme pain he had many questions. But in the final chapter, God Himself showed up, and Job bowed before Him in humility, flooded with the knowledge of God's greatness, love, kindness, goodness, and wisdom. In that moment of revelation he did not question God. In God's presence we need no other answer, and yet in Him we have all the answers.
The Lord is pleased to give us understanding, but we must remember that He is our wisdom. In Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. We should seek Him. It is in His presence that we find our answers, our peace, our strength, and our joy.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Disobey and Have A Party?

“And they made a calf in those days, offered sacrifices to the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands (the idols)…” Acts 7: 41
“And…he…made a molded calf…and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.” Exodus 32: 4-6
“It is…the sound of singing I hear….He saw the calf and the dancing.” Ex 32: 18-19.

The verses above show that you can disobey the Lord and still have a party---at least for a while.

One of the problems with human nature is that it so often loses sight of both reward and consequences. When we get caught up in the temptation of the moment or in what we want right now, we forget that there is a reward for faith and obedience, and a consequence and a reaping for evil and disobedience. And so like Israel, we make our “golden calves” and have a party.

Moses had gone up the mountain to meet God face to face and to receive the commandments and the laws for Israel’s life as a nation. The people became impatient, discontent, perplexed, and maybe bored during the 40 day wait while Moses was on the mountain. They felt that God was taking too long, and maybe Moses was dead. So they decided to make their own gods. This would liven things up a bit and provide a more cheerful atmosphere. It would help them to feel better. They made an idol and rejoiced before it,” They were singing, dancing, and feeling good. It actually appeared to be one of their happiest moments since leaving Egypt. Sounds like something wonderful, but what a fleeting deception! 3,000 people died as a result of this egregious sin (the idol, not the singing and dancing).

The enemy of our souls is so very deceptive. He inhabits our idols and pretends to offer so much. And we foolishly rejoice in those idols because they indulge our flesh and allow us to do as we please. They help us to feel better by providing a quick momentary fix. They help us to temporarily drown our fears, and to forget our deeply troubling thoughts and unanswered questions. They appeal to our selfishness and our self-centeredness. They appeal to and feed our rebellious nature while also keeping us distracted from the one true God.

God calls a person to surrender now, and to pay the price of obedience up front. For now it may mean self-control, waiting, sacrifice, suffering, and doing the right thing when we would rather be doing something else. The cost is now, but the rewards will surely follow. The blessing is beyond the obedience.
The enemy, on the other hand, offers all the “good stuff” up front. He offers pleasures and “what you want” now. He makes you think it’s free or at a discount, and with no waiting. As a result, many have eaten at his table not realizing the horrible price they will inevitably pay. If you think God is asking too much of you now, just wait until the devil comes to collect later.

Israel sang, danced, and rejoiced before their idol, and shortly thereafter 3,000 lay dead. By contrast, Moses chose to suffer affliction with the people of God rather than enjoying the passing pleasures of sin he could have experienced by ignoring God's call on his life. He was able to do this because by faith he saw the rewards that would follow. (Heb 11: 25-26). Jesus said that the world will rejoice while you are sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned to joy” (John 16: 20). In His own example, Jesus in His hour of suffering was able to endure the cross because of the joy that was set before Him, because He knew that His travail of soul would redeem man back to God (Heb 12:2). Impending sorrow and regret await those who live in disobedience; but for those who take up their cross to follow Jesus, joy will come in the morning.

It is an honor and a privilege when the Lord calls upon you to deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Him (Matthew 16:24). And if you really knew the gift that is being offered, you would not be blinded by what you think is too great a price to pay. If you could really see who it is that calls you, you would fall at His feet in complete surrender knowing that He and the treasures He brings are inexpressible and far beyond comprehension.

The bible says they "rejoiced in the work of their own hands" (i.e., their idols). But this joy was fleeting, tenuous, and false. "Idols" are deceptive. They lie and are like clouds without water boasting of false gifts. I have a good friend who says he has his own religion, but he lives in fear of death, and with tremendous anxiety about growing old. Our idols can only offer a temporary "high" or a temporary "sleep" to help us avoid facing life, truth, and the reality of eternity. Grind up the "golden calf" and cast it away. Look up to the living and true God, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Only in Him is true joy and real peace.

[For those theologians among us, let me say that I know that salvation is a fee gift, and can not be earned. Please understand the terms such as "price" and "cost" in context of Luke 14].