Archives for the month of: February, 2016

risen

It never occurred to me to consider the Easter story from the perspective of the soldiers who were commanded to find Jesus’ body and kill the notion that “the Nazarene” was resurrected. I never considered that God could use the commands of a Roman governor to change the heart of a Roman soldier. While it is a new perspective for me, it is so like God to allow those who seek the truth to find it in His story.

 I wonder how many stories we don’t know. I wonder what post resurrection appearances or miracles are unknown to us because God chose to make those personal, rather than eternal. I wonder what would happen today if we pursued the truth, rather than trying to prove ourselves right. I wonder what the Church would look like if we were as interested in being in God’s presence as we are in achieving our self-prescribed goals.

 Perhaps my favorite scene in the movie is when the soldier goes to sit on a rock with Jesus at dawn. The soldier says, “I was there when you died.” It’s not profound or deeply philosophical. It’s not a great statement of faith. It has far more to do with his doubt than his belief. But his honesty led him to God. May it be so for us.

 Go see the movie. Allow yourself to celebrate the miracle of Easter and the privilege of knowing God.

 

delight heart

Our culture seems fixated on finding passion. Channel surfing on a Sunday afternoon shows sports fans that pay lots of money to attend games where they can be part of the crowd, enthusiastically cheering for their team. Jerseys, foam fingers, and face paint are evidence of the depth of passion for their team.

We like the thrill of being caught up in the moment, and we pursue that thrill every chance we get. But the thrills we pursue are so often short lived. We have substituted  pornography for intimacy, sex for love. The passion of our political arguments usually change nothing but the other person’s opinion of us, not their politics. We choose to be a part of the cheering crowd, rather than a participant in the event. The delights of our hearts in those moments are short lived and, too often, disappointing.

I thoroughly enjoy a close score or race. It is exciting to watch people give their all in pursuit of their goal. But the outcome of the match or game rarely matters in the grand scheme of life. The thrill of that moment…only lasts for a moment. Sex becomes the impediment, rather than the first step, to deep relationship. Two weeks from now, a year from now, we spectators may not even be able to remember which teams played, much less the score. Our passion from the “stadium seats” doesn’t really impact anything but our moment and their advertising dollars. The events that bring a smile to our hearts for the rest of our lives come only from lives invested in the relationship, in the victory. We can’t know profound victory from the cheap seats. We spend our passion in pursuit of things that do not feed our souls.

God created us with the capability for deep passion. Our free will governs what passions we will pursue. What feels good in the moment may disappoint us in the long run. What is difficult in the moment may fulfill us in the long run.

What would change if we were as passionate for the things of God as we are for things of this world? How would those around you be impacted if your passion for God was as obvious as your political opinion? How would your life be different if your most enthusiastic moments were in the presence of God, rather than in front of your TV? If the thrill of your life was seeing God at work in the situations of your life, rather than just being a spectator of someone else’s success?

Many believers see Lent as a time to sacrifice – to consecrate themselves – to remove things from their life that threaten their purity or to use the desire for those things to remind themselves to pray in order to deepen their relationship with and understanding of God, to increase their holiness. God commands us to be holy – to be set apart from this world, and when we consecrate ourselves to that end, He will do mighty things for us, in us, and through us.

Don’t settle for the temporary, shallow thrills of this world. Don’t just study the stories of others who knew God. Ask God for a front row seat to his power and presence in your own story with Him. Let this season of Lent be a time when you intentionally, consistently expect Him in your day, and let your life show evidence of increasing holiness and decreasing worldliness. Ask God to give you the desires of His heart as you seek Him with all of your heart.

ignorance

Perhaps the biggest threat to the future of America is the ignorance its voters. Late night TV entertains its viewers with interviews demonstrating how little the average person knows about government policy and current events. For some reason, people feel that what they want to believe must be true. They are more interested in their opinions than in facts, and they make no effort to support their opinions with facts; sound bites are good enough, even when they don’t mean anything.

I wonder how many who blindly support a party or a candidate actually know the difference between a flat tax, a VAT tax, and a graduated tax system. I wonder what their definition of “Wall Street” is or if they have any understanding of the impact of trillions of dollars of debt on the future of our country. Do people actually believe that health care or a college education can be free? For those who support the nuclear deal with Iran, exactly how does it prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon? For those who oppose Hillary, what exactly does the FBI say she has done that is illegal? What is the difference between a US citizen and what critics of Ted Cruz say should eliminate him from running for president? Since when is being young a liability or being rich a sign of competence? What evidence is there now that our allies trust us or that our enemies negotiate with us with respect? When those who support the repatriation of Syrian immigrants promise to do background checks, what exactly will they do and how will they do it? What exactly is socialism, and how is it different from progressivism? What has been the outcome of socialist governments in the past, and how might that be good for America? What exactly would be the financial implications of abandoning US dependence on foreign oil or the cutting our carbon emissions? Does increasing the minimum wage mean that small business owners will cut their own pay or that their product will cost the public more? How will your candidate change what has been done into something better?

Good intentions get lost in the reality of implementing change. As long as the American people make minimal effort to educate themselves about the issues at hand, the winners of our elections and the leaders of our future will be those who have witty comebacks and catchy slogans, those who look good on the evening news, those who tell us what we want to hear. The success of a republic rests on the education and participation of its voters. Hope for our future and change for the better will not come from those who refuse to hold our leaders accountable or from leaders who are dedicated to protecting their own power, rather than serving the American people.

God held the ancient Hebrews accountable when they allowed their corrupt leaders to defile their culture. I can’t imagine American will be any different. If we subjugate God to our own ends, if we serve ourselves rather than obey God, I suspect God will allow us to see what it’s like to face our enemies on our own strength. I pray every day for the people and leaders of our country, and ask God, in his mercy, to send us citizens and leaders that will lead us to repentance and obedience.

 

promised land 2

What if the “Promised Land” is literally the territory that becomes Israel in the Bible…AND figuratively the blessings of God on the obedience of His people? What if our study of Old Testament history is meant to lead us to deeper understanding of both God’s will for all his people, and God’s will for us individually? I believe God set aside a geographic place, but I also believe God prepares a “promised land” that is unique for each of His children. It may be a geographic place. It may be a relationship or a ministry or a front row seat to see God at work…it was all those for the ancient Hebrews. There are some things that were true about the promised land God gave to his people back then that are also true for each of us as we seek God’s will for us right now.

 We have to separate themselves from what has been and allow God to do a new thing. God required that Abraham leave Ur and that the Hebrews leave Egypt in order to inhabit a different place. They could not have become the people God intended them to be if they had refused to obey God’s instructions. For us, that may not necessarily mean physical relocation, but it will mean that we have to let go of things that keep us bound to the past, or prevent us from seeing new things about ourselves and about God.

 Getting from where we are to the promised land God calls us to is not a magic miracle; it is a journey. There will be times in the wilderness. The journey to possess our promised lands may be fraught with tests and tribulations intended to make us strong enough to overcome the “giants” that already live there. Dwelling in our promised land will require that we trust God more than we fear those who oppose us, that we want what God chooses for us more than we want what we’ve chosen for ourselves.

 Promised lands are not a one-time gift; they have to be defended. Satan is threatened by those who obey God’s call on their lives and inhabit the promised lands God gives them. But when we stand firm in what we know is God’s call on our lives, God fights the battles for us, just as He fought for the ancient Hebrews as they moved forward into Canaan to possess their land.

 God led those ancient peoples each step of the way. They walked across the Red Sea on dry land as they left Egypt; they walked across the Jordan River on dry land as they arrived in their promised land. And in between, they saw some of the most magnificent miracles recorded in the Bible.

 God still leads those who will follow. May we let go of the things that prevent us from knowing the full measure of His blessing on our lives, and may that process let us see His glory and allow us to fully trust Him for our next step forward.