Thursday, December 15, 2005

Make Foundations While the Sun Shines

Let's think about Jesus' sermon on the Two Builders, in Matthew 7:

(24)"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. (25)The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. (26)But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. (27)The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."

What caught my attention is something implied in the sermon, albeit ridiculously obvious to anyone who knows about building. Although it does not tell us when each man built his house, it was definitely not while the rain, floods, and wind were present.

Ignoring, for this discussion, the idiot who built on sand, let us think about our own goals of building on the Solid Rock. When do we lay such a firm foundation in our lives, on the Rock Who we know is Jesus, and on His Word? Certainly not during life's storms! The key truth is that we need to have laid our foundations while the sun was still shining. We need to have taken time to build our relationship with God through spending time in His presence, to build our faith and hear His voice through meditation on His Word, during those periods of life when "all was well in our world."

The sad truth is that we have no problem finding time to howl to God when our house is collapsing about our ears. When all our work lies in a wreck, we have no trouble weeping and praying for help to rebuild. But the strength to endure life's storms--the foundation laid on Solid Rock, would have served us far better; it would have prevented the loss of our efforts, of years of our lives. Why did we not build such a foundation "while the sun was shining?" It's the same stupidity we see in all walks of life: "There's never enough time to do it right, but there is always time to do it over again."

In conclusion, let's think about the words of a popular Newsboys worship song. The songwriter understood this principle. Spend time in God's presence while the sun shines, and you will have the foundational strength to stand before Him and continue to "bless His name" through any storm--pain, suffering, sorrow--fill in the blank--that life throws at you.

Blessed be Your name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name
And blessed be Your name
When I'm found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed be your name

Every blessing You pour out I'll
Turn back to praise
And when the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

Blessed be Your name
When the sun's shining down on me
When the world's "all as it should be"
Blessed be You name
And blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Eagles Have a Different Perspective

What a busy summer! Too busy, if I could not take the time to journal the thoughts of my personal journey with God.

Came across the following this morning: text of a pamphlet published by Larry Tomczak (while with People of Destiny) a number of years ago. I believe this vision is just as fresh today, and it still patiently calls to us...

http://www.lastdaysministries.org/Articles/1000008612/Last_Days_Ministries/LDM/Discipleship_Teachings/Taking_Action_Living.aspx

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Death of a Vision

This is a sequel to the last posting.

Scripture teaches us, over and over, that:

a. God has a unique Calling for each of us, which is irrevocable

b. Once he manifests that Calling (which makes it a Vision), it must go through a death. Any ideas we might have about how we will make it happen are going to die during this stage. This death may take days, years, or even decades. (Part of this may depend on how long we take to relinquish control of the Vision!)

c. Finally, when all human hope and self-dependency is exhausted, the vision is reborn. Now it is free to be God's work in, and through, us. Now it can achieve what He intended.

Examples...

- Abraham was promised great offspring, and a great land for them to possess. He wandered about in tents, and produced the wrong offspring. The true offspring (Isaac) finally had to go through "death" at Abraham's hand, before rebirth could be achieved, and the Vision sealed for fulfillment.

- Jacob was promised that he would have God's favor and fulfill the calling of Abraham. He had to live in exile for years, and learn hard lessons, before returning home as a humble leader under the new name Israel.

- Joseph saw in a dream that he was to be a great leader, but he had to endure the dungeon first. In the end, he was the gentle ruler over his family that God had intended him to be.

- Moses was raised in the palace, groomed not only as a great leader, but also well enough versed in Egyptian culture and protocol to be able to confront Pharaoh himself. He was The Man to pull off the Exodus. However, he also had his own ideas about how he would fulfill God's purposes. These ideas died a miserable death during 40 years that Moses had to take care of dumb sheep in the desert, while he learned to be the meek, gentle, godly leader of the other flock of dumb sheep--the Israelites.

- David was anointed king, but this was not fulfilled until he had first spent years running for his life from Saul. He started out as a great giant-killer (which was not so bad), but emerged as the most humble king, one who trusted 100% in God to ultimately rescue him before his enemies, as we see in the business of Absalom.

- Peter was a friend of Jesus, part of His inner circle, and a great future leader, but he had to walk through the "death" of actually denying that he knew Jesus, before finally letting go of his self-reliance.

- Paul's calling and destiny were incredible, but he had to spend 14 years in his own "wilderness" before he could be a leader so pure, so devoid of himself, that he could actually invite the Church to imitate him, as representing Christ.

This is getting too long. In conclusion, the previous posting about Job goes hand in hand with this one about--if you will--"the Paths of the Dead" that we must each pass through as God refines us to be vessels of silver and gold for His table. Let's NEVER skirt the furnace of refinement, unless we are content to be rusty old buckets, fit only to transport fertilizer in God's garden!!

-----------------------------

OK, back to Job... (My problem is not doing something until I can do it just right. God is working on me about that, because sometimes it means nothing gets done!)

My thoughts returned to the Job devotional I meant to post in April. Sometimes we are disappointed because of not being recognized for all the "wonderful things" we do. We get "weary in well doing" because there seems to be endless planting and weeding, but no harvest! This scripture jumped out at me, from 2 Chronicles 15--a moving chapter about a king (Asa) who took the time to put God first. God sent him a prophet to encourage him when he needed it most, with these words:

"But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded." 2 Chronicles 15:7

We are all called to do some kind of work, even if it's sweeping floors. We should do that work with skill, character, and a servant's heart. There will be jealous people who brush us off because we show up their mediocrity. There will be subordinates who quietly rebel because they do not share our vision. However, the toughest form of rejection can be when our superiors do not even seem to care that we are doing a good job. All sowing, no reaping.

If we take a break from the pity party, we can hear God's voice gently reminding us, as He did Asa, that He is the One we are really working for, that He is keeping the books, and that He will ultimately reward us if we don't give up.

The "catch" is that things are happening in the spiritual dimension that we cannot see. Sometimes these things are really exciting. Sometimes God is "cheering us on", so to speak, through a really rough time, and we cannot even comprehend that we are so, so close to a big reward--a reward that will be forfeited if we give up before reaching the finish line of the current trial!

So what about Job? Here is where he comes in...

The whole book of Job seems, at face value, like it's all about Job and his friends. Trouble is, Job felt the same way: "It's all about me!" Unfortunately, Job's misguided friends also felt: "It's all about me!", i.e., about each of them serving up the choicest bits of wisdom. But, read it again! The entire book of Job is about God! He gives us a unique seat at the 50-yard line, and shares with us His entire plan for Job, and His purpose for walking him through this awful trial. When we read Job's pitiful complaints, we feel like saying, "Just hang on a while longer, be strong, don't give up, there's a reward coming if you hang in there!" Fortunately Job hung in there and did not sin or curse God in his heart, even though he totally misunderstood and believed that God was simply playing games with him for sport.

But, how often do we give up during a long, dry spell? Maybe we don't sin by commission--by blaming God directly, but we VERY often sin by omission. We desert our assigned post, abdicate our position of leadership (with the world watching us), and go off to do something more comfortable for ourselves. The result is that we fail the test. The result of failing the test is that we'll see the same test again in a different form. And again. And again. And again, until we get it right. Once we emerge from the causality loop in triumph, still clinging to the promise, still focused on the will of God even when we do not understand it--then, and ONLY THEN do we receive our reward. And, what a reward!--a God-size reward!!

When Job passed the test, God's heart was bursting with pride. He held Job up as a trophy before all the powers of darkness who accuse mankind. Here was one who fulfilled the ultimate purpose of man--to voluntarily choose faithfulness to God above all else. Job's wealth, happiness, and renown were double, in the end, what he had already enjoyed at God's hand in the beginning.

Job is an example for all the ages. The book of Job is God's secret revealed. It is what He sees as we plod through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Let's not give up--lie down and die--when the reward is just around the bend!

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Finding Strength in Hardship

Something just hit me today, regarding Philippians 4:13, and I had to go look up the context. This is, I believe, the first verse I ever memorized--that is, my parents encouraged me to memorize it because I would always whine about "I can't!" Yes, it is a powerful verse, and the entire Bible stands behind the message it presents, when read at face value.

Back to the context, though. I think this verse has almost always been taken out of context. The STRENGTH that Paul refers to is not the Go-Forth-and-Do-Exploits Power we always think of. In fact, it is a much more powerful power--flowing, of course, from the same Source--the power to endure and thrive in uncomfortable situations. Ouch! We like to think about having more Might for Exploits, but we don't like to consider our, often more important need, for Strength to Carry On.

Paul speaks of being content whether in need or in abundance. It builds character, it does away with the drive to whine, and most important of all, it flows from the One Who gives us strength for this and all other aspects of our walk in this world.

Read it again!...

11I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Friday, March 18, 2005

You Are Not the Issue; God Is the Issue

The key passage from one of my favorite sermons, by Charles Simpson:

I Kings 19:8-18 8

...Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. 9 There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the LORD came to him: "What are you doing here, Elijah?"

10 He replied, "I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too."

11 The LORD said, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD , for the LORD is about to pass by."

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD , but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

Then a voice said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"

14 He replied, "I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too."

15 The LORD said to him, "Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. 16 Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. 17 Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. 18 Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel-all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him."

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Cleansing the Temple

Lord Have Mercy - Lyrics
Michael W. Smith

Jesus, I've forgotten the words that You have spoken
Promises that burned within my heart have now grown dim
With a doubting heart I follow the paths of earthly wisdom
Forgive me for my unbelief
Renew the fire again

Lord have mercy
Christ have mercy
Lord have mercy on me

I have built an altar where I worship things of men
I have taken journeys that have drawn me far from You
Now I am returning to Your mercies ever flowing
Pardon my transgressions
Help me love You again

I have longed to know You and Your tender mercies
Like a river of forgiveness ever flowing without end
I bow my heart before You in the goodness of Your presence
Your grace forever shining
Like a beacon in the night