Tuesday, August 31, 2010

2nd of Two: Lessons from Elijah

Last Friday I wrote a post on Lessons from Elijah...today I want to pick up where I left off (if you missed last Friday's post, scroll down).  First, read (or re-read) 1 Kings 19.  Now that you've done that, let's pick up with part II.  Last week I wrote about the rest that God granted Elijah.  Today I want to write about another key in this story;

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.

Imagine being Elijah and having God tell you that "the LORD is about to pass by."  Stop and think for a minute, how would you react or what you be feeling if God told you that He was about to visit you?  Me?  I can imagine that a surge of adrenalin and emotion would hit me; equal parts fear and anticipation.  I'd be expecting God to show up in an awesome (lit. "awe-inspiring") way.  I'd be expecting to be un-done by His holiness and majesty, or be overcome by His beauty or overwhelmed by His sheer size or His power.  Once the wind kicked up, I'd be positive something was about to happen...but no.  But then an earthquake, and surely God must be in that, but no.  Finally a whisper.

Is the ambient noise level in your life such that you can hear the whispers of God?

It is often said that "God is a gentleman; He never yells."  Now between you and me, I don't know about that statement and whether it measures up with God's revelation in Scripture; however, I do know that there are many, many examples of God speaking to man and quite often, it is through a whisper.  Occasionally, when He's really trying to get our attention, He has to force us to stop our activity in order to hear Him.

This begs the question, "is the ambient noise level in your life such that you can hear the whispers of God?"

I have a new baby...our first.  I've heard it said that there is no bigger life-change one goes through than having your first child.  Life will never be the same.  The ambient noise level in our home has gone up, while the energy levels of Mom and Dad have gone down.  It is a constant struggle to find times of rest and quiet.  It is a season of life we're in.  But still...I can listen for God in the spaces between the activities...I can look for God in new ways...I can still listen.

God still speaks...quite often, He whispers.  Do you hear Him?

Friday, August 27, 2010

First of Two: Lessons from Elijah

Ok, so maybe this time he was sleeping
This is the first of two posts from the story of Elijah.  First things first though; you have to read the account in 1 Kings 19.

I have a newborn baby - Brennan, our first.  He's almost 5 months old and as any new parent can tell you, having your first child will change your life forever.  Parenting is a young mans game...I never thought I'd be 39 going on 40 when I had my first child.  The first thing you notice, aside from how darn cute he is, is how little sleep you're going to get for the forseeable future.  "Sleep like a baby?"  Not sure who coined that phrase but "sleeping like a baby" definitely does not = lots of sleep.

Now let's pick up that story of Elijah.  In chapter 18, Elijah has just defeated the 450 prophets of Baal, single-handedly (with God's help, of course).  He's just won a huge victory and where do we see him next?  Celebrating?  Gloating?  Enjoying his new-found power and popularity?  No - he's running for his life from Jezebel, a woman who isn't too happy about all her prophets being killed.  It's at this point that he sits down and asks God to let him die.

And then the most amazing thing happens; God does not give the lecture, does not scold Elijah for his lack of faith, does not berate him for forgetting the victory He just won - I mean surely if God can deliver 450 men into Elijah's hands, He can deliver 1 woman too, can't He?  Isn't God big enough?

5 Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep.
      All at once an angel touched him and said, "Get up and eat."

God gives Elijah what he needs most at that time.  Rest, and Food.  And then He does it again...more rest, and more food.

Now back to me and my baby boy - here is a lesson I'm learning.  Sometimes you just need to sleep.  When we're worn out, tired, sleep-deprived, exhausted, we're not much use and truth be told, we're really not ourselves.  I have noticed in me, especially since Brennan was born, that when I'm that tired the best thing I can do for my wife, my family, my church and myself, is to sleep...get rested.  And you know what?  God knows this...(it's called the Sabbath).  Why?  I believe part of the answer is because God knows how we're wired;

- Rest brings fresh perspective
- Rest brings answers to problems
- Rest brings patience we didn't have the night before
- Rest brings a new day, with a new start

The problems that seemed so huge the night before, diminish with

What's the point?  I guess it's three-fold (good messages always come in threes),
1) Nobody is immune from exhaustion (Elijah had just won a huge victory, but it left him drained)
2) God commands and allows rest for us in our lives - take advantage of it!
2) Not every battle is really worth fighting...sometimes, the best thing you can do is sleep.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

RE-POST - Revelation, Response

First, an apology - this slideshow will NOT display properly using internet explorer.  Use Firefox, Google Chrome, or a Mac, and you're set!

God Reveals, we respond, and that is worship.

"Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them.  Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy; they will sing before the LORD, for he comes,he comes to judge the earth." (Psalm 96:11-13)

"For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." (Romans 1:20)

Creation is evidence

Friday, August 20, 2010

Who's Strength Anyways?

Gideon leading to battle
On my "two years through the Bible journey" I just finised reading Judges 6, and the 1st part of the story of Gideon.  I've read this story many times, but in it are lessons I continue to re-learn.  They are lessons that when put into practice will lead to a life of peace and trust, rather than worry.  Let me draw your attention to a couple of key spots and make three simple points.

(12) When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, "The LORD is with you, mighty warrior."  Mighty warrior?  What, are you serious?  Don't miss the comical aspect of what the angel is saying here.  Gideon is not a warrior; he is not Braveheart, he is not Maximus Decimus Meridius, he is not Jason Bourne.  Gideon is anything but a mighty warrior.  As we soon learn, his clan is the weakest, and he is the least in his family.  Mighty warrior? 
Point 1: God doesn't see us the was we see ourselves.  God sees us as He created us...God sees us as we were meant to be, and as we can be with Him.  Let's move on...

(14) The LORD turned to him and said, "Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian's hand. Am I not sending you?"  What I love about this story is God meets Gideon right where he's at.  He knows Gideon lacks confidence, and He knows exactly how much Gideon can handle.  And yet, He isn't willing to just let Gideon off the hook.  What does he ask of Gideon?  Simply to go in the strength he has, which brings us to
Point 2: When God sends us, He expects us to use what we have and go...  Now as you will see, point 2 leads right into point 3.

(15,16) "But Lord," Gideon asked, "how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family." The LORD answered, "I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together." 
Point 3: God makes up the difference.  He asks Gideon to go in the strength he has, and then God adds his own strength to make up the team.  If this were an equation, it might look like this; Us in our strength + God in His strength = Victory.

So the question is this; what in your life has God sent you to do, that maybe you've shrunk back from?  Is there something He's called you to "go in the strength you have", knowing that He will make up the rest?  It reminds me of something I once heard, that still haunts me.  I can't remember who said it, but they simply said this; "Most of us never epxerience the power of God in our lives because we never attempt anything that would require it."  The question lingers; what has God called you to, and is He still waiting on you to "go in the strength you have?"

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Hope, Faith, Thankfulness, and Trials...

"Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see." (Hebrews 11:1, NLT).

"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.(1 Thes 5:16-18).

I was talking yesterday with a member of our congregation who's going through a tough time.  He had just read about the idea that Christians are supposed to go through this life happy, and  full of joy.  He wasn't buying that.  To be honest, I think many well-meaning believers don't quite have a handle on this concept.  Quite often, we mistake the emotion of happiness with the joy that is to be the rudder of our lives.  Allow me to try and explain how I understand it;

To be sure, Christians should generally be optimists.  We should face each day - be it good or bad - with the knowledge of our salvation which should be a constant source of joy...the substitutionary death on the cross by Jesus Christ, who took our place and saved us from eternal death.  Think about that - eternity separated from God and all things good and right and just...this was our destiny until Jesus erased that and replaced it with a new, eternal, and everlasting life.  That truth should be the motivator for a life of joy.  That doesn't mean we turn a blind eye to the facts...and sometimes those facts are cold, hard, and miserable.  However, the optimist says, "even though I hurt so much today, and the tears are flowing, I cling to the hope I have in Christ for a better day."  It's an iron-clad faith that in the end, Christ will do what He promised.

Now look at those verses above.  In Hebrews we see that faith, the backbone of Christianity, is the confidence that what God says will happen will actually happen.  This faith should give us assurance for this hope, even though we can't quite see it all yet.  In Thessalonians we see that God calls us to be joyful and to give thanks in all circumstances.  Notice it doesn't say to be thankful for all circumstances, for not all circumstances are good...but we can remain thank in all circumstances, because of the joy that comes from knowing Him.

This is so important as we go through life and experience seasons of pain, of loss, of doubt, uncertainty, sadness.  These seasons and emotions are all part of living in a fallen world.  We are not supposed to somehow be "happy" when we've lost a loved one, a job, been pronounced with cancer, or any other trial that should come our way.  However, we should hold to our faith and the joy that comes with that faith.

There is so much more to be said, but if I write too much, you may not read it.  :-)  So I leave you with this;

"I 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." (Philippians 4:12-13)

Key to this verse - context.  Paul is talking about contentment, and the point of verse is this; no matter the situation we find ourselves in, whether rich or poor, healthy or sick, free or in prison, employed or jobless, life of blessing or feeling cursed, no matter what we face, we can do anything through Christ who will strengthen us to face each day.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

How Big is Your God?

This post doesn't need a lot of explaining.  It is simply one verse that literally jumps off the page in Numbers 11.  The context is important, read it for yourself, here;

Basically, the Israelites are complaining to God about not having anything to eat except manna.  In turn, Moses is complaining to God about the Israelites.  God promises to give them meat for an entire month!  Moses reminds God that there are 600,000 men (plus women and children...which probably puts them well over 2 million) and he's not sure that God is up to the task.  God's reply is simple, yet profoundly important and carries enormous implications for us in so many situations;

"The Lord answered Moses, 'Is the Lord's arm too short?' "

In other words, "Moses, do you doubt me?  After all I've led you through, and all the miracles I've shown you, you actually doubt that I can do this?"

It's easy to read this account and be highly judgmental, thinking that you would never have questioned God, and never have doubted Him...I wonder, though, that given the circumstances, I quite likely might have acted the same way.  In fact, I HAVE - and so have you.

Think about it - every single time you worry, every time you lose hope, every time you feel like giving up, every time you give in to temptation or despair, you are, in effect saying to God, "Your arm is too short to do what You say You can do."  Sad to say, but there have been many times that either by my words or actions, I have told God, "I don't believe You...Your arm is too short."

The essence of Christianity is trust.  Us trusting God.  It's the foundation for the entire relationship.  How can we trust Him?  We must seek to know Him...deeply, experientially, emotionally, passionately, intellectually - no, we will never understand Him in full, for He is God and His ways are far above ours...but the more we seek Him, the more He reveals Himself to us, and the more we can trust Him.

Today, quite simply, my prayer is that you and I would remember that God's arm is definitely long enough to handle anything that will ever come our way.

Friday, August 6, 2010

A Season for Everything

Solomon said in Ecclesiastes that "there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven."  To be sure, we all go through seasons as individuals, and churches, too, go through seasons.  There are seasons of growth, seasons of pruning, seasons of consolidation, or reinvention.  Perhaps the two toughest seasons are those of transition and waiting.

The season of transition makes one feel insecure or lost.  The season of waiting makes one feel forgotten.  And yet, it is important to remember that all seasons are necessary for health.

Right now we at Northlake
 are right smack dab in the middle of that season called "wait."  It is hard, but should not be confused with the word "idleness."  No season is ever wasted, and every season is used by God.
"Yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary."  (Isaiah 40;31).

God is Sovereign and as such, do not be confused...we are waiting on
Him.  Yet if we go through the process right, we'll find that this waiting will actually result in refreshment.  And what is the correct process?  There are many, many things I could say but I want to over-simplify it to two things today.

Pray.  Pray continuously.  Pray in the car, in the shower, on your jog or run or hike; pray while you stand or sit or kneel.  Pray alone, pray with friends, pray with strangers.  When you're forced to "wait on God" the best thing you can "do" is to pray.  Only God knows the season, only God knows the outcome and goal, and therefore the only activity worth our time is to talk with Him and Listen to Him.

Don't borrow trouble from tomorrow.  We all do this, all the time.  We are incessant worriers.  Some of us are so good at worrying that we probably worry we'll run out of things to worry about.  The trouble with worrying?  It is the opposite of trust.  And trust is exactly what God wants us to do...trust in Him.

While none of us know how much time is left in our season of waiting, we all know that immediately following this season comes another difficult season - transition and change.  Let us prepare for that season by becoming men and women of prayer and faith.