Seeking God: Humble Victors

Seeking God: Humble Victors

April 15, 2017 (1).jpg

Read: Psalm 20:1-9, Zechariah 9:9

Christ: I did not need to be born in a palace – I have a heavenly one. I did not need to be handsome and physically impressive – My spiritual stature was far better. I did not need to enter Jerusalem in a King’s chariot with an honor guard and decoration – the colt of a donkey was just fine.

Think: Real victors do not need to shove it in their opponents’ faces. They have already won and it is obvious. It is only when we see people trying to convince others of their status and wealth that we suspect they are trying to compensate.

Jesus has won and as our inheritance is His victory, God commands humility of us:

Though the Lord is exalted, he looks kindly on the lowly;
    though lofty, he sees them from afar.   -Ps 138:6

He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them.  And he said:“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  -Matthew 18:2-4

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ 

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”   –Luke 18:13-14

Jesus’s very life on earth was an act of humility.

And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death– even death on a cross!   -Philippians 2:8

Pray: Dear Lord, That we must ride a colt in our exile does not mean we are to forget about our victory which awaits us. Help us to remember that our battle is already won. With the war won before it’s begun, we can relax. We know you have taken care of the outcome. Amen.

 

 

What to do when a sermon tests your faith

What to do when a sermon tests your faith

 

On my way home last night I decided to listen to a Christian radio channel. They usually air sermons which I like to listen to while driving. Some of my most profound thinking time happens in the driver’s seat.

However, last night I was surprised to encounter a message focusing on Nazis, Syrians, the wrath of God, and hellfire. Where was the story of brokenness, forgiveness and redemptive love? I still am wondering about the context of that message.

Now, please don’t misunderstand: I’m not advocating that we should never focus on the reality of God’s justice and wrath which will come swiftly (Deuteronomy 32:35). A gospel of feel-goodery is just as incorrect.

However it saddens me to think that someone somewhere might have flipped on that channel, and presumed misunderstand the meaning of that message, further spreading ignorance and incorrect beliefs.

Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

Acts 17:11 NIV

 

That’s why I draw such encouragement from the Bereans. They are a perfect example of how we as Christians are to receive something we don’t understand. Paul would later exhort the Thessalonians to take the same attitude:

Don’t suppress the Spirit, and don’t stifle those who have a word from the Master. On the other hand, don’t be gullible. Check out everything, and keep only what’s good. Throw out anything tainted with evil.

1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 MSG

So, how do we respond when a message leaves us with more questions than answers?

  1. We must be humbleDon’t suppress the Spirit. Don’t assume you have all the answers.
  2. We must be open-mindedDo not despise prophecies. You don’t know if this is a message from the Lord or not.
  3. We must be cautious: Check out everything and hold to what is good. If the message you hear doesn’t immediately agree with the basic truths of Christianity, suspend judgement and seek help.

This is where being plugged into a local church community helps. Make an appointment with a trusted elder or pastor. Ask them to pray with you and help your understanding. There’s an old Russian saying that goes “There is no shame in not knowing; the shame lies in not finding out.”

Perfect conditions to trust

Perfect conditions to trust

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). NaNoWriMo is an annual challenge for people all over the world to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. We push ourselves to produce quantity over quality (for now) just to reach this arbitrary word goal and “win” Nanowrimo for the year. I am one such crazy person!

I love NaNoWriMo because it challenges me to make time for my writing even when I don’t want to. I always have an excuse for why I’m not meeting my daily goals. Too busy, too tired, too uninspired to write. This morning I was feeling particularly low about how far behind I am, when I realized something: The conditions will never be perfect. Sometimes you just have to jump in and do it even though it seems useless. Ironically, this thought hit me at the exact perfect time in my spiritual life.

Recently I had a very heavy weight on my heart. Instead of laying it at the foot of the cross, I dragged it behind me like a dead weight and suffered myself in circles. But In Isaiah, God says he LONGS for us to turn to him. He anxiously awaits for each child to approach him so that he can take over our heavy loads and lavish even more love on us. Letting down my own load and picking up His, I can go further, faster, and free of anxiety.

The conditions of our spiritual lives will never be perfect and easy. Things happen and emotions go up and down, but God’s love is unchanging. A contrite heart he will not despise, so don’t hesitate to turn to Him in your time of need.

Here am I, Lord

A seraphim uses a burning coal to cleanse Isaiah of iniquity Isaiah 6:6-7
A seraphim uses a burning coal to cleanse Isaiah of iniquity.
Isaiah 6:6-7

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings:

With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying.

And they were calling to one another:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
    the whole earth is full of his glory.”

 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar.

With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”

And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

This vision from Isaiah 6 tells the story of how he met with God face-to-face, and lived. Confronted with the glory of the Lord, before God and his seraphim, Isaiah confesses that he is only a sinner among sinners. Rather than kill him or cast him out, Isaiah’s guilt is taken away. He is clean.

Then, God asks “whom shall we send?” I notice that he doesn’t directly tell Isaiah that he needs to perform a job. He doesn’t force Isaiah to do anything. In fact, all throughout the Bible, God is never in the powerful leaders; he does not force or intimidate. Rather He whispers, speaks through the small, and comes to the humble.

isaiahJust as Godly responses cannot come from sinful places, Sinful responses cannot come from God. Without God’s help, even Isaiah would never have been able to respond with such joy and enthusiasm for accomplishing God’s purpose. Being cleansed, Isaiah jumps up to volunteer himself for the job. No matter that he doesn’t even know what the job is yet, he is clean and eager to live in righteousness.

I challenge you to think about the place confession has in your life. Try to come to the Lord daily and lay out your heart as an open book. Even if you can’t put into words what sins might be holding you down, tell Him that. We know that He will never reject a sincere heart. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). I pray for confidence in this truth, so that we also can jump up and say, “Here am I. Send me!”

Attitude Adjustments

Job 41 (NIV)41 [a]“Can you pull in Leviathan with a fishhook
or tie down its tongue with a rope?
Can you put a cord through its nose
or pierce its jaw with a hook?
Will it keep begging you for mercy?
Will it speak to you with gentle words?
Will it make an agreement with you
for you to take it as your slave for life?
Can you make a pet of it like a bird
or put it on a leash for the young women in your house?
Will traders barter for it?
Will they divide it up among the merchants?
Can you fill its hide with harpoons
or its head with fishing spears?
If you lay a hand on it,
you will remember the struggle and never do it again!
Any hope of subduing it is false;
the mere sight of it is overpowering.
10 No one is fierce enough to rouse it.
Who then is able to stand against me?
11 Who has a claim against me that I must pay?
Everything under heaven belongs to me.

How does this passage hit you? Did you find yourself cheering the Lord on, or were you secretly indignant at such sarcasm? I confess that a year ago, I had a very, very wrong attitude in my heart.

Upon reading this, I experienced an unfamiliar feeling: God’s Word made me angry. It’s very hard to explain, and hopefully someone can try to understand, how completely wounded I was that God would ever speak like this. Not that any human could indeed harness Leviathan, but I was indignant at the apparent lack of love and respect shown in His words. As I perceived it, it was rude and possibly even out of line with His loving nature.

Now, it sounds silly to share on a Christian blog, but that was truly where my heart was. All of a sudden, everything made sense to me. Everything in the past year has been divinely commissioned to work on softening my heart to truly know Him. How could I ever have a real faith and hope and love when my heart of hearts was so bitterly closed to Him?

I recently read the same thing again, and praise God, my attitude has made a full 180. I actually had an opposite response to the first time. I found myself praising Him for what He did, is doing and will do in the future, and acknowledging my complete dependence upon Him.

I’ve just been pondering the enormity of the change in my heart. It certainly has been a dramatic change. Not that I’m going to stop growing since I’ve gotten this far, but God, if you can accomplish such a turnaround in a year, I can’t imagine what you might do if it please you to give me another year of life. God, I lay my life down before you and humbly turn every day over to you. THANK YOU so much for all you have been working in me so that I can have a correct understanding of You and who You are. Thank you for giving me another day on your earth so that I might become closer to you. Thank you for pulling me out of false “truths” and lifting me up into THE truth, Jesus.

Is there anything weighing on your heart about God or his Word that you are having trouble accepting? “Vent vertically” and share these questions and difficulties with the One who made you. He won’t ever punish someone who asks for wisdom (James 1).  Remember that He delights in you and wants to change you. Pray that He can work on your heart, and in His time, he will make you beautiful (Ecc 3:11).