“Looking for a Reason”

So, let me confess my sin up front: In my private devotional time with the Lord, I love reading from the New International Version. Yes, the NIV, which some have labeled the “Nearly Inspired Version” (i.e. NIV). All jokes aside, it is easy for me to get into my head and away from my heart. The NIV helps me with this. The everyday, “readableness” of this version helps me open my heart and not just my mind. Mind and heart. My prayer for the last 10 years has been, “Lord, sharpen my mind and soften my heart.”

This morning I picked up where I left off in Matthew. I came across a passage that read,

“Going on from that place, he [Jesus] went into their synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus, they [Pharisees] asked him, ‘Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?'” (Matthew 12:9-10)

The phrase that really stood out to me was that their was a group of people that were “looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus.” To be honest, I believe that we as Christians are a little to quick to accuse God. Does God allow honest, very honest, conversation? Absolutely! If he didn’t, I would have been struck dead many times over by now. But the flip side of coin is that there is such a thing as being too careless, too flippant, too causal with things that are bothering us. Maybe you are in a dating relationship and the other person ends it unexpectedly. You get mad at God. You accuse him of sabotaging once again your hope and dream for a permanent, lifelong relationship. This effects your relationship with him. Yet, in many of these cases, the relationship was doomed to failure anyways. No one sought God’s will in the beginning, at least not genuinely. What do I mean by genuinely? Well, be honest. So many times we ask God’s will though we are so emotionally invested we have already decided the course of action we are going to take. Our prayer for God’s will is nothing more than waiting around till we have some sort of peace, even if manufactured, so we can enjoy the peace that comes from knowing two things: (1) I really sought God’s opinion, and (2) He said this was OK.

Or maybe someone died “early.” Maybe the financial breakthrough never came or your business failed. Or you could be a pastor that thought you were called to change the world and the “only” thing God has for you is to change a town. Maybe you thought you were finally going to get “that job” and it never materialized. The list goes on and on. Unfortunately, heartbreak, I mean real heartbreak and disappointment, occur all of the time. No person, not even God’s elect, is immune. So is our predicament.

But, there is a different between having an honest relationship with the Lord and being the type of person that seems to be always looking for some reason to accuse Jesus in your heart. I bet sometimes this is associated with a victim mentality. So which will you be? An honest Christian who loves Christ and is honest. Or, someone that is constantly looking for a reason to blame God for something so that in the end, you do not have to take responsibility for some of the sin and brokenness in your own heart and life?

If you are going to “look for a reason,” look for a reason to love, worship, and thank him for something in your life.

Jesus’ Dating Profile

It is amazing how many dating websites there are these days. I must admit, Farmers Only makes me crack up a bit. Different strokes for different folks I suppose! Anyways, today I am reading/staring/praying/ the following passage:

35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9)

The news that came out of Jesus’ mouth was “good!”
Jesus healed “every” disease and “every” sickness.
Every? Really?
Every.
He wasn’t angry, but rather, deeply stirred for people who were lost along the way.
He cared.
He was powerful.
He preached with a smile.

Think about if Jesus had a dating profile. All of these things are listed. You do not waste a moment to reach out to Him. After all, no one else has compared with such a figure. Maybe this could go somewhere. You call Him up, set a time to meet, and wait. The day finally comes. However, when you arrive at the predetermined meeting place, He is running a little late. Instead of meeting you face to face, He lets someone, the church, stand in His place to fill you in on what He is like.

I’m afraid that you might leave disappointed. How many times do people finally meet the person they have been corresponding with online only to realize that the person severely misrepresented themselves? Far, far too often. I am afraid that so many people in the American church are running into the same problem. Jesus’ online profile in the Scripture is amazingly handsome, articulate, powerful, charming, hopeful, loving, kind, merciful, and confident. However, when you finally come to meet Him in person so many churches leave people tragically confused and disappointed.

Where is that whimsical smile?
The message of hope?
True forgiveness?
A message of reconciliation?
A word about really wanting you to be a part of the church?
Power for physical sickness?
Beautiful conviction?
A relevant word?
A sermon with both truth and mercy?

If the church doesn’t paint a true picture of Christ, then who is more to blame? The person who walks away disappointed or the person/people who didn’t back up the profile? Blood is dripping from our hands. Let us rise, wash, and paint!

The psychologist/philosopher William James wrote, “Compared with what we ought to be, we are only half awake.”

“Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.” (Isaiah 60:1)

Jesus Doesn’t Play

When it comes to down to it, Jesus doesn’t play around concerning faithfulness. Read the following:

Matthew 11:20-24 NIV
Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. [21] “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. [22] But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. [23] And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. [24] But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”

This passage implies the following:

1. There will be different levels of judgment dished out in the day of judgment (“…more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”).

2. The more miracles that a city witnessed, the stricter their judgment will be for rejecting Christ.

In other words, “to whom much is given, from him much will be required…” (Luke 12:48). I’m convinced that a significant population of Christians in America do NOT really believe, I mean REALLY believe, certain truths that are clearly revealed in Scripture. The existence of Satan, the eternal reality of Hell, the reality of demons, spiritual gifts, and the day of judgment are to name a few. Do you really believe that you, all by yourself, will stand before the Maker of the Universe and answer for your life? And if you really believed it, how would your life change on a daily basis? Would you be more generous with your words? Your money? Would you finally start tithing? Would you forgive that person? Would you start giving money to charities that can save starving children across the ocean? Maybe you would quit complaining about church and become part of the solution. Maybe you would quit finding fault with everyone and rather, choose to extend them the grace that you are so thankful for receiving from Christ. Would you finally dig/search the Scriptures as if your life, and others around you, depended on it? Would you quit wondering whether or not you heard God and finally take the leap of faith? Or maybe, you wouldn’t be so afraid of failure. Would you go back to school so you can end up one day doing the dream God has put in your heart for his glory? Would you obey Jesus and get baptized? Would you serve a person in need by doing their yard? Would you bless that widow by inviting her over for dinner? Or, maybe you would finally knock on your neighbors door and introduce yourself so that eventually, a spiritual conversation might ensue? Come on Christians, let’s jump. Let’s go for it! You live in America, the land of such spiritual opportunity and freedom. Yes, I, and you, will be held more accountable.

It’s Easy to Please God

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Do. Do. Do. Do. Do. Hurry. Do more. Do . Keep doing. Be productive. Run. You aren’t doing enough. Potential failure. Rest is waste. Emotional breathing irresponsible. Again, hurry! Do. Do. After all, you have to please God! Do. Do. Do.

STOP!

Be.

My son is a little over 7 weeks old today. I believe with all my heart in the power and authority I have in my son’s life. I am declaring my heart, God’s heart, God’s Word, God’s promises, etc. One of the things I have found myself continually whispering to him is, “I love you. You are my son.  I am proud that you are my son.. You do not have to do anything for me to be proud of you. I already am.”

Does not the following thought seem a little silly: If I do not do enough, if I do not perform good enough (in terms of quality or quantity), if I do not go faster and do more for God, then I fail. In the last 7 weeks, not once have I looked at Ezra and thought, “I can’t wait till he gets older so that he can mow my yard, clean this house, cook my meals, etc.” Now, I will definitely require certain things of him. That is what it means to be part of a family. Paul wrote, “For each one shall bear his own load” (Galatians 6:5). But, not for a minute is thereason for my son’s existence. Far from it. Matter of fact, if he in a few years starting believing that the main reason my wife and I brought him into this world was to help us doing things, this would absolutely crush my heart. Absolutely not! First and foremost, he is here for me to give my love to. I want him to know I love him, care for him, dream great things for him, and will sacrifice anything for his good. And in the end, I hope all of that brings him closer to me. I want intimacy. I want closeness. I want partnership. I want him to stay away from evil because it will destroy him. My goal is for my son to NEVER experience one moment in his entire life that he would doubt my heart toward him.

This being said, do you live like this as a Christian?

This morning, I read the April 21st devotion in Oswald Chamber’s My Utmost For His Highest. This is what I came across: “Let not your heart be troubled . . .” (John 14:1,27). Am I then hurting Jesus by allowing my heart to be troubled? . If I believe in Jesus and His attributes, am I living up to my belief? Am I allowing anything to disturb my heart, or am I allowing any questions to come in which are unsound or unbalanced? I have to get to the point of the absolute and unquestionable relationship that takes everything exactly as it comes from Him. God never guides us at some time in the future, but always here and now. Realize that the Lord is here now, and the freedom you receive is immediate.”

No wonder the ministry of Jesus was and is so powerful. He had nothing to earn and nothing to prove. He had already received everything he needed from Daddy. Don’t you remember? Right BEFORE his ministry began, God the Father spoke, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17 NIV).

Just like my son Ezra, if you will simply be God’s kid today, your inner task master’s voice will grow quieter and quieter and quieter. Paul wrote, “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Romans 8:16). In other words, when your spirit was married to God’s Spirit at salvation (1 Corinthians 6:17), he entered you. Now, his central role is to spend all day and all night singing into your spirit the following words: “You are God’s son/daughter. You are God’s son/daughter. You are God’s son/daughter. Just be.”

If you and I will do this, it will result in MORE doing and MORE fruit for Christ than we will ever have produced as people who primarily see ourselves as God’s slaves.

It’s easy to please God.

Psalms 106 Meditation

As mentioned in a previous blog, I have been reading the book, “Boundaries in Marriage,” by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. The first part of the book was informative and good. However, the second part of the book is really challenging me. As I read the stories of these two Christian psychologists, it is becoming so very clear to me that I am not the husband I want to be. This is one of the major roles I fulfill in my life. I am God’s son, a husband, a dad, a pastor, an instructor, a friend, a citizen, and the member of a local church. All of these roles make up a significant piece of who I am as a Christian. There are not categories, no compartments, no isolated areas in a person’s life. My life is one big spiritual house before the Lord. Here is the basic struggle within me in every area of my life: whose needs will I put first? Mine or God’s? Mine or my wife’s? Mine or yours? If I am honest, there is a deep ache (i.e. longing, yearning, prayer, deep cry) in my heart to be more like Jesus today. I love Him, and that love is unsettling me this morning. I do not want to be a selfish person. I need God’s help. I need mercy. So many people spend their lives telling others about God’s mercy without ever coming to grips with their desperate need for it. Mercy is easy to preach and difficult to simply receive. Yet, it is our only hope.

Psalms 106 speaks of two things: (1) the failure of God’s people, and (2) the faithfulness of God.

The failure of God’s people exemplified in the following verses:

(6) “We have sinned.” (7) “They did not remember.” (7) “But rebelled.” (13) “They quickly forgot His works.” (13) “They did not wait for His counsel.” (14) “tempted God.” (19) “worshipped a molten image.” (21) “They forgot God their Savior.” (24) “They did not believe in HIs word.” (25) “grumbled in their tents.” (25) “They did not listen to the voice of the Lord.” (29) “They provoked Him to anger.” (33) “were rebellious against His Spirit.” (39) “they became unclean.” And the list goes on and on.

After reading the above list all mentioned in this single chapter, how did God respond?

(8) “Nevertheless, He saved them for the sake of His Name.” (9) “He led them.” (10) “And redeemed them from the hand of the enemy.” (44) “Nevertheless, He looked upon their distress.” (44) “He heard their cry.” (45) “He remembered His covenant.” (45) “And relented.” (46) “He also made them objects of compassion.”

No wonder the psalmist ended this chapter with, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting even to everlasting. And let all the people say, ‘Amen’. Praise the Lord.”

There is hope because God is merciful, kind, and faithful, and will stay the course as we stumble through the process. I want to become like Christ. I want to help others become like Christ. I want my wife to experience Christ everyday when I go home.

Christians, the above should result in the following:

  • Hope in our heart that God is going to cultivate His Son Christ in our lives; we will mature!
  • A tender, loving patience toward people around us.
  • Worship due to how good God really is toward us.
  • A radical desire for intimacy. How can you not want to get closer to a Being that treats us like this?

Happy Easter! Oh the cross of Jesus that made all of the above possible!