Monday, December 30, 2013

The Light of God's Future

I have been reading a book by Mark Buchanan entitled, The Rest of God. It has been a very good book that has reminded me of the restorative value of practicing a "sabbath rhythm" in our life. A pattern of drawing near to God in the midst of the busyness of our life so that He might speak those words of peace that bring stillness in the midst of the storm. Here is what God has put on my heart and what I would share with you as if writing to a friend. As I was reading this morning, I thought of you again. What I read was important for me to hear on a personal level and I pray that it would be valuable for you as well. The author makes the point that that we often define who we are based on our past. But he goes on to say that our future shapes who we are as much as our past, and maybe more. He spoke of a young woman who came to him one day who “had a desolate past, a blighted landscape of childhood neglect and sexual abuse, and stemming from this, the many broken pieces of her own bad choices.” I could relate to this pastor as he confessed his own inability to know how to guide this woman to a place of healing. He was speechless. And then God put this on his heart and it is something that is on my heart for you as well. He said:
“And then God slipped me an insight, timely as manna dropped from the sky. He showed me that her past was beyond repair, at least on my watch. If there was any good thing there to salvage, I knew not how. But in the same instant God showed me she still had a future. And it was vast, unbroken, pristine, radiant. It was a pure promise: a glory that would be revealed to her, a glory that far outweighed her “light and momentary troubles” now, the glory of the One who was coming to redeem her and transform her (2Cor 4:17). Her past was a tragedy to lament. But her future was an epic to anticipate. Which is to say: what will happen matters more than what has happened.”
I, nor this pastor who writes, would intend to minimize the past as if it doesn’t matter. And yet, we see how easy it is to become so paralyzed by our past that we cannot see any hope for our future. But we, as a Christians, have the unique ability to know ourselves, not based on our past, but instead in the light of God’s future. He is a God of redemption that brings “beauty from ashes” and “remembers our sins no more”. I pray that as you pray, and consider and seek counsel of where to go from here that you not lose sight of what God can do if He is allowed to work through our past to create a new future. As the author says in closing his thoughts:
“Apart from a compelling vision of things unseen, our lives shrink to things as they are or things as they were. Is the problem you face right now, the family issue or business fiasco or church quarrel or financial dilemma, really as large as you’ve made it out to be? Seen from the perspective of eternity, does it not scale down to more modest proportions? It’s the same with your past. It’s easy to let the hurts and slights of yesterday, like an unruly child coloring on the walls, mar all your days. What would happen if instead we let our future loose with a roller and paint can? What if we let God create something new?”
I pray that you trust Him to do this in your life as well. I love you very much... and God loves you so much more!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Where Do You Turn?

As I read through 2Chronicles, I continue to be impressed by the repeated theme of trusting in the Lord. All throughout the history of the kings of Judah and Israel, you find a variety of methods that men employed in leading their people. For example, when Solomon's son, Rehoboam, came into power, he consulted with the elders of the city regarding important decisions of his rule. What a great first step! And yet, when he didn't like the answer they gave, he turned to his peers to find a response more aligned with his own desires. He chose to forsake the wisdom of experience and depended instead on the arrogance of his own opinion. Compare this to his grandson, Asa, who began his reign depending not on the opinions of man but on the promises of God. We see this trusting heart in his prayer:
“Then Asa called to the LORD his God and said, “LORD, there is no one besides You to help in the battle between the powerful and those who have no strength; so help us, O LORD our God, for we trust in You, and in Your name have come against this multitude. O LORD, You are our God; let not man prevail against You.” So the LORD routed the Ethiopians before Asa and before Judah, and the Ethiopians fled.” (2 Chronicles 14:11–12, NASB95)
And yet, over time, even Asa increasingly fell into the trap of trusting in himself. He grew confident in the comfort of peace and power. And so when another opportunity to trust in the Lord came his way, he chose to rely on his own ingenuity in solving the problem. Instead of seeking God, he sought the support of an enemy. Asa looked to the security of worldly alliances instead of putting his trust in the Lord. Somewhere along the way, Asa determined that he could do just as well on His own.
O Lord, please protect me from making the same mistake. May I always trust in you more than I trust myself. My I look to your Word instead of depending on the opinions of others. May I be content in your provision instead of building an alliance with the power of this world. May the story of the kings teach me to trust in you.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

It's What's In The Heart That Counts

Leaders have taken time to count their citizens all throughout history. The Romans took a census to determine taxation of its people. The American Constitution requires a census in order to ensure fair number of political representatives. But in scripture, when David took a census, it resulted in the judgment of God. 70,000 Israelites died as a result of his decision. The scripture even exposes Satan as the source behind this edict.
“Then Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel. So David said to Joab and the commanders of the army, “Go, number Israel, from Beersheba to Dan, and bring me a report, that I may know their number.”” (1 Chronicles 21:1–2, ESV)
What's the big deal? David conducted a census of his people. Why is that so bad? It has happened many times before and many times since... so why is this situation unique? The answer may be found later in that same chapter when Joab fulfilled his commander's request.
“And Joab gave the sum of the numbering of the people to David. In all Israel there were 1,100,000 men who drew the sword, and in Judah 470,000 who drew the sword.” (1 Chronicles 21:5, ESV)
David was counting for selfish reasons. After such great success on the battlefield, David wanted to number his fighting men in order to know just how strong he had become. But David should have know that the battle belongs to the Lord. He spoke of such conviction in one of his very own Psalms.
“Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven with the saving might of his right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.” (Psalm 20:6–7, ESV)
But somewhere along the way, David let his faith get lazy. He began to attribute his success to himself. He listened to the whisper of the Evil One as he encouraged David to take pride in what he had done for the Lord. But this was not about what David had done for the Lord... this is about what the Lord had done for David. The shepherd boy who stood before Goliath understood more of God's provision than did the man who had now become king. As David's son, Solomon, would one day write:
“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18, ESV)
How easy it is to get caught in the same trap. A trap where we pay more attention to our efforts than we do God's provision. More time charting our own course instead of learning to walk in God's will. It happens to all of us just like it happened to David. But somewhere along the line David learned his lesson. Late in his life, as he passed his rule over to his son, he took a census once again. But notice the difference.
“When David was old and full of days, he made Solomon his son king over Israel. David assembled all the leaders of Israel and the priests and the Levites. The Levites, thirty years old and upward, were numbered, and the total was 38,000 men. “Twenty-four thousand of these,” David said, “shall have charge of the work in the house of the LORD, 6,000 shall be officers and judges, 4,000 gatekeepers, and 4,000 shall offer praises to the LORD with the instruments that I have made for praise.”” (1 Chronicles 23:1–5, ESV)
The first time David counted, it was for pride... this time it is for praise. The first time David counted in order to bask in his own glory... and now he counts in order to give all the glory to God. Like David, may we too learn to give praise our highest priority. May we be thankful in order to stay humble. Take some time this week to count your blessings. And when you're done, make sure you give God praise for all the good things He has done!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Let's Give It A Try

I had breakfast this morning with a long time friend. This is a kind of friend that you can see once a week or once a year and you can pick right up where you left off last. This friend also has the gift of encouragement. And when I say that, what I mean is that he speaks with such true sincerity and desire for your highest good. That's a gift! Well, this friend encouraged me to take more time to write. He knew that this was a passion for me and he also suggested that it just might be a blessing for others as well. Therefore, I just spent the last 2 hours trying to update and give my very old site a new look. It took me a long time because I have no idea what I am doing. (So for all the veterans out there, if you have suggestions, I'm all ears.) But my intent in writing is simple. I simply desire to share the things that God has put on my heart in a way that it might be an encouragement to others. It is like my online journal - from His heart, to my heart, to yours. I look forward to starting up again and I pray that it might be a blessing for you as well.