Posts Tagged ‘ God ’

Destroyed and Renewed

During the trip to Colorado Springs for the Desperation Youth Conference we had daily devotionals with our kiddos. It was a blast. Here is the second one we did with them (with a few modifications for the blog!):

God’s Fire

There are two parts to fire: Destruction and Renewal. We throw a piece of paper into a fire to get rid of it, but crews will go into a forest and purposely burn swaths of land to create a barrier to stop a forest fire from spreading. God has one fire, but it can both purify and destroy. Trusting in God tempers us so that we endure and are refined. Without trust in God, all one can expect is destruction.

1. The recent wildfires destroyed tens of thousands of acres (hundreds of square miles) of forest and several hundred homes. Overall, though, that destruction provides nutrients to and restores the soil, and this can help forests grow stronger in the long run.

2. Do you know how a silversmith knows when he has removed most impurities from silver?

This third I will bring into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God.
Zechariah 13:9

God will put us in the refining fire to work out impurities. This can be through circumstances and conviction by the Holy Spirit. There will be pain involved, but it is to make us better (like a forest being burned to create more and sustaining life).

3. Many people lost everything: homes, mementoes, belongings. Most will realize they still have their lives. Like the forest, they may rebuild and even become stronger. With insurance they may even get new and better things. As we go through life we will endure many trials and suffer many losses, but we shall be rewarded for our faithfulness.

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him. The Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?”

Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. The angel said to those who were standing before him, “Take off his filthy clothes.”

Then he said to Joshua, “See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put rich garments on you.”
Zechariah 3:1-4

How does the silversmith know when the impurities have been removed from the silver?

After putting the silver in the fire, all of the impurities float to the top and are scraped off. This is done until the silversmith can look at the silver and see his (or her!) reflection shining back.

John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
Luke 3:16

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
Galatians 3:26-27

Jesus baptizes us with fire to purify us. The Holy Spirit both pushes us through that fire and strengthens and encourages us as we pass through. When we come out on the other side, the Father can look at us and see His Son Jesus Christ shining back!

The Bittersweetness of the Living Water

“Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”
John 7:38

There are many songs today that declare the greatness of life in the Spirit, who is often called the Living Water. Many teachings discuss the great life Christians have through the Holy Spirit.

One teaching was lacking in many churches, especially those which reached and some still reaching very large audiences, has been what life in the Spirit was promised to truly be like.

Life is indeed amazing when the Holy Spirit is free to move through us, but a better understanding of “great” should be made clear.

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33

Jesus said we would experience trouble. With or without Christ, life in this world will be hard. In fact, it can be even harsher on Christians due to persecution in many different ways.

In other words, the gift of the Holy Spirit might be exactly what causes much of our grief:

Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment:in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me;in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.
John 16:7-11

People do not like feeling convicted. Especially in our Western culture in which we are told we are to love ourselves as we are, that we are born the way we are supposed to be and cannot really help some or all of the things we do, being told we need to change can be dangerous. If the Holy Spirit moves through us to touch the lives of others, we should expect to be on the receiving end of at least some backlash of a frightened and wounded soul confronted with its sin.

When our internet connection slows down, in most cases we blame our computers first, when it is something with the internet itself (such as high traffic).

When the hot water in the shower turns cold, we get upset with the shower head or the knob(s) which control the water, when it is the water heater being unable to keep up with our consumption of hot water.

When we feel convicted, we blame the person delivering the words that reveal our shame and guilt, when God is the One who convicts of our mistakes and sins.

Notice, however, that at the root of all of these is human activity. This, though, is another topic for discussion later!

In all of this bitterness, our Lord has promised sweetness, as well:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
John 14:27

We can have hope and peace in the middle of trouble and persecution through the Holy Spirit. Also:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord;he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.

The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position.But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower.For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business.

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him
James 1:2-12

Trials help to prepare us. They prepare us for eternity, but, in the more immediate, to help others.

As stated, the Holy Spirit moves through us to convict others and bring glory to God. More often than not, we are used to help people who experience something through which we have been.

There is a definite bittersweetness to life as a Christian, but as the Living Water flows through us we are strengthened and are used to strengthen others. Ultimately this is all to bring glory to God.

Endure. Persevere. Be a part of bringing glory to God.

Weekend Words & Sunday Stanzas – 05/20/2012

Did you know that the reason Oprah says she cannot believe in the God of the Bible is because it says He is a jealous God? Like so many other things in our world by so many people, this comes from a misunderstanding of what is being said.

This is not the reason I wrote this poem. I wrote this poem because I read one of the passages describing God as jealous for us (not “of” us, as Oprah understands it).

jealous one

all He wants is our devotion
all He craves is our attention
when we look to other things
when we make our made up kings
He burns with righteous rage
He scorns what we have made
but He tries to sway us back
but He gives us a little slack
He lets us learn on our own schedule
He wants to fill us to more than full
we must hurry before there is no time
we must hurry before we are left behind
the reason He cares is for us to come
the reason is He is the Jealous One
so let us join with the Holy God
so that He may come and make us good

Taken from deeper words for God from a simple man of God by daniel m  klem, page 65.

Something Hallmark Will Never Express Adequately

I do not care whether you think Saint Valentine’s Day is one of the most romantic days of the year or the scourge of the calendar. For my thoughts on this day, see my posts from last year here, here, here, and here.

The point we all need to see is this:

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.

1 John 3:16-24; 4:7-21, NIV

Happy Valentine’s Day!

May the love of God fill and overflow from your heart!

Hating What I Love?

In my first official post ever (52 weeks ago today!) I made an argument of why religion is not as bad a thing as some people today make it seem. It seems fitting that on my one year anniversary with this blog I discuss the topic again!

Perhaps you have seen the video going around the web, Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus by Jefferson Bethke, but, if not, go watch it now. It has caused quite a stir, especially between the liturgical sections of Christianity (Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, etcetera) and Evangelicals of various stripes.

I have found some great, balanced responses online, particularly from Richard who has covered it from top to bottom. He also shared a video from Make a Friar (find both videos here), and honestly it is quite amazing. (Even Jefferson Bethke totally dug the video!)

I have also seen people on both sides (and other sides, such as atheist and other faiths) attacking each other by calling names and questioning character and salvation.

To those people, I give a hearty GROW UP!

To everyone, I think it is time for a reminder.

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
James 1:27

As some on the blogosphere have said, Jesus was also about religion. Consider His words: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17) As a refresher, the only religion Jesus hated is what we now call “legalism“. Religion itself is not wrong, it just how people implement it.

Clearly (oh, yes, I said “Clearly”), Jesus does not hate religion, and there are certain things He expects of us. As listed above, some of those things are to care for others in need. He also calls for us to keep ourselves from being polluted by the world.

What does this mean?

We should look back at what Jesus said: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)

Now, Jesus did call some people names (such as “snakes”, “brood of vipers”, and even “Satan” … poor Simon Peter), but He was revealing their true nature or intentions for what they were: not godly.

When we do it, especially in circumstances such as over this video, it is nothing but childish name-calling and wickedness. When we do it, we are acting like the very people whom Jesus scolded. When we do it, we are being “religious” in the way Jefferson Bethke hates … the way Jesus hates.

When we do it, we are pushing our hate on Jesus.

It is okay to hate “religion” and love religion. It is not okay to hate each other. When we act this way, remember Jesus’ other words:

“I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”
Matthew 25:40

This is a little out of context, but hear me out. The things we do or do not do to and for people is done or not done to Jesus …

 

Fearing God

Last year, I wrote on why I fear God. This past weekend I saw a video from Francis Chan on the topic, and I realized I did not finish my thought last year.

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7)

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10)

I mentioned last April that fearing the Lord includes respect and awe at His Holiness and Awesomeness. This is true and necessary.

We also need to understand what it means to respect. In that post I had a picture of a man sitting on the edge of canyon wall. I think this image can adequately demonstrate the need for respect. Ask any rock-climber, highrise construction worker, bungee jumper, deep-sea diver, hang glider, or any other dangerous profession/activity, and (the honest ones) will tell you that you must respect the danger. If you forget to respect the danger, you are that much closer to death (because you can make a mistake that will cost you).

This is the other part of fearing the Lord we must remember. God is ultimately the One who has power over life and death and everything in between and beyond either end. Many have taken the verse from Mathew 10:28, “do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell,” to mean God is the One who should be feared.

“Die in your sins, and suffer in Hell,” is how many preachers have put it throughout history.

Let us not forget God is also the One with the wrath!

This is all very important and must be remembered. However, this is not my focus, today.

If you were to look up the phrase “Do not fear …” in the Bible, it is used every time the Lord or one of His angels appeared. Most of the time, the people who were approached were relatively good people. Why would they have to be told to be unafraid?

Here is my take on this:

  • Many times, these guys show up unannounced and out of nowhere! Here you are, sitting by yourself, doing work or minding your own business, when FLASH! “HELLO!” That would be pretty freaky, man! I know I would need to be told to calm down!
  • These people were always given pretty big news, and that can be over-whelming. Imagine you are hanging out at God calls you to sacrifice your son. Or you are preparing the ingredients for bread, and God calls you to lead an army to overthrow conquerors. What if you were sitting quietly and then told you would have to raise God’s Son? You have been going along attacking people, and now you get the word from the Man Himself that you are now going to be a leader of these people. Scary prospects.
  • I think this one is the real crux of the matter, though: Imagine you are sitting there when a perfect being with amazing power and radiating holiness arrives. You will immediately become aware of how imperfect, not powerful, and offensive you really are. Daniel was a righteous man, blessed in all he did. When the angel Gabriel showed up, he fell down in fear. Afterward, he felt ill for days. Isaiah was taken before God, and he was instantly aware of his sins, crying out how unworthy he was. Saul/Paul was confronted with the Lord and was so over-whelmed that he called himself “the worst of sinners.” (There is an interesting dialogue about this phrase over at 3-Fold-Cord)

To go back to my original analogy, we must remember that we are dealing with Something rather intimidating: God. Therefore, we have to remind ourselves of Who He is. If we approach God as merely our friend, it is like acting blasé about a cliff-face and slipping due to carelessness. Carelessness and a lack of proper fear and respect can be fatal. So it is with God.

Any thoughts? Have I over-stepped my bounds, not gone far enough, or do you think I am right on the mark? Have you learned anything about the fear of the Lord?

Savior or Friend?

Is Jesus your Savior?

Is Jesus your Friend?

A recent (in terms of all of Church history) fad is “Jesus is my homeboy” and things like that, in which God is our friend. This is based on Jesus’ words “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:15)

I have no qualms with calling Jesus our friend. I enjoy singing along with “I Am a Friend of God” both on the radio/at a concert and in church. I like singing “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” when I have the opportunity.

It just seems we have lost respect of the Savior in most circles.

I think the focus is just misplaced. Am I friends with Jesus because He is my Savior? Do I love Him because of what He has done?

The meaning behind these questions is one of “why I have decided.” This is all well and good, but the focus should always start with Jesus.

1 John 4:19 says “We love because He first loved us.” We are friends of Jesus, because Jesus calls us friends. I do not want to limit the importance of us choosing to love Him in return, but it is because of God we even have a choice. It is by God’s grace that we are free to choose.

I wrote this poem on Sunday (01/01/12) that I think might help understand what I am saying:

My Savior is my Friend

My Savior is my Friend.
He became a friend of mine
through being my Savior.
Yet He paid my sinful fine
by wanting to be my Friend.

My Lord is my Savior.
He became the Lord of me
through being my Friend.
Yet He deserved my loyalty
long before He was my Savior.

My Creator is my Lord.
He is the Creator
having created everything.
I love and serve Him more;
my Creator, Friend, Savior, and Lord.

Why do you love God? What are you willing to do for Him?

You should ask yourself everyday these questions and “what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8:4) Put another way, “who am I that You are mindful of me?”