Give Them What They Want

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I Samuel 8:7 But the Lord told him, “Listen to the people and everything they say to you.  They have not rejected you; they have rejected Me as their king.” 

I started my week off in my study of I Samuel 8, not knowing the long-reaching decisions that would occur in our world later in it.  Succession, a break, the freedom to make our own decisions, I’m not sure exactly how to label Britain’s decision to leave the EU at this point.  Clearly, this is what the people wanted, and I’m not saying what should have been done one way or or another, but if I could have transported this scenario from I Samuel fast-forward 3,000 years, change some names and some faces, it’s  almost  like we’re sitting in the very same spot.

So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah.  They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways: now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.”

But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord.  And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.  As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you.  Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”

I’ll admit it, this political season, recent world events and the fear that is threatening to grip our hearts in light of these tragedies has me scratching my heading and throwing my hands up, but when I started my study off, we began with this passage of scripture in Romans 13:1-7

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.  The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.  For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong.  Do you wan to be free from fear of the one in authority?  Then do what is right and you will be commended.  For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good.  But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason.  They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.  Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.  This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing.  Give to everyone what you own them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

So, maybe this post isn’t really about what happened on Thursday, maybe, it was my excuse to get us to examine what’s in our hearts: is It lust, greed or the desire for control, or it simply the desire to see that things are just and fair? God is a God of justice, blessed are all who wait for him (Isaiah 30:18b). Let us, as believers, never forget who our King truly is.  Are we walking toward God or away from him?  How are our political decisions reflecting this?

This is what God is asking from us.  Again, this is not my partisan, highly opinionated soap box, hiked-up-waistline-‘cause-I’m-ready-for-a-fight coming out, I have just printed what the Word of the God says and here I stand.  I know, you’re chaffing, but what if the pilgrims, what if abolitionists, what if separatists…?  I know.  Seriously, I know.  But we are talking about governing authorities that build our schools, our roads, hire police officers that come to your door at 1:00 a.m. looking to arrest someone by the name of “Smith”*(yeah, that happened this morning) doing what they can to preserve the peace and well-being of the people under their reign.

Right now, more than any.other.time. we need to be on our knees in prayer, thanking God for godly authority that he has place over our lives, whether those are our pastors, our Bible teachers, etc., praying that God will continue to lead and guide them in integrity as they are messengers for what a Holy God wants us to hear.

Filter EVERYTHING through scripture, asking God for his wisdom as we make our decisions, not based on what everyone else has/is doing.

James 3:17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.  Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

 

*name changed

4 Ways to Trigger Jesus’ Faith

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My parents and I were trying to parse out some scripture this morning over the phone re: salt and light and for some reason my thoughts floated toward Jesus’s faith in God. I think it started when my dad mentioned Jesus’ holy attributes as well as his human ones. Jesus was the Word, but he still had to memorize it. Jesus, by nature, was all-powerful, yet had to subjugate himself to human authority: his parents, instructors, the government. He was the very source of all life and health, yet all around him people were sick and dying and calling on his ability to heal. He even got tired, became angry, was hungry and thirsty, all very, very human. But what stood out to me this morning was that faith factor. How else could he calm the waves with a word, call a dead girl, “just sleeping,” or deliver a man from a legion of demons? This took bravery. It took authority, and it took faith. How can we trigger this faith? By doing exactly what Jesus did:

1) Spending time alone with his father

2) By listening to what He says

3) By reading what He writes

4) By observing the things that bring Him joy

How do we practically do each one of these things? I believe items 1-3 are largely covered by reading scripture. That leaves #4: What brings God joy? We do. We humans do. I know it’s unbelievable when you factor in how terrible we can be at times. But He does. Case in point, He walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day. He loved spending time with Moses, speaking with Him face to face, watching his face shine. I know he loved this (and us!) so much that he sent his own son so the He could speak with us face to face, so he could touch us tenderly on the shoulder as he offered us living water, he could break open pieces of bread and fish and divide them among a couple of thousand to make our tummies full. He could call our dead bodies out of a grave and he could offer us the very best wine at our own wedding. See, it wasn’t the super spiritual mountain-moments in Eden or at Sinai only, it was the mundane, the food and water, the touching and healing and the driving out of bad things to make room for the good.

One of my very favorite pictures is one of Jesus that I don’t see around much anymore, is a bearded man in a robe with a beautiful little lamb draped around his neck. Do you think that lamb could hear his heartbeat and vice versa? Most likely.

He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will carry the lambs in his arms and gently lead the ewes with young. (Isaiah 40:11)

Yes, Jesus is holy and just, and like him we are called to be holy. But do we have to be holy for God to start loving us? Absolutely not, in fact, I had this discussion with a little girl in our Sunday school class recently. She asked, “God love us when we do good things, right?”

Me: “Yeah, he certainly likes it when we do good things, but that’s not why he loves us. Think of your mommy and daddy. They love you without conditions. Even when you do bad things, they never stop loving you. Yes, they are happy when you help with the trash at home or clean up after your pet, or when you’re nice to your brother or sister, but no matter what, they always love you.

 Look! I have been standing at the door and I am constantly knocking. If anyone hears me calling him and opens the door, I will come in and fellowship with him and he with me. (Revelation 3:20)

 

 

 

Daniel’s Prayer for the Nation

USflagIt was now the first year of the reign of King Darius, the son of Shasuerus.  (Darius was a Mede but became king of the Chaldeans.) In that first year of his reign, I, Daniel, learned from the book of Jeremiah the prophet, that Jerusalem must lie desolate for seventy years.  So I earnestly  pleaded with the Lord God [to end our captivity and send us back to our own land].

As I prayed, I fasted, and wore rough sackcloth, and sprinkled myself with ashes, and confessed my sins and those of my people.

“O Lord,” I prayed, “you are a great and awesome God; you always fulfill your promises of mercy to those who love you and keep your laws.  But we have sinned so much; we have rebelled against you and scorned your commands.  We have refused to listen to your servants the prophets, whom you sent again and again down through the years, with your messages to our kings and princes and to all the people.

O Lord, you are righteous; but as for us, we are always shamefaced with sin, just as you see us now; yes, all of us–the men of Judah, the people of Jerusalem, and all Israel, scattered near and far wherever you have driven us because of our disloyalty to you.  O Lord, we and our kings and princes and fathers are weighted down with shame because of all our sins.

But the Lord our God is merciful, and pardons even those who have rebelled against him.

O Lord our God, we have disobeyed you; we have flouted all the laws you gave us through your servants, the prophets.  All Israel has disobeyed; we have turned away from you and haven’t listened to your voice.  And so the awesome curse of God has crushed us–the curse written in the law of Moses your servant.  And you have done exactly as you warned us you would do, for never in all history has there been a disaster like what happened at Jerusalem to us and our rulers.  Every curse against us written in the law of Moses has come true; all the evils he predicted–all have come.  But even so we still refuse to satisfy the Lord our God by turning from our sins and doing right.

And so the Lord deliberately crushed us with the calamity he prepared; he is fair in everything he does, but we would not obey.  O Lord our God,  you brought lasting honor to your name by removing your people from Egypt in a great display of power. LORD, DO IT AGAIN! Though we have sinned so much and are full of wickedness, yet because of all your faithful mercies, Lord, please turn away your furious anger from Jerusalem, your own city, your holy mountain.  For the heathen mock at you because your city lies in ruins for our sins.

O our God, hear your servant’s  prayer!  Listen as I plead! Let your face shine again with peace and joy upon your desolate sanctuary–for your own glory, Lord.

O my God, bend down your ear and listen to my plea.  Open your eyes and see our wretchedness, how your city lies in ruins–for everyone knows that it is yours.  We don’t ask because we merit help, but because you are so merciful despite our grievous sins.

O Lord, hear, O Lord, forgive.  O Lord, listen to me and act!  Don’t delay–for your own sake, O my God, because your people and your city bear your name.”

How Easy Is It to Love?

God’s a lot like us as parents, He just wants cheerful obedience, He was compliance because He wants to see our joy,

We’re deep into Hosea this week in my Bible study group and it’s been beating me up, from the inside out.

Being a friend, a spouse, a family member means continually reaching out, expecting nothing in return. I love my daughter because she is my daughter, but I have to say, it’s easier to love her when she is obedient, pleasant, compliant…it’s those times that she is disobedient, sassy, selfish or just plain lazy that I have have a hard time

Lovely Things About Getting Older

I celebrated a birthday a few days ago and it was pretty low-key, cupcakes at a good friend’s house and a hotel stay in Charlotte on our way back from up North.  The lady at the hotel asked if I had any big plans for my birthday, I turned to little A and said, “I think hot chocolate is on the agenda.”  And indeed it was, as well as a little jumping on the bed-c’mon it’s my birthday!

Almost every time I tell people my birthdate, they get this kind of sad, empathetic look in their eyes and question, “Is it hard to have your birthday that close to Christmas?”

No way, man.  It’s awesome as a matter of fact.  Here’s the way I’ve started to look at it the last two years and it makes it beautiful in fact: with it being some close to Christmas and the New Year, I look at each birthday as a brand-new start, a way to have totally new start, and it’s makes me that much more excited to celebrate it.  Getting older has also made me cement some things I’ve suspected about myself:

1) I hate shopping.  If I’m in a store other than the grocery store for more than twenty minutes, there’s a good chance I’ll be hiving up (pretty sure this term is in a medical dictionary somewhere) and experiencing shortness of breath.  You will not find me shopping on my birthday on my own volition.  Give me the quiet loneliness of a Dollar General isle, the laid-back atmosphere of a Goodwill or the library checkout line–I’m telling you, I’m a cheap date.

2) I prefer being outside to most anything.  There are no checkout lines in the great outdoors.

3)

This World Is Not Our Home

I’ve been spending some time in Mark 12 the last few days, reading over subjects as broad as marriage in heaven, what the greatest commandment is and what it means to give everything you have…but it’s the first several verses in this chapter that really struck me: the Parable of the Tenants.  It really is a heartbreaking allegory of our desperate need to control what God has graciously given to us for a season, especially when we approach the part about the owner of the land sending his very last “land manager” to persuade the people that they needed to do their parts as tenants:
He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved.  He sent him last of all, saying, “They will respect my son.” 
And wasn’t he worthy of respect?  He knew scripture like the back of his hand, because he WAS the WORD.  There was no fault in him.  The teachers of the law did everything they could to try and trick him, rope him in to disobeying the Law. 
But, Jesus was perfect.  He was the spotless, sinless Son of God.
Here is the soul-wrenching part in all of this: God is Sovereign.  He knew the way his son would be treated, how he would be misunderstood, betrayed and sold, laughed at, criticized, questioned, beaten and yet this lamb did not open his mouth.  Neither did the Father.  Can you imagine seeing your son or daughter in the most excruciating physical pain and being powerless to do anything to fix it? There were no doctors, EMTs, shots, IV drips at the foot of the cross.  There was nakedness and shame and weeping. 

The Father had to turn his face away. 
He had no choice.
He could not look upon our sin.   
And there his son hung and cried out, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” But the Father could not answer, he could not because this was the sacrifice that our sin required.  The Word chosen since the creation of the world, the one whom the Father knew from the moment that Eve chose the lie over the truth would have to come and die.
But we know the end to this tragic story:  there is no respect, no deference, the people are satisfied for a time to have their needs of healing, the forgiveness of sins, etc. met, but their thinking quickly turns to murder
So, we know that this “man” that is referred to in verse 1 is God.  He had the land, he put a wall around it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a watchtower.  He set it up.
It was good, it was inhabitable, but it didn’t belong to the people he leased it to.
We are borrowers, we are tenants.  We don’t belonghere but God wants us here.  He wants us to work in the winepress, to guard our land to be good stewards and to give back a little of what we’ve earned.  But we’ve fallen short and we’ve fallen apart.  We have let our greed overtake us and have insisted that the land is ours, that if we “do away” with the son, then out of sight, out of mind and that means that the owner of the land no longer exists and that means that we can make our own rules.  But that’s not how it ends, because, as it states  in verse 9,
What then will the owner of the vineyard do?  He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.  Haven’t you read this scripture:
‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?
And of course the religious leaders were offended because they knew that Jesus was referring to them.  BUT they had a choice, didn’t they?  To surrender it to Christ, to give it all up for the Creator and see that creation given back to them, not necessarily in material means but through the fruits of the spirit, one of which includes peace–and who doesn’t want more peace in their lives? But that wasn’t how it happened.  Those chose the land, this world over obedience to the landowner.

Is there something you’re struggling to release control over today?  Do you recognize that it belongs to God anyway but you just can’t seem to loosen your grip?