Friday, October 26, 2007

Do you really love me?

Once a woman went to her husband and said, “Honey, do you love me”? He said, “Of course I do.” She walked away with the same lack of assurance as she came. Why do you think she asked?

Probably because the love was only verbalized not actualized.

If I ask you, “Do you love God?” What will you say? If you are like me you will say, “of course I do”. Let’s examine what the Bible says about true love for God:

We show our love for Jesus and God by obedience.

If you love me, you will obey what I command. (John 14:15)

Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him. (John 14:21)

This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome. (1 John 5:3)

Love or non-love for Jesus is reflected in our obedience to Jesus' teachings.

Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. (John 14:23, 24)

Love for God is reflected by our actions, not our words or emotions (which both can be a lie). Our actions do not lie. When we obey, we say, “I love You” according to God. Also when we obey, God reveals more of Himself to us. He “comes to us” and “makes His home with us”. What a priveledge for the one who obeys. What an honor to know and be close to God!

Some might say what does that mean-to be close to God? I know what that has meant for me but I cannot know what that means for you. Obey Him and find out for yourself.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

God is slow

When I was a little boy I was one of the fastest kids in my school. I loved racing other kids on the playground. Often, I could outrun them. When we try to "outrun" from God it is comforting to know that he is slow. Jonah discovered the God was slow.

Ex 34:6
6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness,

Nu 14:18
18 'The LORD is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion.

Ne 9:17
17 They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery. But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them,

Ps 86:15
15 But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.

Ps 103:8
8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.

Ps 145:8
8 The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.

Joel 2:13
13 Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.

Jnh 4:2
2 He prayed to the LORD, "O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.

Na 1:3
3 The LORD is slow to anger and great in power; the LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished. His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of his feet.

When I try to run from obedience to God, He will always catch me but thankfully he is slow to be angry with me. I love You Father!

First Time Obedience?

The other day I went to pick up my little boy from preschool and I asked his teacher how he was doing. She said, “Sam needs to work on first time obedience”. I told her that we would help him in that area immediately. As I drove away from the school firmly telling Sam about the error of his ways a gentle nudge came my way. “You need to work on your first time obedience too Chris”.

“Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time:” Jonah 3:1 (NIV)

How many times does it take for you to obey God’s voice? Are you a first timer? 2nd? 3rd? 4th? 5th?

I am fascinated by God’s parenting approach. I can get pretty hot after asking my son several times to respond and does not. But isn’t it interesting that when God comes to Jonah a second time He does not remind him of his previous failure, He make no mention of being rescued from death, nor does He make sure Jonah remembers his vow. In fact, there is no hint of anything but grace as God reinstates Jonah to his mission. He does not even warn him of the consequences if he tries to run again. It would be a gross understatement to say that God is patient and gracious.

8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. 9 He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; 10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. 11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. 13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; Psalms 103:8-13 (NIV)

Does this make me more passionate about God or less? Does seeing God like this inspire reverence and loving obedience? OR do I despise the riches of His goodness?

4 Don't you realize how kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Or don't you care? Can't you see how kind he has been in giving you time to turn from your sin? 5 But no, you won't listen. So you are storing up terrible punishment for yourself because of your stubbornness in refusing to turn from your sin. For there is going to come a day of judgment when God, the just judge of all the world, 6 will judge all people according to what they have done. 7 He will give eternal life to those who persist in doing what is good, seeking after the glory and honor and immortality that God offers. 8 But he will pour out his anger and wrath on those who live for themselves, who refuse to obey the truth and practice evil deeds. 9 There will be trouble and calamity for everyone who keeps on sinning—for the Jew first and also for the Gentile. 10 But there will be glory and honor and peace from God for all who do good—for the Jew first and also for the Gentile. 11 For God does not show favoritism. Romans 2:4-11 (NLT)

I am thankful that God does not always spank when I don’t obey the first time. I need grace not to take Him for granted. Jesus said, “If you love me, obey my commandments”. May we love Him with our obedience. May we have grace to even obey the first time!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Does God hear your prayers?

“2 He said: "In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry.” Jonah 2:2 (NIV)

Do you ever wonder if God is listening to you? Are there times when He listens and times when He doesn’t? If so, why?

“14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us--whatever we ask--we know that we have what we asked of him.” 1 John 5:14-15 (NIV)

Alright, so “if” we pray according to His will He hears, so how do I know His will? Without getting into all the ways different people discern God’s voice or will in their lives, I just want to say that if anyone sincerely desires to know God’s will, God can and will show them. And He will show us in a way we can be clear about it. Someone might say I have been asking God about this or that and He has not replied. It could be that Jesus’ brother has counsel for us:

“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives…” James 4:3

Sometimes we are not really seeking His will but trying to get Him in on ours. Instead of thy kingdom come, thy will be done, it is my kingdom, my will. If we really want to know what He wants, we will know because He will show us. How He does that is always up to Him. But make no mistake, He can get that done.

Jonah, in the depths of God’s loving discipline, cried out to God and God heard him. What happened? Could it be that Jonah had a change of heart? Of course, you might say, who wouldn’t? This is exactly what I mean though. The other day I was talking to a friend as he confessed that it seemed like when he really hears from God is when he gets desperate. I have come to believe that my heart condition is a major key to an audience with God. Another one of God’s prophets wrote:

11 For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NIV)

These words are written to people who were anything but wholehearted. So God designed a season of captivity to get their hearts recalibrated. God knows when we are serious. He also knows when we are half-hearted and distracted by the world and its desires. Jonah had the pull of the idolatrous city of Tarshish and all its trappings on his heart. He turned away from God to his own way. It happens to all of us from time to time.

Could it be that only the heart that is pure or sincere in a matter gets God’s attention? Could it be that God sometimes lovingly creates those conditions for us if we will not? Maybe to get an audience with God, you have to be somewhat passionate about it. Maybe He has to be first in our lives after all. It is no coincidence that as soon as Jonah starts talking about making sacrifices and repaying vows the fish spits him up on the beach with a whole new course setting.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Resistance is Futile!

"We are the Borg. Lower your shields and surrender your ships. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile." -- The Borg, Star Trek, The First Contact

I grew up loving Star Trek (The original one of course). In the Next Generation the Borg were introduced. No one escaped the Borg. They assimilated everything into their “collective”. Resistance was futile.

Jonah 1:17-2:1 (NIV) 17 But the LORD provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights. 1 From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God.

After Jonah’s stubborn disobedience he finally learns that resistance is futile. God has chosen Jonah for a specific mission. He had designed Jonah’s destiny and was not going to be thwarted by his disobedient heart. He causes a great storm and prepares a great fish to bring Jonah to his knees in submission to His will.

I take great comfort in this story. There is a little Jonah in me. I thank God for His determined purpose in our lives. He begins a good work in us, pursues us, and disciplines us until he completes us. He knows how to get us back on track no matter what. He brings correction and fulfills his divine plan to use Jonah to show compassion on the wicked city of Nineveh. I believe that this story is replayed again and again in the lives of God’s children.

Tell me, what should we fear most, God’s loving discipline, or him just moving on and using someone else? I don’t want to be left to my rebellious ways. I want to be thrown into the violent ocean of God’s loving discipline. I am thankful that there is no place to run from Him as His child. I am praying for a listening ear and an obedient heart.

8 The LORD says, "I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you. 9 Do not be like a senseless horse or mule that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control." 10 Many sorrows come to the wicked, but unfailing love surrounds those who trust the LORD. 11 So rejoice in the LORD and be glad, all you who obey him! Shout for joy, all you whose hearts are pure! Ps. 32:8-11 (NLT)

Obey His will with joy today or get ready for a deep sea adventure with God! Resistance is futile!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

I did it my way!

"But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD." Jonah 1:3

Frank Sinatra 1968
And now, the end is here

And so I face the final curtain
My friend, I'll say it clear
I'll state my case, of which I'm certain
I've lived a life that's full

I traveled each and ev'ry highway
And more, much more than this, I did it my way
Regrets, I've had a few
But then again, too few to mention
I did what I had to do and saw it through without exemption
I planned each charted course, each careful step along the byway
And more, much more than this, I did it my way

Yes, there were times, I'm sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew
But through it all, when there was doubt
I ate it up and spit it out
I faced it all and I stood tall and did it my way
I've loved, I've laughed and cried

I've had my fill, my share of losing
And now, as tears subside, I find it all so amusing
To think I did all that
And may I say, not in a shy way,"Oh, no, oh, no, not me, I did it my way"
For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught
To say the things he truly feels and not the words of one who kneels
The record shows I took the blows and did it my way!

We have been talking about Jonah and how God spoke to him. He told Jonah exactly what He wanted him to do. God wanted to use him to reach out to a wicked people group. But Jonah had absolutely no desire to go to Ninevah and speak to people that he greatly feared and hated. In his mind, Jonah had legitimate reasons for not wanting to
preach to the Ninevites.

When God does speak, He will often ask us to do things we don’t want to do. To the degree that we trust God is the degree that we obey God. We must be convinced that He is wise beyond our comprehension and that His way is ultimately best even if we cannot see it in the present.

Jonah like Frank had ideas doing something completely different. Do you have something that you know God has said to you that you just don’t want to do? Do you believe if you obeyed Him your life would be worse? Jonah did. And I guess Frank did too. At the heart of being a Christian is the issue of will. Whose way are we going to go? My way or God’s way. This is why we are called followers of Jesus. He has a good and perfect will that he wants executed in the earth. That is the will of His Father. Our responsibility is to surrender our will to Him each day and let His voice guide us. Or I can do it my way. My choice.

I gotta go for now. I have two things to do that I don’t want to do.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Can you here me now?

1 The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 "Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me." Jonah 1:1

In reading Jonah this morning, I find it interesting that the “word of the Lord came to Jonah”. These simple words contain one of God’s most intriguing mysteries. The fact that God does personally speak to people. I wonder how God actually spoke to Jonah. Was it in a dream, a vision, a strange circumstance, or does someone tell him? Is there a voice from heaven that only Jonah hears? Does he have a gut feeling that he just can’t shake?

When you think about it, this is a fundamental question for someone who believes in a “personal” God. How does this God let people that He loves know what He wants?

I hear people say with such certainty things like “God told me” or “I heard God’s voice”. I sometimes wonder about such bold assertions. But it really doesn’t matter what I think about what others feel they have heard from God. The Bible is filled with accounts of, well, let’s just call them “interesting people” coming up with strange stories of how God spoke to them. Often the people around them thought they were weird, if not out of their minds. Yet they ended up being right about hearing from God.

There are specific things that God wants to see happen. He will speak to us and invite us into His will. Our privilege is to discern His voice and join Him. It is then that we find our place in His story. Jonah’s place was to save the lives of thousands and thousands.

So how does God speak to us? In many different ways.

1 Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. Hebrews 1:1 (NLT)

If you talk to ten people you will get as many different answers. I like that. I like that God is both mysterious and personal. Ask any parent who has more than one child and they will tell you that it takes different approaches to communicate effectively to their children-what works with one does not with another. Good parents who love their children and want to provide wise guidance will learn their child’s language and get through to them. Parents can also be very creative in the way that they “cast vision” for their children and enjoy the relational process.

God knows your language and He speaks it fluently. I believe that He enjoys communication with us. But often He is mysterious. We must allow for this fact and let Him speak to us how He sees fit. Whether or not we are listening is another discussion entirely. Suffice it to say that if we want to hear, God knows how to “get through” to us. Those who do not, well, I don’t know about what happens for them. I guess they go it alone.

Does God have something He wants to say to you? Or me? Are we listening? Is there something he wants us to do? Is there someone He wants us to save?

Current Musings from the book of Jonah