These Moments are not our Last

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Jacob finds himself wandering in the wilderness, estranged from his family, alone and on the run. (Genesis 28)

Elijah flees to the mountains to escape the tyrant king and queen. He feels exiled as a wanted man. His faithfulness to God has put him in eminent danger. (1 Kings 19-20)

Daniel is cast into a pit of hungry lions, whose soul purpose is to rip criminals to shreds. But Daniel is no criminal. He is the unfortunate recipient of envy and hatred by other in the king’s court. (Daniel 6)

The Apostle Peter is imprisoned for doing what he believed was the call on his life to proclaim the gospel. (Acts 12)

You know what each of these stories have in common? They are examples of people in some of their lowest moments who got to experience the wonders of God. While Jacob was adrift in the wilderness, God showed up to renew His promise. While Elijah was trembling on the mountainside, God showed up in the wind to whisper His love once again. Surrounded by hungry lions, Daniel received a visit from the Angel of the Lord. The chains were loosed from Peter’s wrists and the prison gates flung open that night as God stepped in to rescue him.

These dark moments were not their last. Instead, they allowed each of these men to see and experience glorious things. Dear reader, I’m not sure where you are in your life. But if you’re desperate. If you feel like you’re drowning or suffering. There is always hope. God’s wonders may be right around the corner.  Keep praying. Keep praising. Keep hanging on. The Lord is with you where you are.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships,in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NIV

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How are you viewing God?

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.

Job 38:4 ESV

We all have a way of looking at God. People have been trying to define Him since the beginning. Humanity either places Him in a box of their own design, tries to ignore His existence altogether, or allows God to define Himself. Those are the only three options we have as His created beings. Those who choose to turn a blind eye to God are simply disregarding the amazing discoveries of science that have only served to prove God’s existence. A simple starting list include: the complexity of the human body, the vastness of the universe as well as the fact that it had to have a beginning, the pinpoint accurate calculations for how the Earth is designed to sustain life, the laws of how nature operates, DNA, the 100 percent validity of the Bible, and fulfilled prophecies that could never have occurred outside of divine intervention. People who choose to not acknowledge those things are simply choosing to not look at God. This post is not meant to address that. Instead, it is meant to look at the other two camps for defining Who God is.

“Have you commanded the morning since your days began,
    and caused the dawn to know its place

Job 38:12 ESV

Microscope vs. Telescope

For everyone who is searching to know Who God is, they will come to their conclusions based on what tool they use. In order to fit God into a box, we have to shrink Him down. We have to make Him smaller than ourselves. That looks like creating categories for Him, or saying phrases like, “I couldn’t believe in a God that does that.” It’s apple-picking scripture to design a God that looks good to you. It’s separating God into an Old Testament version and a New Testament version. It’s believing that Muslims, Jews, and Christians all believe in the same God. It’s saying that all paths lead to God. It’s rubbing a lamp and treating God like your personal Genie. It’s defining God based on our experiences rather than viewing your experience through Who God says He is. To make God so small means we have to be viewing Him through a microscope. To do that is to strip God of His majesty. It makes Him lesser than humanity.

“Can you lift up your voice to the clouds,
    that a flood of waters may cover you?
Can you send forth lightnings, that they may go
    and say to you, ‘Here we are’?

Job 38:34-35 ESV

On the other hand, there are people who view God as infinite. There is always something new to learn about God. They gaze at Him in wonder. He seems so big at times that it can be so overwhelming. Somethings about Him are unknown, while others are in plain view. He is beautiful and vast and so much larger than all we know. For these people, their lives are defined by Who God is. Their very identity stems from being created and loved by Him. To view God in this way is to view Him how He’s made Himself known. It’s to take scripture as a whole. It’s to see the story of human existence as being designed and told by an omniscient being. That’s what happens when we view God through a telescope. He’s not our size, and He’s certainly not smaller than us. Don’t try to limit a limitless God.

Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.

Psalm 29:2 NIV

Self Inflicted Tyranny

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Worry is one of the most self-crippling ailments. It’s also one we have complete control over, yet it’s how we punish ourselves the most. We worry when we have too much and we worry when we don’t have enough. We ultimately find things to worry about. Much of what we worry over is way beyond our control. The mind seems to seeks it out. When one thing has passed by, we find another worry to take its place. Anxiety, stress, depression, addictions, and the use of coping devices are all manifestations of the worry plague. It’s the black death of our own making. Worry destroys us emotionally and physically. It doesn’t have to be this way. Worry does not empty tomorrow of its difficulties but it does empty today of its joy. Choose joy this day. Choose life this day. Choose hope and optimism because our God is greater than whatever we are walking through.

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:11-13 NIV

*This post was born out of a very stressful time in my life. Inspired by my supportive wife and my amazing God. We all need reminders from time to time. God bless you, brothers and sisters!

Arguing with God

Two Angels Guiding Lot and His Daughters from Sodom 19th-Century Print

It fascinates me that no matter how good God is to us, humanity will inevitably find something to argue with Him about. It plagues us from birth. I have lost count of how many times my children complain about even good things. For example, I buy them a gift or give them a treat, but it’s not good enough for them. Maybe I take them out to dinner or we have a movie night at home but it’s not the exact place they wanted to go to or the movie they were just ‘dying’ to see. I’m sure I was the same way when I was little. You’d have to ask my mom. All little kids are that way to varying degrees. Sadly, many people don’t ever grow out of it either.

I was listening to a podcast on Genesis 19 a few weeks ago and it dawned on me that I was seeing the same thing play out in the bible that I see at home with my kiddos, only on a much grander scale. Lot and his family were essentially arguing with God’s goodness. In this chapter. Angels are there to rescue a man named Lot, and his family before God destroys Sodom and Gomorrah. These cities were beyond wicked. And Lot and his family, while not blameless by any means, must have been set apart from the wicked people around them. So God wants to save them, and they actually argue with how He wants to do it.

First, they all lingered and didn’t take God’s message seriously (Genesis 19:14-16). The angels literally had to drag them out of the city to be saved. Once out of the city, they even argued about where God was sending them (Genesis 19:18-20). It was the equivalent of saying, “I don’t really care that you want to save me and I really don’t like how you want to save me.”

That story line has been repeated in every generation. Think about it. Anyone who rejects the message of the gospel are arguing with the fact that they need saved and also the method by which God wants to save us. Non Christians see the gospel message as foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:18). Why would someone need to die so I could be saved? Why do I even need to be saved? Lot may have battled with similar questions. We know at least that Lot’s wife longed for some part of her city. Why else would she look back as she was fleeing. For Lot, God came to rescue him from disaster and death. For us, God did the same in Jesus Christ. But so many people aren’t taking the message of the gospel seriously. How many people do you know are lingering and not acting? How many times have you heard someone say that the gospel is close minded? How could God only make one way to be saved? How about the fact that God made a way to be saved? Why isn’t that good enough for the majority of people in this world? Why isn’t that seen as absolutely incredible by more people? I would venture to say that it’s because we like to make our own options.

We like to create our own reality and have things on our own terms. This applies to far more than eternal salvation, it applies to our day in and day out living. We want to be blessed in certain ways. We want to be rescued in certain ways. When our own perceptions and expectations aren’t met, we grumble. A key struggle to life is finding that place of contentment, where we can trust in the goodness of God, especially when our expectations are not being met. The place where we can rely on His greater wisdom. The place where we can truly believe that He cares for more for us than we do for ourselves. We are better off in His hands rather than our own. Left to their own doing, Lot and his family would have burned with the rest of the city. We would all make an equal mess of our own lives in the absence of our Makers hands.

The Bible is riddled with examples of God bringing redemption through unfamiliar and unusual means. Joseph saving Israel through his own slavery, Gideon’s army being reduced to minuscule numbers, God raining down manna from heaven during the wilderness journey, a young man defeating the fiercest warrior with a sling and stones, parting a sea in order to walk through on dry ground, and marching around a massive wall to bring it tumbling down, just to name a few. God specializes in the unexpected. But so many of us cling so hard to our expectations rather than relying on God’s faithfulness.

But God is good. No matter your present circumstances. God is faithful. Even though you may not see Him working. God’s heart is for you. Always, no matter what.

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

Psalm 34:8 (ESV)

 

My God, my Children, and Me

father-child-hand2I’ve been thinking a lot about parenting and how God looks at me as His child compared to how I see my own children. I had a friend of mine named Connor tell me, before my first daughter was born, that God was going to show me a lot about His feelings towards me through my experience in fatherhood. He was so right!  I’ve learned so much about grace, love, and sacrifice that I never really knew before. And since my second daughter has been born, it has only heightened my experience.

God has so many beautiful characteristics that I’ve been learning more about. And one of my favorites qualities has to be His patience. Lord knows I give Him opportunities every day to be patient with me. We all do right? We either wouldn’t be here, or our life would look very different, if He wasn’t a patient God. But have you ever wondered why? Why is God so patient with us? Why is He so patient with all the ‘bad’ people in the world? I Know I wouldn’t be nearly as patient with me as He is. And we certainly aren’t as patient with others as He is. Yet another reason why we would all make lousy gods.

I feel like being a parent has given me a unique insight into the realm of patience. (And all the parents in the world said, “Amen.”) Let’s face it, kids provide a lot off opportunities for us to grow in patience. Dinner time, nap time, clean up time, play time, road trips, and on and on. Our patience is tried. But this in not a wrap on children. This is more a comparison between us (as grown ups) and our children.

Have you ever watched your children from a place where they were completely unaware of your presence, just to see what they were going to do? There’s a situation, and your children are presented with a choice to do what was right or what was wrong. So you watch, hoping that they make the right choice. As a parent, there is an urge to intervene, always. The natural desire to steer our children in the right direction has been written on our hearts. But there are times when intervention is not the right course of action. There are times when a parent needs to observe, to hope, and to pray. Because our children need to learn to fly and apply the lessons they’ve been taught. Besides, obedience untested, is no obedience at all.

I would love to say that my kiddos pass the obedience test with flying colors, every time. But they’re human, just like us. I’d like to say I pass the test every time. But I don’t. And I imagine God, being our Father, observes us day in and day out. Sometimes He intervenes, and sometimes He doesn’t. But every time, He is watching, and hoping that we make the right choices.  This illustration has limits though; I get that. Since God knows everything that will ever happen, He already knows every choice we will ever make in life. (That’s both scary and extremely comforting!) Nothing we do is a surprise to Him. Unlike with human parents, hoping their children make the right choices, God already knows before the choice is even presented. Granted, there are times that parental intuition kicks in and you know what your kids are going to do or say before it happens. But that’s rare in comparison to an omniscient God.

I think God’s all-knowing nature makes His patience even greater. Think about it. If you knew all the mistakes your children were going to make, how much patience would it require for you to allow them to mess up and then to find their way back, guiding with care and love, just as our God does? You’d probably be like me; ready to jump in so that our children would have a mistake free life. You’d want to make the path to the good life obvious. You’d give them an instructions on how to live, how to relate to others, how to view themselves, and continually remind them of your love for them so they never forgot. You’d try to introduce them to people who’d be a good influence in their life. You’d give them all of their needs plus so much more. Sound familiar? This is exactly how God has reached down to humanity since the dawn of our existence.

As parents, these are the things we try to do. Only we operate with limited knowledge, limited experience, and not to mention, we’re all flawed. And even the best parents cannot lead their children into a fault free life. Why? Because even the best parents have faults. Parenting is trial and error. Parenting is like nothing else in the world. It’s so hard, and yet, it is so fun! I have two little girls, and they are amazing. They make me laugh. They make me want to cry. The can turn the hardest days around with a simple “I love you daddy.” They can frustrate me, but they also fill my heart with so much joy.

I think we have the same effect on our Heavenly Father. Don’t you think He longs to hear His children say. “I love you daddy”? There’s no doubt we frustrate Him, even though He’s already seen the road map of our lives. But His children are His treasure. You bring Him so much joy. He knows your screw ups. He knows your faults. Yet He died for you anyways. There is no length too far that God has not already gone for you and me. There is no list of bad choices that will make God lose his patience with you. His heart is for you. It always has been.

The LORD is compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger and abounding in loving-kindness.

Psalm 103:8 (NASB)

 

Building Altars While Waiting on God

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“When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.””

Exodus 32:1 (ESV)

Waiting is one of the hardest things to do in life. It doesn’t matter if it’s something small, like waiting for your food when you’re out at dinner, or waiting to save up enough money to buy that special something. Or maybe something really big like waiting for healing, or for your loved one to come back home after being gone for a really long time. Waiting is just tough. No one likes to do it. If someone said they did, they’re not being honest. That’s why rush hour and Department of Motor Vehicles make people shudder.

It’s no different when it comes to waiting for God. Since God is invisible, we often don’t see Him at work. That doesn’t mean that He’s not at work. We just don’t see it. Because of that, we can fall into the very same trap that the Israelites did in the Exodus out of Egypt. Many days had gone by, and the people started to grow restless. Out of impatience, and selfishness, they called on Aaron (Moses’ brother) to craft gods for them. They wanted something they could see, touch, and experience.

Before we jump to any kind of judgement, we better do some introspection. Life is speeding up. Each new decade brings a faster pace of life with more ‘on demand’ qualities. We live in a universe that consists of Instant messaging, high speed wireless connections, and touch screen everything. Waiting is not a part of the game. To wait, is counter cultural. To wait is being impractical and inefficient. To wait is a societal sin. Am I right? I’ve had the advantage of growing up in a pre-internet world, and watching the transition in society unfold before my very eyes. And it has not been pretty.

I would be a hypocrite if I just took shots at the internet, smartphones, and the high speed life. I’m even typing this on my iPhone. The reason I say it hasn’t been pretty is because it feed the beast inside me. I am a doer. I love getting things done. Yes even multiple things done at once. I love fast connections and high efficiency. So much so, that when I don’t get a lot done, I feel as though my day was not as useful. And that, my dear friends, is the problem. We are taking major steps backwards in human development as we embrace the tech-filled life.

A life absent if waiting, is a life full of altars. It’s a life that has demanded that gods be made to go before them. Sound a bit extreme? How about this. I’ll list a few human constructed altars that I’ve had in my life and I’ll leave the rest to you.

Altar #1-human self sufficiency

Why wait I’m God to provide for us when we can make our own way? That’s the attitude of a me first, now not later mentality. We hear people say ‘create yourself’ or ‘be the master of your own soul’. That’s a harsh accusation against the One who actually created us and breathed the very soul into us. But think about it. We spend so much of our life trying to create situations where we don’t actually need God.

Altar #2-Refusing to rest

The principal of rest is interwoven into the human story. God designed it that way since creation. To always be doing is to deny God’s instruction. Rest can actually be one of the most efficient and useful things we can do with our lives. A lack of rest destroys our health and greatly limits our brain function. Where’s the efficiency in that? It also makes our life to full to actually spend with God (even when doing things for God).

Altar #3-Digital reinforcement

God made us relational beings with a need to be connected to others. The digital social media universe has created artificial relationships with little depth and a breeding ground for hostility and depression like has never existed before. We live in a world where people would rather have their faces in a phone texting people, or scrolling to read about other’s lives, rather than have a good rich conversation with those in the room with them. But we love to rack up the ‘likes’, ‘re-posts’, and hundreds of ‘friends’ and ‘followers’.

Altar #4-Fillers

We constantly try to fill our own needs. We do this with Sports, money, careers, hobbies, video games etc…we even teach this to our children at a young age when we have them involved in everything under the sun or allow them to park in front of a screen for hours on end. I’m not talking about doing something you love and brings enjoyment. But moderation seems to be an after thought for many. You’ll know if it’s an altar if it is used as an escape from reality or is a part of your identity.

All four of the altars above, keep us from doing one thing: waiting on God. Our lives are so full, we forgot to carve out space for Him. To even phrase it like that seems wrong. We can’t be digitally connected to Him. If we could, I’m sure most people would rather text Him then spend quality time with Him. But God wants far more than a surface level relationship with His creation.

God made us to enjoy Him. And we cannot do that if our lives are full of gods we’ve made for ourselves. Sometimes enjoying God means waiting for Him to say “go” or “stay”. God wants to be the filler of our needs and not replaced with lesser things. God wants to be our rest because that’s often where He meets with us. God wants to be our sufficiency. And let’s face it, any notion of being a self made man or women is just lie anyways. We’ve never taken a breath that wasn’t given to us and have no talent that wasn’t ingrained in us from God himself.

We have to get past the altar-filled life and relearn the art of waiting. Even if He stays silent on the mountain for 40 days like He did with the Israelites, they were still free. That freedom had been bought for them. We may not be hearing the answers from Him right now, or seeing Him move in huge ways, but we too are free. We need to stop filling up our lives and hoping God moves in the meantime. We need to smash our idols and make room for Him to move.

It’s in the waiting that we experience real peace. It’s in the waiting that we can step back and see life through the big picture. It’s in the waiting that we can hear God more clearly. And it’s in the waiting that we are changed. Join me brothers and sisters, in slowing down. Join me in the waiting.

Peace to all of you in Christ Jesus!

 

Punished NOT Abandoned 


I’ve had to punished my girls and I can tell you that it is one of my least favorite things to do in life. It may be necessary and right to do, but it is so hard sometimes. And even when I punish them, I have no intentions of ever leaving them. When correction is needed in their lives, and they have to face the realities of consequences, I want them to know that my love for them will never diminish. I imagine God looks at us in the same way only with greater intensity.

In the middle of pain, especially the self induced kind, it’s easy to assume God is nowhere to be found. After all, it’s my own fault i’m in this mess so why would He be here? I sinned and disobeyed Him so why would He want to be with me? I’ve committed this same old offense once more so now He really must have given up on me. How could I blame Him if He was absent in my consequences? 

The life of Moses is a captivating one to say the least. He narrowly escaped being murdered by Egyptians when he was a baby, he was raised by both his mother and pharaoh’s household, he killed an Egyptian while standing up for a fellow Hebrew, he fled into exile for 40 years, then he’s called by God (out of a burning bush!) to tell the most powerful nation in the world to release its slave labor force, he’s put in charge of a nation of people while on an exodus over hundreds of miles, and constantly has to mediate between a Holy God and an ungrateful people. No doubt that he must have been an amazing man. But even as incredible as Moses was, he still suffered from the same ailment as all of humanity: sin. One such sin caused a major consequence. In the book of Numbers, chapter 20, Moses and Aaron have to deal with a bit of a water shortage. To sum it up, Moses and Aaron don’t follow God’s instructions and end up taking the glory for bringing water from a rock rather than giving God the glory for it. The effect from that would be denied entry into the promised land. Ouch! But that’s not the point of this story. Moses screwed up and so do we. No need to remind everyone of that. What I want to point out came at the end of all this, when Moses is facing up to the consequences, at what would be the end of his life.

“Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho. And the Lord showed him all the land…And the Lord said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, ‘I will give it to your offspring.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there.” So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord, and he buried him in the valley in the land of Moab opposite Beth-peor; but no one knows the place of his burial to this day.”

‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭34:1,4-6‬ ‭

Moses had to miss out on walking in the promise land but he got something so much better. The Lord went up the mountain with him. The Lord showed him a glimpse out of grace. The Lord buried him where only He knows. Despite Moses’ disobedience the Lord never left him. Once chosen by God, Moses was His forever. That didn’t exclude Moses from the consequences of his sin but it did keep him in grace. And that is no consolation prize.

I heard a story once of a little boy who was placed in timeout by his mom. He begged and begged to be let out but his mom stayed firm. Along came grandpa and the little boy pleaded with him to take him out even though his mom had said no. Instead of taking the boy out, the grandpa sat with the boy in time out until his time had been served. God is much like the grandpa. He may not excuse us from the hurt and pain that our actions create, but He’ll be right there with us. Keep in mind that God is no stranger to punishment. He chose the most excruciating crucifixion for our sake and He didn’t deserve it. If He’ll hang on a cross out of love for us and you can be sure He’ll be with us in our time outs, our pain, our breakups, our divorces, our failing health, and all our sufferings. 

Believer, our sin will reap consequences in this life, for us and others. There may be no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1), but that does not exclude us from pain. On the other hand it also does not forfeit us from God’s grace. Where we have to be concerned is if there is no desire to repent of sin. Moses repented and continued to pursue God all the way to the end. If God has chosen you then He’ll be right there with you even as you battle your way through the wake of your sin. 

Our mistakes are not the end of our story just like it wasn’t for Moses. After all, Moses did enter the promise land one day. And who took him there? It was the Lord.

“And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭17:1-3‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The desperate heart has only one place to look, and that’s up. Think God has left you? Not a chance. Screwed up royally? God is still at the door knocking. Whether you’re a Believer or not, God is in pursuit of you. Our ugliness doesn’t drive Him away. If it did, He never would’ve gone to the cross for us in the first place.