Thursday, March 27, 2014

Joel Study

You are invited to a mystery.
An opportunity to delve deeper into the realms of God. To see the world, the peoples, the past and the future as He sees. “The Lord Is God” the name Joel proclaims. In this book you will see God’s power, His plan unfolding from the beginning to the end, and His “intense desire for intimacy with all His people,” as the Quest Bible states. Come. Let Him reveal more of Himself to you through this little but mighty book.

Joel is considered a ‘minor’ prophet, only because of the length of his message. Joel prophesied the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, and he gave us a window to the events of the end of the world.

Joel is poetry, mystery, prophecy; a blending of ancient troubles and future images. From a farm report in a dusty, obscure field to the gathering of the most powerful armies of the nations, Joel gives us a glimpse into how the God of time sees events. Repeatedly, we are promised the coming of ‘The Day of the Lord’--a time when God will openly intervene in the world’s affairs. These coming times are terrifying, awe-inspiring, and incredibly exciting to consider depending on your perspective. Ultimately, they give you a picture of how much He loves you, a deeper gratitude for that love, a trust in that love, and hope. A hope that will carry you through anything.

Week 1

Thursday, March 20, 2014

This is us

Esther Generation (From IF:Gathering)
They say you should travel light
But most of our lives we carry it all on our backs
These days it isn’t our arms that stay weighed down
It’s our minds
We wake up in a panic
Its our thoughts that hyperventilate for fear
Of making mistakes.
For fear of failing or succeeding
Or fear that we’ll never move past our past
That we’ll be exactly who they said we’d be
That we’ll never be more than what was done to us
That we will continue to be taken advantage of
That we should accept shame as a companion to carry with us
That we should let the lies befriend us
The lies
started in a garden
Spoken slyly by a slithering serpent with his syrupy sweet: “Did God really say?”
And we’ve be doubting ever since
Allowing an unwelcome guest to make himself at home in our lives, minds, gardens
Keep us bound with slithering fear
that we are damaged goods
Never going to be good enough
Not enough brains, not enough brawn
Not enough guts to take anything on.
But there is no time for being soft or weak
That at all times we have to be tough
That We’ll never be perfect that
We’ll never be worth it
That we’ll never be enough
And sometimes we feel God calling us, nudging us
Trying to show us
but somehow we stay trapped
Behind walls of unbelief and unforgiveness
Our arm’s a weary rope caught in a vicious tension
Tug of war between our fear and our calling
Between worry and peace
Comfort and inconvenience
Comparing ourselves to each other
While battling low self esteem
Do we do what’s practical?
Or follow our dreams?
Do we take care of ourselves?
Or meet others people’s needs?
Should we fight?
Should we please?
Should we hide from who we are to put other people at ease?
And then the lies begin to echo and amplify
Time abuser
Mess producer
Who needs you?
She’s so much better
Just look at her
You actually thought that was a good idea?
Open your mouth and they’ll laugh long enough that you’ll shut your mouth
You aren’t smart enough
You aren’t good enough
You aren’t sharp enough
Who do you think you are?
Fear is our chain and it’s rattling us hard
It’s the poison that deadens our hearts
Fear of failing
Fear of flailing
Fear of the arrows
Fear of the way named narrow
Fear of the shear rock in front of you that begs you sweat and climb
Climb out of that drug dead comforting pit they call status quo
And break right up through the earth and into the life you were born for
In the now of your life while there is still time and hunger in your veins
Turn around and shake off that snake
Because it’s head’s been crushed, no pulverized
So let go of the lie.
Sometimes we imagine that God’s voice is a disappointed hard lined teacher
Who is waiting to whack our knuckles with a ruler for any imperfections
But that isn’t God’s voice at all
That isn’t Gods heart at all
He speaks tenderly
He doesn’t need to raise his voice
He speaks as if He’s right next to us
Because He’s right next to us
Because He goes before us
Because His spirit lives inside us
He starts with love
And not because He is a hopeless romantic
But mostly because
Let go of the fanged lie and bind the wound with dressings of Truth that will heal your bloodied soul
Take that sharp edge of His Word and hack that snake creeping up the back your neck
The words
The only life hack that will hack off the lie of the snake and make your life whole
We fear that the place we think God’s love will run out or dry up
We fear that place where we think God’s love will run out, dry up, fall of the edge
And we’ll be left dangling beyond its reach
We fear that somewhere God’s love ends
But His love never runs out
His steadfast love surpasses suburbia
Canvases from skyscrapers to street corners from porch to stoop
His love is looking for you.
Who would you be?
What would you do?
If you weren’t afraid
Could be that you’ve always wanted to come up through the ground
in some desolate place that needed a tree
To bear some fruit for someone with their tongue stuck to the dry roof of their parched mouth
To be a limb that held some baby abandoned
To be a limb that someone could used to swing over the fence and free
We were made from dust
A bit of earth kissed by heaven
made to be groundbreakers
And peacemakers
And freedom shakers
So you can take your glossy Vogue covers and use them for washing windows
Because we’ve always thought the most beautiful women have dirt under their fingernails
And could shake a bit of the very earth out of their warn and pioneering shoes
And lets redefine comfort zone because wherever He takes you
You are with the comforter
Wherever He calls you
You are always in his comfort zone
So live all your present moments in His presence
To keep company with Christ
To get in on the best
There’s a whole Esther generation right here and now and it is us.
Who come broken
Who are done being defeated by fear and worry and stress
Because it advertises the unreliability of God
Who want hard and Holy things because we want more than hallow lives
A life more than self focus and cell phones
More than iPhones, iTunes and iLove
Who want a life of loving the least, the lonely, and the lost
There is a whole Esther generation rising right here and now and it is us
Who are done with easy
Who know that being like Christ and caring for the poor in body and soul
Means more than just caring about easing our consciences
It means living real sacrifice
There is a whole Esther generation rising right here and now and it is us
Who say now is the time for the faith brave
To sky dive and fly
To remember that we don’t have to strive to be anyone
To stop taking issue with what God made
To accept that our perfect God makes no mistakes
There’s a whole Esther generation rising right here and now and it is us
To take the weight we carry on our backs
And offer it back to the savior who already carried the weight of the world on his shoulders
Who surrender
Who lay out alabaster hopes and dreams at the feet of our Savior
There is a whole Esther generation rising right here and now and it is us
Who will no longer look for peace in opinions
But to find our solid ground in the truth
There are many tomorrows to face
But today, lets open our hearts and our wounds and our stories
To the great story teller
That our lives may be chiseled by His pen
That we may
and LOVE
and PRAY
and REST
and LIVE!

If you want to hear the poem being read click here.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Do you love the little children?

 I saw a little girl today. She was about two, and like many two-year-olds she was happy and bubbly and uninhibited. She smiled and I couldn't help but smile in return. She was so beautiful, and I was struck by how precious all little children are.  What person doesn't love a child? Their cuteness draws us to them, makes us want to protect and help them. We feel a deep societal need to protect them. We are angry with people who harm them or fail to properly nurture them. We make all kinds of laws to protect them, to make sure that they are not allowed to encounter any unnecessary dangers so that they can grow up and reach their full potentials.

But as I watched this little girl today, I began to wonder what happens. It seems that at some point they lose the cuteness, and we lose interest in protecting them. Look at the adults around you. How many of them do you love? How many do you feel a need to nurture and protect? How many of them annoy you? Do you talk about them behind their backs? Complain about all the annoying things they do? Do you steal from them, lie to them, curse them, yell at them or insult them? What would you say to someone who treated a child in the way you treat them? They were once cute, lovable little babies. They were innocent souls in need of protection.

I guess we failed to adequately protect them, because as they grew, they were exposed to all the excesses and sins of society. They were corrupted. They became… like us. But somewhere deep inside is still that small child, that innocent soul looking for love and affirmation and encouragement. Are they getting it?

When God looks down on us I believe that he sees the little babies hidden inside. He loves us and nurtures us just like babies. Sometimes his love hurts. Just like when we give our children immunizations, discipline them for doing wrong or tell them no in regard to something they want but which might harm them.

But always God loves us, no matter what we do. Just like we love our children no matter what they do. The greatest command is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and the second is to love your neighbor as yourself, to treat others the way you want them to treat you. Is there a little child hidden inside you, longing for love?

I’d like to challenge you to take a new outlook. Instead of looking at people and seeing them as they are now, try to picture them as the cute little babies that they once were; the toddlers running around; the little girl or boy proudly bringing home a painting from school, even though it just looks like a blob. Try to love them with the unconditional love that we shower on our children, the love we ourselves desire. Admire them, encourage them, engage them, uplift them. And pray for them. Pray that they will become the perfect souls that God created them to be.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Are you putting God first?

If you could ask him for anything, what would you ask of God? Solomon was given this chance, and he asked for wisdom to rule God’s people. God commended him and gave him not only that but honor (fame) and riches as well. But Solomon disappointed God.
In Deuteronomy 17:14-17 God gave the kings of Israel some rules. They were not to collect horses or to return to Egypt for horses. They were not to collect wives.  And they were not to collect riches. But Solomon had thousands of horses, and he imported them from Egypt. He had 700 wives and 300 concubines. And he definitely had riches. It was the wives, especially, that were Solomon’s undoing. They led him into idol worship. But without the riches and honor he could never have gotten all the wives. In the end, God said he would tear the kingdom from Solomon because of Solomon’s unfaithfulness. Yet because of God’s promise to David, he would not do it in Solomon’s lifetime, but his son’s. Solomon’s response? He tried to kill the one to whom God said he would give the kingdom. Wow, Solomon! What happened to the humility shown in 1 King 3?

David, in contrast to Solomon, asked one thing of God - to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of his life, to gaze upon his beauty and seek him in his temple. Solomon asked a noble thing. He was concerned about God’s people and he wanted to be a good ruler, to fulfill his duty in the best way possible. But his focus was on earthly things. David had his eyes on the eternal. He had his priorities right and he was commended as a man after God’s own heart. And his faithfulness affected his descendants as well as himself. The greatest command is to love God. The second is to love people. Our love for and service to people flows out of our love for God. Without the first, the second will inevitably go astray. Solomon’s concern for God’s people is commendable, but he forgot to put God first.

So my question for you is, Are you putting God first? Do you make time for Him? Or do you let the things of the world pull your attention away? If you are not putting God first, all your works are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

If you’d like to check this with the Bible, here are some references:
1 Kings 3 (Solomon’s petition)
Deut 17:14-17 (God’s command to kings)
1 Kings 4:21-28, 2 Chronicles 9:13-28, 1 Kings 11 (Solomon’s riches and God’s anger)
Psalm 27:4 (David’s prayer)
Matt 22:36-40 (Greatest & second command)
Acts 13:22 (David is a man after God’s heart)
Ecclesiastes (Everything under the sun is meaningless)

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Believe and Pray

I've been reading 2 Chronicles during my Quiet Times. I always love reading the histories of the kings. They absolutely fascinate me. One thing I find intriguing is the epitaph that each king is given. Often, there is a king who lived most of his life well, but toward the end of his life he messed up and turned away from God. Yet his epitaph will say something to the effect that he "did right in the sight of The Lord" - sometimes despite having ended his life in rebellion to God.
Manasseh, however, is a king whose story is rather the opposite. People often cite Hezekiah (Manasseh father) as an example that we should trust God's will in things and not ask him to change anything. They say that God intended Hezekiah to die, but he begged for longer life and his wish was granted. But the result was that his son Manasseh was born, a king who "made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to err, and to do worse than the heathen, whom the Lord had destroyed before the children of Israel." Manasseh is remembered as the worst king Judah ever had. So people say that Hezekiah should not have had his extra 15 years. And if you only read the story in 2 Kings there does seem to be truth in that. Yet that is not the end of Manasseh's story, although you have to go to 2 Chronicles to get "the rest of the story" as Paul Harvey would say. In fact, Manasseh was taken captive by the king of Assyria, and in his imprisonment he turned to God. He was later released and sent back to rule over Judah again. The fact that the Assyrian king let him go is in itself is amazing. What is even more amazing is that Manasseh destroyed all the idols he had built and ordered the Israelites to worship the true God and forsake idols. Can we say witness? Manasseh may have led the people to sin, but they didn't exactly go kicking and screaming. They were followers. They followed their king into sin, and they followed him back out of it.

And that still isn't the end of Manasseh's story. His son, Amon, reigned after him. Amon was evil, and God only saw fit to let him reign two years before he died at the tender age of 24. But his son, Josiah, (Manasseh's grandson, who would never have been born if Manasseh had never been born) was perhaps the greatest king Judah ever had, next to David. He brought a great revival to Judah and to Israel as well!

So I say pray on, ladies. If God tells you something you don't like, don't be afraid to ask him to change it. Even Jesus asked God to change something he didn't like! Just make sure your heart is in neutral when it comes to the answer. Ultimately, God is in control and will grant or deny as he sees fit. We have to trust him either way, knowing he knows "the rest of the story".

(These stories start in 2 Kings 18 and 2 Chronicles 29 if you're interested in reading them yourselves.)