Archive for October, 2008
Looking back on my life, I’ve seen a disappointing pattern. First, I find myself in crisis and I cry out to God. While in crisis mode, I seek Him with all my heart, praying and searching His Word for answers. He rescues me and over time, my dedication to seeking Him daily with all my heart diminishes. I find myself relying upon my own abilities and my own resources more and more. Until finally, God has very little to do with my daily routine. I’d even go for days without so much as a short prayer of thanks before a meal.
After a while, another crisis happens. At times, I lost everything – my family, my career, my belongings, my confidence, even my desire to live. Then, the cycle repeats.
I found myself drawn to three verses in chapter 30 of the book of Proverbs this morning:
7 “Two things I ask of you, O LORD; do not refuse me before I die:
8 Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.
9 Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD ?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.
As I’m maturing in my faith (yes, a bit late in life) I find these words to be so full of rich wisdom. They resonate deep within me as a breathy “yes” escapes across my lips.
As further evidence, I have known several people in my life who have more money than they know what to do with. Most of them do not have a strong testimony about what God has done for them. Instead they boast about their own successes or those of their family. They don’t seem to need God – they feel as though they can go out and buy anything they need. Yet, in most cases, I see these people as miserable and always seeking the next thrill. Perhaps that’s why Jesus said that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to go to heaven. (see Luke 18:18-29)
In this season of my life, my terrifying emotional roller-coaster experiences have smoothed out significantly. There are still moments I tend to rely on myself, but I have learned that I can’t get far that way. And, I’m good with that.
I now know that whether He blesses me with much or with just enough, I will not turn my back on Him. I recognize my complete bankruptcy without Him. I know I will never amount to anything meaningful if I pursue anything but Him with my whole heart.
Lord, thank You for how you’ve crashed through the wall and rescued me time and time again. Thank You that You love me too much to let me go off too far on my own before you cause me to seek You again. I need You, Father. Your correction and discipline is painful for a moment, but I am so grateful for it. Keep me from falsehood and lies and give me only my daily bread.
grace & peace,
While reading Proverbs chapter 29 today, a particular verse jumped out at me:
6 An evil man is snared by his own sin, but a righteous one can sing and be glad.
The phrase “a righteous one can sing and be glad” caught my attention. I stopped reading and began to meditate on this one short verse.
I thought about how much emotion is embodied in that small phrase. As a musician and a worship leader, I notice when I hear people singing or whistling or humming. I watch for people singing. It seems I don’t hear it too often, but when I do, it makes me smile. A person caught singing or humming to themselves is a usually person at ease, full of joy.
Why then is it so rare to see? Well, the first part of the verse talks about the consequences of sin. What is an evil man? At first, I thought of an unremorseful felon, or a sadistic murderer. But, as I thought about it, an evil man is simply one who has unconfessed sin. A man carrying around some secret or even an unknown sin such as unforgiveness or pride, is one who is weighed down and who’s joy is blocked. Eventually, unconfessed sin festers and affects every part of one’s life.
As Christians, we should be going about our business with real joy and peace – filled with songs and smiles and peace. We have the promise of forgiveness, salvation, blessing and unconditional love from our heavenly Father. No weapon formed against us will prosper. God is for us, so who can be against us? Who can separate us from the love of God? And the promises go on and on…
Don’t feel like singing? Don’t feel glad? Perhaps it’s time to stop the “busyness” and ask God what it is that is robbing us of our joy. Then – stay still long enough to listen for His answer. He is calling us to walk in joy and peace. He doesn’t want us to be weighed down with financial worries, family concerns, snared by addictions, defeated by our past, troubled with health issues. This is how Satan would have us exist – chained up and miserable.
If you’re not a Christian and want to know more about these promises, I’d recommend you find a Bible-believing church in your area and go and start asking questions. Or, you can start here.
God – free me of my busyness. Be so persistent in me with your calling that I must stop and commune with you all the time. Help me to return to a constant state of prayer – never ceasing. Tell me those things that are blocking my joy. I turn over to You all those things that have been weighing me down and robbing me of my joy. Help me to once again be filled with peace and the joy of the Lord. Your yoke is easy, Your burden is light. I trade my burdens with You, Lord. I’m sorry, Lord, for how I have been acting. I am grateful for how You have blessed me. Forgive me for acting like I don’t even know You. I love You, Lord.
grace & peace,
In Acts chapter 20, we see that familiar passage where Eutychus falls asleep in church and falls out a window to his death. Now, I’ve heard some preachers use this story to emphasize how important it is to pay attention in church and to not fall asleep. But, I tend to believe that this story was included in the Bible to bring glory to God because of His healing power through Paul.
7 On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight. 8 There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting. 9 Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead. 10 Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “He’s alive!” 11 Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. After talking until daylight, he left. 12 The people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted.
Paul had much to say before he left, so he stayed up talking until midnight. Rather than have this last meeting before his departure be remembered with sorrow and regret because this young man died, it was remembered as a miraculous night when God raised a young man from the dead through Paul.
Lord, my faith is increased through reading the stories of how You moved through the disciples in might ways. Give me faith like Paul’s and boldness to finish the job you’ve called me to do – no matter what happens. I want to bring glory to Your name in all situations.
grace & peace,
Continuing my reading through the book of Acts, I find Paul’s journey to be full of the similar stories. Paul would escape riots and persecution in one town, then move on to the next. When Paul gets to Corinth, however, Paul is instructed to stay a while (from chapter 18):
9 One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. 10 For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” 11 So Paul stayed for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.
In chapter 19, I find an interesting passage that is full of wonderful controversy. It is passages like this that make me dig and study – because upon first read, my mind is filled with questions. First, the passage:
1 While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples 2 and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
3 So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?” “John’s baptism,” they replied.
4 Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. 7 There were about twelve men in all.
There is a huge volume of discussion on what exactly happened here in Acts 19. I read Calvin, Wesley, Gill and Matthew Henry. In a nutshell, here’s the situation: The writer says Paul found some “disciples”. This indicates these Ephesians were already Christians. Yet, Paul noticed something in them that made him start asking questions as to their baptism.
Are there two types of baptism, one from John and the other of Jesus Christ? Does the baptism of Jesus make null and void the baptism of John? Where these Ephesians actually disciples of John, not Jesus, so they weren’t really Christians? Are there two times when we receive the Holy Spirit – once at our profession of faith and our repentance from sin (gift of grace from repentance from sins); and another when we receive what some call “the baptism of the Holy Spirit” (extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit)?
I was drawn to what Matthew Henry says in his commentary:
Paul, at Ephesus, found some religious persons, who looked to Jesus as the Messiah. They had not been led to expect the miraculous powers of the Holy Ghost, nor were they informed that the gospel was especially the ministration of the Spirit. But they spake as ready to welcome the notice of it. Paul shows them that John never designed that those he baptized should rest there, but told them that they should believe on Him who should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. They thankfully accepted the discovery, and were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. The Holy Ghost came upon them in a surprising, overpowering manner; they spake with tongues, and prophesied, as the apostles and the first Gentile coverts did. Though we do not now expect miraculous powers, yet all who profess to be disciples of Christ, should be called on to examine whether they have received the seal of the Holy Ghost, in his sanctifying influences, to the sincerity of their faith. Many seem not to have heard that there is a Holy Ghost, and many deem all that is spoken concerning his graces and comforts, to be delusion. Of such it may properly be inquired, “Unto what, then, were ye baptized?” for they evidently know not the meaning of that outward sign on which they place great dependence.
What have we come to expect of the Holy Spirit? Is there more? Are we content to rest on the grace of God through His gift of salvation, or are we called to pursue the gifts of the Holy Spirit?
grace & peace,
I love to read about Paul’s journey’s. In chapter 17, we see where Paul and the team head to Thessolanica and Berea, then heads for Athens. There, Paul takes a look around and is “greatly distressed” to see all the idols the people of Athens have built. If you’re familiar with Greek mythology, you know that there is a god for everything – fire, war, water, love, etc.
Paul even found an idol that was dedicated to “an unknown god” – and he takes this opportunity to tell the people of Athens about the one, true God:
22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.
24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. 27 God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’
29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by man’s design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.”
The people of Athens were obviously very spiritual – looking to worship something – anything and everything! Yet, it seems to me that they knew there was something more, so they set up an idol to “an unknown god”. It was all they knew how to do…until Paul came to down and explained who this unknown God was.
I find it interesting that only “a few became followers”. A disappointing result if you compare this to the other two towns Paul visits, Thessalonica and Berea, where “large numbers” and “many” believed. It makes me wonder if the Greek people had a harder time believing due to the fact they were already so spiritual. Perhaps they wanted to make Yaweh just another of their gods.
The encouragement for me today is the first commandment – to have no other gods before the one, true God. What am I worshiping?
grace & peace,