Thursday, June 23, 2011

No Returns Accepted

I hate it when I have to return things. I’m one of those people that never keeps good track of their receipts. So if I have to return anything it becomes a huge chore! And of course, I complicate matters by never seeming to have the receipt and the item I need to return with me at the same time.

But I have to say it is a nice thing to be able to return something - it’s kind of like absolving a mistake, if I’ve bought something I couldn’t afford or if somehow the thing I purchased doesn’t work correctly.

Returns come in handy when you change your mind. . .

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could return the things in life that we don’t want to face? What if we could take back a poor decision and exchange it for a better one? What if we could return a difficult relationship?

Sometimes I think we wish we could do this with God too. We want his love but would prefer to return His justice back to the shelf. We want his forgiveness but struggle with His righteousness. We want to tell Him what we want Him to do; we don’t want Him to tell us what we
should do.

A friend of mine had a horrible thing happen to her son while she was worshiping God in church. He was sexually molested by a teenager. It left her reeling with pain and anger. How could God allow this to happen to her innocent child? She felt betrayed by her God and the anger grew and festered within her until it be became a raging inferno. And she told God she was done! She wanted to return her salvation; she didn’t want it any more. She was checking out of this Christianity thing.

So she set her Bible on the shelf and wanted nothing more to do with God. But the interesting thing was that God did not accept her return. He refused to take back His salvation from her. She told Him multiple times to get away from her. When she was on her daily walks she would cuss and swear and say horrible things to Him but He refused to leave her. This is how she described it, “He was just there. It was a quiet presence, not a condemning one. No matter what I did or said to Him (and I said some pretty horrible things) He would not leave
me alone!”

As she told me her story Psalm 139:7-10 (NLV) came to my mind, “ I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from Your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, You are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there Your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me.”

His unending presence slowly began to melt the ice around her heart and as a lover pursues the one he loves so God drew her gently back to Himself. And then one day it happened! She picked up her Bible, that had sat dormant on the shelf, dusted it off and began to discover a whole new God, a God she realized she had never really known.

What was her greatest disappointment led her to her greatest discovery – GOD.

When things go wrong, when life takes a turn we don’t expect, there is a yearning to checkout, to stick our head in the sand and hope it all goes away. But what if God’s plan is to use our greatest disappointment as our greatest opportunity? What if He is revealing Himself to us in a way He never has before? What if these struggles are really His blessings in disguise?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

God Glasses

One day, while living in California, I hiked with a group of friends to the top of a huge rock in Idyllwild, California. This monstrous rock sits high up the mountainside overlooking the little town of Idyllwild and is a favorite place for rock climbers.

Not being rock climbers, we decided to see how far we could climb up the backside of the rock and to our surprise we were able to get all the way to the very top. The climb was treacherous and difficult but the view made the whole trek completely worth it. It was spectacular!

As I sat high atop that rock, gazing at the scenery below I
wondered . . . What if I were able to see my life from a viewpoint like this; viewing it from a higher perspective where I see and understand things so much clearer rather than from the ground where I only see what is in front of me? Why doesn’t God allow me to see things from His perspective?

But, what if He has and I’ve missed it?

In the Old Testament, there is a humorous story about God allowing two men to see things from His viewpoint.

The King of Aram went to war against Israel. Each time he mobilized his troops in an area to fight against them; suddenly there were no Israelites to be found. This happened over and over again until the King was completely infuriated! How did they always seem to know where he was going to be?

The King of Aram finally in utter frustration called all of his officers together and demanded to know who the traitor was! One guy piped up and said, “It’s not us, my lord the king. Elisha, the prophet in Israel, tells the king of Israel even the words you speak in the privacy of your bedroom!” (2 Kings 6:12 NLV)

When the king found out that it was Elisha who was spoiling his plans, he immediately decided to march on the city where Elisha lived.

When Elisha’s servant got up the next morning and went outside there were troops and chariots everywhere! He ran back inside in a panic, yelling that they were surrounded. And look how Elisha responded to him, “Don’t be afraid!” he told him. “There are more on our side than on theirs!” Then Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes and let him see!” The LORD opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire.” (2 Kings 6:16-17 NLV)

There are only a few places in Scripture where God opens up the curtain between heaven and earth and we get a glimpse of His greatness and power; this story is one of those times.

What did Elisha know that his servant did not? Elisha KNEW the greatness of God and he CHOSE to see things from God’s perspective and not his own; it was as if he had on “God Glasses”.

A friend of mine chose to put on “God Glasses” one Thanksgiving day. For her, Thanksgiving was never a pleasant time because her family was so dysfunctional. Often when she arrived her brother would be yelling and swearing at his kids and smoking like a chimney. She dreaded taking her family into this environment.

This Thanksgiving however, she prayed and asked the Lord to help her see her family the way that He sees them. When she got there, her brother, as usual was yelling and swearing at his kids but instead of being annoyed she felt burdened because she saw the pain reflected in his actions. It was that way everywhere she looked, where before she would have seen only their destructive behavior, now she saw heartache and sorrow instead.

For my friend it was as if God removed the curtain between heaven and earth and she saw beyond her circumstances and glimpsed the real hurt that so many people experience that have no hope.

What about you? Do you choose to see things from God’s perspective or from your own? Do you WANT God’s view of things or do you choose to stay where it’s safe and uncomplicated?

If we choose to see things from God’s viewpoint it often moves us from the comfortable to the uncomfortable BUT the view is great and truly rewarding! So put on your glasses, you’ll be amazed at what you see!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Which Slavery will You Choose?

In Exodus 21:5-7 (NLV) it says, “But the slave may declare, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children. I don’t want to go free.’ If he does this, his master must present him before God. Then his master must take him to the door or doorpost and publicly pierce his ear with an awl. After that, the slave will serve his master for life.”

There have been times when I have felt like a slave – when I have washed a oodles and oodles of dirty dishes, changed a boat load of dirty diapers, wiped runny noses, dragged myself out of bed to soothe a crying baby and rocked for hours in the middle of the night when everyone else was sleeping – and it makes me wonder . . . why would anyone willingly choose to be a slave for the rest of their life?

Why would someone give up EVERYTHING to serve their master? As a slave, you have no rights, no free will, and no ability to make choices for yourself or your family. A slave surrenders their will to the will of their master.

Centuries after this slave law was written a free man by the name of Paul declared himself a slave. It was how he defined himself over and over again in his letters.

Paul was a zealot for the Jewish faith and he sought to kill all Christians because he viewed them as traitors. He thought he was doing right, that he was pleasing God by his actions but it wasn’t until he met Jesus Christ face to face on the Damascus road that he realized the destructiveness of his sin. It was on that road that Paul became a slave. He surrendered his will to the One True Lord. From that time on Paul never looked back, he was completely and irrevocably sold out to Jesus Christ, his Master and Lord and his choice to become a slave of Jesus Christ has forever changed the course of history.

Before Paul met Christ, even though he was a free man, he was a slave - a slave to sin and its power. Listen to what he says in Romans 6:20-22 (NLV) “When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the obligation to do right. And what was the result? You are now ashamed of the things you used to do, things that end in eternal doom. But now you are free from the power of sin and have become slaves of God. Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life.”

When Paul saw himself for who he really was and understood the price that Christ had paid for him, he willingly surrendered his heart to the true Master of his soul. He exchanged the slavery to sin that leads to eternal death for the slavery of Jesus Christ and eternal life.

What Paul discovered about this slavery is that it isn’t slavery at all! Slavery to Christ sets you free – free from the power that sin has had over your life and free from the guilt and shame.

Have you been set free, like Paul, from the power of sin in your life? Are you allowing the guilt and shame of past deeds to keep you from experiencing freedom in your life? Have you relinquished your rights and surrendered them to the True Master? Is there something holding you back from giving your all to Jesus Christ?

Surrender yourself to the doorpost of your soul and allow God to claim you as His own? In surrendering, you will find freedom and in dying you will find life!

Friday, June 3, 2011

A Wild and Crazy Faith!

What would cause someone to go against the tide of social influence? What would make them stand up against a vast amount of their peers and refuse to go along with what they believe? Peer pressure is a powerful force and few can stand against it. However, there were two men in the Bible who did just that . . .

Caleb and Joshua were chosen, along with ten other men, to explore the Promised Land and give a report to Moses and the people. When they returned ten of the spies were against conquering the land. This is what they said, “The land we traveled through and explored will devour anyone who goes to live there. All the people we saw were huge. We even saw giants there. Next to them we felt like grasshoppers, and that’s what they thought, too!” (Numbers 13:32-33 NLV)

Caleb and Joshua disagreed! This is what Caleb said “Let’s go at once to take the land, we can certainly conquer it!” (Numbers 13:30 NLV) But all the people began to cry and weep. Then the whole community began weeping aloud, and they cried all night. Their voices rose in a great chorus of protest against Moses and Aaron. (Numbers 14:1-2 NLV)

What is amazing is Joshua and Caleb’s response to all of this. By this time, you would think that they would have given in to this incredible amount of pressure but they didn’t. Listen to what they said, “The land we traveled through and explored is a wonderful land! And if the LORD is pleased with us, he will bring us safely into that land and give it to us. It is a rich land flowing with milk and honey. Do not rebel against the LORD, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land. They are only helpless prey to us! They have no protection, but the LORD is with us! Don’t be afraid of them!” (Number 14:7-9 NLV)

What caused Caleb and Joshua to stand against the tide of social influence? When everyone else was trembling in fear because of the vast fortified cities and the giants in the land, they were ready to march ahead. They knew who God was! They had seen over and over again God’s mighty work on behalf of their nation. They had witnessed His constant faithfulness and they believed! They saw the Promised Land through different lenses. They understood that the God who created the Universe, who hung the stars in space and formed the land would stand with them, go before them and they had nothing to fear!

In the eyes of the Israelites, Caleb and Joshua had an outlandish faith! Their faith was wild and crazy and completely illogical. But this wild and crazy faith was rooted in an amazing, outlandish God who had proven Himself over and over to them.

What kind of faith do you have? How BIG is your God? Do you trust Him when things seem impossible, when you can’t see what He is doing? Are you viewing your life through earthly lenses or through heavenly ones? Do you believe you have an outlandish God?

The only way to develop this kind of faith is to KNOW your God. So I challenge you to get into His Word and discover who He is. He will not disappoint!

“This is what the Lord says: “Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom, or the powerful boast in their power, or the rich boast in their riches. But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone:
that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord who demonstrates unfailing love . . .”
(Jeremiah 9:23-24 NLV)