Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Go To The Moon

Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Psalm 37:3

Many years ago, recording artists Geoff Moore and the Distance released Go To The Moon. The song dealt with an attitude Christians sometimes harbor, and may be reluctant to admit. They’d like to be in Heaven. If not possible, these saints would prefer to be sequestered away from all those stinkin’ sinners! If unbelievers won’t join us, avoid them at any cost. Afraid of falling victim to negative influences, these Christians forget it should be the other way around. Rather than strategically position themselves in places of influence, they retreat to enclaves to hope and pray that Jesus returns quickly. I’m happy those types of Christians weren’t around when I needed to know about Jesus.

The approach to life in Psalm 37:3 is very different that the one described above. David knew the difficulties of life in a hostile environment. His solution - dwell, settle down and set up camp in the war zone. His mindset was, “I’m putting down roots and I’m here for the long haul. Like it or not, I’m not leaving.” He admits that to live God’s way doesn’t always appear as profitable as wickedness; but don’t be fooled. Everyone reaps what they sow, the good and the bad. Sometimes the best thing to do is to pray  for a major crop failure.

Jesus spoke about a similar scenario in the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares (Matthew 13:24-30). As a gardener, I understand this analogy. Weeds are prolific and grow effortlessly; better than the plants I feed and nurse along. In the parable the tares represent the wicked; people like you and me before we came to know Christ as Savior. The owner of the field discovered the enemy’s attempt to destroy his wheat harvest. The man’s servants wanted to uproot the tares, but the owner wouldn’t permit it. He recognized that at this stage of development, the wheat would be damaged if the tares were forcibly removed. How can the elimination of wicked people be detrimental to believers?

In the effort to “come out from among them and be separate,” many Christians have “gone to the moon,” so to speak. They’ve adopted a hands off attitude toward government, education, business, arts, media and so forth. In the vacuum, unbelievers assumed the reins and now control most aspects of the global economy and decision making processes. If the recent economic downturn was bad, what would’ve happened if all ungodly people had been instantaneous removed? What type of hit would the world’s economic, social and political systems have taken? Would there be qualified, competent believers ready to step up and take charge? I would hope so, but I’m not so sure.

The answer isn’t to get rid of them or hide out in a corner but to engage the world around us.  Psalm 37:3 states that safety comes through occupation not isolation. Jesus reinforced this idea in Luke 19. The man’s servants were to occupy until he returned.

For either group to head to the moon to avoid the other isn’t the solution. Every moment we’re together we’ve a chance to share the hope that so many desperately need. Put down roots and dwell in your land. The giants aren’t going to turn tail and run; they must be confronted and defeated. What we build should reflect the Kingdom of God. This will create an atmosphere as alien as the moon’s but it will provide a close encounter of the real kind.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Stopped Dead In Their Tracks

Then the temple of the Lord was filled with a cloud, and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the temple of God2 Chronicles 5:13-14

David desired to build a house for God; a permanent abode for the Ark of the Covenant. When on earth, God could have a proper residence. David’s son Solomon was tasked with the project and the temple he built was magnificent. The ceremony that celebrated this event was over the top. The highlight was the return of the Ark and its establishment in the Holy of Holies. So many animal sacrifices were offered they couldn’t be counted (verse 6). All the Levitical musicians played their cymbals, harps, lyres and other instruments (verse 12). Accompanied by one hundred and twenty priests blowing trumpets, this may be the largest praise and worship band ever assembled. They sang and played with such enthusiasm and devotion that God couldn’t resist. He joined the party.

When His presence manifested in the form of a cloud, the priests were immobilized; stopped dead in their tracks. They could not (emphasis mine) perform their service because of the cloud.” They had God-given responsibilities and duties. When He showed up, all activity ceased. Without any effort on their part, they praised and worshiped their way into the rest of God.

I’ve never seen God’s presence tangibly manifest in a cloud, but I look for it. If, however, I spend all my time and energy in pursuit of physical experiences, I’ll miss Him completely. Why? He’s already inside me and with me every moment. I don’t need to strive or work harder and smarter. He’s here to stay.

God was limited to outward demonstrations before the cross because He couldn’t dwell inside men. While it was an extraordinary experience for the presence of God to paralyze the priests and it still is, when the cloud lifted, only memories and wishes for the good old days remained. Now God literally resides in every believer. Our spirits are drawn to Him and we control how much, or how little interaction we have.

My take away lesson is this. Quit trying to make something happen. Tapping into the presence of God requires us to be still, not busy. Our lives are filled with “to do lists.” There’s not enough time accomplish everything on them. Stopping dead in our tracks in order to experience God can feel down right irresponsible. It is, however, the key to enjoying fellowship with Him.

So, are you ready to turn off the noise, throw out your schedule and be still before Him? He doesn’t need for you to do anything, just receive rest and refreshment. Why not suspend what you’re doing right now for a few moments, quiet yourself and enjoy time with your Maker. Stopping dead in your tracks could become the high point of your day. Who knows, you just might see Him or His cloud…sweet!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Get “Stonewalled”

…you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Christ Jesus
1 Peter 2:5

I enjoy driving country roads. When we lived in the Northeast it wasn’t unusual to see stone walls that marked property lines. Some over one hundred years old are as strong and stable as the day they were built. These are testimonies to the composition of the material and the skill of the builder.

Stone walls have more character than ones constructed from bricks or other uniform materials. Each stone’s unique make-up is considered throughout the building process. Unlike bricks with a consistent shape and size, stones are non-conformists; no two are alike. Finding those that fit together takes time and effort.

God prefers building with stones, men prefer bricks. Easier to work with, bricks fit snugly together quickly with minimal effort. For physical structures, bricks are acceptable; for building “the church” they’re faulty at best. Left to our own devices, we opt for the fast, easy method. We want everyone on the same page, thinking the same way and lining up perfectly. Give us uniformity and we can whip up a church into existence in record time. If it takes clones to produce a harmonious body, bring them on. God, however, has a different approach.

God loves individuality. Look at His creation; it’s neither boring nor static. When He builds He takes His time; He’s in no rush. God fits stones in their proper place that preserves their integrity. He optimizes their differences in order to create a strong structure. He’ll search far and wide for just the right one. Together they won’t make a sleek, smooth finish, but that doesn’t faze Him one bit. Their one-of-a-kind shapes and composition complement each other and are perfect for His design.

Unfortunately, God has to deal with our “help” while He builds His church. Finding the right combination takes too much time, so we opt for conformity. It’s easier to relocate when we can plug in anywhere we choose. We minor on what we see and feel; God majors on the spiritual; what’s invisible to our naked eyes. We're not designed to fit just anywhere. He has a specific place that only we can fill.

Sometimes it feels like an uncomfortable balancing act, and it is; just ask any master stone mason. God’s perspective is much different than ours. We see only our immediate surroundings. He sees the whole building and it’s a magnificent edifice. He likes the personality and distinction each stone contributes. They add beauty and character not found in bricks. Let’s allow the Master Builder to place us where He sees fit. Let’s get "stonewalled".

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Made In The Shade

I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow of my hand. Isaiah 51:16

“I’ve got it made in the shade! I’ve got a sure thing; a can’t miss, real deal.At least as far as God’s concerned I do. He should know. He’s the shade maker.

I’m a firm believer in global warming but not the type purportedly connected to greenhouse gases. Someone’s turning up the heat on planet earth and it feels like a pressure cooker that could explode at any time. Global finances are in shambles. Our economy can’t escape the effects of reckless spending abroad and here at home. For now we appear to be the best house in a bad neighborhood. Our stock market has risen to giddy heights on fumes of low volume and Federal Reserve manipulation; not a sure foundation by any stretch of one’s imagination.

Political correctness has let us down a path that stifles discussions covering all sides and opinions of an issue. Take the opposite stance and you’re labeled a hatemonger, not just someone who disagrees. We’ve seemed to have lost the ability to distinguish prejudice from preference. In addition, what you said or did twenty or thirty years ago can be used against you. Speaking for myself, no one needs to look back even that far in my life to find mistakes.  I do dumb stuff now.

We’ve so many contradictory laws on our books that the average citizen can easily break several without realizing what they’ve done. If you live in Kennesaw, GA and don’t own a gun, you’re a lawbreaker. There are many others just like this one.

Technology accelerates at a rapid pace. What is state-of-the-art today is passé tomorrow. The workforce is challenged as never before to keep up with the newest, most improved methods of production, only to be replaced by machines that work round the clock for less money.

It feels like every facet of our lives is being turned upside down. Each time we attain a measure of equilibrium, the tables are flipped over on us again. Someone stop the world, I’d like to get off.

God offers us a place to beat the heat and find rest and refreshment. He provides the shade with the shadow of His hand. He stepped in between us and the perpetrator of global warming, satan, and provided a buffer from the onslaught of pressures our enemy exerts. The solution is found in our mouths. God placed His words in us, but it’s our responsibility to speak them out loud and unleash their creative power. Can you use some shade today? Speak God’s Word.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A Chance Worth Taking

Then Jesus replied, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil! (He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him). John 6:70-71

The day before, the disciples and the crowds enjoyed a miraculous meal; five loaves of bread and two small fishes fed a multitude. Later that evening, caught in a storm on the Sea of Galilee, the disciples saw Jesus and one of their own, Peter, walk on water. Now, once again Jesus and the disciples found themselves surrounded by a crowd of thrill seekers in search of another miracle. When pressed to produce another spectacular sign, Jesus delivered a bone chilling discourse. Anyone wishing to follow Him had to eat His flesh and drink His blood. Those who came for a happy meal got a stomach turner. Many, including some of His own called it quits that day and left. He then questioned the Twelve’s commitment to stick with Him and in verse seventy Jesus made this startling statement, “Yet one of you is a devil!”

It’s curious that the same disciples who’d argue about which one of them would be the greatest in the kingdom were strangely silent on this issue. Why would Jesus tolerate a devil in His close circle of friends? Why allow a traitor to handle the ministry finances? To my way of thinking, Judas shouldn’t have been in the group; but then, I don’t always think the way Jesus does.

Jesus said He had hand picked each of the Twelve. Was Judas a devil from the beginning or was this a more recent development? The Bible doesn’t say. Still the question remains. Why would Jesus keep a traitor as a friend and confident? The answer may be in the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares.

A man planted wheat in his field and later discovered that an enemy crept in and planted tares also. When this was discovered, the owner of the field instructed his servants to do nothing. If the tares were uprooted, the wheat would be damaged and the harvest diminished. Jesus must have realized that to remove Judas would have been detrimental to the other eleven.

Although Jesus knew Judas’ true allegiance, He permitted him to remain. If Jesus said the man was a devil, then he was. Jesus wasn’t afraid; He demonstrated no fear with His enemy in close proximity. As far as He was concerned, satan was already defeated. It was all over except the crying. Now He had an opportunity to drive satan crazy.

I wonder if Jesus could literally see the devil cringe every time He spoke the truth. Could He see satan squirm and writhe in agony as He systematically dismantled sickness, disease and death? What fun! Any devil who lived that close to Jesus was in his own version of hell on earth- sweet! Besides, Jesus was unwilling to give up on any one, including Judas.

We’ll find ourselves in this same predicament. There will always be those influenced by demonic forces around us. This is no reason to run and hide. It’s an opportunity to stand our ground and face them head on. They’re the losing team that showed up, not us. There’s always the possibility they may choose to switch and join the winning side. That’s a chance worth taking.