Friday, August 17, 2012

How Have You Loved Us?

Do you know that you are intimately known and loved by your Creator and Sustainer?
He is Not Here-1
I have four beautiful girls, ages 9-1. A couple of years ago, God gave me this illustration as I was pouring out my heart to Him and my inability to receive His unconditional love for me. He tenderly asked me, "What if Hollen, who is my oldest, questioned your love for her. What if she thought your love for her was dependent on her obedience to you? What if she believed her acceptance in the family was based on her ability to perform for you? What if, she thought you loved her less when she was disobeying you and more when she obeyed perfectly. What if she only obeyed you out of fear and not love? Wouldn't it break your heart to think that no matter what you did for her and how much you loved her, she still questioned your love and in turn rejected it? Daughter, receive my perfect love, knowing that although your love is imperfect, my love is perfect." You see, I obeyed God out of fear not love, thinking that by my service and performance, I was loved. 

The book of Malachi opens up with God declaring to His people, “ I have loved you”, but His beloved’s response to His lavish declaration was, “How have you loved us?” The same people He chose as the recipients of His divine and perfect love doubted His love and refused to receive it. 
The same God who spoke to His beloved through the Prophets and promised redemption even before judgement, spoke restoration before exile. Throughout the Old Testament, God exhorts His people to return to Him. Malachi, being the last book of the Old Testament was written 400 years before Christ and shows us the condition of His beloved after they were brought back into the land and their worship restored in Jerusalem. Even after restoration and deliverance, His people still refused to believe and trust in God's love for them. In their failure to believe in God’s love for them they bowed down to many idols and walked in disobedience to God’s commands. 

All sin is rooted in unbelief. God has declared His love for sinners, for you and for me, by sending His Son, Jesus, in whom all the fullness of God dwells in bodily form. Colossians 1:19. We fail to believe in two ways, the first one is obvious, we try to secure for ourselves love, acceptance, validation and justification from the world. Most of the time, this involves us looking to the world to satisfy the cravings within us that only Christ can satisfy. The second way unbelief shows itself is by having a form of godliness but denying it's power- 2 Timothy 3: 5. Colossians 2:23 says that self-made religion, thinking we are saved by what we do, on the outside has the appearance of wisdom but in God's eyes are elementary principles of the world and have no value. Only Christ is of value. We are not better versions of ourselves, we are a new creation.

Colossians also tells us, He is the image of the invisible God and the Creator, Sustainer of all things. Colossians 1:15

John tells us that the Word became flesh and dwelled among us. John 1:14. The same God who created the universe wrapped HImself in the robe of humanity so that we could wear His robe of righteousness. He came and revealed to His people the love of the Father. He obeyed perfectly the Law because we couldn’t. God is infinitely Holy - Revelation 4:8, Isaiah 6:3, and without Christ’s performance for us, we stand condemned. Only when we see God in all His glory, will we begin to see ourselves in our total depravity. Christ not only died for our sins but was found to be without sin. The perfect, Holy undefiled Lamb of God, who came to take away the sins of the world. John 1:29
God made Him, who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that IN HIM we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21

The Gospel is the glorious announcement that He created, He came, He did, He died, He rose. He performed and accomplished by His perfect life and death on the cross. The original Greek word for Gospel literally means, “Good News”. It was used when declaring victory. It is fundamentally about Christ not about us. It's about His perfect life, His scandalous death, His glorious resurrection, ascension and constant intercession to God on our behalf. 
The Gospel is the catalyst of inner change. It’s Christ’s love for us IN Christ that compels our daily obedience to Him. 2 Corinthians 5:14
Because, the Bible tells us that everything we need we already have in Christ, we don’t need to secure for ourselves anything because in Him, we already have everything we need. We are free. Free to serve one another, free to give and not take, free to love and not expect anything in return. You see, God doesn’t just care about what we do, He cares about why we do what we do. Are we serving Him fully assured of His love for us and out of the abundance that we have been given or are we serving Him thinking that by our service we are loved? If we are serving HIm, thinking that by our service we are loved then our works are dead and nothing but filthy rags in the eyes of God. Out of the abundance we have been given, we serve. It’s Christ’s love that compels us to serve Him. His love within us is the transforming power and the catalyst to change. Change that begins on the inside of us and then pours out from a new heart and transformed life. 

Everything we do, we do for the praise and glory of another. Our lives should be about making Christ of first importance. Each of us find ourselves on different journeys and in different seasons of life. We serve and love the same God and yet each of our stories look different. Each of our journey’s are unique and Christ who is intimately acquainted with all our ways has prepared our path and hems us in. We are to walk in obedience to His word, trusting Him to guide us in our journey toward righteousness. We are in the process of beginning practically what we already are positionally. We live between the now and the not yet....
Empty Tomb-1

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Steams on Dry Ground

Hannah and Hostas-1
For I will pour out water on the thirsty land and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring and My blessing on your descendants; and they will spring up among the grass like poplars by streams of water. This one will say, 'I am the LORD's', and that one will call on the name of Jacob; and another will write on his hand, 'Belonging to the LORD,' and will name Israel's name with honor. Isaiah 44: 3-5

Jesus, stood and cried out saying, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water." But this He spoke of the Spirit. John 7:37-38, 39

The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail." Isaiah 58:11
Sunflowers in bloom-1
Are you parched? Is your Spirit in need of refreshment from the only well that never runs dry? So often, I look to the wells of the world to satisfy. I look to what the world offers and wonder why I'm exhausted, run down and discouraged. With my head hung low, I slowly come to the realization I need to look up and realize where my help comes from. I need to look up and see Him as He is and put Him in His rightful place in my life, which is in the forefront of everything. He is everything. His provisions are perfect, His water overflowing, His Spirit within me COMPLETELY PERFECT. His Spirit is more than satisfying and His Word is the means by which He satisfies. He has made provisions for every one of my days and it is up to me to trust in and take hold of these blessings, not for my glory but for His glory and purposes. I'm to allow the Living water within me overflow into the lives of others. Particularly my children who are walking in my footsteps and my husband who is leading the way. May my hands not tear down and instead be used to build up my family and those the Lord puts in my path. Living water, which is alive within me and bubbles up to overflowing. A fountain of grace, for no other Name could have set me free and placed my feet on the solid Rock of Jesus. His love never fails, His mercies are new every morning and His grace sufficient in weakness. As the world grows darker may my light shine brighter and the Living Water within me refresh those He puts in my path. May I declare with boldness all He has done for me to those who have no hope within themselves. Are you barren within, parched? Jesus has the power to satisfy and water the areas within you that are dying. He will pour down his blessing in abundance to all who ask, the blessing of Himself in the form of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit who is alive and active within us and turns our barren desolate souls into lush gardens of grace. He is our Comforter and Helper. The One who was poured out like a drink offering is the only source of life for the barren soul. The One who has declared the end from the beginning, who knew every one of our days, is the same today, yesterday and forever. No matter how dark your life is right now, He is the everlasting light. His glorious light is a beacon in darkness. For you, He has set His sights.
"Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: ' I am the first and I am the last, and there is no God besides Me. ' Who is like Me? Let him proclaim and declare it; Yes, let him recount it to Me in order, from the time that I established the ancient nation. And let them declare to them the things that are coming and the events that are going to take place. 'Do not tremble and do not be afraid; Have I not long since announced it? And you are my witnesses. Is there any other Rock? I know of none." Isaiah 44:6-8

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Truth Stumbles, Wisdom Warns

American Barn-1
Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands far away; for truth has stumbled in the street and the uprightness cannot enter. Yes, truth is lacking; and he who turns aside from evil makes himself a prey. Isaiah 59:14-15
Francis Schaeffer states in his book, How Should We Then Live, "There is a flow to history and culture. This flow is rooted and has its wellspring in the thoughts of people. People are unique in the inner life of the mind - what they are in their thought world determines how they act. People have presuppositions, by this we mean the basic way an individual looks at life, his basic world view, the grid through which a person sees the world. Presuppositions rest upon that which a person considers to be the truth of what exists. People's presuppositions lay a grid for all they bring forth into the external world. Their presuppositions also provide the basis for their values and therefore the basis for their decisions."
How can truth stumble or better yet, what is truth? If what we think determines how we act or what we presuppose what if what we believe is wrong or better yet twisted?
If something is true than it's opposite must be false. Both can't be true. Yet in our culture we are seeing this more and more. This idea of relative truth. I'm not sure how this works logically for one idea must be false. Either there is a God or there isn't a God but both ideas can't co-exist as "truth" one idea must be false. Either Jesus is the only way or their are many ways  but both ideas can't co-exist as "truth" one idea must be false. Either the world has evolved or it was created these two ideas can't co-exist as "truth" one idea must be false. That is if you believe there is a higher authority than the human intellect. Here in lies the problem, if there is no moral absolutes nor is there a higher authority to hold man accountable than man becomes his own god and what he thinks becomes his moral compass. Personal pleasures, gratification of the flesh, pursuit of human knowledge and the pursuit of power will over time be the driving force of decline in a culture and freedom will fall. Freedom can not stand if man can not self regulate and self regulation can not happen if there are no moral absolutes. Government will become bigger and man will eventually turn to government as their new god due to the moral corruption of society. Government will limit personal freedoms due to the moral decline and power will be the force to insure peace. We see this when looking at Ancient Rome. Francis Shaffer states, "Ancient Rome was a totalitarian authority or an authoritarian state. No totalitarian authority nor authoritarian state can tolerate those who have an absolute by which to judge that state and its actions. The Christians had that absolute in God's revelation. Because the Christians had an absolute, universal standard by which to judge not only personal morals but the state, they were counted enemies of totalitarian Rome and were thrown to the beasts." We also see this same conclusion when looking at other totalitarian governments.
As moral absolutes become obsolete and man becomes his own god, we must be intentional in our pursuit of truth. Jesus prays this prayer for his disciples and for all believers, "Sanctify them with the truth, your word is truth. I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too be truly sanctified." John 17:17 We must stand firm knowing that God is the authority above every authority and Jesus who said, "I have come to testify to the truth" is in complete control of all things and is working all things according to His perfect plan. But as we wait for the culmination of human history where Christ will one day reign on earth, we must cling to that which we already possess, freedom in Christ, while embracing and holding firm to the truth of God's word.
Wisdom Warns:
Wisdom shouts in the street, she lifts her voice in the square; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the gates in the city she utters her sayings: "Turn to my reproof, behold, I will pour out my Spirit on you; I will make my words known to you." For the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. Proverbs: 1:7, 20-21, 23-24.
Post written April, 2010