Monday, September 26, 2016

The Light of Invasive Grace


I don't know about you, but I've never thought much about the details of where Jesus first began His ministry.  Where?  Why there?  What happened?  These details matter and set the tone for Who He is and what He is about.

In Matthew 4:12-17, we find that Jesus went to Capernaum, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali.  To us, that probably means nothing; so let's dig a little.  Isaiah prophesied about the land of Zebulun and Naphtali!  He said that one day, there would be no more gloom for those in that land.  He said that those who walk in darkness will see a great light!

Before Zebulun and Naphtali were "lands," they were two of the twelve sons of Israel/Jacob.  Their territory of land was in the northern most part of Israel. They were the furthest away from the Temple. They were highly vulnerable to foreign invasion, and in fact, were invaded by the Assyrians.  The Assyrian culture must have mixed in, because their own Israelite brothers rejected them, thinking them unclean. Through the prophet Isaiah, God acknowledges their anguish.  He knows they have walked in darkness and yet He gives a promise of hope...of light.

Enter Jesus. He begins right there, with the people of Zebulun and Naphtali.  The downcast.  Those that have been in the ruins and remains of invasion.  The forsaken.  The rejects. "The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned."  Matthew 4:16

When Jesus started his ministry, the first thing we see is light in the darkness.



So, we see a glimpse into why Jesus picked the area of Zebulun and Naphtali to start His ministry.  But, what happened here?  What did he preach first?

REPENT, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. (Mt. 4:17)

Before Jesus did any public miracles...
Before Jesus called any disciples...
Before Jesus instructed us to love God and love others...

Before any of this, the very first word we get is:  repent.

A gospel without repentance is not the gospel.  There is no good news or truth without the light that shows our need for repentance, nor without the repentance that invasive grace demands.

Repent in Greek here is "metanoeo" which means to think differently.  "It is to repent with regret accompanied by a true change of heart toward God.  It signifies a change of mind consequent to the after knowledge indicating regret of the course pursued and resulting in a wiser view of the past and future."  (lexical aids)

This is awesome you guys... to know is "noeo" and after is "meta."

The light has to shine in the darkness in order for us to know...to see as He does.  After He shows us the light, we have the ability to think differently on an issue and turn towards God's heart on the matter...whether it be the initial redemption or the daily sanctification.

When I see the lands of Zebulun and Naphtali in the future, I will remember the Light clothed in invasive grace, beckoning all to repentance.

Lord, we praise You for not leaving us in the darkness. We invite you to shine your light into hidden pockets of darkness, so that we might know and turn away from ourselves and into Your heart of wisdom. It is You we long for.  Only You.


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Pack Your Bags; We Are Heading into the Wilderness


A dream...

I was at a party, surrounded by Christian friends.  We had all filled our glasses and were about to take big gulps. I looked over at the pretty clear container that held the party punch and knew instantly it was urine.  I awoke. 

Believers in America, we look like the world.  We have filled our cups to the brim with worldliness and are laughing and having ourselves a merry little time.  We have forgotten that Living Water is ours for the taking.  We could be filling our bodies and spirits with life, but instead we are choosing things that bring death.  Jeremiah 17:13 says "O LORD, the hope of Israel, all who forsake you will be put to shame.  Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the LORD, the spring of living water."

When we compromise on Scripture and flow with culture, we are turning our noses up at the Living Water, the only thing that will bring true sustenance. We are opening ourselves up to deceit, temptation, and discipline.  There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Immanuel's veins....we must cling to this fountain that produces life! 

For this reason...well, for a million reasons, the lack of repentance in our land being #1, I believe we are entering the Wilderness.



God is jealous over those that belong to him.  For those of us that are playing the harlot, He is going to intervene. Why?  Because God loves His unfaithful people immensely. Do you think harlot is a strong term?  Read this by John Piper:   "...in God's eyes, everyone who forsakes the Lord is a whore. There are no religious singles in God's eyes. Everyone is either faithfully married to God or is a prostitute. God made you (not just Israel) for himself. If you get your kicks from somewhere else, you commit great harlotry against God."

We should examine ourselves and ask these questions:  Do we love God more than anything or anyone?  Do we favor Him and delight in Him and put Him above all others?

Hosea was the last prophet God raised up in order to try to get Israel to repent.  God did something unique with this man.  God called him to marry a prostitute. "His marriage is an acted-out parable of God's relation to Israel."  (Piper) Hosea obeyed and the parable unfolded.  Sadly, (like Hosea's wife, Gomer,) Israel refused the love.  Her love affair with sin brought anguishing consequences. Unfaithfulness always brings about God's judgment, even though God longs for something else entirely.

There are some verses in the book of Hosea that I think are possibly the most tender in the whole Bible.  It tells us who God is and how He loves deeply.  He is calling out to His unfaithful wife.  Instead of discarding her or forsaking her, he beckons:

Hosea 2:14-16 (NIV)
 
14 “Therefore I am now going to allure her;
    I will lead her into the wilderness
    and speak tenderly to her.


15 There I will give her back her vineyards,
    and will make the Valley of Achor[a] a door of hope.
There she will respond[b] as in the days of her youth,
    as in the day she came up out of Egypt.
 
16 “In that day,” declares the Lord,
    “you will call me ‘my husband’;
    you will no longer call me ‘my master.
 
I thought about trying to put the below into my own words, but I can't do it justice.  Read and be blessed by John Piper.

 
"I see in Hosea 2:14–23 at least three things God does for us, his rebellious wife, to win us back; and I see one overriding thing that he wants from us. The first thing he does is woo us tenderly. Verse 14: "Behold, I will allure her and bring her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her." We are all guilty of harlotry. We have loved other lovers more than God. We have gotten our kicks elsewhere. He has been at times an annoying deity. We, like Gomer, were enslaved to a paramour, the world, pleasure, ambition. But God has not cast us off. He promises to take us into the wilderness. He wants to be alone with us. Why? So that he can speak tenderly to us. Literally, the Hebrew says, so that he can speak "to her heart." And when he speaks, he will allure you. He will entice you and woo you. He will say what a lover says to his lady when they walk away from the party into the garden. God wants to talk that way with you. Go with him into the wilderness and listen with your heart. Do not think you are too ugly or too rotten. He knows that his wife is a harlot. That's the meaning of mercy: God is wooing a wife of harlotry.
 
The second thing God does is promise her hope and safety. Verse 15: "And there I will give her vineyards and make the valley of Achor a door of hope." The valley of Achor is where Israel was first unfaithful to the Lord in the promised land. Just after Israel entered the land, Achan kept the forbidden booty and caused the defeat at Ai. But now God promises that if his harlot will come home, Achor will no longer be a "valley of trouble" (Joshua 7:26), but a door of hope. She will come home to rich vineyards. Verse 18 spells out her hope in more detail: "I will make for you a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the creeping things of the ground, and I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land; and I will make you lie down in safety." If only his estranged wife will come home, she will find a paradise with her husband: he will make a pact even with the animals, lest they do harm; and he will remove all violence and conflict. These are no doubt the words God speaks into the heart of his wife in the lonely place. "It will be so good, so good! Put away your harlotry and come home."

The third thing God does is renew his wife's betrothal and consummate the marriage again in purity. Verses 19, 20: "And I will betroth you to me for ever; I will betroth you to me in righteousness and justice, in steadfast love and mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness; and you shall know the Lord." Three times: I will betroth you; I will betroth you; I will betroth you. "We will go back to the days of our engagement. We will start over. Harlots can start over! We will lay a fresh foundation: righteousness, justice, steadfast love, mercy, faithfulness. Things will not only be good in the paradise around us. Things will also be right between us. These have always been my ways; but now they will be mutual." Yes, even a wife of harlotry can experience a new relationship of righteousness, justice, steadfast love, mercy, and faithfulness with her divine husband.

But the most daring statement of all is the last one in verse 20: "And you shall know the Lord." To see what this means, recall the peculiar use of the word "know" in the Bible. For example, Genesis 4:1, "Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain." And Matthew 1:25, "Joseph knew her [Mary] not until she had borne a son." In the context of a broken marriage being renewed with the fresh vows of betrothal, must not the words, "and you shall know the Lord" (v. 20), mean, you shall enjoy an intimacy like that of the purest sexual intercourse. When the wife of harlotry returns to her husband, he will withhold nothing. He will not keep her at a distance. The fellowship and communion and profoundest union he will give to his prodigal wife when she comes home broken and empty.
This is the gospel story in the Old Testament. This is the meaning of Christmas interpreted seven centuries before Christ. God comes to woo us tenderly to himself; he promises us fullest hope and safety; he starts over with any who will come, and offers us the most intimate and pleasure-filled relationship possible.

And what must we do to qualify? What does he want from us? Verse 16: "In that day, says the Lord, you will call me, 'My husband,' and no longer will you call me, 'My Baal.'" I think the word Baal here has a double meaning. As the next verse shows, it means one of the false gods of Israel's idolatry. So verse 16 means: "You will no longer include me as one of many gods, or many lovers; you will talk to me as your only true God and husband."

But there is another sense of the word Baal. Fifteen times in the Old Testament it simply means "husband," but husband in the sense of owner and lord. The Baals were Israel's hard masters as well as her lovers. In 7:14, for example, the people gashed themselves to try to get benefits from the Baals (just like the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel in 1 Kings 18:28). When Israel chose a Baal for her "significant other," she chose a cruel and merciless lord. So the other (and I think primary) meaning of Hosea 2:16 is: "Relate to me as a loving husband, not as a harsh master or owner. In that day, says the Lord, you will call me 'My husband,' and you will no longer call me 'My Baal.'"

The good news at the end of 1982 is that God wants you to love him warmly as your husband, not just serve him dutifully as your Lord. When you think of your failures in 1982—how little you have read his Word, how burdensome prayer has felt, how many other things of this world have given you more kicks than God—God wants you to remember that his desire to have you back is not based on a na├»ve estimation of your character. The point of Hosea is that God exalts his mercy by not giving up on his wife of harlotry. The good news of Hosea—and of the parable of the prodigal son, and of Christmas—is that God knows we have sold ourselves for a song in 1982, yet he is wooing us into the chambers of his love.

But, please take special notice of this, especially you who tend to keep God at arm's distance from your emotions. According to Hosea 2:16, God does not want you to return to him and say, "Yes, Sir," and set about your duties. He wants you to come into the wilderness, to listen to him speak tenderly, and to respond to him, "My husband." God wants your heart, not just your hands, because if he has your heart, he has everything."
 
*********************
 
God is about to woo His wife of harlotry. The wilderness is an unknown place, a barren land where it seems like God would never reside. He longs for our whole hearts and is willing to strip away anything that prevents us from freely giving it to Him. 

 
Whatever we have sold ourselves to, He is wooing us away from.  I've been in the wilderness twice in my life.  In each situation, God wooed the deepest parts of my soul until He had my whole heart...until I could honestly say I desired Him above all else. 
 
There is coming a time when we will be stripped bare in this land. God will remove every comfortable thing in order to lead us by the hand into the wilderness in order to know Him fully and accurately.  When we long to kick and scream, shaking from the withdrawals of our false gods, we need to remember that God is a good Husband.  He refuses to give up on His unfaithful Bride.  He longs to make her completely and only His.
 
**********************
 
He takes her out of Egypt.  He strips the yoke of slavery from her wrists, but He doesn't stop there.  He continues to peel off layer by layer of customs that He refuses to be known by.  He takes her by the hand and leads her into the wilderness, where the distractions will be few and where He will have to be enough.

She writhes under His touch.  Her spirit is still angry that He had to do things this way.  Sure, she wanted to know Him, but it was supposed to be on her terms, which meant choice foods and comfortable shelter.  She had dreamed of the day of her rescue, but now that it has come, she mocks Him and tells Him that He could have done things differently.

She doesn't understand that she has entered into a place of intimacy that will be shared with the very One who courts her soul.  It is a honeymoon of sorts, where He will allow her to see the real Him.  He will gently teach her how to love Him.  Adore Him.  Trust Him.

Despite her anger, she starts to see His beauty.  He has provided for her.  He hasn't left her to herself in the ravaged landscape.  There hasn't been a day where she has been discarded or forgotten.  She starts to peer into His heart and she discovers mercy instead of wrath.  But, she is still wary of His chisel, the one that chips away at her stone-hard heart.

Her heart is a mixture of love and distrust.  How can both reside in her innermost frame?  She warily trusts Him enough to allow the chisel once again, and over time, He chips away the layers of her dead heart.  The pain is excruciating, but the sense of relief and wholeness that she feels afterwards makes it worthwhile. 

The Carpenter keeps hacking away at the awkwardly shaped heart of stone until one day, He finds what He was looking for...the innermost and purest part of His one true love.  He gently cradles it in His hands, breathes on it, and laughs out loud when rays of light start to bind up the jagged edges marked by His refiner's tool.

She is blinded by the light.  Could it be?  Beauty starts to emanate from every crevice.  Glory!  Does someone hear her?  Know her?  Love her?

The wilderness has allowed her to trust.  Her heart softens when His voice (that she has so desperately and shockingly started to crave) speaks.  She starts to recognize that she was created for this one thing...to love Him and be loved by Him.

She gazes into His pure eyes and tells Him she will go wherever He leads.  The mere thought of even momentarily being out of His embrace is enough to undo her.

So He takes her by the hand.

And she follows, this time with joyful and complete abandon.
 
*********************
 
{For the whole (Very Amazing) sermon by John Piper,
please click HERE.}
 
 
 

Saturday, September 3, 2016

A Psalm for September

I don't usually post just scripture without adding some commentary, but I felt led to do so.  I was praying a few days ago about the month of September and was led to this Psalm.  This morning, I thought verse 7 was interesting, with the earthquake in the center of our nation.  Perhaps these are words we should cling to this month.

Psalm 18  English Standard Version (ESV)

The Lord Is My Rock and My Fortress

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, the servant of the Lord, who addressed the words of this song to the Lord on the day when the Lord rescued him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. He said:

18 I love you, O Lord, my strength.


The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
    my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
    my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.


I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
    and I am saved from my enemies.
 
The cords of death encompassed me;
    the torrents of destruction assailed me;[a]
the cords of Sheol entangled me;
    the snares of death confronted me.
 
In my distress I called upon the Lord;
    to my God I cried for help.
From his temple he heard my voice,
    and my cry to him reached his ears.
 
Then the earth reeled and rocked;
    the foundations also of the mountains trembled
    and quaked, because he was angry.


Smoke went up from his nostrils,[b]
    and devouring fire from his mouth;
    glowing coals flamed forth from him.


He bowed the heavens and came down;
    thick darkness was under his feet.


10 He rode on a cherub and flew;
    he came swiftly on the wings of the wind.


11 He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him,
    thick clouds dark with water.

12 Out of the brightness before him
    hailstones and coals of fire broke through his clouds.
 
13 The Lord also thundered in the heavens,
    and the Most High uttered his voice,
    hailstones and coals of fire.


14 And he sent out his arrows and scattered them;
    he flashed forth lightnings and routed them.

15 Then the channels of the sea were seen,
    and the foundations of the world were laid bare
at your rebuke, O Lord,
    at the blast of the breath of your nostrils.
 
16 He sent from on high, he took me;
    he drew me out of many waters.


17 He rescued me from my strong enemy
    and from those who hated me,
    for they were too mighty for me.


18 They confronted me in the day of my calamity,
    but the Lord was my support.

19 He brought me out into a broad place;
    he rescued me, because he delighted in me.
 
20 The Lord dealt with me according to my righteousness;
    according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me.


21 For I have kept the ways of the Lord,
    and have not wickedly departed from my God.


22 For all his rules[c] were before me,
    and his statutes I did not put away from me.


23 I was blameless before him,
    and I kept myself from my guilt.

24 So the Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness,
    according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight.
 
25 With the merciful you show yourself merciful;
    with the blameless man you show yourself blameless;
26 with the purified you show yourself pure;
    and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous.


27 For you save a humble people,
    but the haughty eyes you bring down.


28 For it is you who light my lamp;
    the Lord my God lightens my darkness.


29 For by you I can run against a troop,
    and by my God I can leap over a wall.

30 This God—his way is perfect;[d]
    the word of the Lord proves true;
    he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.
 
31 For who is God, but the Lord?
    And who is a rock, except our God?—
32 the God who equipped me with strength
    and made my way blameless.


33 He made my feet like the feet of a deer
    and set me secure on the heights.


34 He trains my hands for war,
    so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.


35 You have given me the shield of your salvation,
    and your right hand supported me,
    and your gentleness made me great.


36 You gave a wide place for my steps under me,
    and my feet did not slip.


37 I pursued my enemies and overtook them,
    and did not turn back till they were consumed.


38 I thrust them through, so that they were not able to rise;
    they fell under my feet.


39 For you equipped me with strength for the battle;
    you made those who rise against me sink under me.


40 You made my enemies turn their backs to me,[e]
    and those who hated me I destroyed.


41 They cried for help, but there was none to save;
    they cried to the Lord, but he did not answer them.

42 I beat them fine as dust before the wind;
    I cast them out like the mire of the streets.
 
43 You delivered me from strife with the people;
    you made me the head of the nations;
    people whom I had not known served me.


44 As soon as they heard of me they obeyed me;
    foreigners came cringing to me.

45 Foreigners lost heart
    and came trembling out of their fortresses.
 
46 The Lord lives, and blessed be my rock,
    and exalted be the God of my salvation—
47 the God who gave me vengeance
    and subdued peoples under me,
48 who delivered me from my enemies;
    yes, you exalted me above those who rose against me;
    you rescued me from the man of violence.
 
49 For this I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations,
    and sing to your name.

50 Great salvation he brings to his king,
    and shows steadfast love to his anointed,
    to David and his offspring forever.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Daniel: How to Live as Yahweh's People in an anti-Yahweh World



Sometimes I think God is up in the heavens, playing a big game of Monopoly.  Each square represents a nation.  He owns it all.  Some of the titles have houses and are flourishing, while others are bankrupt and flipped over.  God is in the heavens and He does as He pleases.  He uproots kingdoms and throws them aside.  He births kingdoms and allows them to rise to power.  He owns it all and controls it all.  Some mysterious and sovereign collision of His longsuffering and man’s rebellion brings about the timetable of each nation.  If a people group chooses repentance, He is always willing to relent on disaster.  But, if the people group’s sins reach a full measure of stench to his holy nostrils, they are turned over to judgment. 

Even if that people group is the apple of His eye, Judah.

When we open the first pages of Daniel, we find ourselves tracking some of the young captives stolen from their homes in their beloved land.  They are taken into Babylon to dwell among a pagan people.  They are thrust into an anti-Yahweh world. Will they assimilate into the culture as Nebuchadnezzar strips away their God-names?  Will they curse God for allowing the captivity to take place?  Will they feel the weight of it all and refuse life altogether?

Daniel teaches us that courage while in captivity is ours for the taking.  He teaches us that we, too, can call upon this same Jehovah who gracefully dishes out heaping bowls of dauntless courage to remain steadfast as one set apart for the glory of God.

The key is found in Daniel 1:8, “But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank.  Therefore, he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself.”  Daniel purposed the whole thing out in his heart before he was ever tempted in this new anti-Yahweh world.  Spurgeon says, “He gave his whole self to a certain definite purpose which he deliberately formed.”

In order to strip them bare and brainwash the fibers of their souls, the Babylonian rulers renamed Daniel and his Jewish friends.  Daniel, “God is my Judge” became Belteshazzar, “Bel’s Prince.”  Hananiah, “Yahweh is gracious” became Shadrach, “command of the moon god Aku.”  Mishael, “Who is what God is?” became Meshach, “Who is like Aku?” Azariah, “Yahweh is Helper” became Abednego, “Servant of the shining one Nebo.”

Bel, Aku, and Nebo, false gods of Babylon, were now stamped on Jewish men. But, what these Babylonian rulers didn’t realize is that once the Name of Yahweh is engraved on your soul, there is no other name in all of the earth that can stamp over it. As Spurgeon beautifully says, “the name of God was wrought into their texture.”

{Dear saved soul, Satan does not have the power to rename you.  So, quit letting him try.}

Nebuchadnezzar wanted to steal the young men’s names, identity, land, and God.  If anything, the culture shock only made their faith stronger.  They clung tighter to the bosom of Yahweh because they had already purposed that He was all that mattered.  The young men continued to call one another by their real names, reminding each other of their true identities.  They refused to assimilate, but they did it in a way that still honored the new authority that God had placed them under.  God blessed these young men and poured out His favor on them, so they might proclaim the One True God in their new environment. God used them to be a blessing to their captors; they became conduits of grace to knowing Yahweh.

We are entering some unknown and quite terrifying times in the United States of America.  We are a people group who has chosen the land of muck and mire over the land of repentance and peace.  The stench of our sin has reached the holy nostrils of our Father.  He is longsuffering and patient, but at some point, he will say, “Enough!!!”  It is quite possible that we have entered a season of judgment, where times will only get worse.  If God’s people are led away into captivity, are we prepared with how to act?  It is time we purpose in our hearts that we will not defile ourselves, no matter how evil the rulers are.  It is time we remember our true identities and that nothing can strip us from being children of God.  It is time we learn to serve faithfully, even if it is under harsh and Godless leadership. It is time we daily remind ourselves that God’s kingdom is forever and that it will physically manifest itself on earth with Christ on the throne soon and very soon.

The time for courage is now.  We must purpose in our hearts today that we will serve Yahweh alone.  

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Lord of Hosts {1st mention}

Polygamy was never God's design.  God, in His wisdom, knew one man and one woman for life was really the only way to blessing.  But, as it often does, culture invaded, and thus men sometimes had more than one wife.  Elkanah was one such man.  He can be found in the early pages of 1 Samuel.  His wives were Hannah and Peninnah.  He loved Hannah and Peninnah gave him children.  You can probably sum up the rest.

The LORD had shut up Hannah's womb.  It is in the context of this dysfunctional family, traveling to worship God in Shiloh, that we see the first mention of one of God's names:  the LORD of Hosts.  The first mention of something is always crucial in the Bible, but the context seems so out of sorts here...until we dig a little deeper.

Peninnah provoked Hannah because of her inability to have children.  She taunted her.  She was cruel to her. She rubbed in her insufficiency.  She never let Hannah rest in the sovereignty of God.  She stripped her bare and told her she wasn't enough.  The hardest line in this passage to read is "This went on year after year."  Not days.  Not weeks.  Years.  Hannah was not just barren but treated cruelly for years and years

Elkanah had come to worship the LORD of Hosts.  Hannah had come to pour her heart out to him.  Take a good look at my pain, LORD of Hosts!  Step down and act on my behalf! Grant me a son and he will be yours all the days of his life!

The LORD of Hosts is the sovereign God who is self-existent and over all the multitudes, whether they be people, stars, angels, sun, moon.....He is in charge of it all.  The LORD of Hosts (Jehovah Sabaoth) is the one who wins wars and commands armies and fights battles.  Shockingly, "Jehovah Sabaoth" is used over 270 times in Scripture and is the most frequently used compound name of God in the bible. 

Hannah cries out to the only One who can win this battle.  Her years of either surrender to the taunts or spewing bitterness (we aren't really privy to which) have gotten her nowhere.  She needs a defender, one bigger than the husband that truly does love her, but can't seem to protect her from the other woman.  She runs to the All-Sufficient God, the only One that can both defend her and create life within her.  Perhaps she was tired of fighting her own battles so she went to the only God who would not just fight for her, but calm her insides as well.  God planted peace within Hannah before he planted Samuel. 

In our brokenness and barrenness and onslaught of injustice done against us, we have a God to run to.  His name is Jehovah (a God self existing who is always revealing Himself) of Sabaoth (armies.)  He knows what wars within us and He is willing to fight it for us.  This God removes our insufficiency as He plants Himself deep within.  He is the LORD of absolutely everything, but personal enough to reveal Himself to each soul scorched in the flames of war.

Jehovah Sabaoth is God's name for man's extremity, those times when we have reached our end, finding ourselves impotent, in turmoil, embroiled in real spiritual warfare and with no other source of help."  preceptaustin.org

Do you know this LORD of Hosts?


Saturday, August 13, 2016

As Summer Sets and School Begins

I've enjoyed digging through the cluttered attic called memory in order to open up a few dusty boxes labeled School Days to see what might fall out.  Every year, I put myself in my boys' shoes to remember what it was like to be entering their grades.  This year, I find myself a sophomore, an 8th grader, and a 5th grader.  And, can I get an amen that this is all really behind me?!

10th grade:

Let's start with the hardest first day ever, my first day of being a sophomore in high school.  I was the new girl on campus.  I had gone to Fayetteville schools my whole educational life (minus the one year in Louisiana, that in itself is a whole other story) but now I found myself walking the halls of Springdale High School.  How on earth did I find myself in my rival's school building? 

I wasn't to be a Fayetteville Bulldog.  Nope, I was going to be a Springdale Bulldog. 

I knew no one.  Except maybe Natalie, whom I had met in 4-H, but she was a cheerleader and out of my friend-league. 

I have blocked most of that first day out, I am sure.  We insecure types like to do that.  No reason for heart palpitations and shortness of breath unless you are on the treadmill, right?

But, the lunch stays with me.

Or, the lack of, I should say.

I saw the long lunch line while reality sank in.  I really don't know anyone here.  How on earth am I going to purchase a lunch when I don't have anyone to sit down with?  I will be the biggest fool trying to find a seat by myself. 

So instead, I hid.  And that was a major thing for this girl who had never skipped a meal in her entire 15 years of life.

I nonchalantly walked into the bathroom and locked myself into the stall.  I sat down on the stool and stared at my watch.  Maybe I was willing to miss lunch, but I wasn't about to be late for my next class.  Good girls just aren't tardy.

Apparently, the rumblings of my stomach weren't too noticeable that afternoon because no teacher turned me into child protective services for the blatant hunger that I thought for sure was written all over my face.

I don't think I have ever been happier to go home.  I walked into the door.  I remember both my parents being in the kitchen.  I went straight to the fridge and grabbed the first thing I saw.  Giant, cold meatballs.  Perfect.

Now, my Mom's meatballs aren't your typical Spaghetti-O's sized meatballs.  We're talking fist sized and to die for.  I wasn't used to missing meals, so I did what any normal starving person would do. I shoved one into each chipmunk cheek and willed myself to chew before swallowing.  And fast.

All the while, my parents are staring at me like I just got off a spaceship and timidly asking how my first day of high school was.  By this point, I am a blubbering mess of hot tears and anger and frustration and insecurity and humiliation.  I have snot running down my face and I can't even talk because I keep choking on the three pounds (per cheek) of hamburger meat that I recklessly shoved into my face.

I remember Dad wondering out loud if he did the right thing in switching us to a different school zone.  I assured him that I would be fine.

I just needed one single person to eat lunch with for crying out loud.

God must have looked on me with incredible mercy that day.  I don't remember when I started meeting people and making friends, but I also don't remember having another lock-myself-in-the-bathroom kind of day again.

My sophomore story is partly funny now and then again not-so-much.  It reminds me that when I battle insecurity, the first thing I want to do is hide.  I think of Adam and Eve, grabbing anything they could grab to cover themselves.  Fig leaves, for crying out loud.  God knew it would take more than simple leaves.

It would take blood and sacrifice and life.

Jesus, the final sacrifice, has come to give us life.  Abundant life. 

What I want my now sophomore boy to continue to know and live out is this:  When our lives are completely hidden in Christ, we can walk forward in confidence, knowing who and Whose we are. Once we are hidden in Christ, there is no longer any reason to hide. It is Satan that wants to prey on insecurities and strip you of your value. You have something to offer.  Don't hide it away in a dirty stall.


8th Grade

Oh golly.  I mean, what girl really wants to delve back into the pages of her 8th grade yearbook?  The hair, enough, is to make us shudder and have nightmares for days on end.  Talk about identity and trying to figure out who you are supposed to be in this world.  8th grade was cruel in many ways but also a blessing a hundred fold.  It seems like it was the year of separation.  All of my friends were either trying out for the basketball team, the cheerleading squad, or the dance team.  I was over in my barn, washing my show cattle and getting them ready for the state fair.  All of my best friends found new friends.  At the time, it was a battle, but, now, I see how it molded me into who I was going to be.  God didn't create me to dance or cheer or play ball.  He created me to do other things, and it was time for me to be ok with myself in choosing those things. 

For whatever reason, the 8th grade teacher that sticks out the most is Mrs. LeBlanc.  Oh, I loved that class.  I hated the math she taught, mind you, but I loved her as a teacher and the friends that graced the seats.  Mostly I remember Ryan and his mop of red hair.  I secretly loved him.  He was the quiet type, with glasses and nerd all up in his DNA.  He made math a joy as I would steal backward glances every change I got.

I feel like 8th grade is not complete without the patch story.  I had pink eye.  Of course, I was terrified of missing class, so Mom taped a big old piece of white stuffy gauze over my eye.  When everyone stared at me in horror and asked what was wrong, I told them I had conjunctivitis.  I figured they weren't smart enough to figure out what that was (this was pre-iphone-google days, people.)  It helped me keep my dignity as I repeatedly told myself the stupidity of going to school as Patch the Pirate.

I want my now 8th grader to know that God has given him gifts.  He has the gift of soccer and the gift of learning.  Those may not be the same gifts God has given his other friends, and that is alright. I want him to know he also has the gift of kindness and charisma and he should use those towards the kid that shows up with a patch on his eye or towards the girl in front of him in math that might have a secret crush on him.  Kindness goes far in this world; it shows off the character of God.



5th grade:

Mrs. Whitlatch: Old and bitter lady with frumpy clothes and large spectacles.  I, along with every other 4th grader, was terrified at the prospect of having her.  Of course, I got her, because that is how my luck goes.  I am telling you now, you can't base everything on appearances and rumors, because she was one of the best teachers ever.  For starters, her fish tank was killer awesome. And, what more could a 5th grader need than a killer awesome tank of fish in the classroom?

I remember we all would sit down on the floor during reading time.  She would call our names, and we would each take a turn at reading out loud.  I'll never forget Matt Britt, coming to the word "laughter" and saying it like "lotter."  The room erupted into raucous laughter at his 'laughter' blunder.  He was an easy going soul and took it pretty well, but looking back, we as his friends probably shouldn't have made fun of him. 

5th grade was the year of the lice.  It jumped from desk to desk and kid to kid until it landed into my permed mop of hair that fell all the way down my backside.  My poor mother bought every lice kit in town and did her best at getting that itty bitty white comb through my permed mop.  She sprayed my linens, then probably fell on her knees and begged the God of the universe to not let the little beasts fall into the follicles of my siblings.  That's what good mommas do:  clean up the messes they can and pray away all the others.

I would love for my now 5th grade son to know that it's never nice to make fun of others.  Stand up for them and help them, instead.  I want my son to know that stupid things like lice happen and it's not your fault if it lands in your hair.  It doesn't make you dirty or any less of what God created you to be.  And finally, appearances and rumors are just that.  God sees the heart and He is teaching us to see peoples' hearts, as well.  I pray you see clearly, this year, sweet third born.


Saturday, August 6, 2016

Abandonment Wrath



The wrath of God isn't a very popular subject in today's age. But, the truth is that there is no good news or gospel without first having wrath.  God's holiness demands righteous anger against sin. The fact that He cares at all about what we do should prove to us that He is a loving Father.  Only the blood of Jesus appeases this wrath.  The wrath is severe and eternal, which points to just how glorious and complete the cross and resurrection of Jesus are.

Both Chuck Missler and John MacArthur agree that there are at least four types of wrath that reverberate off a Holy God.  MacArthur throws in a fifth, but we will look at four and then focus on the last one.

They are:
1.  Appositional Wrath:  God's wrath against sin in each man's life (the remedy is accepting the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.)

2.  Catastrophic Wrath:  Flood of Noah, Sodom and Gomorrah, modern day tsunamis, etc.

3.  Eschatalogical Wrath:  this is yet to occur, Revelation 6-19

4.  Abandonment Wrath:  God removes his protection, how He deals with nations

Let's look at the concept of abandonment wrath.  (All of this information comes from either Missler or MacArthur.)  How about this question:  Has God's abandonment wrath begun on America?

There is a litmus test provided in the Word that allows us to know whether this is true or not.  It is found in Romans 1:18-32.  In these verses, we learn that God judges any culture or nation that fails to acknowledge Him as Creator.  He is El Qanna, Jealous God, and He is jealous about the fact that He, alone, is Creator.

Just looking at all He has created is enough for us to believe in Him, but many have exchanged truth for a lie and become mini-gods in their own eyes. Their hearts have rejected God, and they are without excuse because His glory is all around.

When men repeatedly reject God and Truth, God rejects them in return.  "Because you have forgotten...I will forget..." Hosea 4:4 This rejection from God looks like this:  He lifts His protective and restraining hand and allows man to fully indulge in sinful passions. Abandonment wrath is when he abandons us to our own sinful ways.  When a nation stops worshiping the one true God, then judgment is inevitable. God will simply bow out and remove His restraining grace that has held things together.  He will leave mankind to their sinful passions and the consequences of those sins. If you see moral chaos and confusion all around, then you can rest assured that God has abandoned the nation.

He gives them over...and Romans 1 tells us it is in phases, progressions, if you will.  First, the heart is bad, then the body acts, then the mind follows.  First, He gives man over to sexual impurities.  Then, He gives man over to vile affections that remove a person's dignity (i.e. homosexuality and lesbianism, see Romans 1:26-27.) And last, He gives man over to a reprobate mind.  Reprobate in Greek is "adokimos" and means unworthy, cast away, and undiscerning.  Literally, the brain stops functioning the way God intended.  I love what MacArthur says about the depraved mind:

"What is a depraved mind?  Well the word literally means tested and found useless, disqualified for its intended purpose, a non-functioning mind.  Reasoning is so corrupted that it is crippled.  The faculty, the intellectual faculty can no longer function.  The moral law of God written in the heart has been literally stomped and replaced with cultural immorality.  The conscience cannot function."

That's why, at the DNC, when a lady boasts about her abortion, the crowd turns to a raucous applause.  That's why, at the DNC, they boast about a platform that will allow abortions to be paid with by our tax dollars.  To those that have rejected God, He has removed their ability to think with a moral or intellectual mind.  On one hand, they boast about motherhood and how they serve in politics to better the next generation, and on the other hand, they boast about how we can kill off the next generation, at no cost to the individual harboring life.  They don't see the disconnect.  God has stripped their ability to think.

God deals with nations based on how the nations deal with Him.  When we outright reject Him, He outright rejects us.  I am fully convinced we are experiencing God's abandonment wrath on America. God calls all nations to worship Him as the one true God (see Psalm 72.)  When we fail to do so, we beg for judgment.

I love the allegory MacArthur puts out:  America is burning.  It was a fire lit by ourselves as we rejected the Word of God.  God is pouring fuel on the fire in the form of judgment.  As we fiddle, we continue to burn.  Only the Living Water can quench the flames.

Where does that leave us?  What are we, as Believers, to do?

First, we don't blame God. We recognize that our iniquities against a holy God have separated our nation from Him.  "If a society is in the crapper, it is because God's people have ceased being salt and light.  It is because we have engaged in the same sins as the culture around us."  MacArthur

If God's people would fall on their faces and repent...  "The only hope for our nation is to worship the One True God."  MacArthur

Lord, Mercy.

{I think it's important to note that Believers in Jesus Christ are secure.  The sacrifice at the cross removed the wrath of God on our lives (see above about appositional wrath.)  But, as Believers in a nation where night has fallen, we can still experience the effects of abandonment wrath.  I believe God will never forsake or leave us.  He will continue to be our Provision and Comfort and Guide in the days to come, though things may look totally different in the future.  "The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts.  The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress."  Psalm 46:6-7}

Do you agree?  Do you believe our beloved land is under the divine wrath of abandonment?

Monday, August 1, 2016

A Confession, a God who Won't Be Mocked, and a Prayer


I care too much about what people think.  My mercy makes me mute, often choosing silence over what needs to be said.  I live in fear of offending.  It is a spirit that longs to please man which quickly becomes sin if I'm refusing to please God in the process.  There are things that need to be said.  The church has gone silent for so long that the light has almost been snuffed out.

This sin--this pride--of caring about man's opinions--this fear of rejection of man after speaking and writing TRUTH--this sin:  CARVE it out, Lord, and throw it into the deepest of seas, never to be found again.

I can be merciful without worrying about offending.  Perhaps offending is the mercy if it opens people's eyes to the truth. 

I only want to speak God's words and write whatever He lays on my heart.  I want to do it with abandon and freedom.  Lord, give me grace to do that.  Nothing more and nothing less.

This is what I know and have known for a solid year, but the feelings get stronger and stronger.  Our nation will be shattered like a broken glass bowl.  Fragments everywhere and destruction sudden.  I'd like to think that we could be put back together again, but I keep reading that our wounds are too grievous.  (See Jeremiah 14 and 30 as well as Nahum 3.)

Our judgment is certain and irrevocable.  Yes, repentance would prevent it, but there is no repentance in the land.  The plunge into darkness has only increased.  The platform for the democratic party is to allow abortions to be paid for with tax dollars.  Funding has already been going to Planned Parenthood, but this idea cuts even deeper.  It makes me bleed out.  Is it slavery when my personal funds go against my will to fund the killing of your artwork, your poem, your dream?  It undoes me.  I rage inside and know I am only broken because it breaks God's heart.

Back in January, I had a short dream.  The oven was open and mounds of newborn babies were inside, spilling out onto the open door.  Every single baby was ashen, a hue of blue that only speaks of life robbed early.  They were piled on top of one another, the oven either the product of their demise or the cheap burial site. I wish I could say it was just a nightmare, but it is reality for God's creation.  Every. Single. Day.

Jesus Christ is not just a gentle and meek lamb.  He is a roaring lion.  In preaching of His mercy, we have abandoned his justice.  If and when He steps down in furious rage, we really shouldn't be caught off guard by that.  If someone had taken my baby, cut it up into parts, and sold it to the highest bidder...well, there are no words for what might follow.

He is a longsuffering and good and patient and loving God.  But, He won't overlook sin forever.  He absolutely will not be mocked.

I rest in this truth:  God will not punish the righteous along with the wicked.  He will gloriously display His mercy as He rescues the Godly from destruction.  Just like He did for the Israelites as they dwelt in the safety of Goshen.  Just as He did for Noah as they were preserved on a pitch-painted wooden boat.  Just as He did for Lot before His judgment rained down.

The blood of Jesus is our everything.  Oh, God, praise You for the blood that allows the wrath of God to pass over us!

We are your Beloved.  Replenish our languishing souls.  Oh, how we long to trace our fingers against your perfect face, Jesus.

Make me like Enoch...that my one testimony is that I pleased God.  Not man.  Just God.