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.