Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Tired Out?

Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles, 
they will run and not get tired,
they will walk and not become weary.
Isaiah 40:31

Are you ever just plain old worn out?

What makes you tired?  Long days at work? Chasing little ones around the house? Driving big ones all over town? Yard work? Laundry? Gardening? Grocery shopping, over and over again?

What about worry?  Do you ever get worn out just worrying about something?  Your body aches and your head hurts and you just want to shut the blinds and climb in bed for the afternoon?

Then add to that anxiousness - the 'what ifs' of life can wear us out.  What if the car breaks down? What if he doesn't come home? What if the baby isn't healthy? What if we run short this month? What if the sale falls through?  So many unknowns - they can wear you out, as well.

And then there's doubt - doubt can make you tired.  Does he really love me?  Can I truly weather this storm?  Where is God in all of this?  I feel so alone…

Isaiah 40 is a wonderful chapter.  It's filled with very recognizable verses which point to the greatness of our God.  And it ends with our verse above, explaining the source of eternal strength.  Let me give you some highlights from this chapter, explaining how unique and awesome our God is:
  • v. 3 - the call to flatten the lands because God is coming! This is the verse that John the Baptist made famous by declaring the coming of Jesus.  It sets the stage for this majestic chapter by declaring that God is coming as King to fulfill His Word and promises to His people
  • v. 7, 8 - compares people to grass and flowers which fade, but the Word of the Lord stands forever - this truth is foundational to the Christian's faith.  God is unchanging - He is what He is and will do what He says. That's why His Word never fades or changes therefore we can trust that God will accomplish what He says He will - no doubt, no anxiety, no fear that maybe He isn't Who He says He is
  • v. 10 - He will come with might and He will reward the faithful and deal with the wicked - promise
  • v. 11 - He loves us like a shepherd and will gently gather and carry us
  • v. 12 - Do you realize Who God is?  He measures the universe in the palm of His hand!  Spread out your fingers - from your thumb to your pinky, it's probably about nine inches - that's all it takes for God to measure the UNIVERSE!!!  How big is our God???
  • v. 13-14 - Who is God's advisor?  Who taught Him anything?  (Rhetorical question, friends)
  • v. 15-17 - nations are compared to a drop in a bucket and a speck of dust - how completely absorbed are we with politics and they are nothing compared to God
  • v. 18-20 - would we compare God to an idol made of metal or wood?  Man has crafted these dead images - Who is like our God?
  • v. 21-26 - Do you not realize Who you are talking about?  The Creator of the universe who controls all rulers and authorities, Who sits above the earth and stretches out the heavens as a curtain above Him, created the stars and knows them by name…
  • v. 28-30 - though man gets worn out, the Almighty God never tires, never aches, never needs a power nap to get through the day - He knows all things and even that doesn't wear Him out
So let's get back to your weariness.  What is on your mind that God is not greater than?  The Maker of all things has redeemed us, He has justified us, He has adopted us and wants us to call Him Father.  He has provided for us, He has loved us, He has revealed Himself and He has given us His Spirit.  Wait on Him.  Set your eyes on Him.  Put your thoughts upon Him.  Let the knowledge of the unchanging, all-powerful God be your power source.

And watch your weariness fade.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

How high?

He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. 
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him.
Psalm 103:10-12

"When I say jump, you say, How high?"

This was told to me by a coach in high school, explaining to myself and the team how his authority would not be questioned except with the purpose of expanding our response to his leadership.  

But when I read this verse, I cannot help but once again yell, "How high?," not in response to a demanding coach but in response to the outrageous picture given to us of God's lovingkindness!  Outrageous, yes, but true - praise the Lord!

What a beautiful passage - what amazing truths:
  • He has not dealt with us according to our sins - He dealt with Jesus according to our sins
  • He has not rewarded us according to our iniquities - He has rewarded us according to Jesus' righteousness
  • How great are the heavens?  Comparable to God's lovingkindness
  • What is His lovingkindness?  It's God's pursuing, chasing love of rebellious sinners who deserve to be dealt with and rewarded according to their sins but instead are justified, redeemed and adopted by a super-loving, overly generous, merciful Father
  • What does it mean to fear God?  Even the ability to recognize God for Who He is is a gift from God - but fear is not just respect, but a deep awe at the power of the Creator of the universe that keeps a healthy regard for His kindnesses and doesn't take them for granted
  • So exactly how great is God's pursing love in the life of someone who doesn't take God for granted?  It's as high as the heavens are above the earth
  • Do the heavens stop?  Well to date, we haven't been able to find the boundaries of the universe
So I guess if the heavens don't stop, the lovingkindness of the Father doesn't stop either.

How fun was that?

Monday, May 12, 2014

From Recipient to Giver

He who did not spare His own Son, 
but delivered Him over for us all,
how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?
Romans 8:32

And the generosity award goes to…God!

Who could possibly out give God?  His generosity is on full display on the cross.  He did not withhold His precious Son, but the Father delivered Him over - He willingly poured out our punishment on Him for us - what greater gift could there possibly be?

So if He didn't withhold Jesus, what other good thing would He withhold from us?  I think it's interesting that Paul says "freely."  The cost for Jesus was so high that anything else in comparison is free.  Thought provoking…

So no argument from you about this, right?  God is highly generous with us and He's given the greatest gift - what would He withhold from us in light of the cross?  Spiritual gifts?  Fruits of the Spirit?  Protection or security?  His presence or His love?  These things are not sacrifices for Him - they are a joy for the Heavenly Father to give to His children.

So how about this:  Do you think we should imitate our Father and be generous, as well?  What does the Word say about generosity?
  • Proverbs 11:25 - The generous man will be prosperous, and he who waters will himself be watered
  • Proverbs 22:9 - He who is generous will be blessed, for he gives some of his food to the poor
  • Proverbs 19:6 - Many will seek the favor of a generous man, and every man is a friend to him who gives gifts
  • I Timothy 6:18 - Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready go share…
Yes, being generous is imitating our Father, so why wouldn't we be generous?  So what can you be generous with?  your time? your money? your prayers? your mind? your hands? your food?  your creativity?  

I would love to hear ideas of how you have been generous.  I don't do this often and the comments have been few and far between, but I do know I have many generous friends who read this blog.  So if you would be willing, please post a comment with a suggestion for my readers of how to be generous.

I'd love to hear your ideas…remember, we serve a generous God.  It is not asking too much to give of yourself in an effort to give Him praise, so let's be generous children of God…

Thanks in advance!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Dwelling Promises

No evil will befall you, nor will any plague come near your tent.
For He will give His angels charge concerning you,
to guard you in all your ways.
Psalm 91:10-11

Where do you live?  What does your house tell me about you?  Are you neat and organized?  Or is your house more of a mishmash of clutter?  Does music fill your home? Is your style traditional, modern or eclectic?  Do you like bright colors or are you more comfortable in a sea of cream?  

Where you dwell tells a lot about a person.

Our verse this week is a wonderful promise that at first glance seems almost too good to be true.  Because of our sin-encrusted world, how could God possibly keep us from evil or plagues?  As a matter of fact, I know many God-loving people who are battling the plague of cancer at this moment, so what in the world is this verse talking about?

I have three words for you that will help you understand:  context, context, context.

Okay, so maybe it's just one word but you get the point.  When you read something in scripture that doesn't seem to make sense, take a step or two backwards and look at the whole passage.  

Psalm 91 is probably one of the most encouraging passages in all of scripture.  It speaks of God as a fortress and a refuge, a deliverer from snares and describes His faithfulness as a shield.  It heralds the protection that comes from being hidden under the wings of God and underscores the security that comes from an intimate relationship with the God of the universe.  But all of this is conditional upon the first phrase of the chapter - "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High God will abide in the shadow of the Almighty."

It's a dwelling passage. This chapter can be summarized like this:  If you dwell with God then you will enjoy His protection.  Now this is not a salvation passage - it is not describing the substitutionary atonement of the cross and it is not talking about the broad way to destruction versus the narrow road to glory.  It is an exhortation to examine where you live.

The sad truth is that although through the gift of faith, we all have the opportunity to dwell in the shelter of the Most High God, we choose to just vacation there every once in a while.  We are busy with our life, we stop by His house on Sundays for an hour or two and then when things get really bad, we might go and stay with Him for a few days or weeks until we feel better, but then we are back to the busyness of our life.  We don't choose to live in His shelter - we run under His heavenly awnings when the rain starts to fall, but quickly head back to the shelter of our own making until the next storm hits.

But this is not the life Jesus saved you for - He wants the intimacy of living with you, having you dwell or live in His shelter full time.  He wants you to die to your old self and find your new life completely in Him.  Like the first verse says, He wants us to live in His shadow - but we don't like to live in anyone's shadow.  We like to be center stage, and that location removes some of the Father's protection from our life.  

By now you might be thinking, "Okay, Kristen, what in the world are you talking about?"  So let me get to the point:  As believers in Jesus Christ, we need to surrender everything to Him, including where we live.  We need to dwell - live - with Him.  In our verses above, it talks about evil and plagues - when you dwell with the Father, no matter what comes your way you will have a protection and a perspective that is way different than if you are far from Him.  When the doctor says cancer, you trust in God's plan for your life because you live with His goodness on a daily basis.  When you are persecuted, you receive the disdain with joy because you know your eternity is secure.  You are an heir of greater things and the uncomfortableness of trials and temptations are but a passing pressure that pales in comparison to the glory that awaits you.  

But when you don't live with Jesus, you quickly forget who you are in Christ and the storms of life can quickly overwhelm and produce anxiety and fear, where trust and long-suffering should be found.  

So how do you dwell with Christ?  You've got to hang out with Him - listen to Him talk, learn about Him, talk with Him, sing to Him, laugh with Him.  You've got to do this every day - think about the people in your home.  If you have no conversation with them during the day, do you really live together?  Living equals relationship and if you desire a life that is not overwhelmed with the effects of sin, then you need to walk closely with your Savior.

I haven't even touched on the second half of the verse, because it is too wonderful to even imagine.  So I'll just let you marinate on that truth on your own, but remember, these words are meant to encourage the child of God who dwells with Him - lives with Him - is fully immersed with the things of the Lord. This is not a promise for the one who simply calls on Him when life gets tough.  There is a difference.