#Lent14 — Agreeing And Acting On The Promise

As we have done in previous Lent and Advent seasons, we are again blogging our way through the Lenten Lectionary Texts.  In this season, our prayer is that we will bless and inspire you in your walk between the Now and Not-Yet of the Kingdom.  We pray that our meditations will be life-giving to you in your journey.

A reading from the Epistle to the Romans.

God promised Abraham and his descendants that he would give them the world.  This promise wasn’t made because Abraham had obeyed a law, but because his faith in God made him acceptable.

If Abraham and his descendants were given this promise because they had obeyed a law, then faith would mean nothing, and the promise would be worthless.  God becomes angry when his Law is broken.  But where there isn’t a law, it cannot be broken.  Everything depends on having faith in God, so that God’s promise is assured by his gift of undeserved grace.  This promise isn’t only for Abraham’s descendants who have the Law.  It is for all who are Abraham’s descendants because they have faith, just as he did.  Abraham is the ancestor of us all.

The Scriptures say that Abraham would become the ancestor of many nations.  This promise was made to Abraham because he had faith in God, who raises the dead to life and creates new things.

God promised Abraham a lot of descendants.  And when it all seemed hopeless, Abraham still had faith in God and became the ancestor of many nations.  Abraham’s faith never became weak, not even when he was nearly 100 years old.  He knew he was almost dead and that his wife Sarah could not have children.

But Abraham never doubted or questioned God’s promise.  His faith made him strong, and he gave all the credit to God.  Abraham was certain that God could do what he had promised.  So God accepted him, just as we read in the Scriptures.  But these words were not written only for Abraham.  They were written for us, since we will also be accepted because of our faith in God, who raised our Lord Jesus to life.  God gave Jesus to die for our sins, and he raised him to life, so that we would be made acceptable to God.

Romans 4:13-25 (CEV)

This is the Word of The Lord.

Today’s post originally ran on March 7, 2012.

Today’s text takes us back to the story of Abraham.  God has given Abraham a promise.  He’s promised Abraham a son–more than that even.  Sons that number as many as the grains of sand or stars in the sky.  And, Abraham trusts the promise.

Despite the odds.

He’s old.  His wife is old.  They’re childless.  The promise seems all but impossible.  So many things stacked against the promise.

Yet, when God makes a promise, and their are impossible situations, there we find grace.  “God’s promise is assured by his gift of undeserved grace” (verse 16).

In his epistle to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 1:20), Paul reminds us that “all the promises of God find their yes in him.  That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.”  We utter our Amen–our wholehearted agreement and willingness to act on it–to His promises.

God’s promises are conditional.  He promises, we add our Amen–our agreement and action.  His promise to Abraham was conditional upon Abraham’s obedience to leave Ur and possess the land of Canaan.  God’s promise to Israel is conditional on their obedience to worship Him and Him alone (something they have never in their history been able to do, because they have tried within their own power and not with His power).

God has made a promise to each of us.  It is a promise for rescue.  It is a promise for a life is that more than sufficient (John 10:10).  Yet, it is up to us to walk in that promise.  To allow Him to be Father.  To allow Him to have the last word in our lives.

What has God promised you?

Have you said “Yes” and “Amen”?  Have you agreed and acted upon that promise?

Lent 2012: 7.2 — Kingdom Come

Throughout Advent, we posted blogs each week based on the Lectionary Readings for the previous Sunday. It was truly an awesome experience to travel through Advent with the universal church by praying, meditating, and responding to those texts. We loved it so much, we thought we’d do it again throughout Lent.

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethpage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of this disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ tell them, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.'”

They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. When they brought the colt to Jesus and thew their cloaks over it, he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,

“Hosanna!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”

“Hosanna in the highest!”

Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the temple. He looked around at everthing, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.

— Mark 11:1-11 (NIV)

Our Lenten journey is drawing to a close. Jesus has come to Jerusalem–that place that he had resolutely set out for (Luke 9:51). He has entered the city.

Through a back gate on a donkey.

Place yourself, for a moment, into the sandels of those who had followed Jesus on this journey. For three years, they have listened to parables, seen the hungry feed, seen the blind given sight, seen the deaf made able to hear, and have even seen the dead raised. And, now, the Messiah–the Rescuer–is ready to enter Jerusalem.

Messiah has come to overthrow the kingdom occupying our land–the land we were promised and told to posses.

And he’s asking for a donkey to ride.

In those days, the king would ride into the city on a horse. He would ride through the main gate of the city. People would proclaim his kingship as he rode.

As one of those who had followed, you have to be thinking that this is it. Jesus is subverting the Roman king, by riding into Jerusalem on a donkey and coming in through the back door. Smart. Sneaking in under the radar, but illustrating to everyone around that He is the King.

Yet, even though Jesus has spent three years teaching us about His Kingdom.

That wholly and holy other than Kingdom.

That “where what God wants done is done” (Dallas Willard) Kingdom.

That now but not yet Kingdom.

They still didn’t get it. They’re ready for war. Bring on the guards, we’ll take them! The King is here with us–on a donkey.

As Jesus turned to leave the Temple that night, these Disciples had to be thinking, “Ok, this was just a survey trip. Show the people that the true King has come, look at what we’re up against, and then tomorrow we attack.”

Yet, on the morrow, there was no attack. There was a withered fig tree and a cleansing of the temple. But, no war. No bringing in the Kingdom.

Because the Kingdom of Heaven doesn’t come by force.

It comes when God’s people are doing God’s work with God’s grace and God’s power.

It comes when God’s people humble themselves and pray and seek God’s face and turn from their evil ways (2 Chronicles 7:14).

It comes when we say “not what I will, but what You will” (Mark 14:36).

As we journey through this final week of Lent. This week of Passion. Let us not forget that Jesus didn’t come to rescue Israel from the Romans.

Rather, He came to Rescue us from the Kingdom of Darkness.

He came to make sons and daughters out of orphans.

He came that we “may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows).” (John 10:10 (AMP))

Lent 2012: 7.1 — Give Thanks! The Lord is Good!

Throughout Advent, we posted blogs each week based on the Lectionary Readings for the previous Sunday. It was truly an awesome experience to travel through Advent with the universal church by praying, meditating, and responding to those texts. We loved it so much, we thought we’d do it again throughout Lent.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.

Let Israel say: “His love endures forever.”

— Psalm 118:1-2 (NIV)

Give thanks!!  The Lord is good!  His mercy and faithful loving-kindness endure forever!  This is the overarching message of Psalm 118.  Something changes in our minds, wills, and emotions when we choose (because it is a choice!) to remember the goodness, faithfulness, mercy, and loving-kindness of our God and Savior.  I love John’s relationship with Jesus, which comes across so distinctly in his gospel and epistles — if you love Jesus, you will obey Him; if you love Jesus, you will love others.  Our love for Jesus is shown through our obedience to him and our love for others.  How much easier it is to trust Him enough to obey Him when we are remembering his goodness and faithful love!

Open for me the gates of the righteous; I will enter and give thanks to the LORD.  This is the gate of the LORD through which the righteous may enter.  I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation.

— Psalm 118:19-21 (NIV)

In John 10:9, Jesus says, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.”  As we remain in Jesus — entering through the gate that is Himself — we receive righteousness, and upon that understanding and knowledge (not only head knowledge, but a knowledge deep in our spirits), our hearts are overflowing with thanksgiving.  He is the gate in which we enter relationship with Father God.  His sacrifice of laying down His life to receive the punishment for sin that we deserved is the only we we may enter into relationship with Father God.  Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever.

The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.  The LORD has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad.

— Psalm 118:22-24 (NIV)

Just as John had a unique knowledge of the interweaving of loving Jesus, obeying Him, and loving others, Peter seems to have a special kind of grasp on this cornerstone concept as he speaks of it in both Acts 4:11 and 1 Peter 2:7.  (I wonder if this analogy had such significance for Peter, because of what Jesus did in John 1:42 when instead of calling him Simon, Jesus calls him Cephas–which is translated Peter and means “rock or stone.”)  Peter explains this prophetic word from the other side of Jesus’ death and resurrection by saying that Jesus was rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to Him.  The very ones whose debt Jesus was paying for with His own life, were the ones who were rejecting Him.  Even Peter rejected Him, yet Jesus received him back with an everlasting love and forgiveness.  Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever.

LORD, save us!  LORD, grant us success!

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD.  From the house of the LORD we bless you.  The LORD is God, and he has made his light shine on us.  With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar.

–Psalm 118:25-27 (NIV)

Hosanna!!  It means “Save us now, we pray!”  We see this cry for salvation in this psalm together with more prophecy of God’s rescue plan through Jesus.  This prophecy is realized as Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a colt with people waving branches and shouting, “Hosanna!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!  Hosanna in the highest heaven!”  Is the kingdom of God established in our whole heart, or do we have a divided heart with shaded fragments?  Let’s repent for any area of our heart in which we’ve not allowed the King to reign.  Let’s invite Him to ride into those places as we cry, “Hosanna!  Bring salvation and wholeness.  Let your light shine on us and in us!  I offer myself to you wholly and unreservedly.”

You are my God, and I will praise you; you are my God, and I will exalt you.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.

–Psalm 118:28-29 (NIV)

Not only is YHWH the one, true God.  He is my God!  We say it directly to Him, “You are my God!”  I love the way the psalmist goes back and forth from speaking of God to speaking to Him — He is good!  I will give you thanks!  You have become my salvation!  The LORD has done this!  LORD, save us!  The LORD is God.  You are my God!

When we have an attitude of praise and thanksgiving, it is natural for us to both tell others of His goodness and to be in communication with Him, telling Him directly and personally of our love for Him and our thanks to Him.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good!

LORD, my God, Your love endures forever!

Lent 2012: 6.5 — Guest Post: Wendell Fields

Throughout Advent, we posted blogs each week based on the Lectionary Readings for the previous Sunday. It was truly an awesome experience to travel through Advent with the universal church by praying, meditating, and responding to those texts. We loved it so much, we thought we’d do it again throughout Lent.

Wendell and Deborah Fields

Today, we are delighted to have a special guest post. Stephanie’s Dad, Wendell Fields, graciously agreed to author this post for us! We are so excited to have him write for us. We are also extremely grateful for the sacrifices that he and Deborah Fields have made to support this ministry!

Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders which You have done, And Your thoughts toward us; there is none to compare with You. If I would declare and speak of them, they would be too numerous to count.

Sacrifice and meal offering You have not desired; my ears You have opened; burnt offering and sin offering You have not required. Then I said, “Behold, I come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me. I delight to do your will, O my God; Your law is within my heart.”

I have proclaimed glad tidings of righteousness in the great congregation; behold I will not restrain my lips, O LORD, You know. I have not hidden Your righteousness within my heart; I have spoken of Your faithfulness and Your salvation; I have not concealed Your lovingkindness and Your truth from the great congregation.

— Psalm 40:5-10 (NASB)

What are the wonders that God has done for you? We sometimes walk through our life’s journey thinking that our lives are monotonous and mundane, but God has shown great interest in us. If you feel that there is no “wonder” in your life, consider these words from Jesus: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). That is the bedrock of what God has done for each of us – whosoever believes on Jesus Christ – God’s Son – Savior. But that isn’t all. God has “thoughts for us.” What are those thoughts like?

For some reason, I used to think that God was angry with me – that there was something about me that he didn’t like. I had a faulty understanding of who God was, and of His interest in me. I didn’t realize the awesomeness of the value of the Gift of God – eternal life through faith in his only begotten Son. But sometime, over the course of my journey, I began to realize that God wasn’t mad at me. He loved me. Just as he loves you! He had done wonders to get me to believe that! He has done wonders to get you to believe also. Some of the wonders are in the family God put us in. Some of them are in the people whom He put in our paths to speak words of life to us at an important time in our lives. Some of us have experienced wonders of God’s deliverance us from a life of disobedience to life in His kingdom. The process that we’ve gone through should remind us how good He is and how great His love is toward us, even if things haven’t always looked “good” to us.

His thoughts for us are for good and not for evil. There are times in our lives when we ask, “Why do I have to go through this?” “What good is there in this?” When I ask those questions about the small troubles that I have experienced, I’m reminded of the story of Joseph, who was SOLD by his brothers to a group of strangers going down the road. And why? Because they were jealous of his father Jacob’s love for Joseph. Because of his dreams. Because of the coat of many colors that his father made for him. Most of us reading (and writing) do not have a grid for being bought and sold, yet it is still one of the plagues of the lostness of mankind in our world. If we can find nothing else to do for those who are trapped, snared in the evil of human trafficking, then let us pray for them today. Let us pray that they will see the wonders that God has done for them. That they would be set free from the bondage of those who have used them and from the bondage of sin. That they would know that God is not angry with them, but that He loves them, even as He loves us. That He has fond thoughts of them.

What are those thoughts like? It doesn’t matter if we feel that we have sinned little, or if we carry the awareness of sin like a ball and chain, God’s thoughts toward us, according to the prophet Jeremiah, are “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). Wow! That excites me as I copy and paste the text into this blog! There is eternal life (a future!) in God’s thoughts for us! There is A PLAN! In my experience, I only see a piece of the plan at a time, but it is exciting and comforting to know that GOD HAS A PLAN FOR ME! Good thing – I’m not good at planning. But God is The Master Planner! And His plans are GOOD! After following Christ for a while, we come to the understanding that God is Good, All the Time! Even when we don’t think He is good, or that He loves us, or that He has a plan for our lives.

 

Lent 2012: 6.4 — The Lord’s Favor

Throughout Advent, we posted blogs each week based on the Lectionary Readings for the previous Sunday. It was truly an awesome experience to travel through Advent with the universal church by praying, meditating, and responding to those texts. We loved it so much, we thought we’d do it again throughout Lent.

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David.  The virgin’s name was Mary.  The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored!  The Lord is with you.”

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.  But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.  You will conceive and give birth to a son and you are to call him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.  The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.  Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month.  For no word from God will ever fail.”

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered.  “May your word to me be fulfilled.”  Then the angel left her.

— Luke 1:26-38 (NIV)

What does God’s favor look like?  A happy family settled into a fine house with the security of a cushioned 401K, a successful career with a high salary?  Having our children excel in their private lessons and their academic scores?  Having the nicest lawn on the block with the newest model of luxury car in the garage?

If that’s how we view God’s favor, then we’ve mistakenly confused God’s favor with the American dream.  No, they aren’t the same.  In fact, they often work in opposition.

What did God’s favor look like for a young Galilean virgin we know as Mary, the mother of Jesus?  God’s favor meant that she would become pregnancy with no believable explanation of who the father was.  The pregnancy would make the suspicion of adultery highly likely, of which the punishment was death (Leviticus 20:10) by stoning (Deuteronomy 22:21).  God’s favor meant giving birth to His Son–God’s Son–while on a trip she was obligated to take to a crowded city where she and Joseph, her husband-t0-be could find no room to stay, only to end up giving birth to her firstborn in a stable and placing Him to rest in a manger.  God’s favor meant receiving a prophetic word from Simeon as she and Joseph presented Jesus to the Lord at the temple in Jerusalem that a sword would pierce her own soul.  God’s favor meant he had chosen her to be the mother of a man who would commit no sin, yet would become sin in order to redeem those who would confess Him as Lord.  God’s favor meant that He had chosen her to bring Him glory.

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered.  “May your word to me be fulfilled” (Luke 1:38).

Was God’s favor a safe bet for Mary?  Did it place her in a prestigious place in society?  Was it financially a smart move?

God’s favor.

The opportunity not to bring glory to oneself, but to bring glory to the Father.

Can we join in the prayer of the Psalm and say, “May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us– yes, establish the work of our hands” (Psalm 90:17).

Lent 2012: 6.3 — Pressing on to the Altar

Throughout Advent, we posted blogs each week based on the Lectionary Readings for the previous Sunday. It was truly an awesome experience to travel through Advent with the universal church by praying, meditating, and responding to those texts. We loved it so much, we thought we’d do it again throughout Lent.

My heart is moved by a noble theme as I recite my verses to the king; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer. You are the most handsome of men; grace flows from your lips. Therefore God has blessed you forever.

Mighty warrior, strap your sword at your side. In your majesty and splendor–in your splendor ride triumphantly in the cause of truth, humility, and justice. May your right hand show your awe-inspiring acts. Your arrows pierce the hearts of the king’s enemies; the peoples fall under you.

Your throne, God, is forever and ever; the scepter of Your kingdom is a scepter of justice. You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of joy more than your companions. Myrrh, aloes, and cassia perfume all your garments; from ivory palaces harps bring you joy. Kings’ daughters are among your honored women; the queen, adorned with gold from Ophir, stands at your right hand.

Listen, daughter, pay attention and consider: forget your people and your Father’s house, and the king will desire your beauty. Bow down to him, for he is your lord. The daughter of Tyre, the wealthy people, will seek your favor with gifts.

In her chamber, the royal daughter is all glorious, her clothing embroidered with gold. In colorful garments she is led to the king; after her, the virgins, her companions, are brought to you. They are led in with gladness and rejoicing; they enter the king’s palace.

Your sons will succeed your ancestors; you will make them princes throughout the land. I will cause your name to be remembered for all generations; therefore the peoples will praise you forever and ever.

— Psalm 45 (HCSB)

Today, we go to a wedding. But, not just any old wedding, we’re talking a royal wedding. This wedding will make Di and Charles or Kate and Henry look small–insignificant even.

Psalm 45–what I consider to be one of the most poetic Psalms–is a wedding song. Solomon is getting married. The world is watching. All eyes are on the event that is about to transpire.

The aisle has been flowered. The king stands at the altar. All of earth and heaven wait.

A hush falls on the people as the royal wedding march begins.

And, so it is now.

The hush has fallen as the King awaits His bride–the church. All of heaven and earth waits with anticipation for the moment that the Royal Wedding march will begin.

Yet, the Bride is still being prepared.

Still being made ready.

Still being sanctified–set apart.

Still being called out from the nations of the earth.

And all of heaven and earth wait. In quiet anticipation. As the Bride is called to forget her people and her father’s house. She is being called to cast of the things of her old life, and put on the things of her new life (Ephesians 4, Colossians 3). She is being called to press on to holiness.

And, so, once again, we find ourselves planted firmly between the now and the not yet. Between the church door and the altar. Between a call and a desire to holiness and holiness itself.

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ my Lord., for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

— Philippians 3:7-15 (HCSB)

Lent 2012: 6.2 — Yes, Lord!

Throughout Advent, we posted blogs each week based on the Lectionary Readings for the previous Sunday. It was truly an awesome experience to travel through Advent with the universal church by praying, meditating, and responding to those texts. We loved it so much, we thought we’d do it again throughout Lent.

It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased.  Then I said, ‘Here I am–it is written about me in the scroll–I have come to do your will, my God.”

First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”–though they were offered in accordance with the law.  Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.”  He sets side the first to establish the second.  And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

— Hebrews 10:4-10 (NIV)

“Here I am.  I have come to do your will, O God.” – Jesus, Hebrews 10:7

“I am the Lord’s servant.  May it be to me as you have said.” – Mary the mother of Jesus, Luke 1:38

Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed Him.  Disciples James and John, Matthew 4:21-22

Noah did everything just as God commanded him.  – Genesis 6:22

The LORD has said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people, and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.  So Abram left, as the LORD had told him.  – Genesis 12:1,4

So I prophesied as I was commanded.  – Ezekiel the prophet, Ezekiel 37:7

And if I perish, I perish.  – Queen Esther, Esther 4:16

God’s salvation story is full of real people who said, “Yes, Lord” to God’s purpose.  The Father’s purpose for His Son, Jesus, was to be the ultimate sacrifice that would redeem His people to be adopted as sons and daughters.  Jesus’ obedience is the only way that we have been made holy.  God required the perfect Lamb of God to be slain, and Jesus, that Lamb of God, said, “I have come to do Your will.”

The Father’s will is still being carried out by those who listen and are saying, “Yes, Lord.  Here I am.  I desire to do Your will, O my God.”  And He faithfully leads us, step by step of obedience each time we say, “Yes, Lord.”  What is the Father requiring of you today?  I’m not talking about receiving a 5-10 year projected plan from God with all the steps laid out for you from the beginning.  Ha!  He leads us by steps, and we follow with obedience.  Listen and watch for your step He will light for you.  And then give a wholehearted and obedient, “Yes, Lord.”  And may His glory come with His Kingdom and may His will be done on earth as it is in heaven!  Through your “Yes, Lord!”

Lent 2012: 6.1 — The Fleecy Thing

Throughout Advent, we posted blogs each week based on the Lectionary Readings for the previous Sunday. It was truly an awesome experience to travel through Advent with the universal church by praying, meditating, and responding to those texts. We loved it so much, we thought we’d do it again throughout Lent.

Later, the LORD sent this message to King Ahaz: “Ask the LORD you God for a sign of confirmation, Ahaz. Make it as difficult as you want–as high as heaven or as deep as the place of the dead.”

But the King refused, “No,” he said, “I will not test the LORD like that.”

Then Isaiah said, “Listen well, you royal family of David! Isn’t it enough to exhaust human patience? Must you exhaust the patience of my God as well? All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).

— Isaiah 7:10-14 (NLT)

The beginning of our text for today reminds me of another story in the Scriptures. Remember Gideon? Unlike King Ahaz, he wasn’t at all worried about putting God to the test. In Judges 6, we get the story. God tells Gideon that he needs to lead the army against the Philistines. Gideon isn’t so sure. After all, he’s small and weak–“My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!” (Judges 6:15, NLT). So, Gideon puts out a fleece. He puts God to the test.

I once heard Jon Peterson (from 24/7 Prayer) say, “God likes the fleecy thing.”

Yet, Ahaz, decides that even though the prophet has told him to put out a fleece, he isn’t going to do that. Judah is in a tight spot. The Northern Kingdom, Israel, and Syria have joined forces against them. Our text places us in the midst of this story. If we back up a few verses, we find God telling the Prophet Isaiah to tell Ahaz to stop worrying (vs. 4). “Yes, the kings of Syria and Israel are plotting…”, but, “…this invasion will never happen” (vs. 5, 7).

And Ahaz is in that spot where we often find ourselves. Somewhere between the promise and the fulfillment. All Ahaz can see is the situation surrounding him. War is inevitable. He can see the armies at his door.

Yet, he has a word from God–“this invasion will never happen.”

Firmly planted between the promise of God and the reality of the moment.

Firmly planted between the now and the not yet.

Firmly planted between the promise of Messiah and the reality of the cross.

So, Isaiah, offers Ahaz a way to see his faith. “Ask the LORD for a sign.” Ahaz declines. So, Isaiah says, “God Himself will give you a sign.”

Proof of the promise.

The fleecy thing.

What happens when you’re in that spot? You can see the armies coming against you. It looks dreary. Yet, you know God has promised that the invasion will never happen. It’s easy in that moment of being stuck in between to get discouraged. It’s easy to think that God has all but forgotten His promise.

I believe today’s text is telling us that it’s ok to ask for God to reaffirm that promise. I believe it’s ok to say, “God, I trust you, I believe you, yet right now I could use a bit of reassuring.”

After all, God set the rainbow in the sky to remind Himself of the promise (Genesis 9:12-16).

So, don’t be afraid of “the fleecy thing.”

Lent 2012: 5.4 — Loving Sin More Than God

Throughout Advent, we posted blogs each week based on the Lectionary Readings for the previous Sunday. It was truly an awesome experience to travel through Advent with the universal church by praying, meditating, and responding to those texts. We loved it so much, thought we’d do it again throughout Lent.

“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not beleive stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.  This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  Everyone who does evil hated the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.  But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

— John 3:14-21 (NIV)

I remember times in my life where I have deliberately went against the rules and expectations of my family.  After one of these instances, I had gone into the laundry room to change the laundry over, and while I was in there, my parents settled into their office directly outside the laundry room door.  If I was going to leave the laundry room, I was going to have to walk past them, and I knew they were going to confront me about my actions.  I lingered uncomfortably in the laundry room postponing the inevitable conversation as long as I possibly could.  Then mustering up all the courage I had, I left the laundry room working diligently at being nonchalant as I hummed a tune and walked passed my parents’ office as quickly as I could, when I heard, “Hey, Steph…”  Oh, yes, they knew, and the conversation was going to happen right then and there.

There’s no way around it.  It is uncomfortable to be around those we have disobeyed.  We want to distance ourselves from any situation where we might bump into the person, and am I wrong?  We do it with God too.  We know His presence will expose our disobedience, so we walk away from His presence.  In fact, when the sin is presented to us as temptation, we have two choices.  To pursue the sin, or to pursue Christ.  If we pursue Christ, the sin has no hold on us.  If we pursue the temptation, we are in essence willfully telling God, “I don’t want to be near you right now.  I don’t want to be in relationship with you right now.  I want to distance myself from you. I’m going to cheat on you, and I would feel better about myself if you weren’t around to see it.”  We want to hide in the shadows of our sin.

In what area of your life are you loving your sin more than you are loving your God.  Your sin isn’t worth your devotion and worship.  Your sin won’t love you.  Your sin won’t give His one and only Son into the world that those who believe in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.  Your sin won’t give you true strength when you’re weak.  Your sin isn’t worth dying for, and thus it’s not worth living for.  Come to the light. Let your sins be exposed.  Repent and receive the life that God has in store for you.  He is a gracious God.  He is worth all your devotion and worship.

Lent 2012: 5.3 — Adopted by Love from Death

Throughout Advent, we posted blogs each week based on the Lectionary Readings for the previous Sunday. It was truly an awesome experience to travel through Advent with the universal church by praying, meditating, and responding to those texts. We loved it so much, thought we’d do it again throughout Lent.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

— Ephesians 2:1-10 (NIV)

Have you ever considered adopting a child? Maybe you have adopted a child or have applied for adoption. Chances are, if it’s something you’ve ever considered, you’ve only ever considered adopting a live child. After all…..that only makes sense. But what does Ephesians 2 say about our state of being at our adoption? We were dead. God saw a world of children that He wanted to raise from death and bring them into the life His precious Son was living.

So, Father sent His one and only Son to us. God reached out to us through His Son, and His Son laid down His life as an offering of love for us and to the Father. Then, the Father raised His Son to life, and not His Son only, but all who would believe in His Son, and to all who believed in His Son, to them He gives His abundant, everlasting life.

He adopts us because He loves us. We didn’t earn His love. We can’t run away from His love. Nothing can separate us from His love. God loves us and adopts us because He is full of grace and mercy, and He has compassion on us. His grace and our salvation are not bragging rights for us based on us being a people who were deserving of salvation, for we could never have deserved it! Rather if we are going to boast, it should be in the immeasurable riches of God’s grace expressed in His kindness to us through Christ Jesus. Let us enter His Life!