Do Everything in Love

Last year our church had a sermon series entitled Last Man Standing that was one of my favorites of the year and really impacted my life in 2016. My favorite in the series is the one entitled Men or Boys . I had written a post Act Like Men about this back then that is worth the few minutes to read and will give plenty of context into this post.

One of the verses I highlighted in that post was 1 Corinthians 16:13-14;

Be on your guard, stand firm in the faith, be men of courage, be strong. Do everything in love.

The final part of that, “Do everything in love,” provides context for all that we are implored with doing in the first part of the verse. You could change the wording slightly and this verse becomes;

Be on your guard, in love.
Stand firm in the faith, in love.
Be men of courage, in love.
Be strong, in love.

A sidebar on word etymology.
I love learning more about the origins of the words we use as they are often far different from how we use them today. And when ancient texts, like the Bible are translated into our modern language often words are used that have the proper meaning, but our modern interpretation of those words could be different. So I enjoy looking at where the words come from and even learning the Greek or Hebrew that the Bible was originally written in so as to better understand the original meaning.

God’s Word doesn’t change and is true to what God is wanting us to hear, however our imperfect language that we use today can sometimes lead to misunderstandings or misinterpretations if you are not careful. While God will let His truth come through regardless of what language you read His Word in, it does help to understand what the writers were originally trying to convey.

The sentences sound a bit strange in our modern vernacular, but when you look at the original language the word for love used in the 14th verse is, agape. Of all the different words for love used throughout the Bible, agape is used to indicate the highest form of love. Often used to indicate the love God has for us or we have for God. It is a universal, unconditional love that is there regardless of circumstances.

In the King James version, this is translated as ‘charity’ which while we use that word typically as “benevolence for the poor”, it’s older usages from which it originated was defined more like “Christian love of one’s fellows.”

So what is being said here in this verse? What Paul was trying to tell his readers, is everything should be done in love to God. By doing these in love, we should be like Christ. Being like Christ should be the foundation for every decision we make and every action we take.

Be on Guard

As Christians we have a powerful enemy. One that tempts and attacks continuously, trying to thwart our work for God. So in that we should;

Watch against Evil: We need to watch for the evil in this world, but do so in the context of love. When we have the love of God in us and that love comes out from us, evil becomes easier to spot. With that context, we can judge our actions and the actions of others in that light. Does that activity we are about to take glorify God and show the love of Christ to those that might witness our actions? If not, be on guard. Do the words we speak to our spouse share the same love that God shares to us? If not, be on guard against those words.

That meaning of being on guard has us looking for negatives. But we should also be looking for the positives, for example, we should be on guard looking for opportunities to do good. James 2:14-26 tells us that faith without action is dead;

In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. -James 2:17

We should be on guard to see those opportunities that God puts in front of us every day to do good. It could be something big and in the open like being on mission over seas. It could be as small as a smile to a stranger. In fact, I believe those little things can have a big impact for God’s kingdom and they are simple easy things to do. But we need to be on guard to seize the opportunities we are given.

Stand Firm in the Faith

We need to stand firm in the faith that was given to us by the Word of God.

Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. – 1 Corinthians 15:1-2

We need to persevere in the faith, for if we don’t than this is an evidence that we never had the saving faith in the first place. Judas Iscariot, for example, eventually showed that he was not a true believer.

We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. -Hebrews 3:14

A hallmark of a Christian saving faith, is continuing till the end. Many will hate Christians, they will criticize you, they will mock you, they may even try to harm or kill you…but the perseverance in persecution will be a sure sign of salvation.

Remembering the promises of God’s love will help us keep on. God’s love will never fail us and when we remember that, keeping our faith becomes so much easier. And when we stand firm in faith, showing the love of God to others, even those that oppose us, becomes natural.

Be men of courage

Men our judged by many things these days. Physical strength, money and possessions, their successes and status. But John MacArthur says it well in his sermon, How to Be a Man of Courage;

There is a trait that I think distinguishes a man most distinctively, the solitary foundation of manhood. And I want to sum it up in one word, it’s the word fortitude….Now I know that’s not an often used word today and that’s why I picked it. It’s not one that has a lot of baggage. It’s one that may come to you sort of from out of left field and you’re wondering what it means. Let me tell you what it means. Webster’s dictionary says, “Fortitude is that strength or firmness of mind, courage of soul which enables a person to encounter danger with coolness, to bear pain or adversity without murmuring, depression or despondency.” And then we could sum that up by saying, “Fortitude is courage built on strength of soul.” Fortitude is a good word because it combines courage with strength but it also has a third component and that is conviction. Fortitude is the combination of those three things: conviction, courage and strength.

We are to have courage in our faith, we are to be strong in our faith and we are to be sure of our faith. But remember this is all to be done in love. The love is a critical part. There are many strong and courageous people that believe strongly in something, but without the love, they can just become tyrants. We as Christan’s are called to have fortitude, but to be loving as well.

John again sums this is up very well;

They know that they must have the truth, they must have unwavering conviction about the truth, they must have the courage to stand for those convictions and the strength to withstand the assault. That’s what defines a man. A man is known by his character, by his fortitude.

 

Be Strong

With all these others, we are to be strong. We should put all our energy which God has provided in maintaining the truth. When we exercise this faith, we become spiritually stronger. When I physically exercise, I become physically stronger. It is no different when exercise our faith. When we do so, our faith become stronger and we are able to resist the enemy even more effectively.

The word used for be strong here krataióō is which is translated to be strengthened in a passive voice. The other actions talks about previously in the verse are things we need to do, things we can take action on. This call to be strong is a willingness to all God to strengthen us. Something God does to us and for us, not something we can do for ourselves. The thing we must do is submit ourselves to Him so He can make us strong in the faith. The more we submit, the stronger God can make us. When we become strong in the faith, we are able to do the others much more effectively.

In Love

So all these things Paul is admonishing us to do and we do them in love like Christ loved, they will draw us closer to Christ giving us the strength and courage to endure to the end and resist the enemy and allows us to be strong in the faith so that others can see the love of Christ in us.

The love is the key part to all of these. Christ loved us even though we are sinners and gave us a pathway to God that we could never follow on our own. Through Christ we can be made strong and fearless. Through Christ we can be sure we can persevere until the end. Though Christ we can be on guard against the enemy and be watchful of those opportunities that God gives us to serve. And through Christ we can share the love that he has shared with us.

God’s Not Done – Wrestling with God – Part 3

jacob-wrestles-the-angelGod work in unexpected ways. He often surprises us with blessings we don’t understand at the time. Things that don’t quite seem like the blessing at the time. Things that we may feel are NOT the blessing that they turn out to be. Or things that we think are the blessing, and we think they are great and we praise him for them, but it turns out they are not the really the complete blessing we thought they were…in other words, God’s not done. This is where we look in part 3 of the series on wrestling with God.

So we started this series with a look at how God wrestles with us and how that conflict can have incredible changes in our lives. The second part to this story looks at how God wants to bless us and how he pursues us to do so. Using my adult life as an example of how I had conflict with God and how he pursued me, we pick up the story in 2011.

After falling to probably are deepest level financially, wrestling with God over what I need to do, I held on despite being wounded in spirit like Jacob was in the verses we’ve been looking at.

When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” – Genesis: 32:25-26

So bless me he did with a new job, one with a good friend of mine, making good money and I was second in command in the company. This was a true blessing to me. A steady paycheck, something I’d not had for years. Working with friends at a high level of influence in the company.

At this point, I could have said, “Thank you Lord” and just accepted the blessing and moved on with my life. Chances are, I may have let go of God in the process as we tend to do in good times. I may have thought that God had given me his blessing, put me where he wants me to be and has moved on to blessing others.

But I felt a restlessness in my spirit. I never felt like I was quite “there” yet, wherever “there” was. For five and a half years, I went through the motions. God had blessed us financially, gotten us back on our feet and nearly out of debt, but I discovered that spiritual he was not finished yet.

Look at this verse in Isaiah;

But God’s not finished. He’s waiting around to be gracious to you. He’s gathering strength to show mercy to you. God takes the time to do everything right — everything. Those who wait around for him are the lucky ones. -Isaiah 30:18

This is how I felt for those nearly six years I was in this sort of spiritual limbo. While I was being blessed beyond what I thought was possible, I still felt like something was missing; and it was. Those six years, I went through the motions to earn money, but I really never felt like I belonged there. As the stress of life and job built I became more unhappy and more restless. But through it all, I never let go of God. That was the big difference between then and my life before. Even during the good times, I never let go.

The years drug on and I felt stagnant and not going anywhere. God’s blessing were still very evident, but I was still in a low spot. Looking back now, I see that God was not finished yet. God is doing everything right and he takes his time, his perfect timing in doing so.

All this time, I continued to expand this blog and my writing. God used this not only to hopefully touch others, but also to strengthen and build me. Over these last few years, I’m feeling pulled to more leadership in Christ and the trials have only strengthened me to move into those positions.

About a year ago, our company let go a man that was filled with Christ. This dismissal never felt comfortable to me, it never settled in my head that we as a company did the right thing. But after that was done, I felt a strange peace come over me. Not that we had let him go, but I felt God telling me that it was time, time for me to move to the next phase of his blessings. God had put this man before me for a reason and with his leaving it was as if there was a pull for me to go to.

I waited around for God those six years and I do feel I’m one of the lucky ones. God put me in a new company that while the financial and benefits aspect are still blessing me even more than before, I’m in the company of many Christ followers. God has put me in a position to expand my personal ministry and growth through my writing and service in my local community. I feel that this is only the beginning of my journey so while the wrestling may seem to be over, I’m not without injury so I’m holding on tight to God and I’m not letting go.

Through his blessings to me I’ve been able to be a blessing to others and as I move into this next phase of my growth, I’ve set my eyes upon that, to bless those around me. God’s not done with us. I feel He is always moving in our lives to further complete us. I’m holding on tight, strong in faith, yet plenty of growth to go. God has renamed me, as he renamed Jacob. My name is still Jason in our world, but God has renamed me because I struggled with God and have overcome. I’ve struggled with my own fears and have overcome them. I’m holding on tight for more is to come… God is not done yet.

God Wants to Bless Us -Wrestling with God – Part 2

wrestling2So last time I left off in about 2006, but let me back up a bit.  From 2001 to 2004 or so, life had been a struggle, three young children, a home and wife. We didn’t have much and we were happy, but it was hard. We grew stronger in our faith during that time and this is when I was able to quit some bad habits. God was using these hard times to strengthen us and teach us to trust in Him.

Well in 2005, I landed that long-term contract and life was getting easier, at least financially. In February we were blessed with our fourth child, Ethan. Later that year we were able to purchase our first home. If you’re familiar with what happened between 2006 and 2008 or so, you may realize that this was probably not the best time to purchase a home, but needless to say, God had this in his timing. Things were going great, but I still had more lessons to learn.

From 2006 until 2009 or so, my business was really taking off, but I wasn’t quite ready for this level of success. We didn’t spend money on frivolous things, but our bills were high so the level of income needed was high. But hey, I was making a lot of money and we were doing fine. But in hindsight, I realize that we became self-reliant, meaning I had stopped leaning on God. Oh, we still went to church, I still prayed and believed, but I stopped trusting that his grace was enough. So as often happens during times like this, God pursued me!

God wants to bless us.

God wants to share his blessings with us. We look back at our story about Jacob wrestling with God. God forced Jacob to wrestle. He was the initiator of the match. But why make us wrestle? Does God wish to withhold his blessings from us until we “win” them from him? Not at all. But I believe that he shares even more blessings with us through the wrestling that without. So those hard times are important, to teach us, to sharpen us, to show us how great and merciful God truly is. These are things we wouldn’t receive if the gifts were just handed to us.

As many of you know, in 2008 the economy started to go into recline. Prices were rising, home values dropping, businesses were reluctant to spend money as their business slowed. Being a small consultant, I was easy to cut from the budgets of many of my clients. So work slowed down and the money stopped coming in. Remember, we had a high income need and it was slowly getting depleted.

Along with that our debt started to rack up. I had my best years ever in 2006 and 2007. Such great years that I wasn’t really prepared for it. And being a small business in the United States, we often bear the burden of high taxes. Taxes I wasn’t prepared for because of my own lack of preparation. So the tax man came and I owed a lot of money to the government. Well realize, they want their money. They don’t care about anything else but getting what is due. Being someone who feels obligated to pay what I owe, we set up payment plans with the IRS to pay it down. But combine that added expense, with a slowing economy and things got real tight.

This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break. -Genesis 32:24

See God came to Jacob. God wanted to bless Jacob and God came to him. Much the same, I feel God came to me during this down slide. During the downward spiral, I often turned inward, but God had a way of bringing me back. He would pull me out of my self-pity and forced me to wrestle with him, to see God face-to-face.

Also, notice that God wrestled Jacob the entire night. God could have very easily knocked Jacob out quickly, but He kept the struggle going all night. Much the same, our struggle lasted for a few years. The darkest of times, were from 2008 until early 2011. There were times in there that we weren’t sure where we were going to get money to feed ourselves, let alone pay the bills. But over and over, God came through in so many small ways during this period. Those small blessings that you may not even notice at first, but looking back you can see they could only come from God. This struggle was real and it was long.

When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” -Genesis 32:25-26

Near daybreak, God caused Jacob’s hip to be injured. Much the same, in 2010 I was injured both physically with a back issue and emotionally through the financial issues that we were facing. It was at this point that I had a choice to make. I could let go and perhaps lose the blessings that God in store for me or I could hold on until God blessed me. Luckily I made the wise choice. I held on. I could do nothing else. I had already proven, despite my best efforts, I could not “fix” things on my own. So I held on. I stood strong in my faith that God would see us through.

And God blessed me. He didn’t magically remove my debt, nor did I magically discover a treasure chest of money. But despite leaving me with my “injured hip”, he blessed me. And in reality, that “injured hip” of mine was a blessing itself.

2011 found me with a new job, steady paycheck and a way to bring my family from the brink of financial disaster. I held on to God, after he had brought me low, until he blessed me. And the blessings far exceeded my expectations and they came in unexpected ways.  This is not the end to this story, but that is a story for later.

Wrestling with God

wrestling2017 is becoming the year that I explore prayer and try to raise my game in that area. I’ve never been consistent in my prayers, often praying heavily when I need something and not so much when I don’t. I think we all can say we fall into those ruts from time to time when prayer is just not easy to do. But one thing that always helps is to look back at those prayers that I’ve had over the years and see how God has answered them. I often don’t realize that a prayer is answered until I perform this little exercise as often things become clear when looked at through the lens of time.

I’ve had many such experiences and have written about some on this blog before, but let me talk about a prayer that I think is still being answered, yet was begun long ago without my even realizing it.

At the beginning

Back in 2001 I took a job with a small consulting firm, leaving a job I was not happy at (no real reason of theirs, was just not loving it anymore.) At first the new place was great, I was able to work from home most of the time and while that required a level of discipline that I had was only beginning to acquire, it allowed me to spend time with my young family and gave me the flexibility that many jobs could not provide me, all the while making a salary that more than provided for my family.

Fast forward 6 months to the end of 2001, the day after Christmas to be exact. I received an email that would begin this journey of prayer and renewal that has continued to this day. The owner of the company (there were only 2 of us), emailed me to tell me he was laying me off. I no longer had a job. No insurance, no income, nothing. And right after Christmas where we had spoiled the kids more than we probably should have. We went from one of the happier times of our lives, to one of the worse, in just a few hours.

We had three of our four children then, one just 9 months old. This was just after the terrorist attack of 9/11 and there was still much uncertainty in the world and the economy. There was no guarantee of finding a job, especially not one making the kind of money I was making. Things were not looking good.

Up until this point, while I had a long history of knowing Christ, indeed all the way back to my childhood, I had only recently re-committed myself to following him. This was one of those turning points in my life. One I can look back to as a moment when I could have went one of two ways and in this case, I believe I chose wisely and followed God’s promptings without really understanding. See it was then, that I began to question my purpose in life, question what I was doing and why, not understanding completely why this was happening to us. I had so many questions.

Looking back, I see that I discovered something that about prayer that I think God likes. I was quite frank with God in my frustrations, my anger and my disappointments. I didn’t understand or like this moment and I let Him know how I felt. I struggled with God. I questioned His judgment as it really made no sense. All I wanted from God was comfort and to fix my situation, but I was getting neither.

I’m reminded of the story of Jacob in the book of Genesis. Jacob was headed back to see his estranged brother Esau, who was coming to greet him with 400 men. No welcome party. Jacob splits his party up to avoid complete destruction and decides to stay in camp alone, probably for some intensive prayer.

So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, ‘Let me go, for it is daybreak.’ But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” – Genesis 32:24-26

This response pleased God so he pronounced this blessing on him;

Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome. – Genesis 32:28

So while he came out of the wrestling match wounded and with a weakened body, he comes out with a stronger faith.

Sometimes when we want God’s comfort, he sends it in unexpected or even unwanted packages. I didn’t want to be unemployed! I wanted to provide for my family. This lesson began with a simple email after we celebrated the birth of Jesus, but this is not how I wanted or expected this lesson to be delivered.

For two years I was essentially unemployed. Luckily we didn’t have a ton of debt, but living week to week became the norm. We made sure our children were fed and taken care of and then we worried about ourselves. I did side jobs, mostly software development work that I managed to pick up. I also spent quite a bit of time selling stuff on eBay which actually turned into somewhat of a nice little side business. But overall we were not in a financially good place and things really didn’t look to improve… but these two years did something great, it taught me a valuable lesson.

This time of trouble, forced me to rest my faith more fully on God and not myself. See before this time, I was doing making all the decisions, I made the choices. I had faith in God, but I kept all the “important” stuff for my own decision making. To take me to the next step in our relationship, God had to set me back a peg. He wounded me to increase my faith, just as he caused Jacob to limp to strengthen his.

After two years of struggle, I finally landed a long term contract that took my business to the next level. I was able to form my own business and once again was able to provide for my family. It took time to build that, but during the process God did something else to me.

Wrestling with God changed my identity. This time of trouble made me a different man. I grew up in the process. I became a responsible adult finally (only took me 30 years). I learned to be a better father, a better husband, a better business person. I learned to take responsibility for matters and probably most importantly, I learned to lean on my faith in God to get me through.

Jacob had gained his initial blessing from his father through deception, thus causing the rift that existed between him and his brother. But with is new identity, Israel, gained his blessing through faith in God. I did much the same. I initially gained all my blessings through my own effort and while God rewarded me and blessed me, I gave none of the credit or glory to him. After my 2+ years of wrestling with God, I was blessed in so many ways, but I now knew who those blessings came from.

This brings us to about 2006. While I thought the wrestling match was over and the lessons were learned, I soon learned that really this was only the beginning of the match. See I had worked on my timing (even though those 4 years were too long anyway), but God has his own timing that in hindsight was the correct timing. But I end here and will pick up the story later.

First Needs

250px-Christus_Bartimaeus_Johann_Heinrich_Stoever_Erbach_RheingauDown the street lives a man with his family. Nice people, but I’ve not talked with them much as our schedules and patterns of life just don’t match up. But when we do, I’ve always found him to be a pleasant person, one who is considerate of others and genuinely cares about his neighbors. The one time the topic of Christ came up, I could sense that while he knew about Christ, he didn’t know him personally. But he also wasn’t ready to start that relationship yet.

Fast forward a few months and I start to see him around the house more often. At first I thought he was just taking a vacation, but after two weeks, I realized that he’s not going back. I see him fuss around the yard, but often just sitting under the tree in his backyard as if deep in thought. Opportunity eventually presented itself to talk with him and conversation seemed normal as any other time I’ve talked with him, however I found out that he had lost his job, but he didn’t seem to concerned about it so I didn’t bring it up.

Forward another month and I notice he’s still puttering around the house so I go over and talk with him one afternoon and find out despite searching, he’s struggling to find a job and they are close to losing their house. After talking with him for a while, I ask if I can pray for him and his family. He looks at me quietly for a moment and then says “Thanks, I probably do need Jesus, but right now I need a job!”

While fictional, this example illustrates a point that needs making. We are all fallen humans, we may see the need for Jesus, but until our “first needs” are met, we have trouble seeing Jesus. These base things are what keeps our minds focused on the here and now and we miss Jesus and the hope for the future that he brings.

So the question becomes: How can we help God meet the first needs of those he puts in our paths?  Can we see the needs that people have?  Can we recognize that by helping meet those needs we can bring the light of Jesus to them?

Blind Bartimaeus

In the book of Mark, there is a great story of a blind man name Bartimaeus. The story starts with Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho.

Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus, was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” – Mark 10: 46,47

Here the blind man, who has great need, cries out to Jesus. But others rebuked him;

Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” – Mark 10:48

See others, wanted him to stay on the sidelines and not bother someone as important as Jesus…they figured, Jesus wouldn’t want to take the time to talk to someone as low as the blind beggar. But look at this:

Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” – Mark 10:49

Nothing could stop the savior. Not the storms, not the open sea, not Satan himself, nor death; nothing could stop Jesus. But a single lone beggar did.

“What do you want me to do for you?”, Jesus asked him. – Mark 10:51

Jesus asks the beggar what he can do for him. The savior asked him, how can I serve you?

The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” — Mark 10:51

The blind man had a simple yet impossible request. He just wanted to see. But who could do that? Well he had faith that Jesus could or we he wouldn’t have raised the ruckus that he did. He believed that Jesus could heal him. He had a great need, a “first need” that only Jesus could fulfill.

“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road. – Mark 10:52

Jesus heals him, but then comes the important part. Once he was healed, he followed Jesus. His first need was met, then once that hurdle was met, he was able to follow Jesus.

Meet the first need

With Christ, a person’s salvation usually came as a result of His having first met that person’s “first need.”

There are so many examples in the Bible of Jesus meeting a need before the person follows him. A great article I came across in researching this post, is a portion of a sermon from Dick Innes (http://www.internetevangelismday.com/jesus-communicator.php) In this sermon, he gives many examples of how Jesus met the needs of a person and then afterward was able to realistically say, “Go and don’t commit these sins anymore.”

God is interested not just in a person’s spiritual life, but in the total person.

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. – James 2: 14-17

Often the way to reach the real needs, those spiritual needs of a personal salvation through Christ, is through the “first needs” of that person. If we bypass those first needs to try to reach the spiritual needs first will almost guarantee a closed mind that will remain closed to our message.

Let me close this by quoting from the above mentioned article;

Love, understanding, acceptance, and forgiveness. That’s the message of Christ. It’s the greatest healing power in the world. It’s the message that our broken world so desperately needs. And that’s the message every effective Christian communicator will always strive to communicate.

As we have already noted, Christianity is much more than a creed. And witnessing for Christ is much more than sharing the plan of salvation (as important as that is at the appropriate time). Being a Christian and being an effective witness for Christ is to experience God’s love, acceptance, and forgiveness, and to communicate this to every life we touch.

“Do this,” I can almost hear Christ saying, “and you will be one of my witnesses indeed.”

Read more: http://www.internetevangelismday.com/jesus-communicator.php#ixzz4HyZKqdOm

Awakening

Look, you mockers be amazed and die! For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it. – Acts 13:41

With all that is going on in the news these days, between the attacks around the world to the politics here in the US, I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard people say, “Where is God?” or “Why would God let something like this happen?” or “God must have abandoned us because of our falling away from him.” But, my friends, I fully believe that God is as active as he was yesterday and as he was the day before that.

But these questions still abound. Where is God and why isn’t he doing something. The verse above from Acts was something Paul said in response to those people who mocked and persecuted him and the other early Christians. Here he quoted the book of Habakkuk;

The Lord replied, “Look at the nations and be amazed! Watch and be astounded at what I will do! For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it.” – Habakkuk 1:5

Habakkuk is an amazing book that I’ve not studied much before and honestly I can’t recall being talked much about, but in my initial reading this morning, I would think it was written about the world today. Here we have a prophet asking questions of God of “Why is there such violence?” God gives him an answer! I plan on doing a deeper study and probably blogging about my findings in the near future as I see so much wisdom in this book and the answers God provides. But that’s for another time.

Awakening

What do I mean by awakening? Well, I think that once we think God is not moving or active in our world, we tend to fall back within ourselves and become resigned that we live in a fallen world. However discouraging the world may seem or how absent God may feel, John Piper said it best,

God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of 3 of them.

I’ve just began reading Awakening by Matt Brown which gives us insight and reminders of how God is working each and every day in this world, despite our not seeing it. We find ourselves in situations each day that we don’t understand why God allowed it or how God will use it for his Glory, yet we don’t see the big picture like God does. Remember Paul spent time in prison unjustly, yet God was advancing the gospel among the guards and making Paul’s brothers in Christ bold in their freedom and in Paul’s strength.

Be awakened by how God is moving in the seen and unseen. As Matt Brown says on his site, “…open our spiritual eyes to what God is doing, which will in turn catapult your faith to all God has purposed for you.”

Why are you staring?

man-staring-sky-320x443Reading through the first chapter of Acts I came across an interesting passage.   Jesus was asked right before he ascended to heaven on when he would free Israel.  Jesus replied that the Father sets those dates and they were not for us to know and then talks about the power of the Holy Spirit which was about to be given to us.

It was not long after he said this that he was taken up into the sky while they were watching, and he disappeared into a cloud.  As they were straining their eyes to see him, two white-robed men suddenly stood there among them.  They said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there staring at the sky?  Jesus has been taken away from you into heaven.  And someday, just as you saw him go, he will return!” – Acts 1:9-11

What struck me about this is that question of “Why are you staring?”  To me it seems those two men were telling the disciples, “He’s coming back this same way someday.  You don’t need to worry about when that happens or sit here waiting.  Get off your butt, get out there and tell people about Jesus before so they are ready for his return, whenever that may be.”

Complete conjecture on my part, however there are sometimes I feel like I’m just staring at the sky.  Staring and waiting.  Meanwhile, God has meaningful work he wants me to do or is putting opportunities in front of me that I’m missing, because I’m staring at the sky.

The disciples were told not too long before this;

Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.  And be sure of this:  I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:19-20

See the beauty of it is, we don’t have to sit and stare at the sky wondering when Jesus will return.  He is with us always and everywhere.  We need to get out there, help those in need, lovingly tell people about Jesus and prepare for his return in that way.