Worshipful Wednesday: Owner of the Nations

Psalm 82:8

Rise up, O God, and execute judgment on the earth! For you own all the nations.

psalm-83-confederates

Psalm 83:4-6

4 They say, “Come on, let’s annihilate them so they are no longer a nation! Then the name of Israel will be remembered no more.” 5 Yes, they devise a unified strategy; they form an alliance against you. 6 It includes the tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites, Moab and the Hagrites,”

Psalm 83:16-18

16 “Cover their faces with shame, so they might seek you, O LORD. 17 May they be humiliated and continually terrified! May they die in shame! 18 Then they will know that you alone are the LORD, the sovereign king over all the earth.”

As I read from my Bible plan this morning, I could not help but see the Scriptures above as being fulfilled right now during our time.  Upon examination, looking into the history of each people group mentioned as enemies of God’s people, it is amazing to see how small choices can impact families, people groups, nations, the world and all eternity.

Esau and Ham were both cursed for a moment of weakness indulging their flesh.  Esau was the favored son of Issac, but he was lazy and and took for granted his position… all over Lentil soup.  I am thinking it would have taken some more prized food than that to tempt him away from leaving behind his identity in Christ.  Tricked out of his birthright, he ended up an enemy of God’s people.  It hardly seems fair, and yet God knows the heart and His choice was Jacob.

Noah knew his son’s heart, and though it was a moment of indiscretion and mockery, Ham was foolish and not who God’s promise would be through.  His descendants apparently did not learn a lesson from their ancestor regarding walking in wisdom and restraining the curious sins of the flesh.

Lot just dumbfounds me.  He was spared by God because of the faithfulness of Lot’s uncle, Abraham, and his prayers on his behalf.  Yet his descendants became enemies of God’s people.  He surrounded himself by a godless people and grew comfortable there.  Given a choice as to where he would live, he inched closer and closer to Sodom and Gomorrah until he was smack dab in the middle of a fleshly, lustful environment.  He even offered his own daughters up to wicked men as potential sex slaves when the wicked men of his city wanted to molest the angels who were visiting Lot.  No wonder his daughters did not know right and wrong and opted to inebriate their father and bear his children.  Moab and Ammon resulted from their sin and are also modern day enemies of God’s people.  Keeping ourselves unpolluted is not enough. Our children need to be taught what it means to fear the LORD.

Enter the Hagites and Ishmaelites, who come from Hagar, who was Sarah’s backup plan when it seemed like God was taking too long to fulfill His promise.  The root from Sarah’s and Lot’s daughters’ decisions was impatience and a lack of trust in God.  What if they had not acted on their desires and just waited on God?  We will never know.

What a mess.  Oh how the heart of God grieves over the sinful choices man makes in His attempt to rule himself.  The consequences for decisions made outside of God’s will are painful and long lasting.  Distrust in God and impatience for the unfolding of His plan will not produce blessings, only hardship and pain for those who come behind us.  The motivation for acting outside of God’s will is idolatry – our desires become our god.

But what intrigues me the most are the Assyrians -they were not who I expected to be the enemies of God.  Surrounded by lands who worship false gods, the modern-day Assyrians are Christians in a land we are familiar with, that was once Ninevah.  Jonah’s obedience still paying off, perhaps?  How is it that Christians, who were grafted in to God’s promise to Israel, could ever be an enemy of Israel’s?

Ultimately, all of the enemies of God’s people are enemies of God.  They do not remember that He is the Father of all nations, the One Who made us all.  They want the favor of God their way and the fruit of their deeds goes before them and will be judged by the God of our universe.

Be ready.  The pieces are moving into place and the nations surrounding Israel think their plan is firm, but the One Who owns it all has a plan and it will stand.  Isn’t He amazing?  He gave us free will and we made a mess of things, but in the end He will work everything for good, because He can!

Lord, I am amazed at You.  Our hearts can fear when we see the circumstances in the world today, but to know that You are sovereign and in complete control is our source of everlasting comfort.  Have Your way, LORD, and defeat the enemies, as David prayed, that they might seek You and know You as the One true King who rules over all.

Manic Monday: Trusting God in Your Calling

Photo Credits: amayesing-life.blogspot.com

Photo Credits:
amayesing-life.blogspot.com

Genesis 32:9-12

9 Then Jacob prayed, “O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, O Lord, you said to me, ‘Return to your land and to your relatives and I will make you prosper.’ 10 I am not worthy of all the faithful love you have shown your servant. With only my walking stick I crossed the Jordanbut now I have become two camps. 11 Rescue meI pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, as well as the mothers with their children.12 But you said, ‘I will certainly make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand on the seashore, too numerous to count.’”

Jacob had fled his past troubles years prior to God calling him to go back from whence he came.  At first blush, he was walking in obedience when he did what his parents expected and left his household to marry a believer. Truthfully, his momma wanted her son protected from the older brother who had threatened to kill him for his deceit and cunning.  Isn’t that like us all?  We want to be right with God, but sometimes try to achieve that position by placating our mistakes with an instance of obedience.  Perhaps the right we do will outweigh the wrong.

Jacob wrestled toward the calling of God on his life, tried to make it happen in his own timing and way.  Jacob’s striving backfired big time, yet God was not going to retract that calling.  He uses imperfect people and His calling is irrevocable. Thank God for His faithfulness, despite our mess ups.

A calling is a funny thing.  Burning inside us is this relentless urging, and yet we are so fallible, we doubt that this calling is really from God.  It is the stepping out that confirms the calling.  It is in the authentic moments of acknowledged weakness that our calling is strengthened.  It is in our frailty and failings that God is glorified, if in those moments we fall prostrate at His feet and take no pride in what He is accomplishing in and through us.

We were never chosen because we are all that.  We were never chosen to be esteemed or to receive glory.  We were chosen in His sovereignty and for His purposes.  We may never understand why.  Facing our failures is what enables us to see God’s purposes and plans for our lives fulfilled.  That is what Jacob did, shaking in his boots (ok, maybe sandals), he went to face the one he had offended – because God said so.  God was positioning Jacob (now Israel), where he wanted him to be.

Sometimes we want God’s calling to be comfortable, but instead sometimes He has us ministering before an unappreciative people, or encountering many roadblocks or discouragements along the way.  Jacob understands.  But in the midst of all the turmoil and drama, he became Israel.  He answered the call and God was glorified by imperfect Jacob, scrappy and daring, but in the end a follower of the one true God.  His pride became humility, His hope became God’s promises and His greatest joy was God.  He was not defined by his failures, but by the great God He followed and who called Him.

Lord, help us to not focus on the calling, but on You, the One Who calls us.  When we are discouraged or doubt Your ability to use us, help us to be obedient and to never tire of seeking your glory in our lives.

Worshipful Wednesday: A Living Sanctuary

Photo Credits Ron Giangiacomo

Photo Credits
Ron Giangiacomo

Psalm 114:1-2

“When Israel left Egypt, when the family of Jacob left a foreign nation behind, 2 Judah became his sanctuary, Israel His Kingdom.”

1 Corinthians 3:16

 “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”

1 Corinthians 6:19
” Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?”
2 Corinthians 6:16
Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE.”
Ezekiel 36:27
I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.”
Psalm 116:6,13
“I will serve the LORD in the land of the living,13 I will celebrate my deliverance and call on the name of the LORD.”

Psalm 115:1

“Not to us, O LORD, not to us!  But to Your name bring honor, for the sake of your loyal love and faithfulness.”

How humbling and amazing it is that the God of this universe would choose to dwell in us.  And for what purpose would a perfect, Holy Being elect to dwell in a sinful vessel?  His glory and relationship.  Amazing love and grace.  It is his indwelling that makes us Holy and restores our relationship with Him.

What a beautiful picture it is of the Israelites, choosing to accept the deliverance of God and leaving behind Egypt and all of its hardship and trappings.  It took faith, for sure, to trust in God to deliver them – their enemy was so powerful.  But that faith was met with a glorious fulfillment in which His people became His sanctuary.  Imagine if they accepted the deliverance from God but still wanted to serve the gods of Egypt – would God condone such an action?  Sound familiar?

We, too, were called to come out and be separate – to leave our former way of life and walk in a new abundant life.  We cannot remain unchanged, we cannot take the sinful traditions around us and think God will wink at that.  When the Holy indwells the unholy, it is to redeem and change us forever, it is to purchase us from a dead way of living, and we are no longer our own.  The things of this world which we would cling to in ignorance, only serve to hinder the transformation that Christ is accomplishing in those who are fully surrendered to Him.

Without His indwelling, we would merely be trying to follow laws, which we can never fully achieve.  With His indwelling, God is able to convict us of sin and cause us to walk in His statutes.  What a miracle that is – formerly we had no concern for obeying God, then suddenly our hearts desire to do His will.  Praise God!

Ultimately, this radical love expressed in such a sacrificial salvation was all for His glory.  We are the benefactors but also the mirrors which reflect His glory.  He, being manifest and represented in each of us Who have accepted His free gift, restores to us once again what it is to be made in His image.

Lord, thank You for saving us!  Thank you for Your mighty deliverance!  Help us to not use this freedom to indulge the flesh by compromising and still living like we did when you saved us.  The cost was high and may we never take Your salvation for granted.

God Notices When You’re Stuck in the Mud

Jeremiah 37:2  “Neither he nor the officials who served him nor the people of Judah paid any attention to what the LORD said through the prophet Jeremiah.  16 So Jeremiah was put in prison in a cell in the dungeon in Jonathan’s house.  He was kept there a long time.

Jeremiah 38:6  “So the officials took Jeremiah and put him in the cistern . . . there was no water in the cistern, only mud.  So when they lowered Jeremiah into the cistern with ropes he sank into the mud.

Jeremiah 38:9  “Your Royal Majesty, those men have been very wicked in all they have done to the prophet Jeremiah.  They have thrown him into a cistern and he is sure to die of starvation there because there is no food left in the city.

Jeremiah 39:12Find Jeremiah and look out for him.”

Jeremiah 40:4 “But now, Jeremiah, today I will set you free from the chains on your wrists.  If you would like to come to Babylon with me, come along and I will take care of you . . . go wherever you choose.  5  Then the captain of the guard gave Jeremiah some food and a present and let him go.

Life has many twists and turns, most of them unforeseen.  In the middle of chaos, we can begin to wonder if God is aware, but once we are on the other side of turmoil, the treasure gained from the ordeal far surpasses any temporary hardship.  Of course if the trial is severe, one shudders at the thought of having to journey that path ever again.  The doubt of God’s enablement prior to hardship, though, has been changed forever in the presence of a Sovereign God Who was truly sufficient to meet our every need.

The story of an individual who was noticed, rescued and provided for by the King evokes respect and a sense of awe.  But when one contemplates what came before the honor, I wonder if anyone would want to go through all they have to in order to receive the blessing on the other side.  We cannot see in the future, though, which is where faith comes in.

Jeremiah was known as the weeping prophet, and after reading once again from the book of Jeremiah, I can surely understand why.  Imagine hearing from God and being His mouthpiece, only to be rejected for your obedience and thrust into imprisonment continually and a deep pit of mud.  Was that a part of God’s plan?  He allowed it in – but why?  How could He receive glory for the torture of His chosen servant?

We have seen this before by those chosen to serve God.  Joseph saw a vision and ended up being sold into slavery – God kept him from being murdered and eventually elevated him to second in command of the land.  Wow.  Even though we delight in the end of the story, we often do not understand the middle of the story, but God does.  I love how the Lord ensures that someone was looking out for Jeremiah.  Imagine getting the mud cleaned off and then going before the king and the Captain of the Guard, who gives you a present and more importantly, your freedom.  Israel was under siege and all the Israelites were being captured or murdered.  But Jeremiah was set free. 

God knows our suffering and all of the inner workings of our lives have a very specific end which He already knows completely.  When we read all of the accounts of faithful followers of God and see how God always kept His covenant promises, we should never be given to doubt.  But life’s pain creates a raw sense of reality that causes us in our flesh to wonder if we have been a fool to trust in the One who would permit such atrocities.

Just like the individual who was late on 9/11 and whose life was spared, I have to wonder if Jeremiah’s life was spared as he sat in the mud and wondered.  Israel was under attack – Jeremiah had foretold it and even told the king how he could avoid Babylon’s punishment.  It might have seemed like God was not in control when His servant was dying in mud.  Not so.  Not exactly a glorious picture of how one would want to die, though, and I am sure fear gripped his heart.  Kind of reminds me of a story I heard of someone who suffered a humiliating death when they were hit by a potato chip truck.  Tragic.  We don’t want to see such an end for a man of God.  Not suffocating in mud.  Not Jeremiah.

Are you in the mud of life right now?  Feeling forgotten and beginning to wonder if your Deliverer will ever come?  He hears.  He sees.  He is weaving something beautiful out of that pain.  He promises.

Lord, when we do not understand, help us to place our faith in you.  In our fragile humanity, help us to rise above our circumstances and abide in You.

Children of the Promise

Galatians 4:22, 23, 28-31

For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman.  23  But one, the son by the slave woman, was born by natural descent, while the other, the son by the free woman, was born through the promise.  28  But you, brothers and sisters, are children of the promise like Isaac.  29  But just as at that time the one born by natural descent persecuted the one born according to the Spirit, so it is now.  30  But what does the Scripture say?  “Throw out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman will not share the inheritance with the son” of the free woman.  31  Therefore, brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman but of the free woman.

Sibling rivalry.  Nonsensical and yet so commonplace.  It was present in the first two brothers in all creation, Cain and Abel.  It is present now, played out on the world stage in the Middle East.  Envy was at the root then and it is now.  As a parent, I seek to stamp it out, but it is hard to convince our flesh that it is ok when one is seemingly blessed more than another.  Man shakes his fist accusingly at God when he thinks that he has been unfairly treated, and yet what does it mean for us to be fairly treated?  Why would any of us ever deserve favor from God?  But I digress.

Each day as I open God’s word, I see evidences of God’s favor and the resulting envy on the part of those not a part of His promise.  I see it on the evening news.  People perceiving that they are owed something.  People blaming another people group pretty much for existing.  What is difficult for man to accept is that God chose a people – His people – to be the apple of His eye.  It is His prerogative to choose – He is the Creator, after all. He chose to grant Abraham and Sarah a son, Isaac.  They took matters into their own hands and had Ishmael.  But God was not going to bless the action done outside of His will.  He knew from the beginning what His plan was and His plans have never gone unfulfilled.

The amazing thing these other people groups neglect to see is that all people groups can be a part of the promise.  It was through Israel that all nations would be blessed.  I am a part of the promise, though I am not Jewish.  Grafted in, adopted as one of His own – I will never understand why such undeserved mercy was granted to me.  While the favor God granted to the Israelites might appear unfair – we all want to be chosen as the captain of the team – God knew Abraham’s heart – He is omniscient and His purposes are so far above ours.

The spirit behind the envy is the same spirit as the ancient enemy of our souls – he was jealous of God’s place and wanted to be like the Most High.  So the enemies of God’s people foolishly think they can take the place of God’s chosen.  Their plot is evil and will end up with the same result as the devil – forever cursed to hell.  May God open their eyes to see that the One they are persecuting is God Himself. 

Lord, help us to shine Your light and love to all peoples.  Anyone Who calls on the Name of the Lord may be saved.  The days are evil, but You are still calling people to Yourself.  Please use even this evil circumstance to draw even more to Yourself.  You are good, God, all the time!