Monday, August 10, 2009

spiritual boredom

I received the note below from a friend on Facebook. My reply follows.

Re: Boredom in the Union life

Hello friends! I know that title seems oxymoronic, but I wanted to ask you about boredom. I've noticed that sometimes I get bored stiff! It feels like there's nothing mentally stimulating that Christ wants to do or teach me or anything. In the past, I'd to try to do things to "fill myself up", things that blessed me before but now felt very dry. Now, I'll tell God how bored I am and try to have a conversation, but I keep getting distracted by the boredom! Help! Has this happened to you and, if so, what did God say about it? I value your thoughts very much and each of you has been a tremendous blessing to me. It feels like a big, warm family on FaceBook!

my response:

I think spiritual boredom is epidemic in western culture. "Without a vision, my people perish." We need a vision for God's unfolding purpose in our world. Most people think that once Jesus died and rose from the grave, the story was over. Now we simply try to live this life and enjoy it as much as possible, and then one day we will "die and go to heaven". (I am not saying that is what you do... I am just describing what I typically see around me.)

That approach misses the whole point. Jesus came the first time to provide redemption and bring us into relationship with God, but now we wait eagerly for His second coming. The early church longed for His return, when He would begin His 1000 year reign on earth, bringing all of creation under His loving rule. That is our hope. All of creation reconciled to its Creator.

In the meantime, the infinite, awesome One longs to reveal Himself to us in deeper and greater ways. Its free, but it doesn't come easy. It requires that we come to Him in faith, to spend time praying, fasting, meditating on His word, and worshipping. I promise you, if you will give yourself to those practices, He will reward you with what Paul called "the spirit of revelation." That is what he prayed that God would give the Ephesians. Its not about legalistic works. The prayer, fasting, meditation, etc. are not to earn this revelation. Its about putting ourselves in the God-ordained position to receive what he graciously wants to give us. These are some of the works of faith that James speaks of.

Jesus wants to bring you into an intimacy with Himself that words can't describe. He wants to open our eyes in greater and greater ways to see his glory and goodness. He wants to awaken a fascination in our hearts with knowing more of Him. Forgiveness and freedom from guilt and works are just the introduction into this grace in which we stand. He truly wants to take us into the fulness of the knowledge of God. No human can explain that. It can only be experienced in His presence. Sometimes our seeking of Him will be stimulating and even exciting, and sometimes it will be a little on the dry, dull side. I just encourage your to persevere. God is faithful, and "a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him."

Once your heart becomes fascinated with Him, boredom will, for the most part, become a thing of the past.

grace and peace,


I know, I know.... I am not a very good "comforter" at times. But spiritual passivity is rampant in this generation and "the kingdom of God suffers violence, and the violent take it by force." There is a thread of theology that I have been running across lately that sounds more like muppet land than the kingdom. We just kind of passively go about our business, and let Jesus live through us. Any effort we make is "the flesh", and therefore useless, if not evil. I think the Lord wants partners, and not puppets.

But that's just me...

Lord, straighten out my thinking where I am missing it. Amen.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

a question

The other morning I was talking with a friend, and we were discussing a portion of scripture from Ephesians 5, verses 1 through 21. It’s a very challenging passage. It calls us to be “imitators of God” and to walk in the kind of love that that took Jesus to the cross for us. And then it calls us to holiness and purity in no uncertain terms. It speaks particularly to our struggles with our speech, sexuality and covetousness. But that’s not really what I am concerned with at this moment.

He called me a few hours later, with a thought he had as he was considering our conversation. While I can’t remember his exact words, the gist of his thoughts were to question why we wouldn’t live now with the same devotion and dedication to Jesus that we picture ourselves having after His return to rule "in the flesh" here on the earth. I thought it was a great question, and it led me to another one.

In our day to day lives, would we change anything that we are doing or not doing if Jesus was living alongside of us in the flesh?

A second question naturally follows.

Why are we waiting to make those changes?

I will leave it at that. Its a discussion we can only really have with Him.

And yes, I know, Jesus won't be "in the flesh", since He will be in His resurrection body. "In the flesh" just seemed to make the question more clear. ;-)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

the same yesterday, today, and forever

From Jeremiah 21

The priests ask the prophet to inquire of the Lord regarding His deliverance for them from the king of Babylon and his invading army.

"Inquire of the LORD for us, for Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon is making war against us. Perhaps the LORD will deal with us according to all his wonderful deeds and will make him withdraw from us." They presume that the great God of Israel will arise as He did in Egypt and deliver them from their enemies."

But Jeremiah doesn’t give them the answer they are looking for.

"Thus you shall say to Zedekiah, 'Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Behold, I will turn back the weapons of war that are in your hands and with which you are fighting against the king of Babylon and against the Chaldeans who are besieging you outside the walls. And I will bring them together into the midst of this city. I myself will fight against you with outstretched hand and strong arm, in anger and in fury and in great wrath. And I will strike down the inhabitants of this city, both man and beast. They shall die of a great pestilence. Afterward, declares the LORD, I will give Zedekiah king of Judah and his servants and the people in this city who survive the pestilence, sword, and famine into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and into the hand of their enemies, into the hand of those who seek their lives. He shall strike them down with the edge of the sword. He shall not pity them or spare them or have compassion.' "

Not exactly what they were expecting. God was not happy with them. He loved them, they were His chosen, but they were in a place of unbelief and rebellion. They had been in idolatry, and the other sins it inevitably leads to. So… He was going to be faithful to His promises. Moses had given them severe warnings regarding disobedience to His ways, and He was going to follow through with what He had said.

“Even when we are faithless, He is faithful.” He will be true to His word, one way or the other.

“I myself will fight against you with outstretched hand and strong arm, in anger and in fury and in great wrath.”

Now, many people today would write this whole thing off as “Old Testament.” That’s the law, they say. We are under grace now. Hmmm. I am thinking of a couple of New Testament “promises.”

James, the brother of Jesus, wrote”You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, "He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us"? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble."

Let me see. In this “New Covenant” passage we are told that a wrong attitude toward this world can make us an enemy of God, and that pride will put us in a position where He, God, will oppose us. That sounds a lot like the situation we find in Jeremiah. The Israelites had been unfaithful to the Lord, and become “friends” with the idols of this world. In His perfect love and wisdom, God had to discipline them. He couldn’t leave them in their deception and rebellion. He had to do whatever was necessary to bring them back to a place of complete trust in Him, and the obedience that is always the result of that trust. We know from His own word that He delights in mercy. However, He will turn to discipline if that is what it’s going to take to restore our hearts back to Himself. That hasn’t changed. Remember Hebrews 12. His first choice is to win us with the revelation of His kindness. But, if we turn back to the deception of darkness and sin, He will still do whatever is necessary to wake us up to a place of repentance.

Why? Because He loves us… more than we could ever understand.

Have your way, Lord. In mercy, have your way.

The psalmist tells us many times, “He is good, and His mercy endures forever.”

I believe it.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

a good word

Jeremiah 9

Thus says the LORD: "Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom,
let not the mighty man boast in his might,
let not the rich man boast in his riches,
but let him who boasts boast in this,

that he understands and knows me,
that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice,
and righteousness in the earth.
For in these things I delight, declares the LORD."

Lord, give us hearts that boast only in You.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

the prophet and the priest

From Amos, chapter 7:

Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, "Amos has conspired against you in the midst of the house of Israel. The land is not able to bear all his words. For thus Amos has said, "'Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel must go into exile away from his land.'" And Amaziah said to Amos, "O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, and eat bread there, and prophesy there, but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king's sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom." Then Amos answered and said to Amaziah, "I was no prophet, nor a prophet's son, but I was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs. But the LORD took me from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, 'Go, prophesy to my people Israel.' Now therefore hear the word of the LORD. "You say, 'Do not prophesy against Israel, and do not preach against the house of Isaac.' Therefore thus says the LORD: "'Your wife shall be a prostitute in the city, and your sons and your daughters shall fall by the sword, and your land shall be divided up with a measuring line; you yourself shall die in an unclean land, and Israel shall surely go into exile away from its land.'"

If you have read the prophecy of Amos at all, you know that he is not exactly a cheerful guy. Basically he was a farmer that the Lord called out of the fields to proclaim His judgments against the house of Israel. Really strong stuff. Here in chapter 7, we find that a priest has gone to the king, and said, “We need to get rid of this guy. He is telling the people that they are in sin, and that God is getting ready to bring down some heavy discipline. This is really negative, discouraging stuff, and the people can’t take it.”

The priest wants to shut down the prophet because he is upsetting the status quo. He didn’t see things from God’s point of view, and therefore didn’t embrace the word of the Lord. There is a great danger of that scenario replaying itself in our generation. That which we call “the church” is a thriving business in American culture. However, much of it bears little resemblance to that which we see in the scriptures. Instead of calling out disciples to follow Jesus in His counter-cultural kingdom, we teach people how to enjoy all that this world has to offer, and then go to heaven. We teach them how to live for themselves in Jesus name. That sells much better. Draws bigger crowds, brings in bigger offerings.

And then a voice rises up, exposing the deception, and calling His “followers” to actually follow Him. This world and its system and values are exposed as “under the power of the evil one,” and bringing us into enmity with God. There is a call to repentance, to the true holiness of passionate love for our awesome King. There are warnings of the coming discipline of the Lord in our generation.

And what do we hear from those who make their living from this religious system masquerading as the gathering of Jesus’ family? “Legalism! Religion! Bondage!” Grace is perverted to allow people to walk in unrepentant, willful rebellion against His teachings while claiming to be His followers.

And the priests once again try to silence the prophets.

Some things never change.

The end of this passage is the scary part, though. God’s response to the priest who would run off the prophet couldn’t be stronger. He declares another judgment, and this time it’s against the family of the priest. Prostitution for the wife, death for the children. It’s tragic beyond words. I wouldn’t begin to suggest that this is how God would deal with undiscerning leaders of our generation, but there is a lesson here. The status quo is not sacred. Peace and prosperity in the present are not the priorities of the One who sits on the throne. He is determined to have a pure and spotless bride for His Son. He will do whatever is necessary to prepare her, and He will not allow even the leaders of His people to stand in the way of His plan to bring that to pass.

Lord, give us wisdom, understanding, and discernment of your ways for our times.

Have mercy.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

and the award goes to...

I was reading in chapter 10 of 1st Samuel this morning and came across this passage,

Now Samuel called the people together to the LORD at Mizpah. And he said to the people of Israel, "Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, 'I brought up Israel out of Egypt, and I delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of all the kingdoms that were oppressing you.' But today you have rejected your God, who saves you from all your calamities and your distresses, and you have said to him, 'Set a king over us.'

This is from the story of Saul being raised up as the first king of Israel, at the request of the people, and the displeasure of the Lord.

As I read this passage this morning, it hit me, "Are we doing the same thing again, when we look to political power and activity to accomplish our goals, rather than turning to God in fasting and prayer for His divine intervention?"

I wouldn't deny the possibility that the Lord would lead an individual or group into some form of political or social action in a specific situation, but that seems to be our first and natural response to the problems we encounter today.

Of course, we always throw up a token prayer for God's blessing on our efforts, but I am not sure he wants to be "best supporting actor" in this story.

Just a thought...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Are you a right wing extremist?

If you listen to the news, you have probably heard about this.

Its the document that every talk show on the radio is ranting about. The Department of Homeland Security is warning us of the threat of "right-wing extremists." They feel it could be used to label most anyone who opposes this administration's agenda as dangerous and an extremist. No big deal. "Sticks and stones may break my bones..." But, this kind of thinking can be used to limit the expression of any kind of dissent that the government deems "dangerous." They already mention the pro-life movement in the document. What's next? In some places in the world it's already against the law to preach against sexual immorality. They are usually mostly concerned with homosexuality, but the legislation can easily be expanded to include anyone whose feelings might be hurt by any condemnation of any sin. Hate crime taken to the extreme. We don't want our message to be hateful in any way. We don't want to be all about what we are "against." But... we are clearly commanded to call people to repentance in the gospel. Jesus, John, Peter, Paul... they all called for their listeners to "repent and believe." That has not changed in this age of seeker-friendly religion posing as the life of faith that Jesus calls us to.

In this intellectually sophisticated age of relativism, a message of repentance could possibly even become illegal.

Don't get me wrong. I am not afraid of any of this political activity. Our God reigns! But we need to be "watching" and aware of the times, and where we are headed.

One of these days it may actually cost us something in America to take a stand for Jesus and His righteousness.

It will probably be good for us.

Cotton candy christianity is not a threat to the kingdom of darkness. A voice in the wilderness calling people to whole-hearted righteous love is.

John 15:18 "If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you."

They didn't hate him because he healed the sick, cast out demons, and multiplied loaves and fishes. They hated Him because the light that was in Him exposed the darkness.

May that same light of righteous hope burn brightly in us.


Monday, February 23, 2009

If you can't say something nice...

John 7:7

"The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil."

I am reading through John, and this verse has stuck out to me the past couple of days. This is not a very popular concept today. Not very "seeker friendly". We're not supposed to talk about good and evil. We are DEFINITELY not supposed to talk about people being evil. We want to present a picture of Jesus that is "nice". If people can only see how nice He is, then they will like Him, and accept Him as their saviour, and they will start to become nice too. And eventually everything and everyone will be nice. There is a problem though. That scenario requires you to ignore a whole lot of scripture in order to present this as the complete picture of our Lord. He IS nice. He is absolutely good. And He IS love. But... He is also the righteous Judge of all the earth. He is also the Lion of the tribe of Judah, who breaks the seven seals, releasing horrendous judgments on the whole earth. And those judgments are a manifestation of His holy, perfect love. But, they don't fit into this generation's depiction of the "nice" Jesus. And when we tell the whole truth, many will hate Him, and they will hate us too. Joh 15:18 "If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you."

Does this give us a license to be obnoxious? Do we stand on the street corner and shake our fist at "the world", telling them to "turn or burn"? Of course not. The world was not offended with Jesus because He was acting like a jerk. They were offended because He spoke the truth in love without compromise. And He called them to obedience to that truth. We love the stories where Jesus deals so gently and kindly with sinners. The woman at the well. The one caught in adultery. But, He always finishes by calling them to repentance. He embraced them in their sin in order to call them out of it. That is love. Anything less is a counterfeit. Anything less is NOT love. We can be really nice, and NOT be demonstrating His love. Well intentioned humanists are often quite nice. They sometimes sacrifice their time and energy to do really nice things for people in need. They feed the hungry, and help poor people keep their water and electricity on. But they don't bring them into the knowledge of the truth, and a restored relationship with their Creator. Nice is not bad; nice is just not enough. Works of compassion should be a way of life for the church. We are called to practically demonstrate His love to the world. We just have to make sure that this demonstration includes a humble, clear declaration of the truth. Jesus died to bring people to repentance (Rom. 2:4) and to reconciliation with God. He has entrusted that message to us.

2Corinthians 5 ...we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Seeker friendly is not a bad idea. Jesus was seeker friendly. Some of those seekers fell in love with Him. Some went away despising Him, and eventually took part in His crucifixion. Would the world have any reason to crucify the "nice" Jesus we are told to present to them? Why would they do that?

Jesus prayed in John 17,

I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.

Later, toward the end of His time on earth, He spoke to His disciples...

John 15

Remember the word that I said to you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.
But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.
If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.
Whoever hates me hates my Father also.
If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father.
But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: 'They hated me without a cause.'
"But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.
And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.

Jesus is nice. Really. I believe that. But the heavenly beings in the throne room don't cry, "Nice, nice, nice", day and night. He is holy, and righteous in His love. And the perfect wisdom of that loves calls us out of our sin to follow Him. His kindness is meant to lead us to repentance. Human kindness doesn't want to offend anyone or hurt their feelings. That may be nice, but it's not necessarily love.

Lord, help us to represent you boldly, and accurately, with humility and compassion.


Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Interesting article

This is an interesting and sobering article a friend sent me. Its about a meeting of world leaders to discuss the current world financial crisis. These are supposed to be "the best and the brightest", and their conclusions are not very encouraging.

I know Someone with the wisdom to solve all this... if we were willing to listen.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

the timing of His kingdom

This is a pretty amazing, and sobering passage of scripture.

Luke 19

As they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. He said therefore, "A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, 'Engage in business until I come.' But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, 'We do not want this man to reign over us.' When he returned, having received the kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business. The first came before him, saying, 'Lord, your mina has made ten minas more.' And he said to him, 'Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.' And the second came, saying, 'Lord, your mina has made five minas.' And he said to him, 'And you are to be over five cities.' Then another came, saying, 'Lord, here is your mina, which I kept laid away in a handkerchief; for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man. You take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.' He said to him, 'I will condemn you with your own words, you wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? Why then did you not put my money in the bank, and at my coming I might have collected it with interest?' And he said to those who stood by, 'Take the mina from him, and give it to the one who has the ten minas.' And they said to him, 'Lord, he has ten minas!' 'I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me.'"

Two things stand out to me today.

He spoke the parable, "because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately." He didn't refute the idea of an earthly manifestation of His kingdom. He simply gave it a new time frame, and a view of what He was looking for in His people in the meantime. The gentile church has often criticized the Jews for expecting Jesus to come as Messiah to reign in the flesh on the earth. It wasn't a wrong idea. They simply didn't understand that He would come first to bring redemption. He will come again to fulfill all the messianic promises of His reign physically here in our midst. The kingdoms of this world will truly become the kingdoms of our God.

The second was his closing statement. "But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me." Jesus was not shy or embarrassed about His judgments. Much of the church today wants to avoid that issue. Its not very seeker friendly. I am not advocating a return to "hellfire and brimstone" preaching. However, we need to tell the whole truth. If all we talk about is the Lamb, and we never tell people about the Lion, they may not be very happy with us when He appears. And the Lord may not be very happy either. It seems like somewhere He has spoken about false prophets that say "Peace, peace" when there is no peace. As the earthly judge requires when I take the witness stand, I want to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth; to the best of my knowledge.

Interestingly, He seems to indicate that it is His followers that will execute those judgments on His behalf. We have to be careful about building doctrines on the details of parables, but this is a very thought provoking way for Him to finish the story.