Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Faith: the spiritual energy drink

From my good friend Chris Stadler

In the military, men have always understood the value of morale. To boost morale, a general will let his men know that there is a plan and it's a good one. He will instill the confidence that they can prevail. He will get them focused on the prize: victory.

When morale is high, a general almost can't contain his soldiers. They want to go out and do battle now – not tomorrow.

So if you have an enemy, what would he try to do to you to get you to fear the battle? Simple. He will try to get you to take your eyes off of the prize and place them on the cost of failure. And when you mention God's promises, he'll say “Did God really say that?”

Because in a Christian walk, there is a cost of failure. The enemy knows that. He also knows that, if we're not full of the Word of God, he can convince us that we may have misunderstood God.

But what choice do we have? We can live for our big-screen TVs and a relaxed family life – until the economy takes a nose dive. Or we can live to fight the battle. But if we're going to fight the battle, we have to do it with our eyes both on the prize and on God's promises and the might that He has to fulfill them. And God doesn't fail.

Strength, energy and self-control come from confidence in our Commander and His calling on our lives. Find energy in His Word, because that's where our confidence comes from.


Monday, March 2, 2009

Pray Like it Matters

The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working James 5.16b

It is a mystery to me why God invented prayer.

Certainly He knows what we need: 
Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Matt 6.8
Certainly He has the power to meet any need: 
With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God Mark 10.27 
Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance? Who has measured the Spirit of the Lord, or what man Whom did he consult, and who made him understand? Who taught him the path of justice, and taught him knowledge, and showed him the way of understanding? 40.12-15
Certainly He knows what He is going to do and when:
But He is unchangeable, and who can turn Him back? What he desires, that He does. For He will complete what He appoints for me, and many such things are in His mind. Job 23.13-14
Yet the Lord has asked us to pray as though, somehow, prayer makes a difference.

What if failing, frail and feeble people can change the course of things through prayer. 
  • What if Joshua had not prayed for the sun to stand sill
  • What if Elijah had not prayed for rain, or for fire to fall upon the altar
  • What if Moses had not prayed for water, or Hannah for a son
  • What if Jonah had not prayed from the belly of the whale
  • Or Paul and Silas from the darkness of Jail
Would Gods' hand have moved? Would the stories end as they did? Or, did their prayers actually make a difference?

I see in the Word of God an ongoing encouragement to seek the face of God in prayer knowing that God has designed it so that PRAYER MATTERS!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Was She Right? Part 3

(Please read the previous two posts for the full conversation)

So was Naomi right to "blame" God for her circumstances? 

I dont know if blame is an appropriate term, but to say that it was within God's providence that these things happened is certainly true. Whether one says, "God did it" or, "God allowed it" the truth is that either way the circumstances of our lives are in His control.

The more important issue for each of us when we find ourselves in a season of "Dark Providence" is to realize that God's purposes are ultimately being worked out... even though I may not in the short term, or even in the long run know what those purposes might be.

Here is what is clear from Naomi's Story. Lets first remind ourselves of the difficult season Naomi had experienced.

In chapter one we read that she and her family had left the promised land because of famine, so they were strangers in a strange land, then her husband died, then both of her sons died, leaving her with no heir.

Now look at the end of the story:

So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. And he went in to her, and the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son. Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel!  He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her lap and became his nurse. And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David

Instead of famine, "a nourisher"

Instead of a strange land she was now among her own people

Instead of mourning "a restorer of life"

She had lost sons now a daughter worth "seven sons"

She had no heir, now a grandson... an heir indeed

And no run of the mill heir at that; rather, none other than David would come from her new family and ultimately the greater than David, the Son of David, Jesus Christ.

Had the Lord brought calamity upon Naomi, well, yes He had. For a season she languished under the "dark Sovereignty of God as God worked behind the scene to get a Moabite woman into a particular field to meet a particular man at a particular time; in order that the ultimate plan of God could move ahead.

Naomi had an important role in the fulfillment of God Eternal plan of redemption for mankind. I do not think that she is in heaven now still upset at God for what He saw fit to put her through.

Lord give us eyes to see and appreciate the bigger picture and your sovereign work in our lives.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Was She Right? Part 2

(read part one for the full conversation)

Lets take our discussion one step further.
One of the responses I received went in part as follows, "Calamity in the old testament was brought on by God for the sins of His people..." 

So what was Naomi's sin? If in fact the tragedy that she experienced was judgement for her sin, what was it God was judging her for? 

It is a fact that at times the Lord did judge His people; sometimes He did it directly, often times He used the nations surrounding Israel as the rod of correction. The question is... is every dark circumstance the result of sin? 

If we are not careful, we can find ourselves in the same place as Job's accusers when they said to him on numerous occasions, 
"If you will seek God and plead with the Almighty for mercy, if you are pure and upright, surely then he will rouse himself for you and restore your rightful habitation. And though your beginning was small, your latter days will be very great." Job.8.5-7
The problem was Job had not sinned. 

Jesus had something to say on this subject and the light He shine on the subject gives us insight in how to look at Naomi's situation.

Listen to Jesus from John 9.1-3 
As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him."
So there may be more to consider here than simply the judgement of God on poor Naomi. 

We'll talk more.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Was She Right?

Here is something to think about...

Listen to Naomi's complaint and lament in Ruth 1.20-21:

She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?” 
To say that she had hit a rough patch would be an understatement. Earlier in chapter 1 we read that she and her family had left the promised land because of famine, so they were strangers in a strange land, then her husband died, then both of her sons died, leaving her with no heir.

Now, I don't know what trials you are facing right now, I am guessing you are facing some... most of us are. The proximity and the severity of this season for Naomi is pretty spectacular by any estimation. She says dont call me Naomi (pleasant), call me Mara (bitter).

The magnitude of it all had swamped Naomi's boat, she had exhausted all her hope and strength and was at her wits end.

Here is the question I have for you; was Naomi right? Was she right to say, " the Almighty has brought calamity upon me."

Does the Lord Almighty bring calamity, would our God do such a thing? What counsel would you give Naomi? Would you say, "Buck up sister", or, "Don't speak of God like that", or, "Your faith needs to be shored up"? What comfort, what word of encouragement would you offer Naomi in her time of need, what counsel?

I am going to let you think about that one for a few days and we'll talk more.

Feel free to leave comments if you like.