Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Taking a Holiday with God

I really enjoy having God around.  I enjoy the conversations.  The dimension of His perspective on things shocks me at times and opens my eyes in ways I hadn’t expected.  As He reveals Himself I find myself without the strength to stand at times and strengthened to reach high at others.  He is delightful, and I enjoy having God around.  I imagine this could be true for others too. 

People could take a holiday with God.  Even the term fits.  A holiday is what was once called a holy-day, a unique day set aside for God.     

What could this look like?  It would be focused on Him.  A real-honest-determined focus.   For example, a married couple celebrating their anniversary take a trip together.  The focus can be on the trip or on each other.  It can be a trip where their relationship is deepened and sweetened if they focus on the other.  So, focusing on God would mean the heart is directed, the mind is centered, time is irrelevant and the door to one’s soul is open to Him.  Being with God is satisfying.  Not because I get something, but because He and the relationship are worth it whether I get anything special out of it or not.  The Scripture says it well, “Be still and know that I am God.”  And again, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”  It is about God.  If I lose focus I can make time with God about me and what I feel and what I experience and what I get.  Then if God doesn’t part the Red Sea for me I am disappointed and wonder if He loves me and why others get special things and I don’t and why God likes others better than me and on and on it goes.  “Be still,” we are reminded, “and know that I am God.”  There is no other.  There is no one like Him.  Being with Him and focusing on Him is enough.  It is about Him.  Staying focused on Him allows me to recognize when He draws near.  He is incredibly creative and will show up as He chooses, but I can miss Him.  If I focus on myself and my expectations and my demands God may leave me to enjoy my holiday alone.  I really don’t want that. 
Motivation, “want to,” is huge isn’t it?  It gets us going.  Have you ever had a bad habit?  A dark area of life that motivates you?  I was thinking about this side of things as a comparison and contrast to the positive motivation that takes us closer to God.  It can be anything from extra carbs to cocaine, gossip to gambling, pride to prejudice.  Follow me on this.  I will with ease begin thinking about my thing.  I will find a way to get to it.  I can hear the words of Sméagol from The Lord of the Rings movies say, “My preciousss.”  Yikes!  How easy it is to go to the dark side.  But then the desire for God and time with Him should be the real draw.  It takes some effort to turn from the motivation for other things to God.  It ought to be that I am trying to find a way to get close to God every day.  I want my “want to” to want more of Him. 

A great way I have found to redirect my “want to” is taking a holiday with God.  I learned about times of extended prayer from others and tried it myself.  I set aside time to get alone with God.  I read Scripture and prayed.  Reflected.  Considered.  I did it by faith.  Believing God would draw near.  I think sometimes I did it hoping for spiritual points.  Sometimes because of big pressures or decisions.  Sometimes because it seemed to be the right thing to do.  I would talk and walk at times.  I would write in a journal and pour out my heart.  I would look at nature.  I would read a book that pointed me to God.  I would cry out in confession.  I found myself attacked by doubts and infested with regrets.  If my depression wasn’t dark enough then the Enemy seemed to have a way of awakening the horrors of my sin.  I found the freeing of my spirit remarkable as I laid out my heaviness before the Lord.   My times with the Lord are similar in some ways years into the process, but have an element of heaven’s air that wasn’t always there in the beginning.  I have found that I am motivated to be with the Lord.  It is the greatest of joys. 

I am so privileged to be a pastor at a church where I am free to have time with the Lord, to encourage others in getting to know God better, and to see the work of God all around.  It is wonderful.  

I do think, however, that the encouragement to spend time with God is mistakenly viewed as a condemnation for not rather than what it is an invitation to more.  When I first came to recognize that a person can really know God, that Jesus really made a way to deliver people, that there is so much more to life I was excited.  I thought other people ought to know about this.  I ticked people off telling them about this deal.  I was shocked by that.  I ran into some people who were growing in the Lord by way of discipleship.  I got involved and found it helpful.  I thought anyone who heard about this was surely going to jump on it.  Not so much.  I was shocked.  I am also, apparently, a slow learner.  The reality check had a souring affect on me for a while.  I have a new reality.  I realize there are people who don’t want what God has to offer.  That is sad.  But He is offering an invitation to more with Him, and I am excited.  I am excited that He even bothers with us.  I am excited that His promises are true.  I am excited that He is limitless and He has invited us to explore. 

So, there is before you this day an invitation of a holiday with God.  This is an invitation by the Supreme Being of the universe to come be with Him.  Take Him up on it, and see what He does. If you have already taken Him up on His offer you know what I mean and for those who have yet to begin the process may you have your heart enflamed with desire for Him. 

Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault. All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time! Amen. -Jude 24, 25


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Making Sense of the Randomness of Life

A Batman movie opened a couple of days ago and movie goers intending to watch a movie in Aurora, Colorado were terrorized, shot and some were killed.  Where is the sense in that?

Try as we may we cannot make sense of the randomness of life.  Evil is evil.  Evil will erupt.  Destruction will be destructive and appear often with no warning.  It is a broken world we live in and the cracks in the brokenness are more apparent sometimes than at others.  The brokenness becomes more apparent to anyone close to the cracks, but it still doesn’t make sense. 

The scientific research has not solved the problem of evil.  The logic of philosophers has not put a stop to the darkness. 

But what of God?  What has He done about this?  He has acknowledged the problem of evil, given instructions on how to live given the situation, and has laid out the end game.  But God has not provided all the information needed for us as human beings living on this earth to make sense of the randomness of life.  That is above our pay grade, it is way over our heads, it is need to know only and we don’t need to know.  God has released the information needed for living in a world where brokenness and randomness exist.  That information is something worth getting hold of.  He says it like this:

“The LORD our God has secrets known to no one. We are not accountable for them, but we and our children are accountable forever for all that he has revealed to us, so that we may obey all the terms of these instructions.”  Deuteronomy 29:29 NLT

God has included in His basic instructions that people not murder other people.  Some don’t listen to God and act out anyway.  Then other people suffer.  Other people have to put the pieces of life together after a shattering act of evil. 

Rather than make sense of the randomness of life perhaps being prepared for the outbreak of randomness in a broken world would suit us better.  We can do something about being prepared and we can do something about a situation once it has occurred. 

In the big picture few humans will get out of their fleshly bodies while alive.  Some people God may take directly to heaven, but for most dying is the way of transition.  Given that reality it would seem prudent for those who know the Living and True God to be ready to point others to God and to help them, teach them, encourage them along the way.  We never know when a random act of violence will take place or when the end of our days will come, but being right with God and helping others be right with God seems wise and loving. 

When the unthinkable enters our realm of reality we can do something about it.  We can as we have opportunity help someone.  The parable of the Good Samaritan is an example of random violence bursting onto the scene and a man who had resources offering what he had to assist a victimized person. 

We can do something about being prepared and we can do something about a situation once it has occurred even when we don’t have all the reasons for the occurrence.  This is part of loving God and loving others.  And though we are limited in understanding why darkness breaks out as it does we are linked in to the limitless source of light which can and will shatter the darkness.