Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Better Than a Roller Coaster Ride

I contend that life with Jesus is the best.  I also contend that in complete opposition to the view that living God’s way is lame, tame and dumb it is anything but. 

A new roller coaster opened this year not too far away and it is stirring quite the buzz.  One review read: Outlaw Run is amazing! It packs more action into each foot of track than I think almost any other roller coaster in the world!  I sense from those words a bit of excitement and appreciation for this coaster which is great.  What I wondered by way of comparison was what would a typical review of the Christian life look like?  Would living God’s way rate an “amazing!”?  Or would walking with Jesus get something like “He packs more action into each foot of track than I think almost any other in the world!”? 

God’s people have taken on giants, defeated armies, been visited by angels and talked to by God.  They have walked out of jails meant to hold them.  They have held on when others meant to crush them.  They have been enriched by the presence of God. 

Paul has this prayer in Ephesians 1:19-20: 

I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.

See that?  God’s power is there for His people.  What would that be like?  The Creator Who spoke and this immense universe spun into being has power for us?  That exceeds the normal expectation of having breakfast and getting through another day or another week or another year.  “The incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him.”  I wonder if that power is more amazing than a roller coaster ride?   Sure it is, even if there are those who see God’s way as lame, tame and dumb. 

And one thing is for sure.  A person who only watches from the sidelines will never have the thrills of one who gets into the roller coaster car with their whole body and goes for a ride.  The same is true of God’s way.  A person who only watches from the sidelines will never have the thrills of one who commits with their whole mind, body and soul and goes for the ride.  Lame, tame and dumb flies out of the car on the first turn and then its hang on. 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

God’s Incredible Work in a Life

It ain’t what people often think.  No kidding.  God’s ways are higher than our ways.

Jeremiah was a prophet of God during a tough time for the people of Israel.  Politically things were going bad.  The economy was suffering.  The general populace expected God to keep them safe and comfortable. 
The back story?  Oh yeah, the people had rejected God’s ways and gone their own way.  God had sent messengers to correct them, but they didn’t want anything to do with the way God wanted them to go.  God was allowing the tough times to come upon them to possibly get them to turn around.  They didn’t like God’s messengers, the prophets, telling them they were at fault for their bad times.  Do you know what they did?  

Like many today they find someone in a religious position who will say positive things about them so they could feel good about themselves.  No, really.  They didn’t want to hear the truth from God that could have made their lives really better.  No, they wanted to keep doing what they were doing, but find someone who would say that what they were doing was blessed by God or that they would be blessed by God.  That seems incredibly dangerous.  Look at the words of Jeremiah the prophet:

16 This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says to his people: “Do not listen to these prophets when they prophesy to you, filling you with futile hopes. They are making up everything they say. They do not speak for the LORD!
17 They keep saying to those who despise my word, ‘Don’t worry! The LORD says you will have peace!’ And to those who stubbornly follow their own desires, they say, ‘No harm will come your way!’  Jeremiah 23:16-17 (NLT)

Did you see that?  People who are supposed to be speaking for the Lord tell others who despise what God says that they don’t have to worry and that God says they will have peace.  If they despise what the Lord has said they will most certainly not have peace.  And those who follow their own desires these folks say that no harm will come their way.  It appears the laugh will be Satan’s as people believe this lie and God’s wrath comes upon them.  This is a horrible scenario.  But people are often hungering after the lie that supports what they already believe or gives them false hope rather than really trusting God and going His way. 

Modern day promoters will encourage people with positive statements that seem helpful and harmless.  They may say something like:  You were born to be a winner; you were born for greatness; you were created to be a champion in life.  Those kind of words seem worthy of posting on the refrigerator.  The problem is that they are not from God, they are not God-centered, and they are not promoting God’s purposes or His power.  Just as in the days of Jeremiah there were messengers taking their cues from the way they wanted things to be and saying things that pleased the people and God had nothing to do with it.  Look at what Jeremiah goes on to say:

 Have any of these prophets been in the LORD’s presence to hear what he is really saying? Has even one of them cared enough to listen?                                  Jeremiah 23:18 (NLT)

Have these messengers been in the Lord’s presence to hear what He is really saying?  What a question!  And the answer is, no they haven’t. 

What would a prophet who had been in the Lord’s presence have to say given the situation in Jerusalem in Jeremiah’s day?  It would look this way:

Look! The LORD’s anger bursts out like a storm, a whirlwind that swirls down on the heads of the wicked. The anger of the LORD will not diminish until it has finished all he has planned. In the days to come you will understand all this very clearly.       Jeremiah 23:19-20 (NLT)

God isn’t sending a messenger to affirm the self-centered behaviors of His people.  He isn’t offering comfort to those who reject what He has to say.  Christians often imagine God as kindly grandfather cheering them on in their every interest and endeavor, but He is the All Powerful God and He is pointing them to His thing not theirs.  Jeremiah points out the problem of messengers claiming to have something to say from God. 

 I have not sent these prophets, yet they run around claiming to speak for me. I have given them no message, yet they go on prophesying.
Jeremiah 23:21 (NLT)

God identifies those who speak for Him as those who have been in His presence.  They know His words.  They aren’t passing on what they imagine or even what the crowds want to hear. 

If they had stood before me and listened to me, they would have spoken my words, and they would have turned my people from their evil ways and deeds. Jeremiah 23:22 (NLT)

The result is that the message from God passed on to people of the earth would have differed from their views, opinions, dreams and desires and the messengers would have turned God’s people from their evil ways and deeds.  The true messenger helps people move closer to God’s ways rather than the ways of the world. 

Have you heard someone who is being confronted about their behavior share this gem?  “You don’t know me!”  It is a deflection.  A way of avoiding the issue of confrontation.  It assumes no one has a right to question their actions because they don’t know their full history or inner heart.  The tricky messengers have tried that one as well.  God answers them in Jeremiah.  Because He can be everywhere there is no one anywhere who has information He doesn’t already know. 

“Am I a God who is only close at hand?” says the LORD. “No, I am far away at the same time. Can anyone hide from me in a secret place? Am I not everywhere in all the heavens and earth?” says the LORD.       Jeremiah 23:23-24 (NLT)

God’s conclusion is to let the false prophets speak.  Those who are not interested in God or His reality can have their way.  But the true messengers are to get God’s word out.  He illustrates the difference between what is real and not by comparing what is nutritious and not and what has results like fire and can break like a hammer. 

“Let these false prophets tell their dreams, but let my true messengers faithfully proclaim my every word. There is a difference between straw and grain!
Does not my word burn like fire?” says the LORD. “Is it not like a mighty hammer that smashes a rock to pieces? Jeremiah 23:28-29 (NLT)

God has more for His people than we can imagine.  We sell Him short and that leaves us in a bad spot when we don’t seek out God’s truth the whole truth even when it hurts or doesn’t agree with our desire for what is comfortable and trouble free.  Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised.