Thursday, June 30, 2016

Going our Own Way

"This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel says:
In repentance and rest is your salvation,
          in quietness and trust is your strength,
          but you would have none of it.
You said: No, we will flee on horses.
          Therefore, you will flee!
You said: We will ride off on swift horses.
          Therefore, your pursuers will be swift!
A thousand will flee
          at the threat of one;
at the threat of five,
          you will all flee away,
till you are left
          like a flagstaff on a mountaintop,
          like a banner on a hill.
Yet, the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
          therefore, He will rise up to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice.
          Blessed are all who wait for Him!"
                                                   -Isaiah 30:15-18

God told Israel what to do - how to live their lives under His blessing. They chose to do something else. God was laying out for them the consequences of their behaviour. But, even then, God hasn't given up on them.

As I read these verses, I'm struck by how much this same scenario can play out in my own life. I think it's common in the lives of many - sometimes in big ways, but more often in little ways.

God tells us what He has for us to do in this time. He gives us the way to find the salvation and strength for everyday life that we are looking for. We might have even asked Him for it. But, we don't want it that way, so we refuse. We rebel and choose disobedience to God.

Our rebellion and disobedience has consequences in our lives. God doesn't just let it slide. He will let us live with the consequences of our choices.

But, there is still good news for us. Even when we refuse to obey and our dealing with the consequences of our sine, God still longs to show us compassion. If we turn back to Him and His ways, He will be gracious and we will experience His compassion.

Is there an area in your life where God has shown you what to do and you've decided to go you own way instead?

Are you living in the consequences of your disobedience?

Will you confess it to God and turn from it?

Once we have done that, we are able to walk forward in the life God has planned for us.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Refusing to Listen to Truth

I've been studying the prophet Isaiah recently and I've been struck by some thing in Isaiah 30. The words in this chapter relate quite well to our lives as Christians today.

Isaiah 30 is titled "Woe to the Obstinate Nation" in my Bible. And it's a chapter detailing some hard lessons Israel would learn for their turning away from God.

As I've read and studied this chapter, I've realized there are some important lessons we can learn through it.

 Isaiah 30:10-11 says,
"They say to the seers,
          'See no more visions!'
and to the prophets,
          'Give us no more visions of what is right!
Tell us pleasant things
          prophesy illusions.
Leave this way,
          get off this path,
and stop confronting us
          with the Holy One of Israel'."
How often do we say these things?

How often do we refuse to really hear the truth because it's not what we want to hear?

I think we do this more often that we would admit. If not with our words, than with our actions. If it's hard or unpleasant, we want nothing to do with it. We push it away - often at great personal cost, because it's what we really do need to hear.

It is the truth that comes from God that is the only thing that can set us free. Sometimes the truth will be hard to hear or it won't be what we wish it was. But, even then, maybe especially then, we need to listen to the truth being spoken and work through it to see how it needs to change us.

We don't want to get to the point Israel had in this chapter of Isaiah. They were trying to silence those who spoke the truth because they didn't like the message. We don't want to become so opposed to the truth that we try to silence those who are speaking the truth.

Is there some truth God has been trying to tell you that you don't want to hear?

Are you willing to listen - even if it's hard?

When you hear a hard truth, take the time to ask God about it. Ask Him to help you understand it. Talk to another mature believer about it. Don't assume just because it's hard, it must be from God.

But, let's not be people who run from the truth when it is hard.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Where is Your Refuge?

"You boast: We have entered into a covenant with death,
          with the realm of the dead we have made an agreement.
When an overwhelming scourge sweeps by,
          it cannot touch us,
for we have made a lie our refuge
          and falsehood our hiding place."
                                              -Isaiah 28:15

A covenant with death?
An agreement with the realm of the dead?
A lie our refuge?
Falsehood our hiding place?

Those words seem ridiculous to read. It doesn't seem like something most people do and then boast about.

Except, I think we do exactly this all the time. We build what we think is a safe place for ourselves on a lie we're believing about God, or ourselves, or our world.

We don't always know that's what we're doing at the start. But that doesn't change how ridiculous what we've done is.

The good news is, we don't have to stay in this place. We can get free from our covenant with death, our refuge in a lie, and our hiding place in falsehood.

"So this is what the Sovereign Lord says:
See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone,
          a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation;
the one who relies on it
          will never be stricken with panic.
I will make justice the measuring line
          and righteousness the plumb line;
hail will sweep away your refuge, the lie,
          and water will overflow your hiding place.
Your covenant with death will be annulled;
          your agreement with the realm of the dead will not stand."
                                                                    -Isaiah 28:16-18

Building our lives on lies and falsehood will always bring destruction for us. They won't stand.

But, God has provided us a place we can build a refuge and hiding place that will stand no matter what. We can build our lives on the foundation that is Him and then it won't matter what comes our way. We will never be "stricken with panic," because we'll know we can continue to stand on our sure foundation.

A life built on the sure foundation of Jesus Christ, the cornerstone, will stand in the middle of storms. When our lives are built on Christ, we experience a peace that comes from Him - a peace that we can't explain any other way.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Avoid the Danger of Forgetting God

"You have forgotten God your Savior;
         you have not remembered the Rock, your Fortress."
                                             Isaiah 17:10

It seems this is a common refrain from God's prophets to Israel and Judah. "You have forgotten your God."

It was the cause of many of their issues. The forgot God and began to worship other gods. The result was judgement and destruction.

I think we have the same danger. We are in danger of forgetting God too.

We get caught up in life and we turn from God. Sometimes intentionally. But oftentimes, it's not intentional.

So, what is the solution?

How do we prevent ourselves from forgetting God?

God told Israel how to prevent this. He spelled out for them what it would take for them not to forget God.

Deuteronomy 4:9 says:
"Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen and let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them."
Did you catch what it says?

The way we prevent ourselves from forgetting God is to share the stories of what He has done. Tell others the stories of God and His work among us and in our lives.

When we share the stories we have a reason to remember. We keep God present in our minds. It prevents us from forgetting God.

We avoid the danger of forgetting God by sharing the testimonies of what He has done with others.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

How to Stop the Constant Running

"Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed." (Mark 1:35)

"When the apostles returned, they reported to Jesus what they had done. Then He took them with Him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida." (Luke 9:10)

These are just two of the many examples we can find of Jesus withdrawing from the busy-ness of ministry to rest and meet with God. It's a model of something very necessary for the life God has called us to live as His followers.

In our society, I believe this is even more important for us to learn. We prize being busy - even in the church. And we feel guilty for taking a break.

Yet, if we were to follow Jesus' example, as recorded in the gospels, we would regularly carve out time away from the busy-ness to be with God. We would make the time away a priority rather than an after-thought.

Because, the truth is that we can't live out what God has for us the best if we're constantly running from one thing to the next. We got too tired.

When we're constantly running, we also risk missing what God is leading us to next. We can get so focused on what we need to do next that we miss out on God trying to move us in a different direction. Or we just get so tired that even the thought of doing something new or different becomes too much for us.

What would it look like for us to regularly take time away for refreshing and the hear from God? What would change if we became intentional about not allowing busy-ness to take over our lives?

It seems I go in seasons with this. Sometimes I do this much better than others. It's easy for my calendar to just get filled up again - especially when it's with good things. But, even those good things may not be the best things.

So, how do we protect ourselves from falling into the trap of prizing our busy-ness? How do we make sure we're not so busy we don't have room for time to hear from God?

There's a few things I've learned that help me to do this better.

1) Be intentional and schedule it.

If I'm not paying attention it can be really easy to overload my calendar. All the empty places in my days get filled. But, if I regularly block off time in my calendar, I'm more likely to leave the space I need in my life. Often I sit down and block out the time on my calendar at the beginning of the month for the entire month - so it's just done and I don't have to try to remember all the time.

2) Lean to say no - even when it's something good.

This has probably been one of the most difficult things for me to learn and I don't do it well all the time. Lots of good opportunities to be involved in something come my way, but, realistically, I can't say yes to them all. Sometimes the way to manage our schedules and not become too busy is to say no to some of the good opportunities that come our way.

I've learned not to say a quick yes or be too hasty in my no. But, instead, to take each good opportunity to prayer and give myself time to look at the impact a yes would have on me, my family, my friends, my other commitments, and, most importantly, my relationship with God. Sometimes it won't fit, sometimes it will, and sometimes I realize it's time for something to change because this needs to fit and something else doesn't anymore.

3) Show grace to yourself.

In many ways, this is the most important one. We don't always do this well. We'll fill our calendars and get so busy we don't have time for what should be most important. When we realize that, it's not time to beat ourselves up. It's time to make the decisions we need to make to get our schedules beack under control and start again.