Thursday, December 30, 2010

Not Too Much... Not Too Little

It's been a great week of fun with the family. We have had a lot of wonderful time together from going up to the mountains and playing in the snow/hiking (and falling on rocks while protecting the camera and cell phone in each hand). haha This is pretty much my first time off since starting the new job back at the beginning of July... and it has been very nice and refreshing. One thing that I have often prayed is that God would not bless me beyond what I am able to handle, because I have seen how I am prone to self-dependence when things are going well. I ran across this passage in Proverbs 30:7-9 the other day that I completely forgot about.
Two things I asked of You, do not refuse me before I die: Keep deception and lies far from me, give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is my portion, that I not be full and deny You and say, "Who is the Lord?" Or that I not be in want and steal, and profane the name of my God.
I think these two things are the source of most of the "hard times" we face in life. We either have too much, and our hearts are turned from Christ to the love material things or feel self-sufficient... or we have too little... and because of that, we don't trust His sovereignty in providing for us. I have gone through times of both of these things this year. While having too much seems like a good problem, it is hard to continually trust the Lord when He has blessed so abundantly. It is not at all a lack of His work that makes it hard to trust Him, but the temptation is for us to depend on ourselves... to rest in the security of our jobs or our future plans. How many times has He taken your plans and changed them? How many times has He taken the very thing you depended on away from You? May I suggest that this is the amazing love of the all-wise Father. We see a pattern in the lives of the Israelites, and if I am honest, I can see much the same pattern in my own heart even if it doesn't show on the outside in the same way that it did with the Israelites. God blessed them abundantly... they turned their own way... God made their circumstances so that they had to depend on Him... they turned from sin and trusted Him again... He blessed them... they turned their own way... etc.

God, these words... Your words in Proverbs 30 are so wise. I do not desire a life of ease. I am scared to pray that, but I want more than anything to walk with You all the days of my life. I ask for Your amazing love and grace in always providing what I need. I don't ask for more than that, though You have given much more than what I need. I ask for Your help to continually depend on You now in this time of plenty... and ask for Your help in the times where I don't feel like I have enough. Plant Your Word deep inside my heart so that my response, whether I have much or little, is that of contentment in Your perfect plan. Teach me dependence and trust in You so that my heart is not one that is wavering based on circumstance, but rather a heart of steadfastness in trusting and living for Your fame.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

It's time for a confession... I have never really cared for Christmas music. The reason for this is that so often unrealistic things are mixed in with the theology of the song and it just annoys me. I guess I don't like to sing about things if that isn't how it actually was. This year, I ended up leading the choir at church for practicing Christmas songs, so I decided to make more of an effort to like Christmas music... to take the good for what it is and let the rest go.

There really is more good in Christmas music than I had previously seen. I feel bad even admitting this since everyone I know seems to love Christmas music, but I think you'll survive. There has been a few songs that have caught my eye this Christmas and so I thought I'd take the time to share a couple of those and really think through them.

Check out these verses of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
Who orderest all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory over the grave.

O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

O come, O come, great Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times once gave the law
In cloud and majesty and awe.

O come, Thou Root of Jesse’s tree,
An ensign of Thy people be;
Before Thee rulers silent fall;
All peoples on Thy mercy call.

O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace.
It is sad that I haven't really taken the time to think through these Biblically-grounded words. I love how this song describes different aspects of God and shows our desire for Him to come and work out His plan in our hearts. I don't want these to be just words that we sing, but truly the desire of our hearts.

Verse 2 of What Child is This? caught my attention.
Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.
This is packed with truths from John 1, Isaiah 53 and Philippians 2. Oh that we would hear "the silent Word pleading"... His call to come and die so that we might live.

The song that stood out to me most by far was O Holy Night.
O holy night, the stars are brightly shining;
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary soul rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
O night, O holy night, O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here came the wise men from Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger,
In all our trials born to be our Friend!
He knows our need—to our weakness is no stranger.
Behold your King; before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King; before Him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His Gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His Name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy Name!
Christ is the Lord! O praise His name forever!
His pow’r and glory evermore proclaim!
His pow’r and glory evermore proclaim!
Do we feel His worth? Even more than that, do we know His worth? Does the hope of knowing His worth give us this "thrill of hope"? What a gift!

Are we walking by faith? Do we realize the humility in which the King of all kings came? Do we realize that He has called us His friends? Do we realize that He understands our every weakness? Does this reality cause us to be like Him and humble ourselves before Him in awe and worship?

He has taught us to love... but are we truly loving one another? Are we making ourselves of little reputation for the sake of others? Are we esteeming others more highly than ourselves? His commands are not burdensome! They come from the very heart of love. His Gospel is the absolute only way to have peace with God. He has come that we would know Him, be like Him and know the hope of His coming... and that in knowing this hope, we would purify ourselves and watch as He looses the chains of sin and death. If that isn't a cause for hymns and songs of joy, I don't know what is! Let all that is within us praise His holy Name! Christ is indeed the Lord... we must praise His name forever!

God, forgive me for singing these words so blindly. Thank You for these powerful words of truth. Cause my heart to overflow with the joy of Christ. Cause both my words and actions to praise Your name as long as I live. Thank You for sending Your Son to take on frail human flesh so that we could know You. Let the wisdom that You pour out continually guide my every action. Guard me from turning to the right or to the left. You who order all things in a mighty way, lead me to the full joy of walking in obedience to You. May my heart proclaim Your glory.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Good Name

It has been a pretty relaxing week at work... the schools are out for Christmas, so the phones almost never ring. It has been fun getting to work on more exciting projects and less on customer issues, though I do greatly enjoy interacting with different customers. It is nice to have a little change for a week or two all the same. My boss pulled me into his office a while back (I thought I might be in trouble for something, though I didn't know what)... he showed me an email that he had received regarding how grateful one of our customers was for some things that I had done. The reason I mention this is because I was reading Proverbs 22 this evening... verse 1 says:
A good name is to be more desired than great wealth, favor is better than silver and gold.
I was reminded of this incident when I read these words, but maybe not how you'd expect. The things I had done for this customer were small. Yes, I was nice, yes, I was helpful, but these things were small. I am glad that they were thankful, but an email does not define "a good name". A good name is not based on a couple things that you do, it is based on your life... your character... who you are at the core. Yes, I enjoy the emails from people that have never met me that are happy about something I did, but I so much more want to really have a good name.

It glorifies Christ when we have a good name because we are representing Him. Someone recently pointed out to me that Daniel and Joseph in the Bible never had anything bad said about them. They had good names. But, look at the results of this "good name" that each of them had... it was the glory of God! When Daniel makes it clear that it is God that both gave and revealed the dream, the king responds, "Surely your God is a God of gods and a Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, since you have been able to reveal this mystery." It is with this intent that we must live--to glorify Him in all things. He exalts [gives a good name to] the humble, but He is opposed to the proud. In the case of both Daniel and Joseph, they had small challenges at times and big challenges at other times, but in each case, they responded with full submission and obedience to the ways of the Lord... honest, faithful, of highest integrity, no compromise, steadfast, immovable, wise, courageous, gracious, strong, etc. May He grow us in these areas as we pursue a good name for His glory.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Living to the Fullest

Christina and I had the blessing of getting to hang out with a young couple that moved out not too long ago. It is such a blessing to see two Godly individuals wholeheartedly desiring to serve Him together. It was a great time of fun and fellowship... definitely some much needed refreshment.

I was praying as I was jogging up the stairs to the office on Monday morning something that I pray quite often... specifically that God would teach me to number my days so that I would present to Him a heart of wisdom. I don't know how many days He has given me. He may call me home tonight... now, I don't sense that that is His plan, but I need that constant reminder so that I am living life to the fullest for His glory. I was reading tonight in Psalm 39. Take a look at verses 4 and 5.
Lord, make me to know my end and what is the extent of my days; let me know how transient I am. Behold, You have made my days as handbreadths, and my lifetime as nothing in Your sight; surely every man at his best is a mere breath. Selah.
It is not until we get to the "end of ourselves" that we can truly cherish Christ. Life is not about me... even if I live that way at times. Life truly is about Christ. I am one of the millions of people that has the privilege of serving Him with this moment. I have a choice... I can serve me in this moment, or I can serve Him in this moment.

God, I ask that by Your grace, You would bring me to the end of myself. Would You humble me and show me how small I am so that I would cherish You how I ought to. Help me to cherish this moment and use it to serve You. You even give to Your beloved in their sleep. It is a humbling thing to have to sleep! It means that life goes on without me. Thank You for the reminder of this each and every day. Remind me of my dependence on You. Give me a God-centered urgency about eternally significant things. Would You not have told me the number of my days if it was best for Your glory? Use the uncertainty of the future to stir within me a greater passion for Your glory. Make me a servant like Your Son.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Proof of Trust

You may remember the song that most of us have sung many times... "Trust and Obey". It is such a simple song and yet the truths of it and really quite profound. Obedience is a result of trust. When we were little and mom said, "Don't go in the street", we obeyed out of trust... at least those of us that lived. :) She told us this because she had good intentions for us. She wanted us to be safe. In the same way, the commands of God are not a limiting thing. In the words of John, "His commandments are not burdensome". Yes, His commandments are limiting... and yes, that is a good thing! I have just been pondering these things much over the last few days because I so much want to trust Him with all of my heart. I wish I could say that I trust Him with all of my heart, but my lack of full unselfish obedience leads me to the conclusion that I must come to--I really don't trust Him! I have taken the lies of Satan as the thing to depend on. I say it that way because I need to hear it... and it is absolutely true. Disobedience is simply trusting Satan more than God. We love how lenient Satan is... don't we? We love that added freedom... to do what we please... don't we?

You may have not even noticed that I used very Biblical terms to describe the center of our sinfulness... "love"... "freedom". We were once slaves to sin, but now we are free in Christ. Satan takes these very important parts of our life in Christ and turns it around making us feel like His commandments are burdensome... that we are "in bondage"... etc. We are not.

I am thinking of 1 John 2:15-17.
Do not love the world nor the things in the world If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.
Elsewhere it states that God has come to destroy the works of the devil... and He says that he who sins is of the devil. Do we really want to work in such a way that God will come and destroy us? Do we not realize that God is no respecter of persons? Yes, He loves us so much that He sent His Son to die in our place, but let us not lose sight of the fact that He has come to destroy some of the things that we have a "love" for. Let us lay aside the sin that so easily entangles us and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us! He is the author and finisher of our faith. We will reap if we do not grow weary in doing good.

God, you know of my lack of trust in You ever more than I do. You know all the ways in which I have loved the things of this world. You know the lies that I have believed. I am not telling You something new. You did not make sin desirable. Your Word is so full of reasons to not sin... and yet, I do. I can't even "surrender all" to You if I want to. It is Your Spirit that enables any kind of good thing to come out of this heart. I do surrender all, not with my own strength, but through Christ who gives me strength. I ask that You would strip from my heart any love for the things that You have come to destroy. Give me Your heart about the things of this world... give me Your heart about eternally significant things. Tear down any walls that keep me from trusting You fully. Cause me to bear the fruit of obedience. Make Your will my most passionate desire, my deepest love and my strongest foothold.

Friday, December 03, 2010

His Wisdom

As a family, we used to read a Psalm and a Proverb every morning... we have now ventured out into many other books (currently Ephesians). But, it has been a little while since I have really spent time in Proverbs. I am in great need of His wisdom these days and so I thought I'd read Proverbs again after my minor prophet detour the last few weeks. Anyway, I ran across this excellent section at the beginning of Proverbs 2 that I really needed to hear.
My son, if you will receive my words and treasure my commandments within you, Make your ear attentive to wisdom, Incline your heart to understanding; For if you cry for discernment, Lift your voice for understanding; If you seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures; Then you will discern the fear of the Lord And discover the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity, Guarding the paths of justice, And He preserves the way of His godly ones. Then you will discern righteousness and justice And equity and every good course. For wisdom will enter your heart And knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; Discretion will guard you, understanding will watch over you.
This also reminded me of Philippians 4:6-7...
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
It brings such peace knowing that if we lack wisdom, we can ask Him and He will give it. The true knowledge of Christ will guard our hearts and guide us in His ways. It is when we diligently seek Him with all of our hearts that He promises to be "found by us".

God, You have said that if anyone lacks wisdom, they can ask of You and You will give it. I definitely lack wisdom and so I ask, knowing that You will provide it. As I seek Your guidance in prayer and in Your Word, I ask that You would lead and guide me... that You would guard my heart and mind... that You would lead me in "every good course"... that my soul would find Your wisdom to be pleasant... that You would humble me so that I would truly seek Your wisdom and see my own for what it is... that You would provide Your grace so that I would not lean on my own understanding... that I would know You and Your ways and not just know, but understand and live according to Your will. Strip anything away that is not of You and unite my heart to fear Your name.