Choosing Faith

Isaiah 55:8-9 (NKJV)

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.

In carrying over from Earl’s thoughts yesterday, I find myself in a bit of a waiting game with the Lord.  I’m under tremendous pressure to accomplish something at work involving an outside company by a certain date.   The ball is in the other company’s court and has been since Friday and absolutely nothing has happened since then.  In my schedule of things that need to happen by certain dates – a.k.a. “my thoughts and my ways” (see verse 8) – they are completely behind schedule and no matter how much I try, I can’t get them to get moving.

Clearly, I need His help with these circumstances admittedly beyond my control.   My plans are not His plans.  My thoughts are not His thoughts.

Hebrews 11:1-3  (NKJV)

11 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony.

By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.

…the worlds were framed by the word of God.”  He is in control.  I am not.  I guess this is where faith kicks in..  Rephrase – I guess this is where I choose faith.

Ephesians 6:10-18  (The Message)

A Fight to the Finish

10-12 And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.

13-18 Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.

The New King James Version says in v11 “… and having done all, to stand.”  I’ve done all I can do.  Now I stand.  I chose faith.  I choose faith in God and all that He is and all that He has proven to be.  I choose to have faith in the character of Him who never changes.  I’m choosing faith.

Anger

What is anger all about?

* Why do I get angry? Why am I angry?
* Who am I angry at?
* What am I angry about?
* How long have I been angry? How long do I plan to stay angry?

In Isaiah 12, God gives a model of how to handle anger…

12 In that day you will say:
“I will praise you, O Lord.
Although you were angry with me,
your anger has turned away
and you have comforted me.
2 Surely God is my salvation;
I will trust and not be afraid.
The Lord, the Lord, is my strength and my song;
he has become my salvation.”
3 With joy you will draw water
from the wells of salvation.
4 In that day you will say:
“Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name;
make known among the nations what he has done,
and proclaim that his name is exalted.
5 Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things;
let this be known to all the world.
6 Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion,
for great is the Holy One of Israel among you.”
The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (Is 12:1-6). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

I’m reading through the book of James with another group of men in preparation for a Quest next week, but this morning, before I read my chapter in James, Papa had me turn to Isaiah 12.  I like this passage a lot!  As a songwriter, I think it would be a great worship song and am working on it!  But that’s not the direction Papa took me this morning.  I got really hung up in verse 1.

I have an NIV/The Message parallel Bible that lets me view the passages side by side and here is verse 1 in The Message version.

12 And you will say in that day,
“I thank you, God.
You were angry
but your anger wasn’t forever.
You withdrew your anger
and moved in and comforted me.
Peterson, E. H. (2002). The Message : The Bible in contemporary language (Is 12:1). Colorado Springs, Colo.: NavPress.

The last line is what caught my eye.  “You withdrew your anger and moved in and comforted me.”

God has modeled the process for anger.  He has modeled forgiveness – even outside of the gospel of Christ.  Anger is active.  Forgiveness active.

First off, Isaiah says that God’s anger wasn’t forever.  God made a decision that the anger wasn’t eternal (Thank you Lord!) and that he was choosing to forgive.  That’s the first step is the decision.

“…withdrew your anger…” – this is an active verb – to withdraw means “to take back or away”; “to remove from use”; “to remove from a place of deposit”

This implies that we put our anger somewhere; we deposit it and keep it in some place of use.  Where is that place?

24 Make no friendship with a man given to anger,
nor go with a wrathful man,
25 lest you learn his ways
and entangle yourself in a snare.

The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Pr 22:24-25). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Proverbs 22:24-25 says “…lest you learn his ways…”  Our soul is made up of three parts: the mind, the will, and the emotions.  Anger is an emotion. That place we deposit anger is in the soul, it only makes sense that we process it from there (decision to release the anger – to withdraw the anger – actively)

What is anger all about?

  • Why do I get angry? Why am I angry?
  • Who am I angry at?
  • What am I angry about?
  • How long have I been angry?  How long do I plan to stay angry?

When I begin to process these questions, I find that the MAJORITY of the time, my anger is about me and something in my life not going the way I think it should – rightly or not rightly so.  I get angry because someone, some thing, or some something steps on, inhibits, refuses, hinders or ignores my rights, my feelings, my opportunities, my character or whatever.

There are cases of righteous anger (see John 2:13-17 when Jesus cleared the temple of the corruption in his Father’s house) and while they are righteous, they still cannot last forever.  Righteous anger needs to be processed as well.

But for the non-righteous anger – which for me is the majority of the anger I deal with – God follows the pattern of Is 12:1.

After God decides to withdraw his anger, the next part of the verse says “…you [God] moved in and comforted me…”

Is this not exactly the Gospel message?  God moved in – he became flesh and moved to earth to be crucified, buried and resurrected so that he could restore us to right relationship with God the Father (John 3:16).  God comforts us – He  is the God of Comfort (2 Cor 1:3-7)

Obviously, this could become a very long post, so for the sake of brevity, ask yourself the questions above.  Ask Papa if you’re harboring any anger and how to actively decide and withdraw your anger.  Ask Him what it looks like to move in and comfort the one you are angry at.

The book of James says if we lack wisdom, all we have to do is ask and He’ll give it freely (James 1:5-6).

Running After Papa…

Burdened…

Last night I toured the Mormon Temple Square in Salt Lake City.  It was an amazing place.  I walked away burdened, not only for the salvation of my Mormon friends, but for the state of which the Big-C church, particularly in America, is.

Why isn’t Christ making a difference in people’s lives in the nonMormon church?  Why is the divorce rate just as high in the church as it is among the unchurched?  Why isn’t the Church as a whole full of the same devotion and fervor as the Mormon church?  Why doesn’t the American church-goer really try to live the commandments of Christ?  Jesus himself commanded twice “Go and sin no more.” (John 5:14, 8:11)  He wouldn’t give a command that wasn’t “keepable”.  So why do we keep on intentionally sinning?  Because we either do not know God, or we do not fear God.

I can’t help but play Matt 7:21-23 over and over in my head.  (By the way relek95, I thought you were going to do the 10 scariest passages in the Bible… to my count, this was the first and only one you did… I’m looking forward to the other nine…)

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

So who are those that know Him?    That word “know” is an expression of intimacy. 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. (Jn 10:27-28).

I am burdened that the American church-goer abuses the grace and mercy of our Father because we – as the American church – have no idea how much our sin hurts Him and how it is so disgusting and offensive to Him.  I wonder how many people in the American church really “fear’ Him, I mean, really, really, fear him.  We’ve so preached the goodness, mercy and grace of Father, that it’s almost like we’ve stripped Him of the awe-factor and honor and respect and fear that He is due.

I, for one, am choosing to live Christ’s commands, but not out of a “settling the scoresheet”, or “I owe Him so much”, or “I’m working for a higher position in eternity” mentality, but out of the knowledge that I cannot ever repay Him for the Grace and Mercy He’s shown me.  I am incapable of any works worthy.  “My righteousness is as a filthy rag” (Is. 64:6).  I choose to live his commands because I love him and intimately know him and hear His voice.  I do it out of relationship, not out of religion.  I do it out of gratefulness, not out of paying my debt, because He paid my debt for me. (Jn 3:16)

Right Now…

James 5:1-6 (NLT)

1 Look here, you rich people: Weep and groan with anguish because of all the terrible troubles ahead of you. 2 Your wealth is rotting away, and your fine clothes are moth-eaten rags. 3 Your gold and silver have become worthless. The very wealth you were counting on will eat away your flesh like fire. This treasure you have accumulated will stand as evidence against you on the day of judgment. 4 For listen! Hear the cries of the field workers whom you have cheated of their pay. The wages you held back cry out against you. The cries of those who harvest your fields have reached the ears of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
5 You have spent your years on earth in luxury, satisfying your every desire. You have fattened yourselves for the day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and killed innocent people, who do not resist you.


I found it interesting that the verbs referring to the “things” of the rich in this passage are all present tense, when the rest of the verse has verbs indicating a time to come. “Your wealth is rotting…”, “… fine clothes are moth-eaten…”, “… gold and silver have become …”.

It just got me thinking of the here and now. All of it, the cars, the houses, the jobs, the status, the ______________ (fill in the blank of whatever floats your boat), is all crap to him.

Isaiah 64:6 “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags…”

My best is like a filthy rag. If you’ve never heard what that word “filthy rag” really means, it means a bloody tampon. That’s what I have to offer him. My best acts, all the “greatness” I acquire on earth is nothing more than a bloody tampon to Him.

A little further in Isaiah the Lord says this:

“I was ready to respond, but no one asked for help.
I was ready to be found, but no one was looking for me.
I said, ‘Here I am, here I am!’
to a nation that did not call on my name.
All day long I opened my arms to a rebellious people.
But they follow their own evil paths
and their own crooked schemes. ” (Is 65:1-2)

God is in the now of things. Jimmy Evans preached a great sermon on “The God of Now” that I really like. I’ll tell you this, I don’t want to be the one not asking for His help, when He’s ready to respond. I don’t want to be the one not looking, when He’s wanting to be found. I don’t want to be following my own evil path or crooked scheme when Papa is crying out “I’m here! I’m here!”

Where is my focus today? Where is my focus in this moment? Right Now! That’s all that really matters.

Expecting the unexpected

Isaiah 55:6-9 (ESV)

6 “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near;
7 let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

This morning I woke up with a word from the Lord. “Expect the unexpected.” I’ve been praying about what that means and what it pertains to, whether it is a word for me, for our family, or a word about the upcoming Quest. It’s not a warning of impending doom or some omnious caution, but an exhortation to keep my (our) eyes open and my ears attentive to Him.  He will work and He will work however He wants to work… I can’t look for him to show up only how I expect him to or to work in my life in one and only one way, for “as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts,” declares the Lord.

Thank you Lord that you are not predicable and that you are not limited by me.  Help me Lord to be attentive to your word and be ready to serve you in a moments notice.

My measure of faith…

Romans 12:3 (ESV) For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.

It’s interesting to read this verse. For several months, the Lord has been swatting me like I swat my dog with a newspaper. He get’s my attention every time I say something derogatory or “down” on anyone – particularly those that SOME might call “idiots” or “in-bred morons” – as my earthly father likes to say. Any time I have a thought about the stupidity or aloofness of someone else, Papa get’s my attention and asks me a very serious question. “Do you think you’re any better?

In stupidity, I used to answer “Well.. yeah… blah blah blah!”  Where I would wax poetics about all the stuff I do for Him – like He doesn’t see or hear or know already.  I’d tell him about how much I love and serve Him, my wife, my family, blah, blah, blah.  But thankfully, He didn’t just zap me and put me out of my misery, instead he reminds me of Isaiah 64:6 “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags…”  It’s a pretty effective tool to be reminded that Papa is SO HOLY that no matter what awesome things I do, I’m bringing soiled feminine products to Him as a gift.

This all started with the reading of a book that totally changed the way I think and outside of the Holy Bible, has impacted me more than any other book I’ve ever read. Humility by Andrew Murray is that book. That book has forced me to reconsider who I am and who He is. In the light of Him – which, by the way, is the only true measurement – I am nothing and I am no better than anyone else. Jesus loves everyone else just as much as He loves me. Every one of us are His favorite.

This verse is a great reminder of that truth, that I need to remember. I love the way Eugene Peterson puts it in The Message.

I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him. (Romans 12:3, The Message)

It’s all about Him. It ain’t about me. The part I don’t understand is the last sentence of the ESV version. “…but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” What is that about? How I view myself – how soberly I judge myself – is somehow connected or related to how much faith I have been given? Wow. That’s an interesting thought.

If I’ve been apportioned faith, does that apportionment ever increase or decrease? If so, how? Interesting study this will be…

All that I am – continued…

We play the new testament while we sleep on my MP3 player each night.  This morning I woke up to the passage in Mark, where Jesus tells the Pharisee’s that the greatest commandment is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength,” and to “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:29-31)

This certainly feeds into yesterday’s entry.  How do I praise him with all that I am?  By loving Him with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength.  This, of course, could fill pages and pages of blogs and books on the application of just that verse… and if fact, it does… The Bible IS the original blog detailing what that looks like.

For me, today, it is an active love.  It is choosing Him over me.  It is choosing others over me.  It is dying to self and letting Christ live through me; letting His humility and patience overtake my own fleshsuit and all the baggage it has with it.  It is remembering… remembering that MY righteous acts are like filthy rags to Him (Is 64:6).  It is remembering that I have indeed sinned, and continue to sin, and I need to be saved (Is 64:5). It is remembering that there is NO WAY I could do this life without Him and that my wisdom is foolishness to him (I Cor 1:24-25).

It’s remembering that He chose me.

Thank you Lord, for choosing me. Help me praise you with all that I am today, by loving you with all my heart, soul,  mind, and strength and by loving my neighbors as myself.  Help me to have an active love today, engaging in remembering You and all that you have done, are doing, and will do.  In Jesus name.  Amen.