Musings of a Concerned Prophet

Some of the most beautiful words written come from Habakkuk.  This Old Testament prophet recorded his raw and honest conversations with God amidst a turbulent and uncertain time in history.

Gazing ahead in the course North America is tracking, I don’t know how far we are behind Israel but am grieved as we careen toward inevitable disasters positioned on our current trajectory.

Government leaders who open doors of lawlessness, a broken and corrupt medical system, education, increasingly detrimental to children’s minds, the breakdown of healthy family and growing animosity toward believers in Jesus are a few factors.  It can be easy to focus on the peril at hand, yet it is only a small part of the landscape God sees.

“How long, Lord, must I call for help but you do not listen? Or cry out ‘violence!’  but you do not save?  Why do you make me look at injustice and tolerate wrongdoing?”

God takes Habakkuk’s complaint, and expands the picture by 1000x.  “Look at the nations and watch – and be utterly amazed for I am going to do something in your day you would not believe even if told.”

He tells Habakkuk He is bringing a godless army to completely overthrow His people and destroy the land.  I resonate deeply with Habakkuk’s answer – I’ve asked it myself.

“But God, Habakkuk laments, why would you allow a wicked people with no regard for your glory to inflict more injustice to turn your wayward people?   Don’t you have any better ideas?  “Yet,” he says, “I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts: I will look to see what He will say to me and what answer I am to give to this complaint.”

God’s complaining prophet realizes he is part of God’s answer, and must watch to be ready when his part is revealed.  God responds:

“Write down the revelation, make it plain on tablets so messengers may run with it.  For the revelation awaits an appointed time, it speaks of the end and will not prove false.  Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come…”

God explains destruction will be allowed only for a time, and woe to the city built on injustice.   There will be reckoning, but even in the chaos, God’s work is relentless and redemptive.  In the end Christ will stride through the earth, establishing complete  justice and mercy.

“You came out to deliver your people, to save your anointed ones.  You crushed the leader of the land of wickedness, you stripped him from head to foot and with his own spear you pierced his head!”

Jesus initiated the fulfillment of this on the cross, giving us authority and answer to Habakkuk’s complaint. We look at Habakkuk from the other side of the cross!  The enemy has limited power, and we, the vision of what will be.  The answer we watch for is how we are to invite the kingdom of heaven to collide with earth bringing life and peace!

What vision have you received that fits into His grand vision of salvation?  If we have written it down, and believe God will bring it to pass, even if there be no good thing in sight, we can say with Habakkuk: “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the fields produce no food… yet I will rejoice in the Lord…The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer and enables me to run on the high places!”

Who Guarenteed Your Promise?

Do you remember pinky swearing with a spit shake, guaranteeing you’d shove a needle in your eye should you break your promise?  When a promise is given, the giver is also its guarantor.  It is a testimony to human nature that more needles are not thrust into eyes.

Sometimes I mistake being obedient with making the promises of God come to pass.  They are completely different.  I am called to walk in faith and obedience, I am NOT called to make God’s promises come to fulfillment – that is God’s job and His joy.

What promises and calling has God placed in your hands?  Has He asked of you strange and unreasonable things in view of them?  Oftentimes God leads us outside the courts of reason to the grounds of faith without sight.  He transcends our understanding to teach us more of His.  The stretching we undergo expands our faith, and in the hours and days of impossibility, its fabric is tested and refined.  Often unnoticed in the midst of obedience, God faithfully  brings to pass what He said He would.

Jesus words to many who have anxiously awaited Him lift the spirit:  Do not be afraid – only believe.  Do not be discouraged. Do not tarry in the home of disappointment, carry on past to the restful dwelling place of anticipation and belief.

Did the disciples forget who had guaranteed the promise?  When God is the guarantor, the most reasonable response is belief and expectation regardless how far outside reason’s boundaries the promise lies.

“I will be beaten and killed, and I will rise again in 3 days,” Jesus promised.

Only a few women timorously ventured to grave of the crucified promise and found not a body, but a message.  LIFE where death had held power just hours before.  What cross has come before your promises?  What grave holds in darkness, the seeds God has sown in you for this season?

We are not called to fulfill His promises, we are called simply to step by step obedience.   To come to the garden in the hours of despair and impossibility to witness the power of God’s impossible response!

Do not despair!  He is Risen!  Every promise of God is written in the blood of Jesus, and do not for one moment, think there exists a power great enough to void it!

The Most Brutal Question

One of my best friends came for lunch and the query “are questions sins?” came up.  We both confessed to have asked hard questions of God and entertained doubt.

At times, I have struggled with God’s seeming absence in the midst of our suffering.  There are days I question His willingness to heal me, and doubt the fulfillment of His promises.  There are times when I know I am being faithful, and resent that God doesn’t ease the load.

In my quiet time, Psalm 22 and Mark 15:34 leapt off the page. Jesus’s guttural cry;

“My GOD, My God, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME!?”

brought tears to my eyes and I sat, feeling the weight of the cross and the agony of bearing it alone.  The anguish of the perfect Lamb, broken by the very ones He was sacrificed for.   In that moment, when the culmination of sin, death and darkness were heaped on His bleeding shoulders, He could not feel His Father’s presence.  The Son of God felt alone and rejected by God Himself.

Recorded twice in the Bible is the anguished question; “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  I have heard  many people share that in their darkest hour, they could not hear the Father’s voice.

As Jesus hangs, struggling to breath; crushed under the weight of other’s rebellion and His Father’s absence, He shouts His declaration loudly:

“Father, into your hands, I commit my spirit!”

Jesus asked honest questions.  He asked if He could rewrite the plan any other way.  He asked why His Father had forsaken Him in His darkest hour.  But where He went from His question leaves me thinking deeply about my own.

From every question, two roads go forth.  The road of surrender and the road of defiance.  Jesus could have changed the plan.  He was in charge of His own actions no less than I, and millions of angels awaited His call.  He could have come off the cross and overcome His captors.  Yet after each question, He chose the road of surrender.

“Not my will, but yours be done Father.”

“Into YOUR hands, I commit my spirit”

It would seem God doesn’t mind hard questions; He is more concerned with the road I choose going out from them.   When I  commit myself into His hands, suddenly, there is room for the glory of God to take hold in my life.  After His honest questions, Jesus endured the cross, scorning its shame for the joy set before Him, and then sat down at the right hand of God.

With Good Friday looming on the morrow, I ponder the significance of the road Jesus chose.  Surrender.  Death. Joy. Pain. Life.  Sometimes the joy and life are obscured by the pain, darkness and loneliness we see just ahead, yet in surrender, we carry in our spirit the final destination and the joy set before us, regardless the terrain.

When we bear our cross on Friday, we hold in our hearts what the morning sun on Sunday will illuminate and remember all that seems lost will be triumphantly redeemed.  In our questioning, we commit ourselves to God Himself who will redeem every step of trust through our darkest Friday.

 

Break Your Jar

All around me I see a generation allergic to commitment and followthrough.  I see it in myself too as I create exit strategies and caveats in things I schedule.  I like having options.

I wonder if more often than it is helpful, this simply leads to a culture of mediocrity?  We overcommit to people, events and things and in turn, lack follow through.

There is a deep longing in the heart of mankind to know mutual unrestrained commitment that refuses to be filled by anything less.    The entire story of redemption began with this kind of commitment and it beckons those who will receive it and follow its example.

But you were redeemed… with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.  He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake…so your faith and hope are in God.  (1 Peter 1:19-20)

Before God created humanity, He committed Himself to our redemption at the cost of His life.  There was no plan B, no indecision, no waiting to see how things would turn out. There was simply a resolution to do what it took to re-establish intimacy.

But one sided unrestrained commitment is a broken reflection of what God desires.  Perhaps this is why Mary’s gift has been spoken of everywhere the gospel has gone.  Perhaps this is why I weep whenever I read her story.  She mirrored the commitment Jesus was walking out in those dusty streets and hushed upper room, and the reflection reverberates into eternity.

She went somewhere she was not welcomed out of love and commitment to Jesus and, amongst ridicule and derision, offered up her most precious and expensive gift.  Had it been me, I wonder if I would have left the jar intact so I could hold back some of the valuable perfume for a rainy day fund.  I could even justify it saying Jesus may have need of it another time.  And then I wonder if I do that with the vessel of my life. Only days later, Jesus would demonstrate His eternal commitment to His broken creation.  He would break His own vessel and pour out the entire contents for ransom of the creation He loves.

Life is a vessel.  We have the choice to give little splashes, or to break the jar, and pour out everything to anoint the King of Kings.  The crazy thing about the King is, what is willingly surrendered is multiplied, not lost.  Mary’s commitment has blessed millions, and through His commitment Jesus became the first of many brothers and sisters into eternity.  In a reality such as this, there is no need for caveats or exit strategies, merely requited unbridled commitment.

I suspect if my generation understood Jesus’ commitment and love for them, we would see  counterintuitive, countercultural action in return.

Gazing at this great commitment, I re-break my own vessel; to pour out its contents on the One worthy of them.  To mirror Love committed unto death I must commit to a love that surrenders every drop of life, holding nothing back.  No caveats.

What is Jesus inviting you to pour out this season?

What is He speaking to your heart in preparation for the resurrection?

The Slave Trader’s Defeat

The shackles rub, aggravating the angry wounds on my spirit and soul as I swing, step, pound, swing, step, pound. I am not sure which is heavier, my heart, or the leaden ball that drags with every step and swing of my post maul. Its not that I dislike my labour, but working in chains for a cruel and pitiless master keeps my soul submerged in oppressive darkness. Days merge together like dirty spring runoff, taking the life-giving soil with it.  Daily my captor sends his hired guns to torment me, simply for the pleasure of my agony.

Today there is a strange feeling in my spirit. A friend has told me there is another master in town. One who buys slaves like me and sets them free. One with compelling eyes and powerful words. Looking up, I mutter; “God, its been so long, could you send him to me?” In my mind, I certainly wouldn’t be the first slave to choose. There is really nothing profound or outstanding about me. I am not the worst worker, nor am I the best.

A gentle touch on my head startles me from my musing, and I find myself looking into eyes of compassion.  He lifts up my head, and says firmly; “I’ll take this one.”  I can hear the slave driver arguing vehemently, but I dare not look up, so I stare at the kind man’s sandals instead.

It turns out, you don’t win arguments with this man, and a key is thrown down roughly at my feet.  I know instinctively it fits the shackles that keep me here.  But slavery strips the will to fight, and doubts flood my mind.  I am not good enough to go with this man.  I have nothing of worth to him, nor can I think of anything I have done that would qualify me for his service.  In fact, I am quite certain I deserve these chains.  I wait for him to command me to move, but there are no commands, no sharp words.  He simply says; “Will you come?”

Shoving down fear’s fist rising in my belly, I raise my eyes and muster whatever courage has been allotted this day.  I know to leave I must walk past my captors, and the thought terrifies me, but the hope that vies with fear refuses to be silenced.  All I can do is nod.  So I do.

The man takes the key, and gently releases me from my bonds.  At his touch, my wounds subside, and the encompassing darkness lifts like clouds, melted by the sun. Then he slips his hand in mine, and together we walk with heads high past those who thought they would destroy me.  The ones I thought were so powerful are helpless to hold me with the Master at my side.  In this moment, I know the meaning of Grace.  He walks beside me.

This is a true story.  I am the slave, Depression and Despair my captors, Jesus my liberator.

Those led by the Spirit of God are the sons and daughters of God.  The Spirit you received does not make you slave so you live in fear again, rather, He brought about your adoption to sonship, and by Him we cry “Abba Father!”  Romans: 8:14-15

The Peace We’re Missing.

Venturing into Vancouver to pick up my sister, I found myself driving an un-authorized car in a bus zone.  If this has ever happened to you, you are groaning right now.  Already committed with no exit, I gritted my teeth and sat on the edge of my seat, anxiously doing my best to  ignore the bus driver’s glare and horn.  Then I tried not to panic at futile attempts to see a street sign.  Any street sign.  It didn’t help that I really had to use a bathroom.

Last week, I shared about changing spiritual environments and I have been consciously working at receiving and giving peace this week.  God is a genius at the teaching business, and He faithfully gives me “practice situations”  or “tests drives” if you will.

I have gravitated to the image of a child at a crowded mall who has lost her father’s hand.  Feeling overwhelmed and anxious, she calls out a timid;”Daddy?”  The feeling of  relief as his hand slips back into hers can be seen in every part of her body.  Suddenly, she is invincible again.

So, back to the bus lane…I took a deep breath, grabbed the Father’s hand, settled back into the seat, and released my anxiousness to Him inviting Him to fill me with His peace.  I also invited Him to drive.  I guess He figured moral support was all I needed and before long I saw the welcome sight of my little sister waving from the curb!

A beloved child can teach us much.  Regardless the gnarled situation  she has wrangled her way into, when a parent shows up, fear melts away because there is someone with real power who can work her out again.  I am learning it is in trusting my Father to lead me through everything victoriously that leads to peace.  Our culture lacks peace, yet seeks it incessantly.  Lasting peace is not found in surroundings, but in its source.  Jesus is called the Prince of Peace for good reason.  If we keep rejecting Jesus as a society, we will find peace to be gone as well.

I know well the verse: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”  (Prov 3:5-6) but I rarely put it in the context of my life.

I need to stop telling God I trust Him, then instructing Him how to make my life peaceful, and turn the path making over to Him.  So often I find myself leaning on human understanding even though God’s understanding encompasses eternity, while mine, merely as far as these weak eyes can see.

Parents spend much time teaching children to become fully independent adults.  God spends much time teaching us adults to become fully dependent children.  So I will reach up my hand and receive, along with peace, His instructions how to walk the path before me and spread peace over others too.

You will keep in perfect peace, those whose eyes are fixed on you! (Isa 26:3)

Peace Be On This House

A thick darkness hung over the family’s yurt and the animals huddled around it. Oppression and disquiet were palpable and we could feel it pressing down on the beams of our souls.

The family had just asked us to stay for a few days but the thought of remaining under the heavy cloud made us uneasy.  So we gathered to pray and determine our next move. In Matthew 10, Jesus sends out 72 followers, giving them authority over demonic forces and instructing them to let their peace rest on their place of lodging.  As this story came to mind, it made us think. If Jesus gives His peace for us to administer, could He not transform the environment in which we found ourselves now?

In the authority of Jesus, we bound the powers and principalities that held this place and family in fear, and asked God to settle His peace and establish His authority and glory around us. The shift was immediate and we worshipped and set up our tents with a deep sense of peace.

Before we left, our kind hosts excitedly told us that every night before we arrived wolves had attacked their herds and demons had hounded their camp. Since we came, complete peace had reigned and everyone slept undisturbed.  Three years later we had the indescribable joy of leading their entire family to Jesus.

Today as I read Luke and Matthew’s account of Jesus’ commission of the 72, I am excited again.  What if we have the authority in Christ to change the spiritual atmosphere wherever we go?  What if we can command the peace of Christ to reign, changing an environment of distraction, restlessness, anxiety and fear to one of peace and quietness?  What if we can bless others with a peaceful spiritual environment, pointing them farther on the road toward Jesus?  In fact, what if changing atmospheres where we are allows for openness to the gospel?  Jesus changed environments everywhere He went;  some received His peace, some rejected it.  Peace may be thrown off when we leave – that is not up to us.  We merely give what we have already been given and trust that God is at work beyond what we see.

As you enter a place, give it your greeting (Peace be on this house).  If the place is deserving your peace will rest there, if not, it will return to you…Freely you have received, freely give! Matt 10:7-13

What if we can establish peace in our own homes and work place?  If we are in Christ, and He is above every power and authority in heaven and on earth, how can this affect the spiritual environment in which I live, work and interact?  I am learning that to change atmospheres, I must first work with Jesus to dictate my own internal environment and receive  His peace that remains.  Then, as Isaiah says:  I go out joy and am led forth with peace!

“Peace I leave you, my peace I give you.  I do not give as the world gives; do not let your heart be troubled, do not be afraid!” John 14:27

Coming soon… How do I let the peace of God rule in my heart?

Have you ever had a situation where God’s peace was not reigning?  What did you do?

 

Death Be Not Proud

Being grasped by death’s hand and then relinquished by God’s resurrection power has instilled a new perspective on the mysterious transition between the temporal and the eternal. It is anticipation that rises up and lingers when I ponder death and what comes after.

If heaven rejoices when a single person agrees to spend eternity with God, what must the celebration look like when a child of God goes home? Like the highest promotion, it brings you to a whole new experience, moving from this patched together world with its broken signs and promises of Peace’s perfect kingdom to their utter fulfillment.

I received word the other day that a dear friend has been eternally promoted.  Instantly visions came to mind of the unrestrained joy and welcome home party in heaven as he sees for the first time, His Saviour, scarred hands inscribed with John’s name outstretched in welcome. Then his eyes would travel to the throne as he hears the Father’s booming laugh to see a faithful beloved one home.

It must take a while for the abandoned joy to abate, and then the words from the Father that make the journey all worthwhile; “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Eventually the stories begin. Stories of redemptions John didn’t see. Stories of God’s miraculous power at work in a life faithfully completed on earth, and of fragrances he left behind unaware, that wafted into eternity through someone else’s life.

As I ponder that final journey, I begin to catch on; the days of my life all build towards this greatest promotion. Every thought, every sacrifice of love and obedience, every moment spent with the Father, and act of kindness here prepares me for how I will experience eternity with Jesus.  The wilder and more difficult the road travelled, the more beautiful and appreciated the welcome and rest of Home.

When my Grandma was called Home, Jesus gave me a beautiful picture of He and her walking together through a glade of yellow flowers. Deep in conversation, the light that flowed from Him seemed to fill her with vigour and peace. The weariness had been lifted from her countenance and she walked straight, unencumbered by pain, her walker left behind forever. I saw a young man walking toward them and knew instinctively it was her husband Bill who had gone before her years ago. The sheer joy on her face made it impossible to wish her back.  With the picture came a deep longing to be there too.

Yet I wonder if the richness of walking with Jesus in this broken world is a gift that must be received to fully appreciate what is to come in the next. Perhaps labouring with Jesus to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to earth prepares us for its full inauguration?  “What love the Father has lavished upon us that we should be called the sons and daughters of God!”  What if learning to be the children of God prepares us to reign with God?  What if a constant invitation to walk together now builds the fullness of our experience of Christ eternally?

So I fix my eyes again on the author and perfecter of my faith to live today well in light of the greatest of tomorrows.

Why do I hear sheep?

I could hear Mom’s feet on the stairs as I put the finishing touches on the bedroom.  Unfortunately it didn’t take her long to discover I had spent most of the allotted time reading a book, and then, panicked at the nearly spent timer, had rushed about, madly stuffing the offending untidiness under the bed and in random drawers.

The memory is still vivid today.  In fact, if I remember right, everything from under the bed, as well as the drawers, was promptly tossed out the open second floor window onto the front lawn.  I had lost track of time, and my disobedience was easily discovered.

King Saul lost track of something important as well.  He was told to destroy everything of the Amalekites, down to the last goat.  Instead, he acquiesced in fear of his army and fear of his enemy and kept the best of the livestock.  He partially obeyed, but when the heat was turned up, he lost the plot, justifying his actions in his own mind.

“I have done everything God instructed” He told Samuel, the prophet.

“Why then, do I hear the bleating of sheep?” Samuel demanded.  “Do you not know God desires obedience, not sacrifice.”

Saul’s disobedience cost his family not only the crown, but God’s presence and favour as well.  Looking at my own life, I can point with deep regret to times when I did not fully obey God out of fear or discomfort.  I wonder still what blessing was lost because of my lack of commitment to obey in spite of discomfort.

What if it comes down to identity?  Do I really know who my God is?  Enough to trust Him to follow through even to the last moment?  And second, do I really know who I am in Christ?  I believe Saul lost sight of God’s commitment to him as His chosen one, and he didn’t trust God’s character and faithfulness.  Sometimes the temptation to “take over” or partially obey when it seems God has dropped the ball is overwhelming, yet it is the decision we make in that moment that determines the outcome and our faithfulness.

So as I read of Saul’s folly, I would rather learn from him than judge him as I ask myself; ‘Are there things I am doing “for” God He has not asked of me to pacify my conscience over things I am avoiding that He requires of me?’

Like Paul, we too are chosen – a royal priesthood, Paul says.  If I see God as He truly is, I will have the courage and confidence to boldly obey, trusting in His power and goodness to  overcome all that comes against me!   It is in Christ, we are more than conquerers.