Friday, April 15, 2011

The Hamster Race

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Isaiah 57:10
10 You were wearied by all your ways,
   but you would not say, ‘It is hopeless.’
You found renewal of your strength,
   and so you did not faint.

Have you ever noticed a hamster who constantly spins the wheel in his cage chasing an object he can't obtain? The prophet Isaiah was instructed by God to speak to the people of Israel about the pagan ways they deserted him for. The people of Israel turned away from the Lord and relied on their own ways. Sadly, those same ways were causing them distress but they refused to admit that their way of doing things was hopeless so they found renewed strength in their own stubbornness.

Are we like the people of Israel? Do we become so stubborn in doing things our way that even though we're getting no where, we keep going? Unfortunately, like the hamster running in the wheel thinking he he's made progress, we won't. When God has said that we must abandon our way of thinking and our actions, he means it. We will not move forward even if we find temporary strength in our own resources. There's nothing worse than being on the road to nowhere but thinking we're going somewhere. Why not turn to God? Why not turn to the one who knows all and sees all and has our best interest? Why not turn to the one who knows each of us better than we know ourselves? Is it because we're not sure if we really know him? Why not be honest and say we don't have all the answers? Is it because we have told ourselves that we do know all the answers or that we can easily figure them out? Whatever the reason, is it really good enough to abandon God's ways, his knowledge, wisdom, grace and mercy to seek our own? Is it really worth being the hamster chasing an object but getting no closer to it?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Closing the Door

Hebrews 10:17-18
17 Then he adds:    “Their sins and lawless acts
   I will remember no more.”[a]
 18 And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.

Did you know you can start over? Did you know that a second chance is offered to you? The apostle Paul wrote to the Hebrews about the purpose of Jesus Christ. The purpose of Jesus was for mankind to have a second chance at life eternally. Yes there was a mistake with Adam and Eve but because of Jesus, we are not doomed. When we ask the Lord for forgiveness with sincerity of heart, it's made available to us. The practice of the Old Testament was if there was a sin, blood of an Innocent Lamb had to be shed as a sacrifice for sin. Jesus is the sacrifice for all. Jesus is our guarantee that once we are forgiven, God closes the door on that grievous sin. Paul quoted what the prophet Jeremiah prophesied would be the result of Jesus' purpose. What a relief for all of us! To know we have another chance to get it right. Saying I'm sorry Lord, please forgive me and teach me your ways with sincerity will bring you to a new start. Man may not forgive but as long as God does, we are new again. We can still go to man who we may have grieved and ask for it, but if it's not offered we are not doomed as long as we seek the Lord.

May God grant each of us a second chance today to close the door and start again if we are sincere in heart.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Spirit of Jonah

Jonah 4:11
11 But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?

Have you ever found it hard to have compassion for your enemies? Our heavenly Father is one with a heart of compassion. God does not delight in the destruction of others. He would actually prefer to warn and give one time to make things right.  Jonah was a prophet who did not show love and concern even for his enemies. Jonah's anger toward the Ninevites stood in the way of his obedience in delivering a message from God. Though he went through with the assignment, it was done without love for his enemies. He only completed the assignment after God demonstrated Jonah's inability to run from him. The highlight of Jonah's feelings was illustrated at the end of the story when Jonah took more concern for a vine that God grew and withered in one day than he did for the people of Nineveh.  How could one not be concerned that a whole city might perish? Jonah's focus was on what the Ninevites had done to Israel.

We are called to love our enemies. Though it's difficult to do when one has felt scarred, it"s when we love our enemies that God's love and compassion is truly demonstrated. God's mission is larger than us. Our wounds are actually for the purpose of growth and helping others who are going to walk the waters of pain behind us. Not having compassion on those that have harmed us doesn't make us any better than those that initiated the hurt. It is then that we perpetuate the spirit of Jonah. Jesus said that we could not lay an offering down before God knowing that we have something against someone. The apostle Paul said that we cannot claim to love God yet hate our brother. Hatred like that of Jonah's deviates from God's message.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

In The Heat of The Moment

John 13:37-38
37 Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”  38 Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!

Has the Lord ever called your bluff?  Jesus was nearing the end of his time with disciples. He continually prepared them for his departing but it was difficult for the disciples to grasp the concept. One conversation regarding Jesus' separation from them resulted in laying some cards on the table. In this particular conversation Peter was doing his best to understand the magnitude of Jesus' words. In the heat of the moment Peter made a declaration that he would not on only follow Jesus where he was going but he would lay down his life for him. And Jesus gave back to Peter his statement but in the form of a question. Then proceeded to tell Peter what he was really about to do. Jesus knew Peter loved him but he also knew he was not prepared to do what he said he would do. Laying down ones life is a huge declaration. Jesus knew that when in the face of danger, Peter would deny ever knowing him in attempt to save his own life instead of laying it down as he said.

Ouch! In the heat of the moment have you ever made a declaration? Did the Lord call you on that declaration soon after? We have a tendency to speak before we have really thought about the magnitude of our words and what they really mean. We tell God we're going to do something or go where he tells us to go. But then we are surprised when we are faced with doing so. The Lord knows each of us better than we know ourselves. He knows every intention and thought. We may be good at fooling ourselves and those around us but we can under no circumstances fool God with emotionalism. We tell the Lord that we love him and we'll go to the ends of the earth but will we? When faced with the tough choices of following the Lord or going our own way what then? In the heat of the moment we even declare things to man. The Lord hears those as well and will soon call us to give an account on those promises. What then? Will we be as Peter and deny what we've declared or promised for the sake self-preservation or will our words hold true?

Monday, April 11, 2011

More Precious Than Metal

Zechariah 13:9a
9 This third I will bring into the fire;
   I will refine them like silver
   and test them like gold.

Did you know that the precious metals we wear must be refined and tested before use? The prophet Zechariah referred to the third that God called back to rebuild the temple after the exile. Before the Israelites could be restored they had to be refined. According to Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary, refine means:

1: to free (as metal, sugar, or oil) from impurities or unwanted material
2: to free from moral imperfection : elevate
3: to improve or perfect by pruning or polishing <refine a poetic style>
4: to reduce in vigor or intensity
5: to free from what is coarse, vulgar, or uncouth
intransitive verb
1: to become pure or perfected
2: to make improvement by introducing subtleties or distinctions

Just like precious metals, the impurities and imperfections must be burned away with fire before proper use. Like the metals, God burns away our imperfections through trials and tribulations. He then tests us before moving us on to the next level. Do not find it strange if you are not exactly the same person today that you were one or two years ago. Truthfully, none of us should be. The process God has brought each of us through every trial should be burning away little by little the person we used to be and creating someone greater. The refining process is not a pleasant one but it is a worthy one for we have been deemed more precious than metal