Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Knowing God

Have you ever noticed that we tend to put God in a box? We develop an understanding of who we think God is, and then base our evaluations of Christianity against that perception. However, many times, the God we end up serving may not exactly be the God of the Bible. When the Bible says that God is Jealous, do we discard that description of him because we do not understand it? Do we cast away thoughts of a God who showed judgement in the Old Testament because we want to believe in a loving and forgiving God alone? Is it hard for us to reconcile a loving God with a God who demands Justice? I think sometimes as Christians, we fall into that trap, where we evaluate things based on experience, or on what we want to believe rather than what is. The Bible clearly shows us who God is. I know that since I began to try to discover the truth of the scripture regarding who God is, I have been surprised. In fact, at times I have even had to stop and "chew" on some descriptions or glimpses into the nature of God so that I could truly understand them. At times, I have found myself thinking, "no, that can't be right, that doesn't sound like the God I serve." Then God gently prompts my heart and says, "Know me, Karen". "I am who I say I am, not who you say that I am.

In Matthew 16:13-17, Jesus was talking to his disciples in the region of Caesarea Philippi. It sounds like Jesus was concerned about the very thing I describe above - our perceptions and understanding of God according to our own understanding, not that of scripture or truth, even among His own disciples. It must be something that is easy for believers to fall into - believing God is who we decide He is going to be, rather than who his Word has revealed Him to be.

(Matthew 16:13-17) "When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?" They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets." "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven."

Notice Jesus first asked, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?". Well, I know that I have heard people tell me all sorts of things about "God" that do not seem to be concurrent with scripture. I have also heard unbelievers describe the God of scripture as a mean and angry God, or others who decide that God is somewhere out there, and can take any form depending on what feels good to that individual. Is our perception of God influenced by what others describe him to be? Even from a trusted pastor, is that our only source of discovery when we search for the character of God? If we are to grow as Christians, it must not be this way. The truth of scripture must be written on our hearts. We cannot listen to what others describe God to be, we instead must discover that for ourselves, through the truth of scripture.

The second question Jesus asks, is just as important - "Who do you say that I am?" Are there aspects of God's nature you would rather not face? Have you discarded the complicated or unbecoming characteristics of God and traded them in for the ones that feel good, that reassure you? God calls us to know him in his entirety. This comes in a mature relationship with Him. I remember when I first met Brock, and I thought all of his characteristics were such blessings. As I grew in relationship with him, I learned more about him, and discovered additional things about his character. Some of these were hard for me to understand. They may not have been the way that I looked at things, the way that I thought things should be done, the "right" way to accomplish something in my opinion. I now see all of Brock's character - the things that are easy to understand and love, and the things that take more time and patience to fathom. It is similar with God. The more we build a relationship with Him , the more characteristics we become exposed to. The easy characteristics - God is loving, forgiving, full of mercy, get re-emphasized over time with harder characteristics, like God is Just, Jealous, and Gracious. These may be harder to understand, and they may even require some work, but they also reveal some of the greatest blessings on the character of God, if we take the time to believe that God is who he says he is, not who we say he is.

Jesus responds to Peter's accurate description of him by stating, "Blessed are you, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my father in heaven." Should it surprise us that when we seek answers to who God is from man, that we get conflicting views? Jesus said that his Father revealed it to Peter. Where do we find the revelation of God today? In scripture, and through the Holy Spirit who instructs us (John 14:26). We must commit to the reading of scripture and to seeking His face, on a personal basis. If we serve the God of the universe, the God of the Bible, then we must learn to accept all that God says that he is in his Word, regardless of our own personal views. In fact, when our old views are challenged through a new discovery of God's nature in the Bible, we should trace our resistance to that characteristic of God right back down to the rooted lie which has implanted itself into our hearts, so that we cannot fully understand who God is. We need to sweep out our old perceptions, and allow the true character of God to be revealed. It is not an easy process. Sometimes it requires a mind-decision over a heart one. Our heart may not want to accept certain facts about God, but we must ask ourselves if we are trying to serve a God of our design, or our true Savior. Let me choose the God of Truth every time!

I pray that as I discover who God truly is, and grow to know Him more, that He opens up my heart to fully fathom the depths of his character. May this knowledge bring only more glory to Him, and help to show others His saving grace. May I appreciate the miracle of his Word that He has given us by careful study of the scripture, and commitment to my heart. May the Lord bless any readers of this text, that they also may truly know Him. ~Karen

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Generations

The book of 2 Chronicles, was meant to "chronicle" the journey of God's chosen people from the establishment of Israel, it's separation, the turmoil in Israel & Judah, their ultimate destruction and exile, and how God brought them back to their land. It is a book written for the generations that came after to remind them of both their spiritual and physical heritage.

I have found this a fascinating story. Of course, some can look at it simply as a re-telling of the books of the bible that came before it. Nevertheless, I have enjoyed re-examining these facts knowing that this was speaking to those later generations. It makes me wonder, "What is my story to my children?" If someone wrote a book chronicling the generations that I fall into, what sort of things would be written? It makes me more interested in the story about the generations before me, and also inspires me to "leave a legacy" for my children that encourages them to follow Christ. The interesting thing, is that no matter what legacy we hand down, we can never be sure how this "torch" will be taken, and the race that will be run using it.

I turn to numerous examples of this from the book of 2 Chronicles. Beginning in chapter 28, we learn about a string of Kings in Judah, through a brief summary of their reign. The first King introduced in this chapter is King Ahaz, of Judah who "unlike David his father, he did not do right in the eyes of the Lord." His son Hezekiah succeeded him at age 25, and "he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just like his father David had done." He took back the sanctuary, making it holy again, he called his people out of their idolatry, and called them back into sacrificial offerings. Hezekiah honored God, and so God blessed him. In fact, at the end of chapter 29, it states that "Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced at what God had brought about for his people, because it was done so quickly." What a substantial change that was for the nation of Judah between Hezekiah and his father Ahaz. This reminds me that no matter what things we bear from our past decisions, hurts, or environment, we can become different when we truly serve God!

Through chapters 30 & 32, 2 Chronicles goes on to tell the story about all Hezekiah did to restore the land and people to the Lord. However, after a long life of serving God, at the end of chapter 32, Hezekiah become proud of all "He" had accomplished, and the Lord's wrath was on him. He repented of his pride, and God took away his wrath. Even after serving the Lord faithfully for so many years, Hezekiah fell in the eyes of the Lord. However, it is not the fact that he fell, but that Hezekiah recognized his failure and repented of it to the Lord. It is refreshing to know that if we fall, we can acknowledge our sin and repent to the Lord, who forgives us.

After Hezekiah, his son Menasseh becomes King. Talk about stark contrast, Menasseh does evil in the eyes of the Lord following all sorts of detestable practices. How can a child reared with a father figure like Hezekiah immediately change the entire course of the kingdom to evil? He had a great role model, who seemed to "talk the talk and walk the walk", and yet still, Menasseh was unfaithful to the Lord. This question haunts me. If I train my children faithfully to know God, there is no assurance that they won't behave like Menasseh. How frustrating this must be as a parent! I can't imagine what Hezekiah would have thought. Everything he had worked hard to change from his predeccessor Ahaz, was being reverted right back to evil by his son! When the Lord called to him at first, neither him or his people would listen. So the Lord brought destruction upon him, and in his distress, Menasseh sought the favor of the Lord, and humbled himself before him. Isn't that just the case? We go about doing what we want to do thinking that we are in control, in authority. Then calamity strikes and we seek to find power in something bigger than ourselves. We realize we don't have it all under our control. It is refreshing that Menasseh, having fallen away from his Christian upbringing, eventually turns to God. Perhaps those parents who have children who have wandered can find comfort in the story of Menasseh. Perhaps it is their example along that teaches that child where to turn once the calamity strikes that brings them close to the Lord.

Amon, Menasseh's son succeeded him for 2 years and did evil, refusing to humble himself to the Lord. His own people conspired against him and killed him, and Josiah, Amon's son succeeded him. Josiah became king at eight years old. "He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and walked in the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left." I really like the story of Josiah, and how he faithfully served the Lord. You can find his story in 2 Chronicles chapters 34 & 35.

2 Chronicles interests me because it shows repeatedly how generation after generation serves and turns away from God. We have much to learn from this book of the Bible. What kind of leader in God's kingdom will you be? Who will you offer service to? In whom will you palce your trust? If you were given power and authority, would you yeild it to your creator? Or would the power and prestige end up going to your head and overthrow you? Do we pridefully call our successes our own? When we do, do we repent immediately like Hezekiah?

Lord I pray that my life on earth bring glory to you. I pray that all I accomplish be done in your name alone, and that any and all sin that I may have be revealed and repented of. I ask for your help in opening my eyes to see what is not favorable to you Lord. Some of the kings above served you, but left the hgih places in tact, or didn't remove idols from the people. Help me to live out your precious will in all areas of my life, and to expect others to be accountable to you alone, regardless of the personal persecution that may befall me from such a stance.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


In 2 Chronicles chapter 6, King Solomon offers up a prayer of dedication for the temple he has built for the Lord. Below is a section of verses selected from that prayer:

2 Chronicles 6:36-39 "When they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you become angry with them and give them over to the enemy, who takes them captive to a land far away or near; and if they have a change of heart in the land where they are held captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their captivity and say, 'We have sinned, we have done wrong and acted wickedly'; and if they turn back to you with all their heart and soul in the land of their captivity where they were taken, and pray toward the land you gave their fathers, toward the city you have chosen and toward the temple I have built for your Name; then from heaven, your dwelling place, hear their prayer and their pleas, and uphold their cause. And forgive your people, who have sinned against you."

Solomon definitely had a heart for his people, and an understanding of them. He notes that there is no one who does not sin, and asks the Lord to forgive them. These verses struck me today as I thought about people today. Re-read the passage above, and think of it applying to someone today, even to a believer. Do you know anyone that had an understanding of the Lord and yet the enemy has taken them captive? I know I do. In this prayer, the enemy was most likely other nations that would eventually conquer the future Israel and Judah territory. However, today we still face enemies. You might specifically identify this enemy as satan, who plots to draw people out of Christ, and into the world. It may be that the enemy that takes us captive is actually greed, fame, notoriety, or any distraction of this world. Colossians 2:8 reads "See to it, that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophies that depend on human traditions and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ." Have we been taken captive by hollow and deceptive philosophies? Evolution, materialism, self-sufficiency, the "it's all about me" mindset that is prevalent throughout our culture right now, - have any of these taken you captive? What about financial burdens? I can think of so many things that are part of this world that might take someone - including Christians - captive. We should ask ourselves, am I in captivity to anything or anyone?

In the section of Solomons prayer that I have identified above, he prays for people taken captive. One interesting thing to note, is that he first addresses who this captive might be. He uses the word "when" we sin against God. Not "if", not "those who sin", but "when" we sin. He goes on to say that this clearly applies to all humans, as there are none who do not sin. Solomon mentions that the Lord becomes angry when we sin (it appears he is addressing sin without remorse, even possibly habitual sin). The result of this anger is that God lets the enemy draw them in. Now, first we must address that the Lord is not the enemy. He is not making them be taken captive, he instead allows it to happen. Personally, I know I can do a pretty good job of getting myself into trouble, and praise the Lord that he protects me from some of my own undoing. When we choose to sin against God, he may remove the blessings he has given us, and allow us to be taken captive by those things we pursue. Remember that Solomon is talking about the captivity of EVERY believer and unbeliever. While the fact that we all might be captives at some point might be a tough pill to swallow, Solomon's prayer also offers some hope.

His prayer asks for the Lord to show mercy to those who are taken captive, and to forgive them, but it also outlines major steps on the part of the captive. So what are these conditions? Solomon outlines them as follows:
- have a change of heart
- repent and plead with the Lord
- Say, 'I have sinned, I have done wrong and acted wickedly'
- Turn back to the Lord with all your heart and soul
- pray to the Lord

And the promise which comes as a result of the above? Verse 39 states (paraphrased), "Then from heaven, his dwelling place, the Lord will hear your prayer and your pleas, and uphold your cause. And forgive His people, who have sinned against Him."

What a blessing that is! My friend, know that in the depths of captivity, the Lord is there! We must only turn to him, and away from our captors! But how do we do this? First of all, it is crucial that we recognize what and who it is that has taken us captive. We need to wage war against this enemy. However, this is a spiritual battle, not a physical one. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 "For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." Isn't it refreshing to know that our spiritual weapons through Christ and the Hold Spirit have divine power? THEY can demolish those strongholds, THEY can battle through the cultural lies we have bought into that are affecting our success in the Lord. However, that doesn't mean that we ask the Holy SPirit to get to work, and then run away from those sins. In greade school, we learn that running away only leads to a chase. No, leaving beihind those sins will not free you from them, for you may find yourself back as a captive to them down the road. Instead, Paul goes on to urge us by stating, that WE take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. See, we must turn around and face our captors. Face the lies that we have bought into, face the deception from the Devil, and bind them up! We must overcome our enemy by leaning on our strength from the Holy Spirit, who offers a defense for us. You see, our freedom in Christ includes not only freedom from the captivity and the sin we struggle with, but protection from the captor!

Lord, help me to identify any areas of my life that have been taken captive. Awaken me to the lies I have bought from our culture and from Satan, and give me the power to overcome them through your Holy Spirit. Father, I ask for your blessings on other believers, those who may have heard the gospel, but have fallen away. I pray that you may reach them in the depths of despair and struggle, in their dungeon of captivity, and call them home to you. May their hearts repent and pray to you, knowing that true freedom can only be found in Christ. Amen.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Begin the Work!

An earlier post entitled "Humility" began the discussion about King David. I mentioned how he had wanted to build a temple for the Lord, but the Lord told him that his son Solomon would build the temple. After David gathers much of the materials for the temple, he calls his son aside, and gives him the following speech:

1 Chronicles 22:11-13 "Now, my son, the LORD be with you, and may you have success and build the house of the LORD your God, as he said you would. May the LORD give you discretion and understanding when he puts you in command over Israel, so that you may keep the law of the LORD your God. Then you will have success if you are careful to observe the decrees and laws that the LORD gave Moses for Israel. Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged."

What a wonderful blessing and prayer David bestows on his son Solomon. He addresses his own desire that the building of the temple be successful. He asks Solomon to stay committed to God, and ends his blessing in love, with true concern for his son. I believe God is telling us the same thing as believers. After our conversion, the Holy Spirit works within us to prepare us for a great task - the challenge of accomplishing God's will in our lives. He tells us, "I am with you, may you have success in the task I have given you. May you look to me for discretion and understanding so that you may keep my commandments. Then you will have success. Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or discouraged." What an amazing blessing God's love and compassion is for us! Let us take hold of it!

David continues his speech to Solomon in 1 Chronicles 21:14-16. He states, "I have taken great pains to provide for the temple of the LORD a hundred thousand talents of gold, a million talents of silver, quantities of bronze and iron too great to be weighed, and wood and stone. And you may add to them. You have many workmen: stonecutters, masons and carpenters, as well as men skilled in every kind of work in gold and silver, bronze and iron—craftsmen beyond number. Now begin the work, and the LORD be with you."

David reminds Solomon that he has gathered all of the materials and resources that Solomon needs to accomplish his task. He then encourages him to GET BUILDING! Guess what? The Lord tells us the same thing. He reminds us that he has given us the gifts and resources that we need to accomplish the task that He has given us. He wants us to remember that he will provide everything that we need, if we stay focus on Him, and on the mission he has given us. The Lord then says, "OK, you are prepared, I have given you my Holy Spirit, I have equipped you with the knowledge of me, NOW GET TO WORK!" How many times is our response like that of a child (although Solomon took hold of the great task and accomplished it well.) We argue, I am not ready yet. I need more time, more money, more resources. I need more direction. I will wait until I have read through the Bible. I will wait until the kids are in school. Once my job slows down......once I get my bills caught up......once I..... and on, and on, and on. We all have excuses. They might not even feel like excuses. They might be the result of fear. Fear of failure, lack of self-confidence, lack of complete trust in God. Whatever it is that is holding us back, we should cast it off! God has given us all that we need. He awaits for us to begin the work!

1 Chronicles 21:17-19.... Then David ordered all the leaders of Israel to help his son Solomon. He said to them, "Is not the LORD your God with you? And has he not granted you rest on every side? For he has handed the inhabitants of the land over to me, and the land is subject to the LORD and to his people. Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the LORD your God. Begin to build the sanctuary of the LORD God, so that you may bring the ark of the covenant of the LORD and the sacred articles belonging to God into the temple that will be built for the Name of the LORD."

David reminds the people of God's faithfulness in the past. He opens their eyes to the works that God promised and accomplished for them, then asks them to return the favor, so to speak, by trusting in God. Like David, God says, "remember the promises I gave to your people? Remember how I delivered what I promised? Remember how I called you out of ruin? Remember how I have granted you blessings in this life? Do you understand that all good things come from me? Then have no fear! Devote your heart and soul to seeking me! Do not be afraid to let go of control, and let the Holy Spirit accomplish his work! Set your minds to accomplish the mission God has called you to. Begin the work! Start now, do not delay, for I am with you!

Lord, help me to let go of any fear or excuses that hold me back from accomplishing your will. Let me remove any man-made obstacles I have in my life that prevent me from moving towards this goal. Develop in me the desire to follow you no matter what, to ignore the complications and distractions of this world. Grant me wisdom to understand those things that are meant for good in my life, and those things that keep me from fulfilling my purpose. Lord, let me have a heart like David. Help me to listen to the words of wisdom he gave his son Solomon, and hear your voice through the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Amen.