Monday, March 31, 2008

How Easy It Is To Lose Focus

Reading through what might be considered the history books of the Bible I have been struck by the number of times the people of Israel lose their focus on God. Even more revealing is the number of times I get annoyed with them for doing so. Yet another step of the self challenge is when I begin to shake my head and think here we go again. Then it hits me, I am an Israelite.

Not a new revelation by any stretch of the imagination. However, it is still as convicted every time. I am amazed at how easily I lose my focus on God. Most of the time it is because of self-importance or unholy ambition. Most of the time I do not find myself worshiping the Baal, or any of the gods of foreign people. Nonetheless I find myself worshiping myself and the gods I build in my life. In the end, I can begin to think this whole thing is about me, and what I want. I have heard myself and many people justify ungodly life choices with the phrase, "God would not want me to deny being me."

Hello, Mark 8:43-38 anybody. The American dream and American way of life has instilled in us this false sense that our lives are ours alone. When we return to the teachings of the master we find a very different story and example. In the bible, and in life when people determine to do whatever they think is best regardless of what God is calling them to, whenever we think that our rights as a human being are more important than the calling of God, dangerous things have resulted. Our life is not our own, never has been, never will be.

So, before I scoff at the Israelites, I guess I better look at my life. I guess I should also learn from what happened when the Israelites, you know the people of God, when they thought their rights and ambitions were more important than God.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Reading through Joshua has once again been a wonderful time. Today as I was reading chapter 22, I cam across the section where the tribes to the East of the River Jordan build an altar. They were afraid that the descendants of the other tribes of Israel would not let them worship, or question their right to worship God. Can you imagine? Is it even remotely possible that a group of people would get in the way of others worshiping God?

Perhaps it is more possible than we all like to think. In fact it happens every day. Not just in far away places by people who don't know any better. In churches all across America there are people determining what it means to 'truly' worship God. Some say that unless all the music is hymns, the service only last 58 minutes, and the pastor only preaches for 15 minutes worship hasn't happened. Others will say that only if the music is done by a praise band and lasts until the spirit says stop, the service goes at least two hours and the pastor preaches until they almost pass out. By the way passing out might be considered a sign of the validity of their message.

Anyway, who are we to say what worship is or is not? None us really have the right to make that determination. I will however take a chance at saying what I think should be included in worship, and it has nothing to do with style. First and foremost worship is directed at God, the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob, God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Second, worship must be focused on drawing all of us further on our journey with God. Finally, worship must move us to action for the sake of the Kingdom of God. Worship that is all about a service in a point in time misses the point. The point is to have our butts motivated to be in the world acting as the hands and feet of Christ in our day.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Are You Friend or Foe?

Joshua has taken the mantle of leadership from Moses, and now is the named leader of Israel. He has lead the people across the Jordan River in a fashion recalling Moses and the Red Sea. The people are camped and ready to take on the city of Jericho. The people and army of Israel are waiting for the right time to attack. They had to wait because all the men had just been circumcised, and I am sure they were not feeling spry enough to jump up and fight a battle. While waiting Joshua is studying the city and the commander of the Lord's army appears to Joshua.

It is interesting that Joshua does not realize this at first. Throughout scriptures whenever an angel of the Lord appears the people know it is an angel of the Lord. Not this time. So Joshua asks a really good question to ask when there is a sword wielding warrior in front of you, "Are you friend or foe?" Remember Joshua is now in enemy territory. He is in the land of the people who he is about to wipe off the face of the earth. I might automatically consider someone I didn't know, who was carrying a sword, looking ready for battle to be an enemy.

When we face great challenges it is easy to lose sight of possibilities. There is a diminished ability to see the ways in which God could be providing assistance. Joshua is never told to expect a meeting with the commander of the Lord's army. All he knows is that God is going to give the land to him, not how. I am sure that Joshua had a battle plan in mind already, and the army of the Lord was not part of it. I guess I might have assumed the person I saw with sword in hand to be an enemy and engage them in battle. Not Joshua he asks a real important question, friend or foe. I wonder how many friends, and how much of God's assistance I have missed because I have failed to ask the right question?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Did Anyone Notice This?

I have a very close friend who often says that the current chapter of scriptures he is reading is his favorite. For me the book of Joshua is one of my top 66 favorite books of scripture, more specific it is in my top five. I love the story of the young leader who picks up on the work of those who have gone before. I love the admonishment to be strong and courageous. This morning a new point jumped off the page at me. When Joshua sends the spies in chapter 2 they enter Jericho. Once in Jericho they stay with Rahab. No big deal right, except a small detail, Rahab is a prostitute. Of all the people, of all the houses in all of Jericho they would end up in the home of a prostitute. What's more is that my previous readings , and they are many, of this passage I have never really seen that as a big deal. In fact it seems as though the writer of Joshua sees it as no big deal. Perhaps Elliot Spitzer would have been just fine in that day.

I continue to be amazed that God repeatedly uses those who we might disqualify as a tool to advancing the Kingdom of God. Moses, a murderer; Rahab, a prostitute; David, an adulterer and murderer; Nebuchadnezzar, a foreign king; Mary Magdalene, another prostitute; the first disciples, a bunch of fishermen and common laborers; Paul, a church destroying Pharisee transformed. You get the picture. There is a great danger in our journey through the scriptures, that we would lose sight of some the scandalous people and things God has done throughout history to further His Kingdom.

We may or may not match any of the descriptions of the people highlighted in our scriptures whom God uses to further the Kingdom. One thing is for sure, no matter who we are God can, will and desires to use us for the good of the Kingdom. Have you noticed that it is not by human selection, rather by divine? Have you noticed it is not by theological label, but through Christ we are all called? Have you noticed how many walls of division we put up. Now I think there are Biblical standards which we need to keep in front of us. At the same time we should allow God to be God, and us to be the people of God.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Christ's Remebering Problem

Anyone who has purposed to follow after Christ has had to deal with the issue of recurring sin. You know that sin that just won't seem to go away, Paul talked about it as the thorn in his flesh. We find ourselves coming before Christ and muttering, "I am here again." The response we get from Christ is simply amazing, it is something to the effect, I am not glad about what you have done, but I am glad that you are here. Again Paul gives an insight here when we are reminded that we are not to sin so that grace could abound, but I think it gives great pleasure to Christ when we run to him. There are so many other places we could, and probably have turned, yet we run to Christ.

Then when we explain to Christ that we have done it again, another amazing response. Something like this, "Again I am not glad about what you did, but I am glad you are here. Also I do not remember this last time you keep talking about." It is not that Christ simply forgets our sins, he simply chooses to not hold them against us. Once we confess, and repent, Christ remembers our sin no more. And Thank God there is not a cosmic tally sheet making a tick every time we sin on route to 490.

The point of faith is to be on a journey that leads us closer to the heart of God. Along the way we will stumble and we will fall. The key is what happens after we stumble or fall. We remember all the other times, but Christ chooses to not remember. Do we run to some other destructive habit, or do we run to Christ?

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

In Sync With God

Mark 11 contains two verses that I am willing to guess are often misunderstood at best, and completely misused in the worst case. "Listen to me! You can pray for anything, and if you believe, you will have it. But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins too," Mark 11:24-25.

If I pray for it, I get it. Now that has not really been my experience in life. So if I look at the passage in Mark, I pray but I do not get, therefore I must not believe. That is where the problem begins, I am pretty sure I believe. Now it is not with perfection, nor is it with consistency, but I am working at making more and more of my life a living act of believing God to be God, Jesus to be Jesus, and the Holy Spirit to be the Holy Spirit. Still, I pray, believe and do not get.

Could the answer be in the verse 25? This verse shows that it might not be a matter of belief, rather it is a matter of the heart. Not a popular notion, but it is nearly impossible for God to deal with our prayers if our heart is out of sync. Having our heart in sync with God is not a matter of having it all together, nor is it a matter of being completely righteous and holy. Having our heart in sync with God is a matter of having an appropriate understanding of our standing with God. To have done the work of understanding the condition and position of our heart.

When we ask God for something in prayer there are two pieces of the puzzle that must be in place. First we must believe God to be God. Second, the condition of our hearts must be in sync with God. Often the belief part is not what is out of place.