Monday, October 27, 2014

The Ancient Path 10/27/2014

"Thus says the Lord, 'Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths,
Where the good way is, and walk in it; And you will find rest for your souls.'
But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’"
Jeremiah 6:16

These days, it seems that humanity is moving at nearly the speed of light. There are technological advances announced just about every day. New developments in medicine, health, electronics, communication, transportation, business and education boggle the mind compared to what was available just 10-15 years ago. As a result, there is an increasing appetite for the newest and latest thing when it comes to just about everything we need and desire. Those who are first to the market with their offerings typically are greatly rewarded, which in turn speeds the cycle even faster.

This can cause the older among us to say "Whoa. Slow down." We become nostalgic for the simpler times and ways of yesteryear and wonder if the world has forgotten about the things that are really important like loving God, loving your neighbor, taking care of one another, hard work and being kind. We wonder what happened to morality, common sense and just trying to be the best people we can be.

Beloved, these are not new musings. In 626 BC, the prophet Jeremiah was called into service by God. He was charged with preaching and prophesying to the people of God regarding the dark future they were bringing upon themselves. It seems that the God's own were not satisfied with the tried, true and righteous, but instead ran to new and different "gods" and the pagan and idolatrous behaviors that accompanied their worship. These things were preferred by those who should have known better. For as many warnings that were delivered by many prophets, the people were more interested in the latest than they were in what was right and who had fed, freed and sustained them in the midst of all of their enemies.

As we look around today, we might see the same things that Jeremiah saw and lamented. Like Israel, we are being warned. Like Israel, we have a choice. Like Israel, God loves us and desires the ultimate good for us. There is nothing wrong with technology, new methods and new thinking, but we must use these things for good and continue to adhere to the same message. We must not allow ourselves to be carried off by pursuit of the new, bright and shiny things that only appear to be Light but lead ultimately to destruction. Instead, let us follow the ancient path. We know exactly where and to whom it leads.



Monday, October 20, 2014

Trusting God in the Worst Times 10/20/2014

"'And behold, a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people and they died, and I alone have escaped to tell you.' Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped. He said, 'Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.' Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God." Job 1:19-22

It is a fact of life that bad things happen to good people. There is no way around it. Our views, thoughts and how we handle such situations, however, vary widely. When more of the story is read, it is revealed that job lost the animals that represent his livelihood, his servants that represent his workforce, his sheep which represent his ability to feed and clothe himself, and his children. All of these things happened and were reported in rapid succession. It is difficult to imagine experiencing greater losses in worse ways than these. What is more difficult to imagine is his attitude.

When most would criticize and become angry at God, Job worshiped and praised Him. Astoundingly, he acknowledged that he was born with nothing, that God had given him all that he had and that God had the right to take it all away. Given human nature, this is the rarest of all possible responses to such calamity.

Beloved, achieving Job's attitude (at this particular point in time) must be the goal of all Christians. So often, we put ahead of God the blessings of employment, possessions, material goods and family that He has so graciously provided. When we become consumed by the acquisition, maintaining or loss of them, we are in effect exchanging the one true God for idols. This is not to say that we should not be great stewards of what we are given or that we should not mourn loss but that we should trust God completely and rely upon Him to keep us in and through all situations, be they favorable or not.

We know that Job would later wrestle a bit with the things that were happening when they got even worse, but he remained faithful, he kept his trust in God and was eventually restored in a way that multiplied his original position in life. It should further be stated that the reason these things happened is because God had faith in him. Can He have that kind of faith in us?



Monday, October 6, 2014

Childlike Faith 10/6/2014

"'Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, since he has taunted the armies of the living God.' And David said, 'The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.' And Saul said to David, 'Go, and may the Lord be with you.'” 1 Samuel 17:36-37

There is scarcely anyone who is unfamiliar with the famous story of David and Goliath. And though we are familiar with the larger lesson and the greater details, there are other noteworthy aspects of the story that bear amplification.

First, the army of Israel was absolutely immobilized in the face of a 9 ft. giant who taunted and harassed them every day for more than a month. The challenge involved having just two men fight rather than both full armies in a "winner take all" contest. No one but David, as it turns out, was willing to step up to the task.

Second, David was harshly criticized for his youthful exuberance. His own brother chastised him and accused him of both being arrogant and being a bit of a rubbernecker. He resisted these charges and continued to inquire about the situation and what was to be done for the person who could defeat the enemy.

Once commanded to appear by the king, who himself seemed to be immobilized, David was reminded that he was just a child and that Goliath had been a warrior from his youth. David responded by sharing his experiences with the king. He had killed both lion and bear using, among other things, his bare hands when they threatened him and his sheep. This he claimed to do through the power of God, indicating that he could not sit idly by and allow the insult to God or his people. He was also confident that this same God would protect him as he had done in the past.

Having convinced the king to allow him to go, he was supplied with armor and a sword but rejected them in favor of 5 smooth stones and a leather sling to fight the heavily armed giant.

Beloved, David was just a child but his absolute faith in God gave him strength and courage that was apparently available nowhere else in all of Israel. There are many lessons that can be learned from the faith of someone so young. We should know and believe that we will face adversaries and adverse situations that are bigger than we are but none that are bigger than God. We will endure discouragement from those who are cowering in fear instead of standing tall in the Lord. We will never be at a loss of those who will remind us of the impossibility of the task, particularly in view of what they perceive to be our shortcomings, yet we can rely on what we know our God can do through us. And finally, there will always be those who will weigh us down with what they think we need when we know that God has already equipped us with everything we require to be successful in his name.

We all know that David prevailed but the number one lesson to be learned is that there is nothing, no matter how daunting, that we cannot overcome through a childlike faith and through the power of Almighty God. Let us always remember to "be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil," Ephesians 6:10-11.