Tuesday, March 27, 2012

I'll Flee if Left to Me

Morning, March 27      Go To Evening Reading

         “Then all the disciples forsook him and fled.”
         — Matthew 26:56

He never deserted them, but they in cowardly fear of their lives, fled from him in the very beginning of his sufferings. This is but one instructive instance of the frailty of all believers if left to themselves; they are but sheep at the best, and they flee when the wolf cometh. They had all been warned of the danger, and had promised to die rather than leave their Master; and yet they were seized with sudden panic, and took to their heels. It may be, that I, at the opening of this day, have braced up my mind to bear a trial for the Lord’s sake, and I imagine myself to be certain to exhibit perfect fidelity; but let me be very jealous of myself, lest having the same evil heart of unbelief, I should depart from my Lord as the apostles did. It is one thing to promise, and quite another to perform. It would have been to their eternal honour to have stood at Jesus’ side right manfully; they fled from honour; may I be kept from imitating them! Where else could they have been so safe as near their Master, who could presently call for twelve legions of angels? They fled from their true safety. O God, let me not play the fool also. Divine grace can make the coward brave. The smoking flax can flame forth like fire on the altar when the Lord wills it. These very apostles who were timid as hares, grew to be bold as lions after the Spirit had descended upon them, and even so the Holy Spirit can make my recreant spirit brave to confess my Lord and witness for his truth.

What anguish must have filled the Saviour as he saw his friends so faithless! This was one bitter ingredient in his cup; but that cup is drained dry; let me not put another drop in it. If I forsake my Lord, I shall crucify him afresh, and put him to an open shame. Keep me, O blessed Spirit, from an end so shameful.

Spurgeon, C. H. (2006). Morning and evening : Daily readings (Complete and unabridged; New modern edition.). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Stopping sin or chasing joy?

I often hear repentance explained as turning from what I was doing and heading 180 degrees in the opposite direction.  My experience is more like my body turns around and starts walking in the other direction, however my eyes stay focused on the original direction I was headed!  Couple of observations here:  1.  that's pretty rough on the ole neck, 2.  it makes it hard to see where I'm going, and 3.  it calls into question whether or not I've actually repented.

Satan has called my Father's character into question such that I find myself believing the father of lies over what I know to be true about my real Father.  Said another way, the Lord tells me to turn to Him, to press on towards a relationship with Him, a relationship for which He designed me before the beginning of time.  The devil says that the pursuit of what I want will bring me true freedom, joy and contentment.  Of the two messages my flesh takes pride in the idea that I know what is best for me.  And so the battle lines are drawn and I fight between what I want to do (good) and what I end up doing (the bad).

I love how the Lord uses His Word to give me examples in the physical world of what is true in the spiritual.  Go back to Genesis chapters 18 and 19 for instance.  Abraham's nephew Lot lived in Sodom, a town that was less than a moral place to live.  God tells Abraham what He's going to do, Abraham pleads for both Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot and his family are to be saved from the coming destruction and the angels go tell Lot and his family to get a move on.  You remember what happens from here - the Lord rains down burning sulfur and wipes the two cities off the face of the earth.  Do you also remember the instructions the angels gave to Lot (Gen 19:17)?  One of the instructions stands out to me, the one that says ,"Don't look back."  What did Lot's wife do?  She looked back.  What happened to her?  "But Lot's wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt." - Gen 19:26, NIV.

My repentance looks very much like Lot's wife many times.  I turn from my sin because the Lord tells me too, yet I look back over my shoulder to see that which is familiar to me, that which I don't truly believe I can live without.  Okay, maybe I'm stretching and saying that Lot's wife represents how I repent.  After all I'm pretty partial to destruction and seeing burning sulfur fall from heaven would be a pretty cool sight to see.  I see a principle here, but is there another example of "looking over my shoulder" that confirms what I see with Mrs. Lot?

How about Exodus and the Israelites leaving Egypt?  It takes Pharaoh ten plagues to finally let "My people go" then the Lord tells Moses "watch this" setting up the crossing of the Red Sea and wiping Pharaoh's army out.  You'll also recall that Israel told Moses to leave them alone and quit trying to free them from the Egyptians!  I don't know about you but I say this to the Lord when crucifying my flesh gets difficult.  I tell Him, "Listen, I know You think I'll be better off doing it Your way, however right this minute I don't see the benefit and its tough not doing what I'm used to doing."  I look over my shoulder at the, although ultimately destructive behavior, Egypt I'm used to.

Israel received the word of the Lord that they would possess the promised land.  The direction in which they were headed led to God's promise for them!  Jesus promised me an easy yoke and light burden (Matt 11:30), however I have to follow after Him without looking back to the way I used to do things.  Like Lot's wife I want to look back and see where I was, the sin I'm missing.  Like Israel, although I'm heading to a better place, a place promised to me, a place for which I was made to inhabit, I grumble that the trip is hard and my bird in the hand (my sin) is, at least in my mind, better than the two birds waiting in the bush!

Israel complained a number of times to Moses about going back to Egypt.  They were hungry and said to him, "If only we had died by the Lord's hand in Egypt!  There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death." - Ex 16:3, NIV.  Egypt was not a fun place!  Israel was enslaved for over 400 years.  There were whole generations that new nothing but slavery, and yet the generations that experienced God's deliverance out of that awful place actually looked back saying they'd rather be there!

That's me!  I look back to the pleasures of past sins and say, "Why couldn't I just die in my sin where I didn't have to try so hard?  It was miserable, but I got enough of a pay-off from the sin to at least make moments tolerable."  As I write this I'm amazed at the short-sightedness of my flesh, how quickly I turn from my Father, His promises, His character, the promised land of a relationship with Him, and am willing to trade it for something that I know only leads to death!  Israel said they'd rather die in Egypt without the Father than live in the desert with Him!  Every time I choose my sin over Him I say the exact same thing.  I know the wage for my sin is death (Rom 6:23), that the benefit of doing what I want to do leads only to death (Rom 6:21), and that as I turn from what I used to be and pursue Him, He has holiness and eternal life for me (Rom 6:22)!

So, Talley, stop sinning.  Ah, but there's the rub.  The enemy keeps my head focused on the, although temporary, fleeting, and ultimately deadly, pleasures of my sin.  The enemy says the Father selfishly wants me to serve Him which results in slavery to Him; a slavery that by definition means a joyless existence spent in joyless, toilsome service devoid of pleasure, satisfaction and contentment.  IT'S A LIE!!  I spend all this mental time trying to reconcile what I want to do (sin) with what I ought to do (obey) because I believe the lie that obedience is contrary to joy, peace, contentment!  God is not the liar, Satan is!

So what did Jesus do and why?  Jesus went to the cross because of the joy He knew was waiting for Him on the other side (Heb 12:2)!  His eyes and His body were both going in the same direction because He knew that where He was headed, although unbelievably hard and agonizing, was best.  What does the author of Hebrews say we ought to do?  "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus..." - Heb 12:2a, NIV.  How can I fix my eyes on Jesus if I'm looking over my shoulder at the comforts and pleasures of my sin?  I can't do both, I must do one or the other.  Therefore, stopping sin is not about walking toward Him with my eyes looking back.  I stop sinning because I'm too busy doing His will for my life!  Do you see the difference?  I can't make myself stop sinning; neither could Paul for that matter (Rome 7:15).  What I can do is abide in Him (John 15:4) bearing the fruit (not making the fruit!!) of the Spirit (Gal 5:22), and doing those things He's already planned for me to do (Eph 2:10).  Basically I'll be too busy obeying to have time to sin.

Why in the world would I want to obey someone else?  Am I not entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?  How could slavery to Him give me life, liberty or happiness?  Amazingly enough Jesus speaks directly to this.  "If you obey My commands, you will remain in My love, just as I have obeyed My Father's commands and remain in His love.  I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete." - John 15:10-11, NIV.  If Jesus obeyed the Father and did so because of the joy set before Him, does it not make sense that I would obey the Father as well?  My joy is complete in obedience to Him, not in slavery to my sin.

Father, please forgive me if I've misrepresented You or Your word in any way.  Please forgive me for my continued trips back to Egypt, for believing the lie that my joy will be complete in the pursuit of my sin and not in obedience to You.  I love You, Lord.  In Jesus' name, amen.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

My mother-in-law's wisdom

We went to family camp in Chattanooga a few weeks ago.  That basically means Anna took care of all our children for a week (actually nothing new about that) and I "visited" for the weekend.  During the mornings there was time for family devotions where all the grandchildren came together in Juju's cabin and for an hour or so we would discuss Proverbs 3:5,6.  Each morning Juju would take a portion of the scripture, break it down word by word, and have the children give examples of "trust" or "lean" or "acknowledge" so that five years old to teenager had the opportunity to learn the verses in their own language.

I had reservations about whether or not you could camp out (no pun intended) on just two verses for a full week.  Really, don't trust myself but trust God, rely on His wisdom not mine, and He makes my paths straight...not too much there, right?  You should've seen Juju going around that room, each child asked the question "What does it mean to trust?" or "What does understanding mean?"  The way she engaged each one exactly where they were was incredible to see.  I heard five years olds talking about trust using examples of how the know they parents will do what they say they'll do.  Eight year olds talked about how God knows more than they do and so His understanding is better than theirs.  It was something to behold.

Anna takes after her mother like that.  You ought to see her in our house on a daily basis.  My children have wisdom beyond their years because of her and the Holy Spirit.  I find myself often looking to Anna when I'm trying to explain something to the children and saying, "Honey, what am I trying to say?"  It's as if the Father gave me an interpreter who understands both adult and child.  Anna speaks in pictures, analogies, metaphors; her wheelhouse is communication.

For whatever reason one of the words that stood out to me was "lean" in verse 5.  It's interesting to me that the Lord does not say, "Blindly do what I tell you to with no thought whatsoever."  He's given me the faculty of thought, a mind that seeks to understand, and a will that executes around what my intellect decides upon.  That said, I don't lean on my understanding such that what supports the decision is me, but rather His wisdom.  I trust Him with all my heart and merely use the mind He's given me.  Again in verse 6 I am to acknowledge Him in all my ways because He is the one who will make the path straight.

I believe this is vitally important for a number of reasons.  1.  His ways are not my ways such that if I lean on what I believe to be the right answer I'm bound to make the wrong choice (Isa 55:8).  2.  He already has good works ordained for me to accomplish.  If I'm focused on what I think I won't see what He's trying to accomplish (Eph 2:10).  3.  When He created everything, the why, the how, all of it, I was no where around to comment on it or add my two cents.  My guess is He still doesn't need my two cents and that I'd be better off going with His will than mine (Job 38:4).

I also like the idea of Him "making" the path straight.  It certainly makes metaphorical sense why I can't see very far ahead as there are twist, turns, obstacles in the way.  Funny thing is, if I look behind me I see that what brought me to where I'm currently standing is a straight path.  Looking ahead, leaning on Him, seeking His will in all my ways and He goes before me straightening that path.  His perspective is such that He has an "aerial" view of the landscape.  When I fly I can see all the roads, the intersections, the mountains, etc.  Out of my window I can see lets say 20 miles in any one direction which means I can see, in a straight line, two points.  If I'm down on the earth I can't see point B from point A and there are turns I have to take to get there.  The Lord's perspective is such that He sees points A and B, the straight line between them, then He condescends to come down and make the path between them straight "on earth as it is in Heaven."

Lord, thank you for your willingness to meet me at my point of need.  Thank you for leading me in Your ways by Your Spirit.  Please keep me out of Your way long enough for You to will and act within my life to accomplish Your purposes.  I love you Father.  In Jesus' name, amen.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

What do you mean by "God's will?" Part 2

I've received some great feedback and I thank you for it.  From a pure semantics stand point I'm apparently trying to figure out what He willed as opposed to what would please Him.  Said another way, I want to know what He has said "will happen" versus what He has said "pleases" Him.  There are plenty of other vocabulary words out there that will help to split hairs; ordained, willed, purposed.  Let's assume for a minute that I "figure out" which is which.  What good will that do me?  Don't get me wrong, I'm certainly not advocating intellectual laziness, a throwing in of the mental towel or just saying "have faith."  Bottom line I think I'm struggling with the search for meaning in my decisions and actions.  What part is me and what part is Him?

I have this bad habit of spending more time and energy trying to figure Him out than in executing what I already know about His will.  His commands are, I believe, very specific revelations of His will for me.  For instance I am to love Him with my whole self and my neighbor as myself (Luke 10:27).  It is His will that I be sanctified (1 Thes 4:3).  He doesn't want me to conform myself to the pattern of this world but to discern His will for my life by the renewing of my mind (Rom 12:2).  He created me specifically to accomplish good works that He has laid out for me (Eph 2:10).  When I get a "yes" to a prayer request I am assured of that answer coming directly out of His will (1 John 5:14).  Finally, and here's the kicker, I know that anything I do that is in accordance with His will is done only because He worked within me to accomplish His will (Phl 2:13)!

It would seem that a better use of my time and energy would be in the discernment of His will for my life with a mere peripheral intellectual pursuit of understanding the interaction between our wills.  It's funny (not ha ha funny, but interesting) that I get more wrapped up in "how could that be His will" and standing in judgment of what He either allowed or did as opposed to "am I personally pursuing His will?"  I get more wrapped up in how He justifies His actions, His will, in comparison with His supposed character (again, insert your "How could He let this happen" event).  I will even look to His will for someone else, usually someone who has something I want but which the Lord has seen fit to not give me, and ask the Father, "Well, what about them?"  Fortunately I'm not the only one to have done this (John 21:20-22).

So what do I mean by His will?  I'm coming to the conclusion that the personal answer to that is "What do You want me to do today?"  He's given me enough direction to be in the middle of His will for 18 hours or so that I'll be awake today.  I will give Him praise when I accomplish His will because He has worked in me to accomplish His will.

Father, please forgive me if I've misrepresented You or Your will this morning.  I do want to understand how it all works, however please work within me to will and do Your will as its already been revealed.  Thank you for loving me.  I love you, Father.  In Jesus' name, amen.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

What do you mean by "God's will?" Part 1

I remember conversations after 911 about whether or not it was "God's will" that the planes flew into the towers.  If I take a sovereignty tack and say that nothing happens outside of God's control, that for those called according to His purpose He works all things out for their good, then there's an argument to be made for it being His will.  That said, the murder of over 3,000 people doesn't intuitively make sense to me to be defined as "God's will."  Don't get me wrong, my intuition cannot be relied on for truth as I am still sinful and must account for the effect of the fall in all my judgments, while at the same time the Holy Spirit speaks to me through my "conscience" which communicates my intuitions to me....My point is this, how can murder (or any other sin for that matter) be God's will?

Where I want to go with this is to better define what we mean by God's will.  The first kind of "will" I want to look at is found in the following verses:  Psalm 40:8, Nehemiah 9:24, Nehemiah 9:37, Psalm 30:5, Psalm 51:18, Proverbs 11:1, Proverbs 15:8.  Each of these verses has the Hebrew word "ratson", the root of which is "ratsah".  Guess how the Hebrew word is translated in each of the verses (I'm using the ESV).  In order, its translated as follows in each verse:  will, would, please, favor, pleasure, delight, acceptable.  In short if we're talking about God's will as that which pleases Him, those actions in which He delights and finds acceptable, then we can easily say that 911 (please fill in your "how could God allow this" event that has more personal meaning to you) was not God's will because it was not pleasing to Him, was not looked upon with His favor, did not delight Him and certainly did not please Him.

 So if I'm going to look at His will as that which pleases or delights Him then I can't necessarily say that everything is His will.  That said, aren't there things that He wants happen that do happen as a direct result of what He desires, like when He created the earth?  More to come....

Saturday, May 22, 2010

He knows His will - He knows when too

I don't know about you, but I find myself frustrated with how He times the revelation of will.  I realize there's a certain amount of arrogance that says He needs to tell me when He's going to do something, but I can't help it.  I often pray for His intervention then go on to show Him how I think it ought to occur!  I hope His response is an "Oh, Talley" then He nudges Jesus and says, "He's trying to hint at how I need to answer Him again!"  Jesus laughs and says, "Remember when My brothers wanted me to go to the Feast of the Tabernacles so My disciples could see more of My miracles?  They didn't believe in Me yet, but I knew that was not My time and waited."

I will offer that what follows is possibly not what the Lord had in mind when John wrote his gospel, specifically 7:1-14, but my time spent with the Father yesterday morning spoke to me.  Read the following excerpt from John's gospel:
"After this, Jesus went around in Galilee, purposely staying away from Judea because the Jews there were waiting to take his life. 2 But when the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles was near, 3 Jesus’ brothers said to him, “You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do. 4 No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” 5 For even his own brothers did not believe in him.
6 Therefore Jesus told them, “The right time for me has not yet come; for you any time is right. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that what it does is evil. 8 You go to the Feast. I am not yet going up to this Feast, because for me the right time has not yet come.” 9 Having said this, he stayed in Galilee.
10 However, after his brothers had left for the Feast, he went also, not publicly, but in secret. 11 Now at the Feast the Jews were watching for him and asking, “Where is that man?”
12 Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, “He is a good man.”
Others replied, “No, he deceives the people.” 13 But no one would say anything publicly about him for fear of the Jews.
Jesus Teaches at the Feast
14 Not until halfway through the Feast did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach."
The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996 (electronic ed.) (Jn 7:1–14). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
I've highlighted the portions of the scripture that I want to address. Let's set up some context here:  Jesus recently fed the 5,000, walked on water (whole other story there with Peter) and had many of His disciple desert Him over His teaching about being the Bread of Life. We find His brothers taunting Him and saying, "Hey, if You really want to show off why don't you go to the Feast so everyone can see all Your miracles?"  I pray that way sometimes.  Admittedly I don't feel as if I'm taunting Him, but I basically lay down a "challenge" and say, "This is how I want to see You."

It's funny to me to see grown men basically calling Jesus a chicken!  Even with that accusation Jesus' response is to go back to His mission and when He wants to execute it.  "Now is not the time, guys.  I get that you want me to act in ways that fit within your box for Me, that you want to rub the lamp and have Me pop out to do your bidding, but you've got a messed up view of how this whole thing is going to work."  I do that to Him all the time!

His brothers go on to the Feast in Jerusalem, but what does Jesus do?  He goes too!  They don't know He's there, nor does He show up when they expect.  It wasn't until halfway through the Feast that Jesus begins teaching in the temple courts.  Did you get that?  He was teaching in the temple courts, not performing miracles like His brothers suggested.  He had a plan that was better than, more important than, and certainly more mission minded than theirs!

If you read further on in John 7 you see that Jesus about got Himself killed because of His message. (John 7:25-31)  This was not what His brother's had in mind at all.  They were mocking Him, trying to get Him to do miracles and prove His claims about Himself, yet Jesus goes and throws down the gauntlet saying the Jews in the temple courts did not know God!  Why does God do that?  He sends the King to earth in a stable.  He establishes His covenant of grace through the death of His Son.  He tempts men to seize Him and kill Him.  Could it be that I don't think the way He does, that my plans are not His plans? (Isa 55:8)

This is how He applied it in my life:  He goes ahead of me and is waiting for me when I get there.  His plan is infallible and is based on His counsel, will, and wisdom, not my frail, sightless, and selfish will.  Even when I don't think He's there, He is.  When He shows Himself He does not "ride in" to see what is going on, He steps from behind the curtain in the room with me and says, "See, I'm here.  I've been here the whole time.  I went ahead of You, I walked beside You on the way, and I was your rear-guard during the journey.  You can never be out of my presence, I won't allow it.  My will is already in motion, my plans cannot be thwarted by man, and peace unto you, Talley, because of it."

I often want Him to go to the Feast do what I want, yet I'm grateful in hindsight that He reveals Himself at the Feast when He knows is best.  He shows Himself and answers my prayers better than I could've hoped.

Father, I love you and thank You for Your time.  If I've in any way misrepresented You please forgive me and convict our hearts by Your Spirit of what is true.  I love you, Lord.  In Jesus' name, amen.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Test #5: Do you still sin?

STOP READING!!!!  Pray first before you read anything following this sentence as He can give you better answers by His Spirit to what He's talking about in 1 John about sin than I ever could!!  That said, I'm going to do my best to listen to Him and see what He means by, "No one who lives in Him keeps on sinning.  No one who continues to sin has either seen Him or known Him." - 1 John 3:6, NIV.

First rule - we can't take this one verse, omit context, not look at the rest of scripture and say that somehow if I sin I'm not a Christian.  Why?  Because of 1 John 2:1, "My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin.  But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense - Jesus Christ, the Righteous One." - NIV.

Second rule - just because I sin and He speaks on my behalf does not mean that I get to water down the message He's giving me in 3:6.  Hold on because I'm going to make another attempt at looking at a language I've not learned...Greek.

First, take a look at the following:

1. aorist — The aorist verb tense is used by the writer to present the action of a verb as a “snapshot” event. The verb’s action is portrayed simply and in summary fashion without respect to any process. Heiser, M. S. (2005; 2005). Glossary of Morpho-Syntactic Database Terminology. Logos Bible Software.

2.  present — The verb tense where the writer portrays an action in process or a state of being with no assessment of the action’s completion.
Heiser, M. S. (2005; 2005). Glossary of Morpho-Syntactic Database Terminology. Logos Bible Software.

I don't know about you, but when I was in school I NEVER paid as much attention to tense as I find myself needing to do now.  I had breakfast with a friend yesterday and made the comment that I'm glad the Lord used Greek for the NT as opposed to English as Greek seems to be a much more robust language.  At any rate, using the two definitions above lets compare 2:1 to 3:6 and 3:9.

2:1 uses the Greek word "hamartano":  to sin.  3:6 and 3:9 use the Greek word "hamartano" as well.  The major difference is that in 2:1 the verb tense is the aorist and in 3:6,9 the tense is the present.  As best I can tell it is the "snapshot" sin versus the "ongoing" sin.  Said another way, if I am living a life separate from Him I am by definition living in sin, a constant state of being, the state of being in which He found me before raising me to life with His Son (Eph 2:4-9).  Because Jesus speaks for me before His Father my "one off" sins, those committed post salvation, are covered by His blood.

Here is how the test works in my life.  Am I convicted that what I've done is wrong?  Am I concerned about a trespass against Him or do I have a vague moral objection to my actions?  Is my lifestyle one that would provide no evidence of salvation?  I'm not saying this very clearly....

I enjoy playing golf.  It is an infuriating and rewarding sport (okay some will debate with me the "sport" aspect due to all that walking and loafing about).  Let's assume the life of sin looks like using a baseball bat to hit the ball around the course, par is a random number made up by each individual player, and 18 holes has no real meaning.  Salvation looks like Arnold Palmer walking up to you with a bag of golf clubs, lessons on the rules of golf and how to swing the different clubs in the bag.  Post salvation you now know to start off in the tee box of hole one (unless the course is crowded and they send you off on number 10, that's okay too) and you only have the number of strokes equal to par for that hole within which to get the ball in the hole.  What happens when you don't get the ball in the hole at or under par?  Does that mean that you are in the same boat as those running all over the course with baseball bats?  Absolutely not!

My life is spent on the driving range (reading, praying), going out on the course (the rest of my day), hitting slices of the tee box (aorist sin), playing out of the rough into the fairway (forgiveness and restoration) and hopefully not 3-putting!  By His grace I am no longer playing the right game with the wrong tools (present sin).  This is important to me because I am tempted to take what I read in 1 John 2 and 3 while listening to the enemy in my ear telling me that there's no evidence of my salvation, that I am falling short.  By His grace and mercy I have fallen short (Rom 3:23), but He paid the price for me (1 John 2:1,2).

Father, please forgive me if I've in any way misrepresented Your word or watered it down this morning.  I don't want to make light of the sin that I commit, yet the accuser would have me bogged down in shame and condemnation, not the freedom You offer through Jesus Christ.  Please lead us in wisdom and discernment and the conviction of Your Spirit.  I love You, Father.  In Jesus' name, amen.