Archive for January, 2014

His Majesty, The KING

“On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner courtyard of the king’s palace, facing the king’s hall. The king was sitting on his royal throne in the hall, facing the doorway. When the king saw Queen Esther standing in the courtyard, he was pleased. He held out to her the gold scepter that was in his hand, so Esther went forward and touched the end of it.” (Esther 5:1-2 NCV).

There are so many facets of God! He is our Father, our Savior, our Redeemer, our Lord, our Shelter in the storm, our Defender and Deliverer, our Helper, our Healer…. I forget sometimes, that He is Almighty God, and He is King of the Earth. I run to Him in times of trouble, when I am sick, worried, confused, helpless, under attack. Sometimes I forget to bow before Him with the fear and reverence that is due Him. Just as Esther stood in the courtyard waiting for King Xerxes to notice her and extend his scepter to her, there are times when we must be still a moment in God’s presence. We must consider who this God is before we approach Him and do so with fear and reverence, and awe. He will extend the scepter to you. Of that there is no doubt. It is always extended because we are told to, “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need,” (Heb. 4:16 NKJV).

“The Lord Most High is wonderful. He is the great King over all the earth!” (Psalm 47:2 NCV)

“God is King over the nations. God sits on his holy throne.” (Psalm 47:8)

We need not be afraid of our King. He is not going to be-head us for approaching without his permission. We do not have an unapproachable King. One with guards at every point, men in black watching every person with eagle eyes and speaking caution in codes through little microphones draped over their ears. Rather, He is the King who waits with open arms for you to come. He desires for you to come, but come with an attitude that recognizes that He is not the guy next door. He is your King, and the King of the entire world! Psalm 47:9 – “The leaders of the nations meet with the people of the God of Abraham, because the leaders of the earth belong to God. He is supreme.”

Does this mean you need to lose the feeling of familiarity with God? That comfortable, ‘He is my Father’ kind of attitude. No. Of course not. Because He is our Father, and all of the things that He has promised to be to us. Maybe it just means that before you sit down for a long heart to heart with your Father, you just consider for a moment that He is also your King. Bow your head and recognize His supremacy. Then reach out to touch His golden scepter and sit at His feet before the royal throne.

Job’s Patience or God’s Glory?

Who hasn’t heard the story of Job?  The wealthy Old Testament man of God who lost everything, his animals, his servants, all his children, and even his health.  The Bible tells us that Job was such a godly man that God trusted him to not curse God when faced with terrible times.  God knew his heart…an advantage Satan didn’t have when he challenged God.  Job’s life is virtually destroyed in the first 2 chapters of the book.  Then his “friends” come to comfort him.  In order to do that they lecture him in one speech after another for the next 36 chapters!  Of course Job refutes them, but it is a lot of back and forth while they try to convince Job that he has sinned and that is why God is punishing him.  He is accused of being arrogant and self-righteous, and they are disgusted and angered when he declares his innocence and refuses to back down.  Job never does curse God.  He curses the day he was born.  He does, however, accuse God of doing wrong to him, declaring that he is right and God is wrong.  Finally, in the 38th chapter God makes Himself known…and boy, does He make Himself known!!  BOOM!  His voice thunders from the whirlwind (The Message calls it the eye of a violent storm).

The whole scene reminds me a little of one of my favorite scenes from the Disney movie The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.  Aslan, the great lion has just agreed to sacrifice himself in payment for the treachery of the boy Edmund.  The White Witch turns to Aslan, and before the great crowd of Aslan’s followers, boldly asks, “How do I know your promise will be kept?”  Alsan roars his great booming roar, and this evil, powerful enemy falls to her knees before him.  I’ll include a link to the scene on YouTube, just because it is fun:-)  ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zgl4tqw2OKs).

“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?  Tell Me, if you have understanding.  Who determined its measurements?  Surely you know!  Or who stretched the line upon it?  To what were its foundations fastened?  Or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”  God begins in Job 38:4-7 (NKJV).  Who put the seas in their place and put the barriers around them and told them to stay put?  In the next 105 verses God lets Job have it.  He declares, in no uncertain terms, exactly who He is.  He is the God who measured and designed the entire earth.  The God who put the waters where they belong and set the doors to keep them in place.  The God who has commanded the dawn since the beginning of time.  The God who holds the treasury of snow and hail for times of war.  The God who can pinpoint the exact location where lightening bolts and wind begin.  The same God who created the gentle deer and designed the number of days of her pregnancy, and the behemoth, and even greater, the Leviathan who could not be defeated by man.  And where was Job during all of that?  Was he present?   The point?  Job, do you really think you have the knowledge and insight to be able to accuse me, God Almighty, of doing wrong?

In chapter 38:2-3 (NCV) God begins by addressing Job, “Who is this that makes my purpose unclear by saying things that are not true?  Be strong like a man!  I will ask you questions, and you must answer me.”  This is where Job says, “gulp.”  After 2 chapters of God’s greatness and might, Job is hoping God has forgotten him, but God pauses in His questioning.  Chapter 40:1-2 – The Lord said to Job:  “Will the person who argues with the Almighty correct Him?  Let the person who accuses God answer Him.”  Here is the part, the roar that drops Job to his knees.  And Job’s response?  After going on and on defending himself in the bulk of the book, this is what he has to say (vs 4-5 NKJV):  “Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer You?  I lay my hand over my mouth.  Once I have spoken, but I will not answer; yes, twice, but I will proceed no further.”  Zip, button, lock and throw away the key…his mouth is shut tight.

What is the most common thing we hear about Job?  The patience of Job?  Don’t we often boil the story down to this poor man who lost everything, remained faithful to God, and then was blessed two-fold afterward?  Is that the real message though?  Was Job really all that patient?  Have you read the book lately?  He didn’t look patient to me.  I am by no means downplaying the terrible things he went through.  If I were in his shoes, I am pretty sure I would do some of my own questioning of God.  But why do we call Job patient when he wasn’t really all that patient?  I think the book of Job has some hard things in it that make it much easier to focus on Job’s suffering.  First of all, we get a behind-the-scenes look at God and Satan having a discussion about God’s people.  We see Satan asking for permission, and God giving it, to cause harm to one of His people.    That is not an easy picture to understand.  And anyone who is looking for an excuse to hate God could very easily find it there.  On the other hand, those who love God, and fear Him with reverence, will be comforted in knowing that even Satan must stop at the boundaries God sets up, because God is in control.  Then we have the middle of the book with all the drivel of Job’s friends.  Quite frankly, I did a lot of eye rolling when I read their lectures…and a lot of, “for heavens sake!  What kind of friends were these?!”  We have Job’s self defense and accusations of God’s “wrong-doing” that do not demonstrate the patience of Job, sorry.  I just don’t see it.  BUT THEN.  Then we have the omniscience, and omnipotence of God declared in a thunderous voice from the eye of a violent storm by God Himself!  And that declaration left a mouthy man dumbfounded, speechless, and feeling a millimeter tall.

The story of the book of Job is not the story of a man who went through hell on earth.  It is the story of the might and power of God.  It should leave us on our knees, hands over our mouths, in speechless awe of the God who rules from His thrown above…but who didn’t stay there!  In Job 9:32-35, Job cries out for a savior.  Someone who could make peace between him and God, remove his punishment, and allow him to speak without being afraid.  Isn’t that exactly what Jesus did for us?  This same awesome God, who caused Job to shut his mouth, and leaves us with eyes wide, mouths gaped open and incapable of uttering anything other than “wow,” loves us so much that He took on that millimeter-tall, frail, unworthy form in order to rescue us from our own filthy dust and ashes.  Take the time soon to read Job 38-41, and soak up some awe.  And while you are at it, take a gander at the crucifixion of Jesus in Matthew 26 and 27, Mark 14 and 15, Luke 22 and 23, or John 18 and 19 (must be an important story!).

1 John 4:9-10 – This is how God showed his love to us:  He sent his one and only Son into the world so that we could have life through him.  This is what real love is:  It is not our love for God, it is God’s love for us in sending his Son to be the way to take away our sins.

DIVORCE…The Inside Attack

Two days ago my husband and I celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary…just days after I learned of the divorce of a friend from my youth.  She is a Christian, and in her letter about the divorce she talked about how God is in control and would help her through this time.

Divorce is something that God never intended, and certainly does not intend for the body of believers.  Before I jump into a preachy soapbox in which a reader may feel pointing fingers, I want to tell you that I am not innocent in this subject area.  A few years ago I was on the brink of leaving my husband.  We had gone through some very difficult years in our marriage, and our relationship was very tattered and bruised.  Without delving into all of the mucky details, the whole thing came down to one moment when I locked myself in my bathroom.  It had all come to a head and I needed to make a decision…stay or go.  I was in so much pain at that moment.  Torn and confused beyond what I ever thought I could be.  I cried out to God…and I heard Him say, very clearly, “Stay.”  Believe me, that was not really what I wanted to hear.  Not so deep down I was really hoping God would see my side of things and give me the go-ahead to leave.  But He didn’t.  Being obedient to His command was one of the hardest things I had ever had to do to that point, but I did it, because He gave me the strength to do it.  And God used that obedience to do some major fixing.  He made a lot of changes in my husband’s life…and a lot in my own.  Marriage takes both partners, and no matter how much I wanted to blame my husband for all of our troubles, there was trouble that was my own doing as well.  God saved our marriage because He wants us together.  And together we can honor and serve Him in a way that we couldn’t apart from each other.

Now I’m going back to the part about divorce being something God does not intend…and to be more blunt, approve.  Sorry.  He doesn’t, and that is the truth of His holy Word.  There is reason behind it that is more than just keeping two people together.  It involves the Church as well.  But first things first.  Jesus brought up the topic of divorce in His Sermon on the Mount of Olives.  In Matthew 5:31-32 Jesus says that divorcing causes the spouse to commit adultery (breaking one of the 10 Commandments), and that anyone who marries a divorced person also commits adultery.

Jesus expands on this in Matthew 19:3-12 and Mark 10:2-12, two records of the same event.  The Pharisees had come to Jesus to test him, as usual, and threw the question of divorce at Him.  Moses had allowed divorce, and so, of course what Jesus said on the Mount of Olives contradicted that.  In part of these passages Jesus explained that Moses allowed divorce because of the hardness of the hearts of the Israelites, not because it was what God wanted.  But because the Pharisees needed more of the ‘why’ answered Jesus told them the following from Matthew 19:4-6, which He quotes from the Old Testament (Genesis 1:27; 5:2; and 2:24):  And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?  So then, they are no longer two but one flesh.  Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”

Jesus made one exception to this rule.  That was in the case of unfaithfulness.

When a couple divorces, it is wrong, but there is much more going on here than just a divorce of a marriage and the break up of the family.  Especially when the divorce happens in the lives of Christians.  Statistics go both ways on divorce among Christians and/or churchgoers.  Often it is claimed that the divorce rate is just as high as it is with non-Christian/churchgoers.  (I do differentiate between Christians and churchgoers because not all churchgoers are Christians.)  Other sites claim that among true Christians, those who faithfully practice their faith and beliefs, the divorce rate is much lower.  Regardless of the statistics that are out there, I can say that I see it personally far more often in the church than I should.  I cannot comment on the strength of a divorced person’s faith, other than to say that I have seen these people in church regularly for a very long period of time, or I am witness to confessions of their faith in various manners.

Satan is using divorce as an attack among the people of God.  There are obvious reasons why he would do this.  The first is that divorce is disobedience to God’s commands.  In luring Christians into divorcing their spouse, Satan is offering a temptation to sin.  He fills their heads with lies about their spouse, as well as about themselves.  He is able to exaggerate the flaws of the spouse, as well as the individual innocence of self, in a way that is blindingly filled with half-truths and out-right lies.  When divorce occurs, sin is committed, and distance is put between the Christian and God.  Of course there is forgiveness, when sin is confessed.  But I wonder how much repentance can truly occur while the divorce continues…I honestly don’t know the answer to that question.  As with any sin that pulls us away from God, turning back to Him is difficult.  The longer we wait to confess and repent, the wider that gap grows between us, and the more and more difficult it becomes for us to return to Him.  Divorce is such a painful thing, and those lies that Satan feeds us create such bitterness, anger and resentment.  It is a great task to overcome those feelings, and the hardness of heart, that by the time it is accomplished, the gap between Christian and God can be very large.  Satan’s mission:  accomplished.

Satan’s attack on the church is three-fold, though.  He tears down the relationship between a Christian and God.  He tears apart a marriage that God brought together for a purpose that goes beyond what we see as we stand at the alter to say our I-do’s.  And Satan does damage to the Church as a whole.  He tears apart the members of the Body of Christ.  Not just between the two who divorced, but all those in the church who know them.  One, or both, may leave the congregation, or even the church altogether.  Whether they leave or not, the rest of the body is in a situation where they are uncomfortable with how to respond to this situation, and these two people.  A few months ago, a lady from church, who had been divorced from her husband after they had been members together in this congregation for many years, married someone else.  Jesus said in His Olivet Discourse that God considered this adultery, both the divorce, and then the re-marriage to someone else.  How do I, as a Christian, and as a co-member of the Body of Christ, the Church, congratulate her and tell her I’m happy for her?  I really, really struggled with that.  The situation created enmity between parts of The Body.

Satan’s attack on the Church through divorce is also symbolic in nature.  The Bible describes the Church as the Bride of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:30-32; and Colossians 1:24).  The marriage of the Church (the Bride) to Christ (the Groom), joins us together with Jesus as one, He being the Head of the Body.  We, the Church, are a unit with Christ, just as a husband and wife are a unit, together.  As Satan continues to spread divorce through the Church, it is a symbol of his work to break down the marriage between Christ and the Church.

We must protect not only our human marriages, but also the marriage of the Church to Christ!!  If you are a Christian and married, pray for protection over your marriage!!  If you are a Christian who is unhappy in your marriage, pray for healing and restoration in your marriage, and for protection.  Remember, I don’t say this as someone who has not faced the pain and questions you face now.  But, God is faithful.  He does not want you to leave your spouse.  If the choice is yours, chose what God would have you do.  Be obedient to Him, and He will be faithful to you.  If you are a Christian who has gone through divorce, confess, repent, and seek God’s leadership in your life.  I know that God would heal your marriage, you, and your spouse, if you would open the door for Him to do that.  I know that may not be what you want, but God can give you a change of heart, too, if you are willing to obey.  If you are a Christian, married or not, pray for the protection of the Church, and the marriage between her and Christ.  We do live in the End Times.  More than any time in history, we need to use the power of prayer, and seek the protection of God for the Church.  Satan’s divorce weapon must be destroyed!!!

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