Friday, June 24, 2016

Heavens Eyes

     The people of Israel were in exile. Rejecting the word of the Lord for their own pleasures and idols had separated them from the One who had done so much to free them from their bondage in Egypt.

     As a God of holy perfection, Israel's "Jehovah Jireh", the Lord who provides, was unable to commune with His people, so cankered were they by sin and moral corruption. Justice and compassion were forged together as a paralyzing example of what happens to those who defy the living God who rules in righteousness over His people, yet is filled with a passionate love no man could ever understand.

     Justice had come to Israel; justice was deserved. But God spoke: and he spoke to them with love. Desiring their sanctification through him as he gathered them from their enemies "That they will know that I am the LORD their God because I made them go into exile among the nations, and then gathered them again to their own land, and I will leave none of them there any longer..." (Ezekiel 39:28), the Lord spoke through the prophet Ezekiel to the people of Israel:

     "...I sought for a man among them that should make up the hedge and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none."  (Ezk. 22:30)

     Through all that God had done for them, his deliverance, his compassion, his love, Israel chose to reject him. The judgment they were experiencing was justly deserved. And yet... Yahweh looked for one; one who would stand in the gap, intercede for the people, and desire to follow after righteousness at a time faced with vile wickedness and immense compromise among his people. For this one, the nation of Israel may have been spared. But he found none.

     We face a dilemma today in our country. We the church, those who claim to follow Christ, are rejecting our God for idols made to feed our desires of self gratification. We serve the god of media, of social status, of achievement. We live either to serve the god of our bodies or use our bodies as a god to serve us. Our focus is inward and our goals are often cheap and vapid.

     Yet... God looks for one. One person to stand in the gap. One person to rise up in prayer as a David against the Goliath of our culture. One person who will not conform. One who will lay down their pride in a humble cry, Lord here am I, send me".

     Our God is holy. This means he is perfect and righteous. It's because of his love and justice that we must someday answer to our actions. Yet heavens eyes seek that one.

     Are you willing to make the sacrifice? Will you stand in the gap? As a bond-servant of our Savior will you allow yourself to be used by him no matter what the costs? Even when you are rejected by those you love? Even when you are spit on as the fool while all the world looks on and laughs?

     Don't let this culture define who you are or the gods you serve. When the eyes of heaven gaze down in the sludge and grime of our sinful ways, may we stand with unwavering resolve against the compromise of the world around us. May we be surrounded by the convicting words of the gospel presented through a humility that displays, in glorious splendor, the name of our awesome God.

Heavens Eyes are searching. The world's eyes are watching.... Who is ready to rise up for all to see?

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Skeptical Surrender

     Sitting in a room of young ladies, mostly older than herself, sat a 12 year old girl. Her experience at this Christian home-school convention had been okay so far, but definitely not a great one. After being dropped off at the wrong room by her brother, her terrible sense of direction found the young introvert forced to ask one of the volunteers for help. He had taken her to the correct room now, one story down from where she was at, and the soft-spoken girl was now seated in the very back of the crowded room, late.

     The speaker had already begun. She was upbeat and engaging as she chatted small talk with these girls, introducing herself and talking about hobbies. Then she pulled out a piece of paper.

"I want you to pass these around", she said. 

     The girl received her little slip of paper and a pencil. Worried about having to write something she may not know about, she waited tentatively for her next instructions.  Satisfied that everyone was ready to go, the lady smiled and continued.

"On your own slip of paper" she began, "I want you to write something you really want to be when you grow up".  

Okay good, thought the girl. That was pretty simple. But I hope she doesn't make me read this aloud. 

     Some of the girls took a little while to think about their answer, most wrote their "One thing" pretty quickly, but the girl was probably one of the first finished. She knew for sure that she wanted to be a Mom. Her desire for this future had never been anything different. She knew that was what she was called to do and she felt sure that's probably what all girls were called to be; a wife and mother; a homemaker. 

     A basket was passed and the girls were asked to put their slips of paper into it. The girl was glad. She realized she wasn't going to be asked to read it aloud, but perhaps this speaker-lady would. She hoped so. She hoped hers would get picked too. All the other girls probably wrote a career, she thought in disgust. The other girls probably wrote selfish things. But clearly her choice was the best one. It was the one that God would be happy with, not that other stuff. While feeling very good about her godly choice for a future, the girl was completely oblivious to her blatant pride. 

     Sure enough, the speaker, having received the basket, began to pull out a few slips of the white paper and read them aloud. As the girl suspected, they were all career related. 

"Doctor, chef, veterinarian, actress, engineer, designer, geologist..." Then the speaker stopped. Her hand, now holding several white slips of paper, was suspended high over the basket. She paused dramatically and slowly looked around the room. Taking one paper into her other hand, she read it again: 

"Basketball player". Crunch! The lady made a fist and the piece was nothing but a tiny ball. 

"Actress" Crunch! As the first, she had smashed it into a little bit of nothing. 

"Nurse" Crunch!

 "Teacher" Crunch! On it went. 

     Satisfied that she had their attention, the speaker lowered her hand and slowly dropped the crumpled papers onto the floor. 

"This is what you have to be willing to do with those dreams." she stated softly.

 "We all have things we want to do, people we want to be, plans, hopes, and dreams... but girls, we need to be open to what God has planned for us. We need to be ready to give him everything..."

      She lifted the basket, "This may be something we want to do, but whatever it is that God has planned for us and called us to... it may not be this... And that means, no matter what we end up doing, we have to be willing to surrender ALL our desires to God."

     Indignant, the girl sat stiffly in her chair. How dare this speaker stand there, with the basket containing her piece of paper, and try to tell her that being a wife and mother may not be God's will? What if this speaker had grabbed up her paper and crumpled it up like some of the others? Her slip said she wanted to be a Mom. She honestly wondered, would the speaker have been able to crunch that up? The girl was now glad she was in the back. She didn't like this speaker so much anymore. 

     The woman continued with her message, but the girl wasn't really listening. Feeling a prick on her heart, she mulled over the words that were just spoken. She knew she was supposed to give God everything. She knew the speaker wasn't wrong to say we need to follow God's will and not her own. But the girl felt she was doing better than those other girls in the room. Her desire to be a keeper at home was biblical. It was God's will... right?

      She decided she wouldn't let anyone else tell her differently. Let those other girls hear this message. They don't understand that they shouldn't be seeking a career. They needed to hear this... But she knew she was doing what God wanted. Sitting there feeling very self righteous, the girl was still oblivious to her arrogance.

     Throughout the years as she grew in the Lord and matured as a Christian, God had to teach this girl many things. She had to learn how to give up her plans to Him. She realized through firsthand experiences that she really didn't have control. She could think she did. She could fake it. She could try to make things happen, but when it came down to it, that couldn't actually change what happened around her. 

     She realized how prideful she was about her choices. She realized God needed to be the center of her entire life and every decision along the way. This meant she had to be willing to do whatever God had for her and rest in His guidance in her life. This included the stuff she felt sure was God's best. Leaving it all in the hands of her Father gave her peace knowing He would be the one to work out her future. 

     No longer a little girl, she dealt with some trials and difficulties in her older teen life and young 20's. But in the midst of it all she could say God brought her through, because He had taught her what it meant to trust Him with her piece of paper that held her desire for the future. That speaker, all those years ago, was absolutely right.

     In case you didn't catch on, that little girl was me. It wasn't until quite recently that I remembered this story and realized it correlated so perfectly with my life now. I hope it will speak to your heart as well.

     Friend, we can try to understand the will of God, follow Him with our entire being, read his word, pray, and live in devotion to him. But guess what, we must be ready to give up everything for him. Everything. This means the stuff we want. The stuff we've prayed for. The stuff we've felt sure we're supposed to do with our life. We must be able and willing to lay it all at the feet of Jesus and rest in Him to be the One who guides our future, because let's face it, we'll be miserable if we're fighting His will.

     If God's not the one leading our lives, can we really say we are living a life that honors Him? Christ gave up everything on the cross at Calvary. This was the biggest act of submission ever to take place. In trying to be like Christ, should not our obedience towards His command to follow be to submit to Him as the One who determines our every step? 

Isaiah 26:3- "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee." 

May our minds be "Stayed on God", our hearts full of childlike trust, and our will and desires surrendered to Him, that He may grant us perfect peace and we can fully rest in His direction and grace during every step of our lives. Praise the Lord.