Tuesday, December 31, 2013

It Ain't Me That's Moved

And they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the LORD to anger. 
Judges 2:12

It was a hot, dry summer afternoon. The air felt heavy like a mule that had balked on its haunches refusing to move at all. He refused to run the air conditioner in the old truck. Said it used too much gas. He also refused to drive over twenty miles an hour. There just wasn't any need to get in a hurry. There wasn't anything he needed or wanted to do. The maize was cut and the cotton was sweltering in the dry heat. He could plow something, or fix something, but not today. They were headed to town for groceries and for a bite to eat at the City Cafe. 

And, she was mad. He knew she was. You don't live with a woman 46 years and not know when she's mad. You may pretend not to notice, but you know. He figured it was something he had said, or something he hadn't done. He was ready for it, too. She never let him forget that the truck had an air conditioner. On more than a dozen occasions she had reminded him that the air would move a little quicker if he would drive a little faster. So, he was ready for whatever she was gonna say, 'cause she was lookin' at him out of the corner of her eye and he had seen it out of the corner of his.

"Do you love me?" 

Now, he really wasn't ready for that. "What do you mean, 'Do you love me?'" 

"You heard me." she said louder than before with that kind of staccato that she had used when one of their children used to complain, "Do you love me?"  There was a little sharpness to her tone that time.

He looked right at her now, "What kind of nonsense is this? Of course I love you. I've been married to you for 46 years. What in the world has gotten into you?"  

"Well," she blurted, "I just wanted to know."

"Why? What have I done now?" He was a simple, plain man. He worked hard. Provided for his family. Enjoyed his grandchildren and the smell of fresh plowed earth. His Bible was well-worn as was his pew at church. He had never been unfaithful to her in 46 years.  He just couldn't figure this one out.  So he carefully asked, "Honey, I'm sorry, I just don't understand. What is it?"  

She looked at him across the truck, and then cast her eyes down on the cracked vinyl of the old bench seat and said, "We've been down this road a thousand times and look at us. Me over here and you over there. I used to sit right up under your arm. Now I ride over here and you drive over there. What's happened to us? Do You Love Me?"

He didn't smile, 'cause that would have been a mistake. He just looked straight ahead and said, "Well, honey, I ain't the one that's moved."

We live in a society that has moved. God hasn't. If you continue to walk in His ways and speak His truths, the world will feel like you've moved far away. People will feel like you don't love them, even though you do. But God will know you're right where you're supposed to be. 

It's almost a new year. Don't move toward the world, and, if you're living your life close to God, don't expect the world to be comfortable with where you're sitting.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Fallen From Grace

Maybe for some it's a no brainer, but the greatest commandment has just hit be between the eyes.  Paul's benediction to the Ephesians is swirling in my thoughts. Peace to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all who have undying love for our Lord Jesus Christ.  (Ephesians 6:23-24)
Love for Christ is wrapped so closely to faith, and the grace-filled live tied so closely to our love for Christ. What does God want most from me, my faith?  No. My good works? No. My witness? Apparently He wants me to love Him. How could we ever miss that?  Jesus, when asked by the theologians of His day which command was greatest, responded, "Love me. Love me with all you have and all you are." (my paraphrase)
This clarifies the whole issue of falling from grace.  Paul wrote that falling from grace is attempting to attain salvation through the law.  Read Paul's words in Galatians through the lens of this reality. "You who are trying to be justified by the law are alienated from Christ; you have fallen from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.  For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision accomplishes anything; what matters is faith working through love." (Galatians 5:4-6)  What matters is faith working through love.
Fall out of love with Jesus and you fall from grace.  Perhaps that is what Paul meant in his benediction to the Ephesians, "Grace be with all who have undying love for our Lord Jesus Christ." 
Grace is receiving what I do not deserve. So, I do not receive grace if I think I have done something to deserve it.  Grace is received when I trust in the absolute love of Christ for me and my absolute unworthiness to receive it.  In that moment I cast off all attempts to prove I am worthy of His love, all attempts to be justified by the law, and I simply believe (faith) that He loves me. I receive that love, and in receiving it I love Him. Then grace flows in, through and over me in that moment as I realize He does not love me for any other reason than Himself. Jesus loves me because He is Jesus, not because I am me.  So I love him. How could I not love the one who loves me like this?
Now, no longer fallen from grace, my prayer is transformed. No longer do I ask Him to show me what I can do to encourage Him to love me.  Now I ask, simply, "Lord, how can I love you more?"

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

When You've Lost Your Hunger For God

I long and yearn for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh cry out for the living God.  Psalm 84:2

It is possible to lose your appetite. Patients with severe illness come to a point where they do not desire any food. They need it, but they will not eat. The result is weakness and eventually death.  Those who fast for prolonged periods reach a point where they are no longer hungry. That may sound strange, but in some ways we train our bodies to be hungry.  And, we hunger for what we eat. If we eat a steady diet of burgers and fries, we are not hungry for green vegetables and lean meats.

Why is it that we can be so hungry for God's presence that we cannot be kept away from his Word, prayer, worship, and His people and then find ourselves at a point where we could not care less?  There are many reasons we do not hunger for God, but it is mainly because we have trained ourselves to no longer hunger for him. When we eat a steady diet of worldliness, busyness, and self-sufficiency, we no longer hunger for God.

We, the church, seem very satisfied apart from God. We do not seem to long and yearn for the courts of the Lord. Pastors call us to corporate prayer, worship, Bible study, revival services, etc., and many feel no need, much less any desire to attend. Does your lack of desire alarm you? It should.

What do we do when we realize that we do not "long and yearn for the courts of the LORD?"

First, recognize you do not love God.  A lack of longing and yearning in any relationship is a loss of love and devotion. Jesus warned the church in Ephesus that if they did not return to their first love - Jesus - they would be shut down by God. If you do not desire to be in God's presence in prayer and in worship, you no longer love Him.

Second, repent of a lack of longing and yearning for God. It is no small thing to take the Creator and Sustainer, the Savior, the King for granted. It is neither acceptable nor wise to be so self-satisfied or caught up in the things of this world that we do not long and yearn for God's presence.

Third, return to a lifestyle of devotion to God. Do not wait until you feel hungry again. Jesus told the church at Ephesus to "Remember then how far you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. Otherwise, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place - unless you repent." (Rev. 2:5)

If you wait to feel hungry for God again, you will reach a point of starvation.  You may already be there and not even know it. Don't wait for the hunger to return. Go to God now.  Begin to pray, to press through until the hunger for God returns. Turn away from the world and the things that satisfy, but starve you.  Go to church, to worship, to prayer meeting, to revival meetings. Read His Word and pray until the Bread Of Life and the Spirit create a hunger for God in your soul.  Say no to the world and yes to God and you will once again begin to "long and yearn for the courts of the Lord," and you will once again be satisfied by the things of God that do not starve, but which give peace and sweetness to your soul.