God’s hiddeness

“Today also my complaint is bitter; his hand is heavy despite my groaning. Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his dwelling! I would lay my case before him, and fill my mouth with arguments. I would learn what he would answer me, and understand what he would say to me. Would he contend with me in the greatness of his power? No; but he would give heed to me. There an upright person could reason with him, and I should be acquitted forever by my judge. “If I go forward, he is not there; or backward, I cannot perceive him; on the left he hides, and I cannot behold him; I turn to the right, but I cannot see him.” ~Job 23:2-9 (NRSV)

Sometimes in the midst of my troubles I feel so alone.  I even feel abandoned by God.  Here is an example in the Bible of a righteous man who also felt abandoned by all and God seemed to be so far away.

Life can get really ugly sometimes. We don’t have to live it perfectly. We just have to make it through each day until we get to the other side of bad times. We can’t get to the other side without living through it. The Israelites are an example of this. To make it to the Promised Land they had to go through the desert. They didn’t do it perfectly. They even still had some kinks that needed to be worked out when they got to the new land. But God guided them through the desert and they eventually got there.

When it seems that God isn’t answering my prayers I have to remember that He is faithful. There are things that He is doing that I cannot see. All I am required to do is to live through each day, letting Him guide my steps. I don’t have to see where I am going. I just have to go.

 Guide my steps this day Lord, blind as I may be to the work you are doing. Strengthen my trust in You that all things will work out in the end for my good. I know that the only way to get through this desert is to just walk on through. Steady my steps when they falter, strengthen my heart when it is faint, give me faith when it seems all hope is lost. Amen.

Real religion

With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has told you, O mortal, what is good: and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God. ~Micah 6:6-8 (NRSV)

In Micah, the author accuses the people have not having real religion. They went through the motions of the spiritual acts and festivities. But they forgot that it wasn’t their acts but their heart that God was looking at, He looks at the spirit of their giving.

Only if we walk humbly with God can we respond to God in a proper (good) way. God isn’t looking for the large sacrifices that might seem culturally acceptable. We are required instead to practice “justice” so that we can set things right between others and God and “love kindness” by maintaining a loyal commitment to God and others that transcend any legal requirement.

We are reminded in this summary of the Law by Micah that walking humbly with God can only result from a transformed life that conforms to the image of God. If we wish to be genuine Christians we must strive towards an intimate walk with God based upon faith and a life of active service to others rooted in compassion and justice, they reflect the loving nature of the One whose image they bear. This orientation is a movement from self to God in all things. Real religion is a journey of faith working by love leading to holiness of heart and life.

Heavenly Father, May I find myself this day on a journey towards being a reflection of You in all I do. Help me to have enough strength to practice justice, to show kindness and to humbly walk with You. Amen.

Walking on water

Right then, Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead to the other side of the lake while he dismissed the crowds. When he sent them away, he went up onto a mountain by himself to pray. Evening came and he was alone. Meanwhile, the boat, fighting a strong headwind, was being battered by the waves and was already far away from land. Very early in the morning he came to his disciples, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified and said, “It’s a ghost!” They were so frightened they screamed. Just then Jesus spoke to them, “ Be encouraged! It’s me. Don’t be afraid.” Peter replied, “Lord, if it’s you, order me to come to you on the water.” And Jesus said, “ Come.” Then Peter got out of the boat and was walking on the water toward Jesus. But when Peter saw the strong wind, he became frightened. As he began to sink, he shouted, “Lord, rescue me!” Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him, saying, “ You man of weak faith! Why did you begin to have doubts?” ~Mattew 14:22-31 (CEB)

It is interesting to remember that the disciples found themselves in that storm because they had obeyed Jesus and got into the boat in the first place. Obeying Jesus didn’t keep them out of the storm. In this case it caused them to be in the middle of one. But if Peter had never gotten into the boat, never had faith enough to step out of that boat and attempt to walk where no human had ever walked before, he would not have been in the place to find himself in the arms of Jesus. Being in the arms of Jesus isn’t such a bad consequence I am thinking.

In an attempt to help my son through a storm a few years ago, I asked him, “What was the worst thing that could happen to us if a tornado did hit our house?” His reply was that “We would die.” “Then where would we be?” I asked him. “Heaven”, he said.

Sometimes when I think of the worst case scenario, the worst case might actually be the best case. In the arms of Jesus is the best place to be. If my stepping out in faith brings me straight into his arms is that really a bad thing?

Heavenly Father, may I have enough faith today to step out into this storm called life. In obeying You may I find that it actually brings me closer to You. Amen.

To experience God

 

Jesus said to him, “If you are able! – All things can be done for the one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out, “I believe; help my unbelief!” ~Mark 9:23-24 (NRSV)

“If we are to experience God, we must be open to God, to the mystical, to the divine, appearing in our lives. And we must have an openness that is free of any preconditions about how that will happen. Looking for God in a godly form is the great historical mistake. “  ~From In Pursuit of the Great White Rabbit by Edward Hays.

Open my eyes, Lord so that I may see You in my life. Not the preconceived ideas I have about You, but as You truly are. I want to experience You in my life this day. Amen.

The call of my heart

The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!”  The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.  When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed ). He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter ). ~John 1:35-39 (CEB)

Are we looking for a miracle worker, a warrior to fight our battles, a savior to put right our lives? Just like us, in Bible times people flocked to Jesus looking to him for various reasons. Here in our reading we see when two disciples came looking for Jesus. The two disciples were followers of John the Baptist and were with him when he watched Jesus walk by and they heard him exclaim “Look here is the Lamb of God”. He surely must have known that to speak of Jesus in such a way would invite them to leave him and transfer their loyalty to this new and greater teacher; and yet he did it. There was no jealousy in John. He had come to attach men not to himself but to Christ.

John the Baptist was the first witness to Jesus’ identity and mission. John the Baptist begins a chain reaction of witnessing and discipleship, combined with affirmations of Jesus’ identity in titles: Lamb of God, Rabbi/Teacher, Messiah, son of God, King of Israel, Son of Man, Jesus is the one about whom Moses and the prophets wrote. Once Jesus was pointed out the two disciples decided to follow Jesus. It may well be that they were too shy to approach him directly and followed respectfully some distance behind. Then Jesus did something entirely characteristic. He turned and spoke to them. That is to say, he met them half way. He made things easier for them. He opened the door that they might come in. God does not leave us alone in our search. He comes out to meet us.

The initiative must be ours to begin with though. God will not force himself on us. But when the human mind begins to seek and the heart begins to long God will come out to meet us. Jesus began by asking a most fundamental question, “What are you looking for?” The question is very relevant of the Palestinian time. Were they legalists, looking to have conversations about the Law like the scribes and Pharisees? Were they ambitious time-servers looking for position and power like the Sadducees? Were they nationalists looking for a military commander who would smash the power of Rome like the Zealots? Were they humble men of prayer looking for God and for his will? Or were they simply puzzled, bewildered sinful men looking for light on the road of life and forgiveness of God?

It would serve our selves well if we too allowed God to ask of us, “What are you searching for?” Some of us might answer that we are looking for security, a position that is safe, money enough to meet the needs and wants which will take away basic worries in life. Some of us are searching for what they would call a career, an opportunity to put their talents and abilities they believe themselves capable of doing. But these aims can be distorted as the world tells us what is important and what is right. Some of us are searching for some kind of peace, for something to enable us to be at peace with ourselves, with God and with others around us. This is the search for God; this only Jesus can meet and supply.

One point of hope that I pull from this reading is when Andrew shares with Simon Peter that the Messiah has been found. He brought Simon to meet Jesus, who looked at him and said “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Peter” When Jesus comes out to meet us, he doesn’t just see us as we are or as we used to be He sees us as what we can become. Jesus didn’t go into all the details or his purpose for his time here on Earth. He simply asked, Follow me. As the disciples obeyed and left their past behind them Jesus revealed more and more of his purpose to them. One of my favorite verses on the Bible comes from Jer. 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with a hope.” It gives me great comfort to know that God not only sees the actuality of who I am standing here right now but he also sees the possibilities of who I can become. God does not label me by my mistakes or by the lack of my ability. He says to me, Follow me and I will bless you and give you hope. He asks simply my obedience.

My search for God and learning what His will is for us is close to my heart. Sometimes it is hard to trust prompts from God. I have struggled for years trying to trust what I felt in my heart. But one thing I have finally begun to understand is that God places a desire and a passion in our hearts to do the things He calls us to do: Philippians 2:13 says “For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” (You will have a love & joy & passion for doing the things God has created you for & calls you to do). God calls to our hearts. He asks us to just believe.

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If you made it to the end of this long post I will share with you that this is part of the first message I ever gave to a group. I celebrate one year of stepping up to what God has called me to do. No longer am I hiding from who God has planned for me to be. I am thankful for all that He has shown me this past year. I am eager to see what else He has in store for me.

Heavenly Father, I simply thank You for all you have done in my life. I thank You searching for me when I was lost and didn’t listen to me when I said that I didn’t want to be found. I thank You for the Hope you have placed in me. Help me to show Your love to others. Amen.

Transformed

The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the decrees of the LORD are sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is clear, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever; the ordinances of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and drippings of the honeycomb. ~Psalm 19:7-10 (CEB)

What if, instead of reading the Bible, you let the Bible read you? … What would happen if we approached the test less aggressively but even more energetically and passionately? I wonder what would happen if we honestly listen to the story and put ourselves under its spell… not using it to get all our questions about God answered but instead trusting God to use it to pose questions to us about us. What would happen if we trusted ourselves to it – the way a boy opens his heart to a girl, the way a patient trusts herself to an oncologist? ~From A New Kind of Christian by Brian McLare

What would happen if we changed our opinion that the purpose of scriptures was not what we can get from God but to learn how to be “at-one-with-God”, that the overarching theme of Scripture has to do with transformation made possible through learning to live a ‘with-God” life.

Just what would a transformed life look like if I approached reading my Bible in this way?

Heavenly Father, help me to transform into who You would have me be as I read Your words this day. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer (Psalm 19:14). Amen. 

Forsaken

As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread. ~Luke 24:28-35 (CEB)

There are many references to people in the Bible who have felt forsaken or alone. Quickly scanning books like Job, Lamentations and some of the Psalms finds people with these feelings. Jesus too experienced that feeling of forsakenness. But Jesus was able to move from that forsaken lost place to feeling the confidence of a beloved child of God. The resurrection becomes the final proof that God can be trusted.

“Jesus’s journey from that forsaken feeling to confident trust gives hope to us in our times of loneliness and fear of being forsaken. If the theologians are right and God never does forsake us, we can remind ourselves frequently of God’s presence. Establishing a way of life that intentionally makes us present to God is one way of removing the feeling of God’s absence. Regular times of prayer and regular times of corporate, worship offer opportunities with the One who made us and loves us.” ~Rueben P. Job

Heavenly Father, I thank You for Your word. I thank You for sending Jesus into this world. May I model my life after his in all I say and do. Give me the strength to also say “Father, into Your hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46). Amen.

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