Saturday, March 27, 2010

Hurry up and wait.....

So, how many of you would wait in line for 90 minutes to be seated at your favorite restaurant?  I am guessing you would if you're like any of the millions of people who eat out every night.  Now, how many of you would spend time in prayer with God and wait 90 minutes for an answer, or in silence waiting to hear from God?  Now that I have your attention, I'll share with you something that came to mind when [you guessed it] I was waiting in line for 45+ minutes to be seated at a restaurant.

In this fast paced, microwave, drive-thru society we expect everything instantly.  Instant message, instant coffee, instant rice, instant movies [movies on demand], instant cash, instant credit approval, you get what  I mean.  We do the same thing with God too I am afraid.  We say a quick prayer and think, bam, where's my answer or sign God?  We read some Scripture and say to ourselves, I didn't really get anything out of this or God how come you aren't speaking to me through what I read.  How many of us actually give God time to respond?  Do we even sit still and quiet for 5 minutes?  We take our "outside" lives and try to apply it to our Spiritual life.  For instance, when we sit in a room with people no one can stand the awkward silence.  When we're alone with God we never allow for any silence, and then wonder why we haven't heard.

The very subject of not hearing from God has come up in several instances this past week and waiting in line just reaffirmed the need for me to blog on it.  A few friends and even a gentleman in my men's Bible study have mentioned to me that they don't hear from God, or that God never talks to or answers them.  I simply asked, how long have you waited in reverent silence during prayer to hear?  Have you given Him the chance to actually respond?

So just what does God's voice sound like I have been asked.  "How do you learn to recognize anybody's voice?  You pick up the phone, and if you know somebody well you know their voice. It's by experience.  You've listened to it many times, and it has a certain tone.  One thing you need to know about God is God's voice is never frantic.  When you hear desperate thoughts, or panicky thoughts, that's not God's voice.  God's voice will never lead you into panicky desperation." - John Ortberg

Paul says that while we're waiting for God to set everything right, we suffer.  But suffering produces perseverance, and perseverance produces character, and character produces hope (Romans 5:3-5). God is producing these qualities in us while we wait.  What that means is that waiting is not just something we have to do until we get what we want. Waiting is part of the process of becoming what God wants us to be.  When waiting for God, He blesses us.  “Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him” (Isaiah 30:18).   What does it mean to be blessed by God while we wait on Him?  As we wait on God and His timing, He can accomplish so much in our hearts. Often we find new purpose in life, receive answers to prayer, see God work, increase our faith, and most often we see God’s perfect plan fulfilled in our situation.  Remember, waiting is not wasted time! 

If you want some Jesus bumps [as my friend George calls them] then know this about eagles and Isaiah 40:31.  Did you know that an eagle knows when a storm is brewing long before it breaks?  When a storm is eminent, the eagle will fly to a high spot and wait for the winds to come.  This is how they respond to storms.  When the storm arrives, they set their wings so that the winds lift them up, high above the storm.  And, as the storm rages below them, the eagle soars high above it, effortlessly gliding with ease.  What is fascinating is that the eagle does not escape the storm; the eagle does not suffer through the storm, or hope to survive.  The eagle does not fly away from the storm.  The eagle just simply uses the winds of the storm to lift itself high above the storm. The eagle's response is to rise high above the storm on the very winds that brought the storm close.  WOW!

Now I know that I got off track here and there but it all still pertains to waiting on the Lord and actually giving Him time to respond.  Pray and stop thinking; pray and stop planning; pray and stop talking.  Today may look the same as yesterday, the circumstances may have stayed the same, but continue to allow God's promises to take root in your heart.  Hurry up and wait upon the Lord.  I guarantee that being fed from God is much more filling and worth the wait than that dinner you got waiting in line for 90 minutes for.

Monday, March 22, 2010

My Jonah Complex

You can run from God but you cannot outrun God.  This is the story of my life.  I think a lot of us share this in that we often choose to do our own thing versus God’s will.  This does not necessarily have to reflect a call to the ministry but includes any aspect of your walk with Jesus that you have not given over total control.  My story is that I was called into youth ministry some 18 years ago.  Because I lived the life of a minister’s child, I personally did not want that life and told God, “No!”  As life progressed, God allowed me to be successful at my career, even allowed me several accolades and such. This is to say that God will not punish you for ignoring Him.  God does not operate that way.   He is a God of love and grace.  However, God will often bring you back to His will and quite succinctly open your eyes to where you need to be.

I have heard many sermons lately about Jonah.  I found it necessary to blog my experiences because I must be facing the “Jonah complex” now for God to have several different podcasts all speak about Jonah.  The funny thing is that they are from months ago to recently and I just got around to listening them.  It’s awesome how God works and His incredible timing.  There are many parts to the Jonah story, and by default, most people think of it as a fairy tale where this guy [Jonah] gets swallowed by a large fish and lives inside of it for three days.  If you get deeper below the surface of the story, you see particular points.

Jonah attempted to go to Tarshish, the farthest place he could go from Ninevah where he was told by God to go (Jonah 1:1-3).   How often do we go as far as we can in the opposite direction of where God wants us, thinking [hoping] we can hide or that He will change his mind?   Jonah was to go to Ninevah, approximately 600-700 miles from where he was.  Instead, he got on a boat to travel 2,200 miles to the west near Spain.  Let's put that in perspective.  That’s the equivalent of me being called from Orlando, Florida to go to Richmond, Virginia.  Instead of heading to Richmond, I get on a ship and head to Brazil.

Next thing we see is Jonah getting on that ship in Joppa and heading to Tarshish.  After they set sail, a storm comes.  Jonah, staying in the bottom of the boat, is called up to answer to the other people on the boat as to what he did to cause the storm (Jonah 1:5-10).   Isn't it interesting to read that the other people on the boat all called out and prayed to their gods in time of need?  Once Jonah explained that he disobeyed God they asked what should be done.   Jonah again takes the easy road and says to throw him overboard.  I think at this point in time he could have just cried out to God and repented, asked them to turn the boat around, and God would have calmed the storm.  They tried to turn the boat around on their own but were unsuccessful (Jonah 1:13).  But Jonah would rather take the easy way out and end his he thought.  Jonah is tossed overboard and immediately the storm ceased.   End of story?  No way.   This is where it gets real personal for me.

God provided yet another opportunity for Jonah to obey God and do as God instructed.  God provided a large fish to swallow Jonah and keep him for three days and nights (Jonah 1:17).    [A side note here is the beauty of the fact that even in this horrible situation, God used it for His glory.  Do you notice that the men then feared the Lord?  The one true God!  Because of Jonah's admission to running from God and the subsequent happy ending, the sailors made vows and sacrificed to God!!] (Jonah 1:9-10; 14; 16)   I relate so much to this part of Jonah's story.  God has given me more than enough opportunities to trust him with my life and my future.   He has revealed His plan and yet I still choose mine.  I am willing to take the easy way out so many times instead of just going.   I fool myself and think I can hide, then when God gets my attention again I still don't go to Ninevah.

The amazing thing of this whole story is that Jonah finally obeyed.  While inside that fish, Jonah cried out to God.   At Jonah's seemingly lowest point, he realized what he had done and cried to God for mercy and another chance (Jonah 2:1-9).  [This is something I really want to change in my life too.  That at my lowest points I actually seek God and His will fervently.  I want to be like that constantly.]  And wouldn't you know it; the God of second chances came through and provided Jonah the opportunity to obey.  I wonder on what day of the three Jonah finally prayed that prayer.   I imagine he was like me and the rest of us and probably yelled at God the first day, pouted and whined the second day, and finally woke up the third day.

So Jonah gets that opportunity and steps out and goes to Ninevah.  Lives are changed, God spares the city.  Jonah's obedience saves the lives of numerous Ninevites (Jonah 3:1-10). This is the part I want to be.   Getting to the place where God wants me and teaching the youth of that city.   Changing lives for Him. Furthering His Kingdom.   Not running from God any longer.   Giving Him every part of my being and not just the parts I want to. Thanks Jonah!

For me, I see through Jonah that God doesn’t chase us, He waits for us.  And when we finally obey, He comes through yet again and blesses our obedience for His sake.

To understand why Jonah might not have wanted to go to Ninevah read Nahum 3:1-5.  Another point of curiosity is that when the seas calmed, do you think Jonah was just sitting there floating and asking to come back on the ship or had the fish already swallowed him?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Review of Chronological Guide to the Bible

Publisher’s Description:

Readers will see the people, places, and events of the Bible come alive with this guide that will enhance your study with any Bible. The Chronological Guide to the Bible’s colorful pages guide readers step-by-step through the nine epochs of biblical history -- the same ones used in the best-selling Chronological Study Bible. Customers will maximize their understanding as they experience God’s word in dynamic historical order, no matter which translation they choose to use. Dig deeper into the cultures and people of biblical times with The Chronological Guide to the Bible.

My Thoughts:

This book exceeded my expectations. I have wanted to compare secular history with the Bible for years, and this book presented that comparison wonderfully. It is difficult, at least for me, to read the Bible and try to place the times in context with other events in history. The authors set out to, and I believe successfully presented history as close as possible to Biblical events.

The Chronological Guide to the Bible begins with a brief overview and explanation of why the canonical order of the Bible was rearranged. Next, the authors provide a disclaimer of sorts for why they chose to relate certain events in history with Biblical events where no clear date was established. The book is divided into 9 Epochs [spans of time]. Each Epoch is then presented with timelines, maps, photographs, and Biblical outlines. A chronological reading guide is also included so the reader may read and check-off the affiliated books or chapters of the Bible covered in the related Epoch.

As The Chronological Guide to the Bible does not quote Biblical text, this book can be utilized with whichever translation of the Bible the reader chooses to parallel the book. I highly recommend this book to anyone who, like me, wants an enhanced understanding of the context and historical background of what was happening outside the framework of the Bible. This is a great book for teens through adults and opened my eyes to several interesting facts that put the history in Bible in better perspective.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, March 1, 2010

Review of 66 Love Letters by Dr. Larry Crabb

Publisher’s Description:

Presented as a dialogue between one man and God, 66 Love Letters explores each book of the Bible as a letter from the Creator to you with the scarlet thread of Christ Himself woven through the pages and culminates in an epilogue that offers a summarized view of the entire Bible.

My Thoughts:

Although Dr. Crabb makes a point to explain to the reader that he is writing as if God was speaking to him in the first person, I found this book to be borderline impious. Dr. Crabb even goes so far as to say, ". . . what God wants us to hear in each book of the Bible . . . ." Reading words from an author as if God was speaking them offended me. In an effort to provide a concise review however, I tried a different approach and an open mind and started over.

Dr. Crabb presents a very enlightening summary of the 66 "love letters" [books of the Bible]. As explained by Dr. Crabb, this book would provide much better as an accompaniment or supplement to the reader reading each book of the Bible individually. Dr. Crabb even suggests taking sixty-six weeks to read his book along with the Bible. As a reference or different perspective on each book of the Bible, Dr. Crabb's 66 Love Letters did an admirable job and even brought to light some new understanding of the Bible.

As someone who is seeking a clearer understanding of the Bible and who may be in the infant stage of his or her understanding of the Bible, I recommend this book. If you have a theology background or are well versed in the Bible then this may not be the book for you. For any reader, I absolutely suggest that you read the Prologue prior to delving into 66 Love Letters. This will provide an explanation for why the book is written as it is.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”