Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Tell the Next Generation

Perhaps it is my age or the new addition to our family with my little nephew Caleb, but I have become rather intrigued by supporting younger generations. Working at Kanakuk Kamps for two summers, visiting with high school-aged girls in FCA and even interactions with college freshman are all examples of avenues I have been able to influence the next generation. Now that I have graduated from college, I feel as though I have been pushed out of this current generation’s bubble and into a space that I don’t believe anyone likes to admit they are in: the older generation. Don’t worry, my mid-life crisis has not hit me yet at age 22 but it is amazing how one can go from being concerned with the idea that the world is “yours” to “theirs.” Think about it with me for a second: elementary-aged children have been exposed to more technology within their short life span than my grandma has in her entire lifetime! Not only is the upcoming generation technologically driven, but also evidence-based with the demand for proof in every aspect of life. Modern medicine has revolutionized our healthcare system and has transformed the way we approach health and fitness. What about our spiritual status? (….Chirp, Chirp….) Yah, that’s what I thought! Appears as though only a cricket knows what to say, right? Funny how we bring in the topic of religion and people are at a loss of words as how to describe this generation’s view on it. Well, it’s not that this generation isn’t “spiritual” just “spiritual” in a variety of different ways with some being incredibly far away from the Truth. Why do you think that is? Don’t blame the government or the free religion tolerance that is taking place; Yes I believe God has been somewhat slighted-out of schools and public places but do you know what I really think it is: we have a degree of what I like to call “Spiritual Amnesia.” We are a generation of forgetful people, but we are not the first generation to be like this. The other generation that sticks out in my mind as well as in the Bible was notorious for having bouts of spiritual amnesia which caused them to remain in the desert for a period of time. Can you think of a group of people that may have been in the desert for a period of time? Let’s visit an account in Psalm 78 and discuss how our “older generations”—including myself, can learn from their mistake.

Now, Psalm 78 contains 72 verses so we won’t be going verse-by-verse however, I highly recommend you do this and wrestle with each point presented because it will transform the way you not only understand where this generation was but more importantly, it will reveal the character of our great God! I will try and find “natural” breaks in the passage and discuss sections of verses for ‘blogging-sake.’

Within the first four verses we can sense urgency in the Psalmist for getting the attention of those he is writing to: give ear, incline your ears and so on and so forth. He proclaims that he will not hide the things that were made known to him by his father but “will tell the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.”

In the next section, verses five through eight, he continues to explain why it is important for the next generation to know of God’s goodness. God established a testimony in Jacob and the law in Israel way back in Genesis 17:7; 18:19 and Deut. 6:6-9. Genesis 18:19 states this:

“For I have chosen (known) him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.” ESV

So basically, this isn’t a new concept of “telling the next generation” this has been part of God’s plan from the beginning of time! Why you may continue to ask, is this so important? Because the next generation is to “set their hope in God” to “not forget the works of God,” and to “keep his commands; and that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God.”

When I read this passage, I feel as though there’s a dependency created between “obedience of God’s law” and “forgetting God’s works,” and vice versa. It makes sense does it not? If your mom or dad said to you “Sweetie, will you clean your room,” you would have the choice to obey or disobey depending on not only your desire to honor your parent, but the running history you may have experienced in choosing one way or the other. If you’ve experienced goodness from you parent, you are going to remember that which may propel you into being obedient; if it was a real bad experience and you were punished for disobedience, I bet that you recall that situation much faster than the other. I don’t know. To me, if you are struggling with a sin, generally that sin is on your mind all the time; but if you continually having the Lord transform your mind---getting into his Word on a daily basis and meditating on those truths---the temptation to sin becomes less likely to be in your mind. Just a thought regarding this point of the passage: let’s continue on!

The next passage of scripture leads into a larger portion of this passage recounting the works of God and Israel’s response. The Ephramites turned back in the day of battle and did not keep his covenant; these people forgot his works. Notice that phrase---“they forgot his works.” To me a “work” a “wonder” like what is described in the next few verses is nothing short than a miracle and yet these people forgot them!

“He divided the seas and let them pass through it and made the waters stand like a heap…”

“In the daytime he led them with a cloud, and all the night with a fiery light,.”

“He split rocks in the wilderness and gave them drink abundantly as from the deep.”

“He made streams come out of the rock and caused waters to flow down like rivers.”

Hmm. In my basic knowledge and understanding of the characteristics of a desert, it appears as though the Lord is providing EXACTLY what these people need, does it not? As we read on into verses 17-22, we realize that these people still did not listen to God and in fact, tested him by saying “Can God spread a table in the wilderness? Can he also give bread or provide meat for his people?” Are you serious? You all just witnessed God dividing seas, splitting rocks and being led by a cloud and fiery pillar—is anything too hard for our God? Apparently the Israelites thought so and rebelled. Naturally God becomes angry because they did not ‘believe in God and did not trust his saving power’ (vs.22). Probably one of thee most beautiful of words follows this verse; yet. Verse 23 says this:

“Yet, he commanded the skies above and opened the doors of heaven, and he rained down them manna to eat and gave them the grain from heaven. Men ate the bread of angels he sent them food in abundance He caused the east wind to blow in the heaves, and by his power led out the south wind; he rained meat on them like dust, winged birds like the sand of the seas; he let them fall in the midst of their camp, all around their dwellings. And they ate and were filled for he gave them what they craved.”
Psalm 78:23-29 ESV

Oh fellow (and fell-a ) beloved, do you see that? Seriously, do you see what has taken place and the revealing goodness of our God? The Lord provided abundantly and goes on to rebuke the people for not being satisfied by actually killing ‘the strongest of them and laying low the young men of Israel’ (vs 24). You may say, well that seems odd that God’s anger would rise after he gives them what he wants. But you have to understand, these people were not getting it! They refused to trust and believe in him and so, much like a Father disciplines a child who refuses to obey, God—who is perfectly Holy and Righteous brings justice to this group and works towards bringing about a generation who worships Him with obedient hearts. Eventually they get it because of his wrath and they begin seeking him earnestly and then revert back to ‘flatter him with their mouths; lying with their tongues.’ They did not remain faithful to his covenant (vs. 30-37). Do you flatter the Lord with your tongue and lie to God? Maybe just meditate a bit on this if you feel convicted in this area before reading on.

The beautiful word ‘yet,’ appears again in verse 38 saying:

“Yet he, being compassionate, atoned for their inquity and did not destroy them; he restrained his anger often and did not stir up all his wrath. He remembered that they were but flesh, a wind that passes and comes not again.” ESV

Do you sense this balance scale that titers back and forth throughout these verses between God’s character traits: compassion and mercy versus justices and righteousness? This continues throughout the rest of the passage. The people continue to refuse disobey and God manages to retain anger and then has to bring forth wrath onto his people to get their attention. They even ‘provoke him to anger with their idols’ (vs. 58). They almost tease the God of the universe with these man-made idols, like the golden calf. How would that make you feel? Maybe you feel like your spouse or significant other is often so preoccupied with some rinky-dink gadget or worse, some other person and they hold that thing up to you and say, “This is so much better than you.” Ouch. I do not wish that upon anyone---but if anyone does not deserve it, it is God! We are merely humans—far from being good let along the perfect God of the universe! What idols are you teasing God with? Again, I challenge you to meditate on this before proceeding to read further in this passage.
Lastly, we encounter more wrath of God that is poured-out on the people of Israel in verses 59 through 68. He did reject what appeared to be a ‘more-likely tribe’ in candidacy of bringing in a king to lead the people and chose ‘Judah, Mount Zion which he loves’ (vs. 68). From this tribe came King David who became a shepherd of God’s people and did so with an ‘upright heart’ and ‘guided them with his skillful hand.’ Later on the ‘good shepherd’ is revealed who we know as Jesus Christ who is also acts as the Lamb of God and takes upon himself, the sin of the world.

I am sure you may be puzzled and hung-up on a few parts of scripture in this text. It’s challenging to see this dual-character of God and not somewhat ask the question, “If God loves us so much, why does he bring his wrath upon his people like that?” But you have to look at it from the Lord’s perspective (which none of us can do perfectly or understand---who can know the mind of the Lord?)---He is both equally just and loving. It would be denying himself if he were to completely go against this aspect of himself and to just give- in and do whatever his people wanted him to do. He wouldn’t be God---we would be able to manipulate him and corrupt him in our sinful ways---which completely goes against him because he is the only thing that is truly good! Seek Him and ask Him to bring a sense of peace to this area if you continue to struggle in it and you know what you can do? Tell the next generation! Find someone younger than you and teach them the goodness of our Lord revealed in both his justice and his mercy in this passage. He didn’t have to have compassion on his people, but he did. He didn’t have to give them what they needed after they deliberately disobeyed him, but he did! We don’t deserve anything! Do you understand that? God does not owe us anything!! Anything that we have that is good is a gift from our Lord—we deserve hell and total separation from the Lord. But in his goodness, he provided a Shepherd—one that laid down his life for us and paid the penalty for our repulsive sins so that we could be in community with the Lord. Think about all of this. Remember the Lord’s goodness in your own life and share that often. Do not become like the people of Israel and complain about being in a wilderness: rejoice in it and say “But we have Emmanuel, God with us! What more can we ask for?” Wake up from your current state of ‘Spiritual Amnesia’ and remember what the Lord has done, is doing and what he promises to do in the next generation.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Coffee with Louie at 4 AM

Image from:
You know those nights that not matter what you do, eat, read, and maybe for you die-hards like me, clean—that you cannot fall asleep? A couple nights ago, I found myself so incredibly restless and unable to sleep. I went to bed at 11:00 pm and got up at 1:00 am and just laid there wide awake. I attempted to journal a bit in efforts to quiet my mind and then dozed until about 4:00 am. I decided to get up and just have a quiet time. I wanted to listen to a couple sermons online but my internet was being goofy so I found this Louie Giglio sermon that a friend of mine had given me on CD about a year and half ago. It was on the topic of “Being Disciplined in Solitude” and waiting for God to speak to you and do His will. Isn’t it funny that many of us do not like those awkward silences created in conversation or in church services when maybe the pastor is coming up to speak or the worship team is coming up to play?

So often we as Christians go off once we have prayed about something and say “This must be where God wants me to go…” without really sitting still and listening for the Lord’s reply. Now, I know that God speaks through different ways. He may not present himself in an audible-sense, but there is something to behold in waiting in silence for God. That morning I actually sat there after I heard the sermon …planning on just sitting in silence for 5 minutes. Those 5 minutes turned into one of the most remarkable experiences for me and actually turned into 15 minutes of solitude! I couldn’t help but be somewhat fearful! I was totally alone and it was early in the morning and I feel like I was able to relate to those Bible characters who are visited by an angel or the 11 disciples sitting in that room when Christ appeared out of no where. I was actually nervous! I knew that if God wanted to really show up and speak to me in some supernatural way—He could. I loved it! I felt God’s presence like I had never felt it before and I thought, “Oh man, just imagine when He is standing before me!” I can completely understand and relate to John now when he was first instructed to write Revelation how and why he fell dead because in those few moments of silence, If anyone were to appear before me: I would have too! HA. Another thing that made these moments so sweet was that as I was watching the hand on the clock on my wall go around, I was in total anticipation of God doing something-believing He would.

Louie goes on to explain the scripture found in John, “My sheep know my voice.” And so we as Christ-followers should be able to identify His voice above every other noise. In reality though, I struggle so often in hearing his voice simply because I listen to other “shepherds.” Shepherds like the media, friends, family and even my own thoughts. I often think in song lyrics and although these shepherds may even be means of which God can speak through—my heart longs for whisper from God. You know a passage that I have come to love on this subject and is one that Louie touches on in this sermon is the story of Elijah listening for God. It’s found in 1 Kings 19:1-18. Elijah is defeated and was fearful for his life so he ran off into the wilderness. He’s sleeping under a broom tree an this angel touched him and said “Arise and eat.” So he did and then he fell back asleep only to get woken up again to eat and go on a journey to Horeb, the mount of God.

Our story continues on when Elijah gets to this cave and the word of the Lord comes to him saying “What are you doing here?” Elijah admits to his defeated spirit and is ready to die like the other prophets. Then God instructs him to go out on this mount—so he obeys. Read what happens next…

“11And he said, "Go out and(A) stand on the mount before the LORD." And behold, the LORD passed by, and(B) a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind(C) an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.[a] 13And when Elijah heard it,(D) he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold,(E) there came a voice to him and said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"” ESV

I don’t know about you, but we serve a big God and I would only expect His ways of communication to be just that: Big! However, this scripture shows something so captivating about our God: He whispers. He wasn’t in the wind, earthquake or fire, the word of the Lord came in a whisper. And did you see how Elijah reacted to the whisper---he was in total awe of the presence of the Lord that he had to cover his face! A whisper. Wow. And then it’s like God just tenderly says, “What are you doing here?” Man. Do you not find this quality of God amazing and captivating? It is just satisfying for me to delight in this—wow.

You know that feeling when someone you are close with—maybe a spouse, a friend of a family member gives you a hug and whispers encouraging words to you? I can recall countless times after a race that my mom comes over to me and gives me a hug and whispers with tear-filled eyes, “I’m so proud of you Joni!” Or maybe it’s a husband drawing his wife to him saying, “You are so beautiful.” Ah! There is something about the act of being near someone you love and for the words shared between two people being in a whisper. Where do you think that gift comes from? God. Our God is so marvelous in the way He communicates with His children; don’t drown-out silence, embrace it, and anticipate God’s whisper.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Ab(r)ide in Him

Image from:

Ab(r)ide—A devotional inspired by John 15 and Psalm 91

For some reason the word “abide” has always had a definition that I found rather hard to completely grasp. It is a great word isn’t it though? I feel like it really summarizes the action of dwelling, remaining and/or conforming perfectly. Not only is the word “abide” often on the ‘shelf in usage’ but also in its verbal-sense. The American culture that we live in screams the antonyms of abide: leave, differentiate yourself and be ambiguous with religion. What does the Bible say about this word? Let’s turn our eyes to the book of John, chapter 15 to get a better idea:

I Am the True Vine

1"I am the(A) true vine, and my Father is(B) the vinedresser. 2(C) Every branch in me that does not bear fruit(D) he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes,(E) that it may bear more fruit. 3Already(F) you are clean(G) because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4(H) Abide(I) in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5I am the vine;(J) you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that(K) bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6If anyone does not abide in me(L) he is thrown away like a branch and withers;(M) and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7If(N) you abide in me, and my words abide in you,(O) ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8(P) By this my Father is glorified, that you(Q) bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9(R) As the Father has loved me,(S) so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10(T) If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as(U) I have kept(V) my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11These things I have spoken to you,(W) that my joy may be in you, and that(X) your joy may be full.

(ESV) citations found at

I love this piece of scripture because do you notice how Jesus is so good at personifying a hard concept to his disciples? I also like his personal touch of “I Am” within the very first verse---emphasizes his relationship with God. In verse 2 he is stating the simply known fact that if a branch isn’t producing some fruit on a vine, it serves no purpose and should be cut off so that other branches receive the support from the vine. And if you are producing fruit, you may get pruned a bit because it allows for more fruit to flourish. Jesus transitions in verse 3 explaining the disciples are clean---in cross referencing the phrase “you are clean” to John 17:17 and Ephesians 5:26 we discover that this means having been sanctified by the Truth or the washing of the word. In verse 4, Christ commands the act of abiding in him. The branches of the vine he introduced earlier in the passage require the attachment to the main vine in order for fruit to be produced. How many branches do you see laying on the ground after a strong storm producing a piece of fruit ? Similarly, we cannot produce the fruit of the Spirit on our own. This “fruit” is referring to several passages throughout all of scripture with the most notable being found Galatians 5. The verses following the command explain what happens to those branches that do not abide in the main vine: thrown away. See in verse 7 that although you maybe conforming to the vine, that there is a sense of freedom when Christ says “ask whatever you wish and it will be done to you.” Abide in love: dwell in love, conform in the love of Christ. How does one do that you may ask: by “keeping his commands.” And in verse 11 it says that not only do we get the blessing of simply abiding and obeying our Lord but with that comes the fruit of JOY---complete joy!

I was running the other day praying this scripture over and over in my head. I have a hard time conforming to the Lord’s will sometimes. I always attempt to do things my way—even after prayer, I will often find myself going “behind God’s back” (not possible—but I feel like it). And so as I was running I just kept repeating the word “Abide, abide, abide” and this beautiful imagery came to mind: a bride. Just like ab(r)ide conforms to a husband and becomes one, so are we as Christ-followers. This imagery is not anything new is it? We are the bride of Christ are we not? Well, use that analogy for this scripture and it sheds a little different light does it not? We in America may not have the best examples of a wife conforming to her husband but picture a “Wife of Noble Character” simply dwelling with her husband and showing her love through the way she honors him. I say honor because everyone freaks out when we say “obeys her husband,” but in reality everyone---that’s what a woman is to do correct? Now you have to remember that in the analogy we are married to Christ: you cannot find a better husband than that amen? In the same way a husband has to be like Christ to his wife---so don’t get all upset at me for making those earlier statements, I’m a woman too you know . But do you see the picture created by simply adding an “r” into the word abide? Obviously Christ used the perfect analogy with the vine so I will not even attempt to “top” that, but I did think it was neat how when I was meditating on this word, that the image of a bride came to mind and opened up the verse a little more.

One final example of this word in scripture is found in Psalm 91. At K2 Kanakuk Kamp last summer we memorized this Psalm as a staff because we were in need of some defense in what appeared to be a physical battle with H1N1 in our Kampers. It was pretty frustrating when you finally see a child broken and willing to change and then have to go home because of a fever. I was revisiting that scripture this morning and lo and behold the first two verses say this:

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

You have to realize that we are pretty helpless without our God amen? Sure, we may be able to muster up strength to endure some of life’s arrows thrown at us but when trials such as sickness, brokenness and fear are thrown at us, we got nothing! We are as helpless as that branch just thrown down on the ground by the latest storm. But Scripture says that if we “dwell in the shelter of the Most High” and “abide in the shadow of the Almighty” He will become our fortress, our safe-place and our refuge. What a husband! He is protecting us as a husband protects his family! If all we have to do (I know, easier said than done) is to obey his commands while He saves us from deadly pestilence, snare of the fowler, terror of night, arrows that fly by day, pestilence that stalks in darkness and destruction that wastes at noonday—I would say we have a pretty good deal going here. Ha, seriously how silly we are to be ambiguous and attempt to do things our own way. God not only offers his security but he often helps us learn how to trust in Him. Our God provides EVERYTHING for us—we simply need to abide in Him. And if you have issues being abride of Christ—do what any wife would do, talk to her husband! Cry out to the Lord and ask for help: that may come in the sense of peace and the ability to trust Him more or else He may even lead you to scripture or a memory of His faithfulness in the past. He will reveal that we have one wonderful husband leading us and one we cannot help but trust!