Devotional Thought of the Day:
18 Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. 19 For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. 20 Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, 21 the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. 22 For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. Romans 8:18-23 (NLT2)
4 What about those eighteen people in Siloam who were killed when the tower fell on them? Do you suppose this proves that they were worse than all the other people living in Jerusalem? 5 No indeed! And I tell you that if you do not turn from your sins, you will all die as they did.” Luke 13:4-5 (TEV)
If we have an openness and are willing to learn, we can come to recognize the voice of God with assistance from those who are familiar with the divine voice from their own experience. On the other hand, we should understand that it is in Satan’s best interest to make an inherent mystery of God’s word coming directly to us. In this way the power of God’s specific word for our lives can be hindered or lost. Without qualified help working alongside our desire to learn and readiness to cooperate, God’s direct word may remain a riddle or a game of theological charades.
This is generally the condition of the church today, I suspect. This would explain why there is such great confusion and difficulty about what it really means to walk with God.
As a father, yesterday I wonder if I failed yesterday.
We had a nice rolling earthquake as we were watching a movie. 100 or so miles away, it must have really rocked and rolled. But for us, it was a long drawn out thing, enough to cause us to wonder what was coming next.
The day beforehand, I panicked with a similar long distance quake. I flashed back to January 17, 1994, and our apartment in Canoga Parker/Warner Center. Not far from the epicenter of the Northridge Earthquakes. THat too was a longer quake, but we were closer, and the damage to our apartment and community was intense.
Here is where my failure occurs, as we tried to calm down after yesterday’s rolling quake. As we talked, as I mentioned my almost moving to Arkansas after Northridge ( I would have moved anywhere after that – even Texas!) I think my fear and anxiety affected my son.
And the 12 year old child I struggle to see as a child, (he is 5’11.5″, 170 lbs and has a IQ like Einstein) got anxious. Enough so at bed time he could relax, came into my bedroom and we talked. Plate tectonics, distance from epicenter, fault effects, etc. And then the question…
“Why does God allow earthquakes?”
I stumbled to remember where the Tower of Siloam passage was above, and tried to show the law and the gospel in it. We need to keep our relationship with God a priority, the priority, because we don’t know what comes next. And while God doesn’t cause the earth to groan. Thanks to Apostle Paul for that reminder – that creation is subject to God’s curse, and it groans under the pressure of the sin it is subjected to! Such “groaning” God will use to remind us of the shortness of life, and that He is indeed with us.
He is there, in the darkness, in the anxious times, in the times were we shake or the ground does. in the moments where we don’t get that He is, and He is with us. In the moments where our kids pick up on fear and anxiety, and we fail to be the strong, wise, shameless heroes we want to be for our kids, God is with us there.
Willard is correct, theology can often become a charade, an act we ut in place when we can’t find the answer. When we are as shaken as the land our in Searles Valley. (an odd connection to my home back east there) Theology, and Biblical guidance must point us to the presence of God, that we walk with Him, that we depend on Him when our anxieties mount, when we ourselves fail. Whether it is when we don’t see what the Holy Spirit is guiding us to in scripture, or how to react to trauma, or frustration.
He is there, bringing comfort and peace, love and mercy and forgiveness…
Walking with us. Even standing in the doorway, or seeking protection under a table, or sitting on a bed trying to explain what doesn’t make sense, He is there! And depending on Him is the answer we need to come to, and know this. God will bring us to that answer, that He is the answer.
Lord Jesus, remind us of the presence of the Holy Spirit, the comforter, in our lives. When we are full of anxiety, fear, or just don’t have the answers, Lord bring us peace, and help us to be a peaceful presence in others lives. AMEN!
Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
16 Jerusalem, I can never forget you! I have written your name on the palms of my hands. Isaiah 49:16 (TEV)
5 Lord, we are glad to find ourselves in your wounded palm. Grasp us tight, squeeze us hard, make us lose all our earthly wretchedness, purify us, set us on fire, make us feel drenched in your Blood. And then, cast us far, far away, hungry for the harvest, to sow the seed more fruitfully each day, for Love of you. (1)
I live in a land of earthquakes. I have friends that live in Tornado alleys, others who live in the normal paths of hurricanes, Where I grew up, snow storms could strand you for a week. Where my first church was located, you could dehydrate so fast that you could die before you knew it. There are places where there are wars, cities where drugs and gang violence is rampant.
I have come to this conclusion, if you are searching for a safe place to live, there is no such geographical location on the earth. As long as we are alive, there will be some threat living over us.
Some of us even have those threats inside us, for me, it was a genetic issue that affected my heart. For others, it may a tendency to addiction.
There can even be problems and threats inside places that should be safe, churches, schools, hospitals.
Is there a safe place?
Where do we go for safety, for refuge, for sanctuary?
Is there a place where we can know peace?
There is a place, rather, there is a person, and the relationship we have with Him, that is our sanctuary, that is our place of refuge, He is our peace.
Even in the worse cases. Consider in the book of Daniel, the three men in the furnace:
16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered, “Your Majesty, we will not try to defend ourselves. 17 If the God whom we serve is able to save us from the blazing furnace and from your power, then he will. 18 But even if he doesn’t, Your Majesty may be sure that we will not worship your god, and we will not bow down to the gold statue that you have set up.” 19 Then Nebuchadnezzar lost his temper, and his face turned red with anger at Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. So he ordered the furnace to be heated seven times hotter than usual. 20 And he commanded the strongest men in his army to tie the three men up and throw them into the blazing furnace. 21 So they tied them up, fully dressed—shirts, robes, caps, and all—and threw them into the blazing furnace. 22 Now because the king had given strict orders for the furnace to be made extremely hot, the flames burned up the guards who took the men to the furnace. 23 Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, still tied up, fell into the heart of the blazing fire. 24 Suddenly Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement. He asked his officials, “Didn’t we tie up three men and throw them into the blazing furnace?” They answered, “Yes, we did, Your Majesty.” 25 “Then why do I see four men walking around in the fire?” he asked. “They are not tied up, and they show no sign of being hurt—and the fourth one looks like an angel.” Daniel 3:16-25 (TEV)
Jesus was there, and in the midst of the the moment, they knew His peace. They found their refuge.
Daniel Himself knew such opposition,
20 When he got there, he called out anxiously, “Daniel, servant of the living God! Was the God you serve so loyally able to save you from the lions?” 21 Daniel answered, “May Your Majesty live forever! 22 God sent his angel to shut the mouths of the lions so that they would not hurt me. He did this because he knew that I was innocent and because I have not wronged you, Your Majesty.” 23 The king was overjoyed and gave orders for Daniel to be pulled up out of the pit. So they pulled him up and saw that he had not been hurt at all, for he trusted God. Daniel 6:19-23 (TEV)
A final example, this time Stephen in the New Testament, who was killed, and tortured, and yet…. knew peace, and was in a very special refuge.
54 As the members of the Council listened to Stephen, they became furious and ground their teeth at him in anger. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw God’s glory and Jesus standing at the right side of God. 56 “Look!” he said. “I see heaven opened and the Son of Man standing at the right side of God!” 57 With a loud cry the Council members covered their ears with their hands. Then they all rushed at him at once, 58 threw him out of the city, and stoned him. The witnesses left their cloaks in the care of a young man named Saul. 59 They kept on stoning Stephen as he called out to the Lord, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” 60 He knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord! Do not remember this sin against them!” He said this and died. Acts 7:54-60 (TEV)
Even there, in this midst of death itself, in the moments when all hell is trying to break loose, in what many would never be able to comprehend the existence of peace, there it is.
For the Lord was with the three men! He was with Daniel, He was with Stephen!
And the Lord is with you.
No matter the trauma, no matter the disaster, no matter the threat. No matter what, we are covered by His blood, sent by Him into these places, to be a beacon of hope, a reminder of God’s love and mercy and peace. For you need to know and count on this.
The Lord is with you!
and that is why Paul writes to us
6 Don’t worry about anything, but in all your prayers ask God for what you need, always asking him with a thankful heart. 7 And God’s peace, which is far beyond human understanding, will keep your hearts and minds safe in union with Christ Jesus! Philippians 4:6-7 (TEV)
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 249-252). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional thought of the day:
11 Praise him, kings and all peoples, princes and all other rulers; 12 young women and young men, old people and children too. 13 Let them all praise the name of the LORD! His name is greater than all others; his glory is above earth and heaven. Psalm 148:11-13 (TEV)
37 When he came near Jerusalem, at the place where the road went down the Mount of Olives, the large crowd of his disciples began to thank God and praise him in loud voices for all the great things that they had seen: 38 “God bless the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory to God!” 39 Then some of the Pharisees in the crowd spoke to Jesus. “Teacher,” they said, “command your disciples to be quiet!” 40 Jesus answered, “I tell you that if they keep quiet, the stones themselves will start shouting.” Luke 19:37-40 (TEV)
878 Everything can be put right… except death. And death puts everything right. (1)
Last Sunday, as we gathered for worship, I was taken back in time.
My friends were trying to get a hold of her dad, who was up in Napa, whose house was in the middle of the area damaged by the earthquake.
I was taken back to the day of the Northridge earthquake. we were the people on the other side of the phone. Well actually we were standing outside of the sidewalk, wondering what was next. We were there, with so many that lived in our complex. I remember someone, as the sun came up, started singing, and we all joined into the hymn, praising God. The following Sunday, in order to break the idea, our Worship Minister, Ken Hawes tried to break the idea by saying, “See what happens if we don’t worship? The rocks cry out like last week.” Luckily we all loved Ken, and he survived that comment!
The readings this morning reminded me of that comment, and our need to praise God. Not because He will send a earthquake if we don’t, but because it reveals that we understand why we were created. To walk with God! This God, YHWH, is greater than any other. So incredible, so beyond out imagination, the One who creates and redeems and sustains. The God who calls us to walk with Him. Who stands beside us, no matter the situation.
Which is why we praise Him.
Not just because of earthquakes, and rocks crying out, though those things can easily remind us of our frailty,
So how does death fit into this? I am just trying to jam it in, because it was part of my reading this morning? Not necessarily, though I had to think about how it could be a corollary to the quakes.
Some of the most passionate worship comes as we contemplate death, especially the death of a believer. like in those moments after the quake, priorities line up in the correct order.
and worship, so mellow and sweet that we know He is present, sweeps through us, and His presence brings peace. For we, in the face of our weakness, in our helplessness, rejoice in His presence.
The events, whether a quake, or cancer, or even death are not the stimuli for our worship. God’s majesty, His glory, His love and mercy and peace, He presence stimulates that joy. And in those times, all other things set aside… we see it.
May it be we see it more in other moments of our life as well!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3590-3591). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.