Sunday, December 27, 2009

Once for All.

(Boundary Lines, farmer's fields. Israel, 2009)

God is a teacher.

He reminded me of this in a number of ways in the last few weeks by answering a few questions I put before Him (seek and you shall find), and I wanted to share today's lesson here.

The question I posed earlier this morning was based off the parable of the sower, which we studied in small group.

On a small sidenote, one thing I learned from my knowledgeable and passionate high school teacher/Israel guide, Ray VanderLaan, is that when a parable is told in the Bible, one of the most important questions the audience would ask was, "who am I in this story?"

So, as we were studying the parable of the sower, I asked myself, "what type of soil am I? Am I the hard-trodden path, the rocky soil, the thorny soil, or the good soil?" (Honestly, I think I am a combination of a few of them).

And the important conclusion I came to was that, although often I feel like the thorny soil, I desperately want to be the good soil that produces a crop.

Which brings me to the next important question to ask oneself when reading a parable: "Who is God in this story, and what is He showing us about Himself and how He relates to us?"

God is the sower, scattering seeds (His Word) onto the soil.

After answering those two questions, the thing that struck me about the parable of the sower is that the soil has to be prepared to receive the Word BEFORE God sows it. The soil has to be ready before God even comes along with the seed, or it's useless.

This implies a rather important and scary responsibility for us, the soil.

We need to prepare our hearts for God, so that when He comes to us with a promise/teaching/truth/blessing/piece of advice, we can accept/understand/hear/thank/obey whatever it is that He sowed.

If we are not prepared soil, anything that God offers us turns to nothing. It dies, useless and withered and fruitless.

It was at this point in my thinking that I posed my question to God.

"Rabbi, how do I prepare myself to produce fruit? How do I make my heart healthy and ready to receive your Word like rich soil?"

And so I layed that at His feet and went on with my day (which included Qdoba, a 7 mile run, and a LOT of reading).

At some point during my reading, I picked up "Utmost" and read Oswald's words for the day.

And not 4 hours after I asked the question, God gave me my answer.

He did what a Rabbi does.

He sowed a seed.

And what He taught (through Oswald) was this:

"The reason that the battle is lost is that you fight it first in the external world."

And so, I was forced to ask myself more hard questions...

How often, when I'm struggling with something or trying to be better, do I attempt to control and manipulate external factors in order to fix the problem?

So, so often.

How many times, when I feel sad or afraid or in need of comfort, do I turn to food or movies or books to make me feel better?

Too, too many.

Why is it, that instead of dealing with my fears, I fall into inaction, give up too easily, and accept less than the best from myself?

Because it's easier and requires less risk.

In truth, most often in my day to day, I deal with and battle the external factors of life instead of looking inward at the real problems, asking God to root them out, and fighting my true afflictions, fears, and weaknesses.

And until I stand up and commit to fighting the real battles, the battles of my heart, I will never get to a place where I can become better, stronger, and more able to bring the Kingdom.

The true battle, the first and most important battle, is deep within our hearts, where God longs to reside and speak.

To teach.

To sow.

To grow.

And so we must dig out the rocks, the thorns, and the routine buried far down within us so that God can sow truth, bravery, and love deep into the recesses of our souls. do we prepare our soil?

First, ask God what kind of soil you are to Him. Then, ask Him what needs to be removed, addressed, and rooted out to make your soil healthy.

When we ask God to show us where our true battles lie, He reveals.

And when we ask God to fight them along with us, He shows up, with power.

He waits for the invitation, He longs for the chance.

Only when we allow Him to address our hearts does change begin.

Only then will we begin to bear fruit.

Only then will we begin to bring the Kingdom.

Only then.

"I must first get the issue settled between God and myself in the secret places of my soul, where no one else can interfere. Then I can go ahead with certainty, knowing that the battle is won...Get alone with God, do battle before Him, and settle the matter once for all." - Oswald Chambers.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

In Some Measure...


"O Majesty unspeakable, my soul desires to behold You. I cry to You from the dust.
Yet when I inquire after Your name it is secret. You are hidden in the light which no man can approach unto. What You are cannot be thought or uttered, for Your glory is ineffable.
Still, prophet and psalmist, apostle and saint have encouraged me to believe that I may in some measure know You. Therefore, I pray, whatever of Yourself You have been pleased to disclose, help me to search out as treasure more precious than rubies or the merchandise of fine gold: for with You shall I live when the stars of the twilight are no more and the heavens have vanished away and only You remain. Amen."

A prayer from A.W. Tozer.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A word from Oswald.

"You cannot truly intercede through prayer if you do not believe in the reality of redemption...True intercession involves bringing the person, or the circumstance that seems to be crashing in on you, before God, until you are changed by His attitude toward that person or circumstance...People describe intercession by saying, 'It is putting yourself in someone else's place.' That is not true! Intercession is putting yourself in God's place; it is having His mind and His perspective."

-Oswald Chambers

Being a vessel or a tool for a person that God has put into our lives requires us to see them and their circumstances as God sees them.

To be useful to the Kingdom, we NEED to have the mind of Christ.

How else can we be certain that we are living out of truth?

To have the mind of Jesus means spending time getting to know Him. It means reading His word and getting to know His story. It means watching His life on earth and how he interacted with God, people, and situations.

And it requires a lot of listening. Jesus prayed often while on this earth, and we must do the same. God longs to speak to us and use us, just as he used Jesus, our Rabbi.

So let us say, "Here we are, send us."

Let us listen.

Let us intercede.

Let us see and do as our Rabbi does.

Let us carry on this mission.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Blessing Board.

When you live in a house with 7 people, there tends to be a lot going on at any given moment. So much so, that more often than not, it's hard to keep up with everyone throughout the week. There is always something new going on or happening.
To stay connected, our house makes a point to get together every Sunday night and talk about our weeks, what we're struggling with, what we're learning, and how God has blessed us.
After all that, we do something fun together.
A few Sundays ago, we started talking about all the things God has done for us since moving into this big house together, and we were surprised at how much we had already forgotten after only 4 months.
And believe me, there was a lot to forget.

God's blessing has been abundant here.
So, in order to make sure that God gets credit for all the good things He does each day, we decided to create a blessing board. In a way, this board is a house standing stone, our N.C. family's little something pointing to the sky, witnessing how big our God is, and how faithful.
And it has been an amazing addition to our house. Being able to read each new thing that God has done is not only a way to praise God, but also a way to celebrate as a body together the richness of God's grace all around us.
So many times throughout the Bible God calls us to remember.
To witness.
To praise.
To notice.
To celebrate.
And with this little blessing board, we try to center ourselves around Him, and bring glory to the One who never fails to bless and provide.
"The failure to bless God for benefit received from the world is to deny His goodness and His authority over all that He has created." - Brad Young