Monday, May 12, 2014

Where is God?

We are working hard at doing right things and someone criticizes or challenges or uses power moves to intimidate or try to stop us.  And what do we do in response?

Read Nehemiah 6.  Nehemiah was facing exactly that.  He was on a God-sized, God-ordained mission to rebuild the broken down walls of Jerusalem.  It was hard work.  He organized the people in such a way that they were rebuilding their familial homes.  They had skin in the game.  Their spirits were being lifted.  There was far more going on than the moving of stones and mortar.  The people were raising their eyes toward the Lord as well.

Great projects attract opposition.  And Nehemiah finds local Arab neighbors trying to stop him.  They invite him to a meeting to have a little talk about their concerns.  But Nehemiah knew they were scheming to kill him, so he told them he was busy with a great project and could not come down.  They ramp it up by threatening to send a false report back to the king that Nehemiah and the Jews are planning a revolt.  Its a lie.  And Nehemiah responds to them that they are just making a story up in their heads.  Finally they work in alliance with two false prophets to trap Nehemiah in fear or to discredit him before the people.  He had opposition from those outside and those closer to him. In fact the nobles of Judah were trying to convince Nehemiah that Tobiah, one of his detractors, was a good man because his son had married into one of their families.  Complicated.

Please note what Nehemiah did.  We can learn much.  I have watched as those who claim Christ return fire using the same weapons as their opponents.  Yet we are reminded in 2 Corinthians 10:

3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Nehemiah does just that. He uses our weapons. He succinctly and respectfully and calmly addresses the challenges to the people who make them. Second, he stays focused on his mission. And finally, he speaks to the Lord about them rather to launch a verbal campaign about them to other people.

He prays: But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.”

And then:14 Remember Tobiah and Sanballat, my God, because of what they have done; remember also the prophet Noadiah and how she and the rest of the prophets have been trying to intimidate me.

When I have had times that I began to take a worldly approach to addressing opposition, I had to ask myself the question, "Where is God?" Not that I was questioning if God was abandoning me but rather how do my actions reflect my trust and hope in the Lord?  And I had to repent. And I spoke to the Lord rather than to others.  It was amazing to watch the Lord at work.

When tempted to spew vitriol at people who are hurting us or to counter attack using the same worldly approach taken against us, I urge us all to ask the question, "Where is God?" The bottom line is that we will have to answer that question before Him one day for every word and action we have done.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Glorious Reflection

I was traveling early morning recently and my car lights caught movement ahead of me.  It was enough to alert me to some one headed the same direction I was.  As I approached, I realized it was a jogger with reflective tape on a vest.  Without the reflection, I would not have noticed them.

The same happened with a biker several nights later.  A reflector on the back let me see them.  Our parking lot attendants, firemen, and others in emergency services wear clothing or coats that have some level of reflection to them so that we notice them.  It draws our attention so we can follow their lead and it also serves to keep them safe in dangerous situations.

I have been reading about and contemplating the idea of the glory of God.  What is glory?  By definition it is magnificence; beauty; renown; and honor.  Glory is light.  Glory is purity and wholesomeness.  It is ultimate good.  Glory is the essence of our God.

2 Corinthians 3 contains a discussion about glory.  (Read it before continuing.)  Going back to when Moses received the Ten Commandments, Paul observes that even when the law was given there was a temporary glory that was reflected.  Moses' face was so affected by being in the presence of the Lord that he wore a veil because the people had a hard time looking at him.  They couldn't stand the brightness.  The purpose of the Law was not to bring life, but to show us our sin and ultimately to bring condemnation.  It did show the absolute standard of God:  perfection.  But it also proved that none of us can live up to that standard.  We can feel the same way about the Law today.  We stare at it and say I can't live up to that.  It is hopeless.  I am helpless.  Or I judge myself by my own standards and declare that I am good.  So my heart is veiled by either despair or arrogance.  I am lost.

But when we realize that we are incompetent and come to Christ for forgiveness of our sin and the transformation of our souls, the Spirit of God sets us free.  And the glory of Jesus begins to reflect in our lives.  This glory is not temporary but increasing.  It is the glory of the Spirit.  It is the glory of a perfecting love for God and love for people.  It is the glory of purity, wholeness, and peace.  It is the glory of worship and praise and encouragement.  It is the beauty of a life lived out in righteousness and hope and joy.  It is the magnificence of a life lived in the presence of God so that the glory that is reflected is renewed continually.  And it is not honor that is drawn to the person.  It is glory that is lifted up to the Lord because it is clear that it is only by the grace of God that we are who we are.  Redeemed, transformed, restored, and constantly in a state of renewal.  People see us and see Jesus in us.  And that reflection makes them aware we are there, shining in the darkness.  Awareness for those traveling in darkness and they are drawn; awareness by those traveling in darkness and it keeps us safe.

The difference is whether we are seeking to be confident and competent before God by trying to follow the Law or are living by the Spirit.  The Law is temporary and condemns.  But the Spirit brings freedom and a flow of ever-increasing glory into our lives.  The joy of all of this great truth is that I don't have to focus on trying to show people something each day.  That would be focusing on "my" righteousness and goodness.  No, I focus solely on living in the presence of the Lord each day and as I go throughout my day He reflects His glory continually through me.

Today, don't dwell on your goodness but on His glory.  He'll take care of the rest.