Thursday, April 11, 2013

How to behave when God speaks

When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his clothes. 2 Kings 22:11

Words are powerful. Think about the time you heard someone say to you, "I love you!"
Or the time when someone said belittling, scornful, and hate-filled words to you. How did those words make you feel?

Someone said that a word is like a living organism, capable of growing, changing, spreading, and influencing the world in many ways, directly and indirectly through others. 

Today's short text is graphic. A powerful king, undoubtedly surrounded by guards, personal assistants, wealth and seclusion is unable to shield himself from the searching, probing, and powerful word of God. 

What did he hear? He heard God's displeasure over the callous sins of his nation and he heard God's plan to punish his nation. 

He tore his expensive robe out of sorrow, fear, and as an act of repentance. Like a search light, God's word exposed the hidden and public sins of the king and the people of Judah.

Personal and national revival started because of the power of God's word (Read 2 Kings 22-23 for details).

In churches throughout North America, God's word is opened and read week after week. How should we behave when we hear the word of God in church this weekend or in our personal time with God?

Revere: Do I give more attention to the words of a famous athlete or entertainer? Do I remind myself that I am in the presence of Almighty God? 

Prepare: Am I distracted? Have I weaned my soul from all the people places and things that divide my attention? Do I sit humbly and openly, asking God to speak to me?

Repair: What is broken in my life? What sin do I need to repent of? What is misaligned in my life and displeasing to God?

For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable (Hebrews 4:12-13 NLT).

Why are we so unresponsive to God's word?

Monday, April 8, 2013

The answer to religious multi-tasking

They worshiped the Lord but also served their own gods (2 Kings 17:33).

The problem
Dual allegiance. Torn between two lovers. Spiritual adultery. Syncretism. Serving two masters. These are some of the phrases that come to mind when I read this verse.

This is an untenable, unworkable situation. Jesus said, No one can serve two masters, either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other (Matthew 6:24).

By the way, this is the source of many problems in marriage. The man or the woman is unable to live with deep commitment for the other.

This is why young adults fail to launch their lives: they have many options but through fear, or confusion cannot make the hard decision for a certain path in life.

The solution
So what is to be done? Make a choice. Decide.

In the words of Elijah: Stop faltering between two opinions. If God is God serve him and if baal is God then follow him (I Kings 18:21). But no room here for religious multitasking or chic inter-faith religious dabbling.

The Hebrew word for opinion speaks of branches or forks in a tree limb or a road.

The words "falter" or "waver" mean "to limp, to halt, to hop, to dance, or to leap."

So the question quite literally is something like this: How long will you keep dancing on one foot and then on the other while trying to straddle a widening branch or to take both forks of a road at the same time? You can't do it. It is yet again one of those moments of truth in the Bible where indecision is not only challenged but condemned.

So a choice must be made. And the only choice available is this: be careful to do what the LORD your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left (Deuteronomy 5:32).

Example of Jesus
Over two thousand years ago Christ demonstrated for all the power of a single choice. He prayed, not my will, but your will be done (Luke 22:42).

He went to the cross, willingly gave up his life in love for a lost world. Only through the power of Christ’s righteous life do we ever have the hope of praying like Jesus, Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10).

Yesterday was Sunday. Both services were well attended. On the one hand this is great. But what kind of worshipers are we on Monday through Saturday?

Do we still worship God. Or is it God plus...?

Any responses to this?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The party goes on.

Here are five post-resurrection practices for those who follow Jesus.

Last Sunday’s worship services felt like a big party, a celebration.  We had great attendance, uplifting music, and what felt like a family reunion with people we hadn’t seen in awhile.
But is the party over? Easter Sunday is gone and so we go back to business as usual until Easter Sunday, 2014? I hope not.

Post –resurrection accounts in the gospels, show Jesus appearing in various places and at odd times, with small and large groups of people. Jesus didn’t want his followers to have a letdown.

Luke puts it this way, after his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over the course of forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3).

Paul, to the Corinthian Church: Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to someone untimely born, he appeared also to me (I Corinthians 15: 6-8).

First century and twenty first century disciples face the temptation of going back to business as usual. Now that Easter is past we are tempted to go back and fish, surf the internet, make money, live with fear, hate and anger; think about number one, huddle in rooms and reminisce about the past and attend church next on Christmas Eve.

But the resurrection of Jesus is a game changer. A shift. A new reality. The party does not stop. We are a resurrection people. The first day of every week is an opportunity to renew ourselves in the presence of our living, reigning Lord Jesus Christ.

Here are a few ways to refresh ourselves in Christ:
Prayer: Jesus is alive so we live with a new dimension of spiritual strength and courage.
Reconciliation: Jesus is alive. We deal with our conflicts with deeper levels of love, patience and hope.
Jesus First: Christ reigns. He is king. What he wants for our lives is more important than what we want. He tells us what to do and we obey.
Mission: As resurrection people we have kingdom work to do. Heal the sick, feed the poor, share the gospel with lost people, and actively engage the powers of darkness.
Worship: Through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, Christ is with us on Sundays but through every moment of every day. Worship is more than what we do at 9am and 11:15. I am worshiping Christ as I write these words at 5:00am in my study!
The same joy that filled us up last weekend is available this weekend. With delight and desire, come celebrate the Lord’s Supper this Sunday. Jesus is alive!