Sunday, July 31, 2011

Listening to Ourselves Rather Than Listening to God

“. . . the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.” (1 Kings 19:11-12)

Excerpt from “Who Are You Listening To?” – 2011-07-31
God knows our hearts; He knows we are amazed and respond with great emotion when we witness external displays of His power. But God seeks a response that is much deeper. He knows that our hearts, our spirits, the depths of our souls will respond to His voice. His “voice” we read is like “the sound of a low whisper.” (Other Bible translations: NASB =a sound of gentle blowing NIV = a gentle whisper, NEB = low murmuring sound, JB = sound of a gentle breeze, KJV = still, small, voice). The word in the original Hebrew means “the tone of a small, gentle, whisper.” This is the sound of God’s voice - the soft quiet voice of God that speaks to our souls, that illuminates our minds, that stirs our hearts in a way loud physical displays of power cannot. The voice, the whisper of God is a language of the heart – and that’s why we have a hard time hearing God. Paul Miller gives us a clue in his book “A Praying Life” when he states our real problem in not our busy lives but our busy hearts. Instead of hearing “the sound of a low whisper” of God in our hearts, we more often hear the loud pounding drumbeat of how busy we are focusing our hearts on ourselves and on our busy lives.

Some years ago U. S. President Theodore Roosevelt decided to test the listening skills of those he met. One evening at a White House reception he greeted each guest with a handshake and a smile and said: “I murdered my grandmother this morning.” No one even noticed; most of them said: “Well, how lovely!” or “Keep up the good work!” However there was one diplomat at the end of the line who said: “Well I’m sure she had it coming to her.” President Roosevelt’s test proved what most of us already know: we just don’t listen to things that are said unless it is about us or if it affects us. The reason we don’t hear God’s voice is because we can’t hear His voice above the noise of our own voice.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

There is Only One God of the Heavens

Sect Leader Warren Jeffs' words to Judge Barbara Walther – July 29, 2011

"I, the Lord God of heaven,
ask the courts to cease the prosecution of my holy ways.
There will be a judgment against all those who prosecute the church.
I shall let all people know of your unjust ways.
I will bring sickness and death. Let this cease."

God's Words from Isaiah 42:5; 9

Thus says God, the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it:
". . . I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other."

Monday, July 25, 2011

Worship Who God Is, Not What God Does

“Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life . . . he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, 'It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life.'" (1 Kings 19:3-4)

Excerpt from “Walking the Deserts of Life” – 2011-07-24
We must not put our trust in the wonders (miracles) of God more than we do God Himself. The Bible tells us that purpose of the miracles of God is to reveal the power of God. The miracles Jesus did while he was on earth were done to reveal that he was God. Jesus said: "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise” (John 5:19). While miracles are of God, they are not God. But there are times we worship miracles more than we worship God. Jesus knew that; that’s why he said to the crowd: "Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe" (John 4:48); “For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect” (Mark 13:22).

We worship wonders/miracles of God more than we worship God when we put our trust in what God can do for us more than simply who He is. We worship wonders/miracles when we get angry for God for not answering our prayers; when we expect He will bless us in spite of our disobedience or our lukewarm commitment to Him; when we complain ungratefully about our circumstances and situations in life; when we crave and love the blessings and gifts of God more than we crave and love God Himself. We must never forget that wonders/miracles are not God – God is God.

God does not always come through the way we would expect. God does not always work the same way. Joshua and God’s people discovered that as they entered and fought for the Promised Land. They took each city in a different way, and if they didn’t obey God’s instructions to “t” is cost them dearly. By the time Jericho rolled around, marching circles around the city, shouting and blowing horns didn’t seem so strange anymore. They were used to God doing new things in different ways. In Isaiah 55:8-9 God says: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Jesus said: "Behold, I am making all things new" (Revelation 21:5). He also had his own mountaintop to valley experience. In Mark 1:11-13 we read that when Jesus was baptized God proclaimed: "’You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’ The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan.” Driven into the wilderness to face temptation, Jesus was victorious not because of a miracle - but because God was with him. God did not tell Elijah to put his faith in the brook, the ravens, the flour, the oil, the altar, the stones, the fire, or in the thunderstorm. Like Elijah we are to trust in God alone.

The Blessings of 30 Years of Marriage

Last Monday Nancy and I celebrated 30 years of marriage together. As we have looked back over our lives together, we stand amazed at the many ways God has been so faithful to us throughout the years. Yes, God is good . . . all the time! I have also been blessed by God to have been given Nancy as my wife. She is a special gift far more I could ever have asked for. Nancy has shown me more grace, mercy and love than I ever deserve. It would be easy to say to her: "Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all!" (Proverbs 31:29).

On our anniversary we were also humbled and blessed to have our daughter Jennifer post the following:

30 Things I've Learned From My Parents...On Their 30th Anniversary

by Jennifer Botzet

1. What it is like to be loved in spite of the fact that you can be a serious pain sometimes.

2. How to live life with no fear.

3. God's sovereign hand shapes pain and suffering into something beautiful.

4. A food fight in the middle of dinner can be an effective way to resolve an argument.

5. When God calls you to go somewhere and do something...you just do it without asking why.

6. Doorstops keep wolverines away from your house.

7. You shouldn't quit playing baseball just because you got hit in the head by a wild pitch and then five minutes later by a line drive...in the same spot. Seriously, you'll be fine.

8. Memorize Scripture and use it as a way to guide prayer.

9. Camping is only camping if you have to haul all your gear on your back, canoe for eight hours into the wind, be paranoid about bears, sleep on rocks, sustain a few minor injuries, be a bit hungry because you can't eat another bite of fish or trail mix, and go without a shower, bathroom, phone, or seeing other human beings for at least a week.

10. Every single thing is from God's hand - even those things that break you and cause many tears. This is a reason to give Him praise.

11. "Happy Birthday" is meant to be sung as painfully and intentionally off key as possible.

12. You always finish what you start.

13. How to ride a horse, and how to not fall off of said horse when he does something unpredictable (because at some point...he will).

14. If you don't have money to buy something...then don't buy it.

15. How to milk a goat without making it angry and causing it to kick you in the face.

16. Read books that are difficult to understand.

17. Listen to sermons by people that are way smarter than you are.

18. Things that are hard are good for you.

19. Face hardship with the joy of the Lord as your strength.

20. Family is a merciful gift from God.

21. I am an undeserving, dirty, rotten sinner, and Jesus is a merciful, loving, and gracious Savior.

22. Pray as often as you breathe.

23. The cute baby calf you named, bottle fed, and that grew up into a big cow...she's for eating (actual dinner conversation: "Is this Gretchen?" "No, I think this roast is Freddie...").

24. The best way to find answers to your questions about the Bible...is to read the Bible.

25. Having no real roots or home on this earth is a good thing. It is a blessing and a reminder of where I really belong and where I will someday be.

26. To live with no regret is to walk in utter obedience to God even when what He is asking you to do doesn't make sense.

27. Grades are not as important as what you learn...and your perfectionist tendencies can be sinful.

28. You will be a work in progress until the day you are in glory.

29. The only opinion you should care about is God's.

30. You are wasting the short time that God has given you on this earth if you are not striving to glorify Him in all you do and loving Him with all that you are.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Hearing God Beyond Our Own Voice

“Elijah said to Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink, for there is a sound of the rushing of rain” (1 Kings 18:41).

Excerpt from “Winning the Race” – 2011-07-17
If we believe in Jesus, if we possess a heart conviction that leads to total trust and total commitment to him, pursuing Jesus so we might know him so intimately that we can hear his voice should be the number one priority of our lives. The integrity of our daily walk through life for God depends on us hearing God’s voice; the hope of our future life with God depends on us hearing God’s voice. How we run the race God has called us to for His glory will reveal whether or not we are hearing God’s voice. It’s hard to hear God’s voice today. Because we live in a culture that is so saturated with narcissism, entitlement and selfishness - we tend to confuse our voice with God’s voice. Sadly the line between the Spirit of God and our personal emotions has become so blurred that there are now many in the community of faith who claim the gift of discernment, when in reality they have the gift of opinion.

This is why we need the Word of God and one another. God’s Word, the Bible, will give us guidance regarding what is of God and what is of us. Hebrews 4:12 tells us: “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” But we also need one another to know what is of God and what is of us. The Bible is full of one another texts that calls each one us to commit ourselves to a faith community for accountability, growth, mission and mutual discernment.

If we truly know the one true God we will hear His voice. If we know God, we will be able to see and hear beyond our own opinions, beyond what we see and hear in this world. It is then we can press on in our faith, during times of change and struggle, when things look and sound and feel different, dismal or dark - for in the hands of our risen Christ we can and will have faith and believe that what our most sovereign God has in store for us is greater than what we see and hear and feel. True faith, true belief in God will ultimately lead us to personally and intimately know God.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Augustine - Loving God is Not a Vague Feeling

Augustine's prayer, from his book "Confessions" -
My love of you, O Lord, is not some vague feeling: it is positive and certain. Your word struck into my heart and from that moment I loved you. Besides this, all about me, heaven and earth and all that they contain proclaim that I should love you, and their message never ceases to sound in the ears of all mankind, so that there is no excuse for any not to love you. But, more than all this, you will show pity on those whom you pity; you will show mercy where you are merciful; for if it were not for your mercy, heaven and earth would cry your praises to deaf ears.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

We’re Worse Than Broken

Posted By Randy Newman 2011-06-24 on The Gospel Coalition blog
I’ve been hearing the word brokenness a lot lately. In casual conversations and from up-front speakers, the term has become synonymous with sinful. In fact, for many, it has replaced this older, more-bothersome word.

To some extent, this makes sense. Our experience of alienation from God does indeed feel like we’re broken. We’re not living the lives we were created for. We’re not connecting with others with the level of intimacy we were designed for. We’re cut off from the kind of connectedness with God that he intended.

But I’m concerned with the reduction of the full and multifaceted concept of sin, as it is described in the Scriptures, into a buzzword that feels more at home in our therapeutic culture than in God’s Word. My concern is twofold.

For believers, the word doesn’t go deep enough to move us forward in sanctification. God describes our sin many ways—almost all of which are far worse than “broken.” We’re rebellious, idolatrous, lost, enslaved, disobedient, adulterous, and—in case the point wasn’t pressed far enough—dead. If we see our sin as mere brokenness, our repentance and abhorrence at sin won’t push us in the opposite direction hard enough. And our appreciation of the cross as the only cure will be replaced with self-effort and legalism.

For non-believers, when they hear us speak of our brokenness, there is common ground, to be sure. But we fail to convey the dire straights that only the gospel overcomes. Most people in our world today hear “brokenness” as something that is done to us, something we are victims of. But the Bible’s description of sin is far more active than passive, more something we do—willingly, rebelliously, idolatrously, and knowingly—rather than something perpetrated upon us by others against our will, contrary to our nature, or different from our cravings. When people hear that our biggest problem is that we’re broken, the gospel seems like a strange fix. Jesus’ death on the cross seems extreme and unnecessary, the maniacal overreaction of an overzealous deity.

Thoughtful faith and faithful thinking involves the careful choice of words that come out of our mouths and reverberate in our minds.

Commitment Beyond the Middle Ground

And Elijah came near to all the people and said, "How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him." And the people did not answer him a word. (1 Kings 18:21)

Excerpt from “Carmel-Coated Christianity” - 2011-07-03
When you are standing for God, there is no middle ground. In the New Testament we read that King Herod thought he could. He feared John the Baptist, knowing that he was a just and holy man, a man of whom the Bible said carried the spirit of Elijah. Herod enjoyed hearing John preach, but he never repented of living in sin with his brother’s wife, a sin which John boldly and continually confronted him about. Those of you who know the story know that eventually Herod was faced with choosing between killing John the Baptist or losing his wife’s favor. Rather than choosing to embrace the message of repentance, Herod chose to execute the messenger – which cost Herod his life in the end.

When Elijah came to Mount Carmel, the middle ground disappeared. When John the Baptist challenged people to repent and turn to God, the middle ground disappeared. When Jesus walked this earth and demanded those who desired to follow Him must fully and totally surrender their hearts and lives to him and to him only - the middle ground disappeared. At the return of our Lord Jesus the middle ground will disappear for good. When it comes to God – there is no middle ground.

The very nature of who God is confronts us to make a choice about our commitment to Him. As we slowly but surely approach the end of the age, God is in the process of destroying all middle ground - for by His holiness God hates and rejects anything and everything that is spiritually lukewarm. In Revelations 3:16 Jesus said: “So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” To be a born again follower of Jesus Christ means you will be different than the world; humility and sacrifice and God-centeredness will clearly stick out in a culture that is saturated with pride and entitlement and self-centeredness. Jesus said: “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).