willingness

The Confrontational Creator {ex14:16-17}

Photo © shutterstock.com/Melnik

Photo © shutterstock.com/Melnik

The problem with sin is that we
want to have our cake
and eat it too,
just like Pharaoh,
who wanted to have his slaves
and free them too.

But not to decide
is to decide,
and not to give in
is to remain stubborn

and that has an effect.

We all think
/or want to believe/
that no matter
what we choose
we automatically
revert back to
this neutral default place
after each decision,
that our choices
don't have any lasting
consequences.

But that's ridiculous.

If you've lived in darkness
your entire life
and someone suddenly
turns on a light
you are no longer a person
who has only known darkness.

You cannot return
to saying that you do not know
what light looks like.
You may say it still,
all right,
but in your heart
you know it's not true

and that has an effect.

God is the Light of the World,
that Great Confronter who
scouts out
runs down
and passionately pursues
His darkness-dwelling
children.

He would not dream
of letting you remain
forever in your darkness.
He knows nothing of
live and let live,
has no hands-off policy,
and is generally unaccommodating.

He does not prefer to avoid confrontation.

As surely as He lives,
you live,
and as surely as He lives,
you will experience Him.

And when you do,
you cannot return
to saying that you have never
experienced Him.
You may say it still,
all right,
but in your heart
you will know it's not true

and that will have an effect.

And if you persist
in ignoring or avoiding reality
for long enough
you may just find yourself
in a chariot
at the edge of the sea,
unable to bat an eyelash
at the rising walls of water,
unable to wonder how or why the briny deep
is drawing back to reveal dry ground,
unable to think twice
before rushing headlong
into the foregone destruction
of a hardened heart.

 

God is looking for willingness.

God is looking for willingness.

1 Kings 15

There is a lot of controversy in Christian circles over the issue of obedience to the law, sanctification, perfection, etc. Some people say that perfect obedience to God’s law is required for salvation. Others say that the law was nailed to the cross with Jesus, so there is no law to keep. Still others say that Jesus kept the law perfectly so we wouldn’t have to. He keeps it for us. To be blunt, I think they’re all wrong.

God knows what He's talking about.

God knows what He's talking about.

1 Kings 11

So, God had given Solomon incredible wisdom, massive amounts of wealth, and great fame. What He hadn’t given Solomon was a thousand marriage licenses. In fact, In Deuteronomy 17, God (in prophesying the fact that Israel would, in the future, demand a king to rule over them) specifically commanded that the king was not to take multiple wives. If he did, God said, his heart would be led astray.

Good Question {ex5:2}

Photo © Unsplash/Peter Sjo

Photo © Unsplash/Peter Sjo

Ah,
the ineludible question
of every person
wise or foolish

(for the Lord does not refrain
from entering uninvited
the lives of idolaters
to introduce
Himself).

Asking the question
indicates neither
wisdom
nor
folly.

But how one responds
to the answer
reveals
a fool
or
a genius.

Once we know
the sun
the River
the frogs
et al
are frauds,
will we
relent
or
will we
refuse?

Who is the Lord that i should listen to him?
said pharaoh, the little transient ruler of egypt.

I'm so glad you asked
replied Almighty God, Creator of Heaven and Earth.

 

Consume Me {ex3:2}

exodus-surrender-consume-me-poem.png

The burning bush
was burning
but it was not.

Burning,
but not burning up
or burning down
or burning out.

Just burning.
A vessel
not too imperfect
to hold
Perfection.

Perhaps I could be
such a vessel.
One you burn, but don't burn up.
One you wear, but don't wear out.
One you break, but don't break down.

Consume me.
Engulf me.
Overwhelm me.

Do whatever it takes.
Enshrine your Perfection in me.
Use me
to get the attention
of your prophets
and priests.

I am just a simple shrub
ready to burn.

 

God corrects us.

God corrects us.

2 SAMUEL 7

This is one of my favorite little stories in the Bible. David, in a moment of stricken conscience, decides that he wants to build a proper temple for the Lord he loves so much. What a noble thought, right? Who could object?! But, instead of rushing ahead, he summons Nathan, the prophet, to tell him of his plan.

God gives us what we want.

God gives us what we want.

1 SAMUEL 28

Several years ago, Rob Bell wrote a book called Love Wins. It generated a lot of controversy by posing the question of whether or not there is an eternal hell. But the chapter I was most intrigued by was one that asked the question, Does God get what God wants? Bell didn’t provide an absolute answer, but he seemed to insinuate that (since God wants everyone to come to a knowledge of salvation) if everyone wasn’t saved, God wasn’t “great” enough to get what He wants. (At least, that’s what I understood him to be saying.)

God can't always cure blindness.

God can't always cure blindness.

1 SAMUEL 19

As I read this chapter, I couldn’t help but think about how absolutely blind Saul was—especially as we got down to the very end. David had fled to Ramah (where Samuel was), and Saul sent a group of men to capture him and bring him back for execution. But, the first group of men got to Ramah and got sidetracked by God’s Spirit. So Saul sent a second group of men to capture David, and they also got detoured by the Spirit. Saul sent a third group of men to get David, and they too were held up by the Spirit.

God prefers right to rite.

1 SAMUEL 15

I decided to go with the "softer" title for this blog. My first choice was God doesn’t care about your "good deeds." This was what Saul learned in 1 Samuel 15. He expressly disobeyed God’s command when he went into battle with the Amalekites. Nobody was to be taken alive, and everything that belonged to the Amalekites was to be destroyed.

But Saul didn’t listen to the Lord. Oh, he put everyone to the sword all right. Everyone except King Agag, that is. He took him as a prisoner of war, perhaps to gloat or maybe to torture him for a while. Who knows. And in addition to this, the army plundered everything that was "good"—the sheep, cattle, and lambs. They kept the choicest of everything for themselves.

When Samuel came to meet Saul (knowing that he had violated the Lord’s command), I love his answer to Saul’s declaration that he had carried out all the Lord’s instructions: "But Samuel said, 'What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears?'" (vs 14) Ha! But Saul was adamant that he had obeyed the Lord, saying that he had simply brought the animals back from battle in order to make sacrifices to God. (I think, in his mind, he thought that’s what would make God less angry.)

Photo © Unsplash/Chinh Le Duc

Photo © Unsplash/Chinh Le Duc

"And Samuel said:
Do you think all God wants are sacrifices—empty
rituals just for show?
He wants you to listen to him!
Plain listening is the thing,
not staging a lavish religious production.
Not doing what God tells you
is far worse than fooling around in the occult.
Getting self-important around God
is far worse than making deals with your dead
ancestors." (vs 22-23)

God always tells us the right thing to do. And if we are unwilling to listen and do what is right, God doesn’t care how many rites we try to put in place of our obedience. God doesn’t want our sacrifices; He doesn’t want our good deeds; He doesn’t want our empty worship. He wants us. And if a willing, surrendered heart isn’t part of what we bring to Him, then nothing else matters.

Do you think all God wants are sacrifices?
He wants you to listen to him!

Forget about the rite. Do the right!

Photo © Unsplash/Nina Strehl

Photo © Unsplash/Nina Strehl

God is an effective communicator.

God is an effective communicator.

1 SAMUEL 6

Well, just when you thought nobody was paying attention to God... along comes 1 Samuel 6. Up to this point, God has had more failure with Israel than success (or so it seems). Here and there, He has a person who appears willing to listen, but those people are few and far between. It could almost make you think that God isn’t very good at getting His point across.

A Change of Heart {gn44:33-34}

Photo © Unsplash/Fadi Xd

Photo © Unsplash/Fadi Xd

as the years had come and gone
since selling Joseph like a pawn
Judah'd had a lot of time
to contemplate his clever crime

but watching how his father grieved
had been much worse than he'd conceived
it wore him down, right to the bone
he reaped much more than he had sown

until at last, a broken man,
he lived a different master plan:
a willingness to be the slave
to sacrifice, and thus to save

redemption needn't seem so strange
even dirty hearts can change

 

God is not a legalist.

God is not a legalist.

1 SAMUEL 4

I found something in this chapter very interesting. It opens with the Israelites going to war against the Philistines. It didn’t go well. Thousands of Israelites were killed in the battle, and when they got back home, they wondered why they had met with such defeat. As a result, they decided that they would carry the Ark of the Covenant into battle with them the next time.

God has the answers.

God has the answers.

JUDGES 21

You might think that’s a funny title to describe a chapter of the Bible in which God never speaks. But, for me, that’s precisely the point, so I thought we’d get right to the point today. Did you notice God’s lack of participation in the dialogue of this chapter? The Israelites were asking a lot of questions, but they never received an answer.

Master Maker {gn39:2}

Photo © Unsplash/Zulmaury Saavedra

Photo © Unsplash/Zulmaury Saavedra

The recurring theme of the Bible is
how the
Lord sticks His divine nose into our
business and turns what
was expected into something
surprising
with no prior warning.
Joseph had been sold as a slave,
so he expected to be treated like
one, but
he didn't act like one. Instead he
succeeded in all he did, because he
determined
in his heart to do
everything he did like a boss. He
decided
he would be the very best slave
those Egyptians ever
did see, and
as he committed all
he did as a slave to the Lord, he
unwittingly
served them as God serves all His
creation. And
in serving even his enemies in this
way, Joseph
the slave became a free man, ruling
over the
house of Potiphar and revealing that
the true Master
of his heart is in no way deficient in
his power, even to this day, to turn
Egyptian oppressors into admirers,
as the slave becomes the
master.

 

God is just a guy who wants friends.

God is just a guy who wants friends.

JUDGES 6

If you’re one of the people who reads this blog every day but doesn’t necessarily read the Bible chapter that goes with it, I urge you to read Judges 6. I am nearly beside myself with delight at the picture of God in this chapter. The Israelites are at their idol worship once again, when God realizes that there is a man—Gideon—who has a willingness to listen. Even though he has grown up in a home where his father worshiped Baal and Asherah, Gideon is apparently open in his heart to an audience with the Lord.

On Acceptance {gn38}

genesis-acceptance-on-acceptance-poem.png

Perhaps Jesus said the Kingdom was for children
because children accept their lot in life.
Often, they don't know any different
and even if they did,
what can they do about it?

Children accept
and try to find ways of being content.

Adults, on the other hand,
have learned    better?
and have trouble accepting
what they don't want or can't understand.

Er wouldn't accept a mantle of morality.

Onan wouldn't accept a surrogate's role.

Judah wouldn't accept the position of widower.

Shelah wouldn't accept his brothers' leftovers.

Tamar wouldn't accept childless singlehood.

It's no wonder, then, that
centuries later,
Mary is called "favored of God"
and chosen as the one
to bear the burden of raising the Savior.
For how many people—
even in the very pages of sacred Scripture—
ever responded
to what they didn't want or couldn't understand
by saying
Let it be to me according to your will?

We so idolize those who
won't acquiesce
refuse to bow down
fight back
stick it to the man
get angry

that we are blind
to the holiness that comes with
accepting the lot we wouldn't choose—
if only it were up to us.

 

God's ideas are best.

God's ideas are best.

JOSHUA 17

Ah, now the failures of Israel are coming back to bite them. By turns, before going into the Promised Land, the Lord told the Israelites that they should not make any treaties with the people living there, but that they should be completely driven out. First, God promised to drive them out Himself. When the Israelites didn’t want to go along with that (but instead wanted to fight), God told them they must destroy the nations they conquered.