Thirsty

Psalm 42:1-2 As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, the living God.  When shall I come and appear before before God?

“What does not satisfy when we find it, was not the thing we were desiring.” (C.S. Lewis, The Pilgrim’s Regress)

About four inches of galvanized pipe rising from the ground, an elbow, and about another foot of galvanized pipe formed the channel for the flowing well.  Out of that channel, the memory of which is no doubt wildly distorted by the passing years, trickled the coolest, sweetest water that ever refreshed the face of a hot and sweaty boy.  I knew nothing of natural springs.  I called it the flowing well because that was what I heard others call it.  It could have been magic for all I knew.  But when I was thirsty, it was there.  And I knew I was thirsty for this, because when I got it, I was satisfied.

There is a thirst of the human heart that no earthly experience, commodity, or relationship can quench.  How many things have we mistaken for its satisfaction?  The psalmist was thirsty, but he understood.  There was no satisfying of this thirst until he appeared before God.  For God was his thirst.

Matthew 5:6  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
John 7:38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.’

What a wonderful Savior he is!

Mistaken Silence

There are only two things to do with silence; assume you know what it means or ask what it means.  Unless you know the silent person very well,  assuming probably reflects more about you than the one who is silent.

Consider.  Proverbs 17:28 Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.  The fool is neither wise nor intelligent, only quiet.  In this case, the fool’s judge is not much better off.

Consider again.  Psalm 50:21 “These things you have done and I kept silence; You thought that I was just like you; I will reprove you and state the case in order before your eyes.”  God’s silence was taken for approval and worse.  The assumption grew into idolatry.  They concluded that God was more than approving of them; he was in fact identical to them.  Talk about a god made in the image of man, there it is!

How interesting!  Silence in a man is taken for wisdom, while silence in God is taken for foolishness!  The fool may be happy if people go on thinking he is wise.  God, on the other hand, has promised to “state the case in order before your eyes.”

Revelation 20:12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.

John 3:16.  What a wonderful Savior he is!

Are We For Him

Matthew 12:30  Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.
Mark 9:40  For the one who is not against us is for us.

Do these two statements say the same thing or is Jesus saying something different in each case?  If nothing else, the tone of these two statements is quite different.  The first one is exclusive.  “You must be with me.”  The second is inclusive.  “It is enough that you aren’t against me.”  Context is critical.

In Matthew 12:30, Jesus had been accused of being demonic.  He confronted men who were prepared to say anything or do anything to discredit him.  The issue was critical.  Who is Jesus?  On this issue you must choose.  Every word and action of Jesus, every reaction to Jesus, and the fixed teaching of orthodox Christianity stand as one on this.  There is no halfway house where Jesus is honored as a great teacher but denied the divinity that drips from the New Testament.  The men who opposed Jesus understood that much.  That is why they wanted to kill him.  For them, he wasn’t God, and therefore claiming to be, he must be demonic.  Or, as C.S. Lewis pointed out, crazy.

In Mark 9:40, the disciples had some control issues.  They found a man casting out demons in Jesus’ name, but the man wouldn’t follow them.  “Leave him alone,” Jesus told them.  The man wasn’t discrediting Jesus.  Indeed, invoking Jesus’ name honored him.

Where God is exclusive there is only one question.  Are we with him?  If we are with him, there is only one call we are allowed to issue.  “Are you with him?”  There are issues of little or no importance.  How sad when Christians get exercised over them!  Then we lose our credibility on the issues that really matter.  The one issue that matters most, matters now, and matters forever is about the person of Jesus.

Matthew 22:41-42  Jesus asked them a question, saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?”

What a wonderful Savior he is!

Is He For Us

Joshua 5:15  And the commander of the LORD’s army said to Joshua, “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so

The burden of leadership that once rested on the time-tested shoulders of Moses was laid upon Joshua.  It was a new day for new ventures and Joshua was near Jericho.  The first real test of his leadership was at hand.  Joshua 5:13 notes that Joshua looked up and saw a man with a sword in his hand, drawn as if for battle.  He asked the man a question.  “Are you for us or for our adversaries?”  A reasonable question.

The man answered, “No.”  Pardon?  We look for one of two answers here but this is neither.  Either he is for us and puts his sword away or he says nothing and applies his sword.  Instead we get ‘no.’  In fact, this is the right answer to the wrong question.  The rest of the man’s response indicated what he thought the right question would be.  For after saying ‘no,’ he said “I indeed come now as captain of the host of the LORD.”  Apparently he thought the better question would be “Who are you?”

The rest of Joshua 5:14-15 reveal a more detailed answer to the right question.  Rather than ask the man his position, Joshua assumed a new position himself, falling on his face.  Challenge became submission.  ‘What are you doing’ became ‘what must I do.’  Then, most telling of all, with nary a thought toward battle plans or arms, the man told Joshua the most needful thing at that moment was for Joshua to take off his shoes.

Sometimes it is not that our questions are bad questions, but that our questions start at the wrong place.  We will find out shortly whether God is for us or against us.  It is a far better beginning to ask who he is.  If we come to the place of Joshua, barefoot and humbled on his holy ground, we will see a more urgent question.  It is not ‘is he for us,’ but ‘are we for him?’

What a wonderful Savior he is!

Odd with God

“I rather choose to be a pilgrim on earth with Thee, than without Thee to possess Heaven.”  Thomas a Kempis

Ephesians 2:19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.  No longer a stranger to God means becoming a stranger to the world.  1 Peter 2:11 Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul.  Being a stranger to the world of necessity means being misunderstood.  The locals are not familiar with the customs of your new native land.  Tourists are usually easily identified.  There is a certain manner about them.  They glow with a kind of oddness that locals don’t understand and therefore chuckle over.  Brother Thomas embraced the oddness of being God’s pilgrim knowing its source was God himself.

Isaiah 60:1-2 Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.  For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you.

In Christ, we are no longer at odds with God.  Now we may simply be odd with God.

What a wonderful Savior he is!

Hearts Halved and Whole

God gives us things to look at every day; sunrise and stormy sky, neighbor and nation, wrinkles and smiles.  Whether the experience of seeing is pleasant or not, there is always something to be learned.  Yet we may see the thing and not see the lesson.  As Isaiah would put it, “keep on seeing but do not perceive.”

So it was that Jeremiah witnessed a nation that had opportunity to see many things but she could not perceive.  Jeremiah 2:10 For cross to the coasts of Cypress and see… There was neighbor nation without knowledge of the living God, and yet they showed more common sense than God’s chosen people.  Jeremiah 3:8 She saw… that faithless one Israel… I sent her away.  Judah had a ringside seat on Israel’s apostasy.  But Judah also had a heart problem.  Jeremiah 3:10 Yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah did not return to me with her whole heart, but in pretense, declares the LORD.

One of the most insightful prayers of the Psalms is found in 86:11.  Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.  “Unite my heart” is both confession and prayer.  It is acknowledging to God that our hearts are divided, that we see but do not always perceive, that our hearts are in fact broken by sin.  But it is also a request for healing of our halfheartedness.  The petition also reveals the path of healing.  “Teach me your way that I may walk in your truth.”

To all such confession and petition, God answers.  Jeremiah 29:12-13 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.  You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

What a wonderful Savior he is!

Peace Peace

Isaiah 26:3 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

I kept looking for the word ‘perfect’ in the original text.  Hebrew is not my forte and I was not surprised to be struggling, so I kept looking.  If you have ever been unable to find something when it was right in front of you, then you know how I felt when at last I saw it.  It wasn’t ‘perfect peace,’ but ‘peace peace.’  Or, ‘shalom shalom.’

It is not just any peace he gives.  It is his peace, peace pressed down and running over, peace perfected.  Any other peace is but poor imitation and hardly deserves the name.  His peace requires multiple words to describe it.  But better than describe it, see it, in person.

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

What a wonderful Savior!

Impossible

Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him, for he who comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him.

We are not saved by grace through love, but by grace through faith.  It is possible to love the unlovable.  People do it all the time.  Some people may have loved you when you were unlovable.  God has done that for all of us.  The fact that God loves us says precious little about us.  It speaks volumes about him.  Just as when you love the unlovable, it says something about you.

Have you tried trusting the untrustworthy lately?  Try as you will, isn’t there some lingering doubt in the back of your mind, a little voice that says “he will let me down again, I just know it?”  You can love the unlovable because love is about you.  You can’t trust the untrustworthy because trust is about the other guy.

Trust honors God as nothing else does.  Faith is about him.  Faith pleases him.  He honors faith.  He rewards it and his rewards are not to be despised and never to be regretted.  Without faith, well, it’s just impossible.

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith

What a wonderful Savior he is!

All That Is In Your Heart

2 Chronicles 17:1-2 Now when David lived in his house, David said to Nathan the prophet, “Behold, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of the covenant of the LORD is under a tent.”  And Nathan said to David, “Do all that is in your heart, for God is with you.”

There is a piece of rather sentimental advice that goes like this: just follow your heart.  Sometimes it may be given as a cover for ignorance of what to advise.  In that case, it would be better to say, “I don’t know what to tell you.”  But sometimes it is given with actual conviction that the human heart is an accurate and unfailing guide in making choices.  In that case, we should take note of David.  After all, he is the one of whom it was said that he had a heart after God.  Nathan the prophet must have believed it, for he handed David a blank check for his heart.

David looked about his cedar-paneled house and reflected on the meager, mobile accommodations of the ark of God.  From a human perspective, who could fault David’s desire?  He believed that his state was more honorable than the state of the place of God’s worship.  They could do better than this.

But the human perspective without the divine perspective is always short-sighted.  David and Nathan both needed to hear “thus says the LORD.” (2 Chronicles 17:4, 7)  Nathan’s failure to listen to God first is particularly striking, given his office as God’s prophet.  But each man’s heart needed correction.  In verses 3-14, God extended their vision.  David’s cedar panels were actually a gift of God to a man who once had no more claim than following sheep and living, practically, in a pasture.  On this day, David’s heart and God’s heart were at odds.

This is significant.  Jesus never said to follow your heart.  He said, “Follow me.”

Psalm 33:10-11 The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples.  The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.”

What a wonderful Savior he is!

Stewed Poison

2 Kings 4:40  And they poured out some for the men to eat. But while they were eating of the stew, they cried out, “O man of God, there is death in the pot!” And they could not eat it.

The Sons of the Prophets were slicing and dicing, creating a wonderful stew, when someone sliced up a wild gourd into the pot.  The result was poison and another opportunity for God to show his grace and power through his servant Elisha.  This old story came to mind when I read the words of Amos this morning.

Amos 6:12 But you have turned justice into poison

How do turn justice into poison?  Amos 6:12  But you have turned justice into poison and the fruit of righteousness into wormwood.  The marriage of justice and righteousness is evident throughout the Scriptures and it is intended to a permanent relationship.  When justice divorces righteousness, the very ground of justice is swept away.  Then, in the name of justice, evil itself may be glorified.

The justification of evil is not new.  Israel had a problem with this long ago.  Our times are no different.  God is the very definition of righteousness.  If men will not have him,  there is no real and absolute ground for morality.  But the very guilt that requires men to pronounce an evil as just, is testimony that they are wrong.  There is such a thing as righteousness.  In fact, it is a person and he presses his case upon us daily.  When men invoke justice without reference to him, you may be sure there is death in the pot.  Only an act of grace and power can save us.

John 3:16… an act of grace and power.  What a Savior!