Tag Archives: Jesus

Even Though…

Sunday Psalm – God is the One, part IV

Even though I walk

through the darkest valley,

I will fear no evil,

for you are with me;

your rod and your staff,

they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4 NIV)

God is the One no matter what.

We all go through hard times and difficulties. No one is immune. Religion and spirituality are no shield from tough circumstances. It’s not even a question of “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Bad things happen to everybody.

But God is unchanging. The God we call worthy when the sun is shining – He’s the same God in dark clouds and driving rain. The God we praise on Sunday is the God of Monday mornings.

We all have our “Even though” moments, when everything seems to go wrong. It’s tempting at that point to yell at God and wonder where He is, but then we miss the point. Whatever your “Even though” may be, God is still God in spite of it.

God is the One who brings me through.

There is often no magic escape to the hard times in life. There’s no ejection handle, no parachute strapped to our back. David writes, “even though I walk through the valley…” not around it. We don’t get to avoid trouble in our lives. Sometimes the trouble is exactly what we need to go through in order to get to where God wants us to be.

God is the One who calms my fears.

When trouble comes, and my eyes get fixed on the storm and the winds and the waves of life, I need something bigger, something stronger, something deeper and lasting to fix my eyes on. Like the lighthouse on the shoreline, God gives us that beacon of His presence in the midst of the storm. Think of Peter, walking on the water. As his gaze turns to the violent weather, he begins to sink. As he realizes the danger of his situation, he cries out to Someone greater.

God is the One who is with me.

The arm of Jesus lifts Peter from the waters “immediately.” God is never distant in the midst of the chaos around us. We may not notice His nearness. We might be distracted by the waves and winds. But God is there, close at hand, close enough to grab us “immediately.” David thinks about this Shepherd-God who stays close by His flock. The shadows and the noises of the valley may put fear in the hearts of the sheep, but they are never forsaken, never abandoned.

God is the One who fights my enemies.

David thinks of the rod and the staff. The rod was like a club the shepherd carried to fight off any threat to the sheep. If you’re being told that the “rod” is how your spiritual leader has a position of authority to discipline the sheep, then I submit that you’re being misled. The shepherd isn’t there to beat the sheep. The rod isn’t meant to strike the flock. The rod is meant to strike anything else that would try to sink its teeth into the sheep. There’s a place for discipline in the church, no doubt. But if you feel beat by your spiritual authority, maybe you don’t have a real shepherd. The rod is a comfort to David, because David knows that his Shepherd is fighting off anything that would try to devour him.

God is the One who pulls me back.

Unlike the rod, the staff is for the sheep. The shepherd’s crook at the end is meant to catch the sheep going astray. I remember learning to swim at the local pool. The lifeguards had a long pole with a green plastic hook they called a shepherd’s crook. If someone is drowning, flailing, or-God forbid-floating in deep water, the crook is there so the lifeguard can reach in and pull them to safety. So it is with God as our Shepherd.

God is the One whose oversight comforts me.

Everyone sooner or later has a boss that drives them nuts. Maybe it’s a personality clash, but more often than not, it’s an issue of management style. Again, I’ll point to those so-called shepherds who think they carry a rod in order to beat the sheep. Note in all these verses the servant-leadership of the Shepherd David is thinking about. This Shepherd doesn’t treat the sheep like they exist to serve Him, even if that really is the case. “The good shepherd cares for the sheep.” The Shepherd gives up His time and energy to provide for the needs and the comfort of the sheep in His care.

It seems backwards to think of a King who stoops down to help the beggar and the needy, a Lord who takes the towel from the servant and washes the dirty feet of His subjects. The God of the Universe should be worthy of our devotion and attention, our service and worship. And yet He took the form of a man, made Himself of no reputation, and let Himself be put to death on a cross like a criminal.

Even though He did nothing wrong, Jesus submitted to our whims, because He was submitted to the Father’s will. The Son of God was forsaken and abandoned by His Father, left in the valley of the shadow of death, beaten with the rod of wrath that our sins deserved, so that we could be caught up in the Shepherd’s crook of mercy and grace, and comforted in the presence of God.

God is the One who comforts me, pulls me back, protects me, stays with me, and calms my fears in the midst of everything I go through, no matter what. 

31 Million Flavors

Worship Wednesday

Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ-the Message-have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives-words, actions, whatever-be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way. (Colossians 3:15-17 MSG)

Fellowship is one of the key components of worship – both the things we do to express God’s worth, and the times of singing praise as a congregation.

Individual times of worship and devotion are important, of course. We spend time with God in a relationship. Like any relationship, there should be some intimacy, some “you and me” time. We see Jesus as our example in this: if He took time away from other people to get alone with God, then certainly we might benefit from doing the same.

But Paul points out that our worship of God is something we do together with others. Paul did not write just to individuals, like Timothy or Titus. He wrote to churches. He wrote to congregations. He wrote to groups of people and said “This is how we all do this together.”

This is part of why I love a good Bible study group. When I say “a good group” I mean a place where a bunch of different people can discuss the Scriptures and how they apply to our lives. Good groups have a strong facilitator who can allow discussion and multiple viewpoints without getting off track or derailed by a vocal opinion.

Some groups are hand-fed and led by a teacher who lectures. I’ve been in groups where the only time anyone other than the leader is allowed to speak is to read a particular verse and not one word more. I suppose that ensures that only the accepted teaching gets brought to light, but I didn’t come for a sermon. To each their own; that’s not my cup of tea.

20120912-231352.jpg

I scream, you scream, we all scream for theology! Wait, what?

But when a Bible study is facilitated well, you get to experience a Baskin-Robbins of theology. It’s all good ice cream, but you get a variety of flavors, some you like and some that aren’t your favorite. You test it, hold to what’s good, ignore the bad (or maybe discuss it if someone is saying something opposed to Scripture). Everyone has something to offer, and you hear perspectives you’d never expect – some of which might speak profoundly to your heart as you look at a Scripture in a new way.

And you get to build relationships with others.

The relationship we have with God is great, and we affirm that every time we sing a song about how “You are all I need.” But that’s not entirely true, nor is it biblical. We read in 2nd Peter the following statement about “all we need.”

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. (2 Peter 1:3 NIV)

The relationship we have with others in light of our common faith is essential. God did not make us loner Christians. He relates to us individually, but He also relates to us and calls us to relate to each other in a church Body. We all have something to offer, some part to play in the story God is telling in our local church. (See 1 Cor 12 about parts of the Body fitted together.)

Worship alone, yes. Worship together, definitely. See God and others from a different set of eyes. Discover a new perspective. Hear something new from God, through the voice of your brother or sister in Christ. Sing a song that ministers to your heart, and let it touch the need of another. Share the comfort God has given you in past times of distress with someone who is hurting right now. We were made for God, and we were made for one another.

So get a little pink-spoon taste of what all the Body has to offer. They’re free. You’ll find way more than 31 flavors of awesome God.

God is the One, v3

Welcome back to this Sunday Psalm series looking at Psalm 23, considering the various ways David reminds us that “God is the One we need.”

He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake. (Psalm 23:3 NASB)

True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction. (Psalm 23:3 MSG)

God is the One who restores.

The Hebrew here is a word for turning something back or away, but not necessarily a return to a starting point. A lot of languages are like word pictures where a particular word can have multiple meanings based on the context it’s used in, and this is no different. This word can mean “to come back, to carry something back, to deliver something or fetch something, to recall, recover, refresh, relieve, rescue, retrieve.”

I get the picture that the Shepherd finds this lost sheep going off the path, headed astray, and He picks it up to bring it back to the flock. He’s not bringing it back to the same place; the flock is on the move. But He brings it back so that the lost sheep can follow along with the rest, on the paths that the Shepherd is taking.

Isaiah said of us that “all we like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way.” Isa 53:5

Sheep aren’t to be trusted with directions.

Plz can has Google Maaaaaaaps?
Sorry, that’s baaaaaaad.

God is the One who gets in the mess with us.

The good news is that God doesn’t leave us in the muck where we often find ourselves. David writes “He lifted me out of the ditch, pulled me from deep mud. He stood me up on a solid rock to make sure I wouldn’t slip.” (Psalm 40:2 MSG)

The Shepherd doesn’t abandon the sheep, doesn’t say “He got in this mess, he can get himself out.”
“How? you say. In Christ. God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21 MSG)
“But the Lord has laid on Him (Jesus) the iniquity of us all.” Isa 53:6

God is the One who guides.
David continues the thought here. The Shepherd doesn’t merely get the sheep out of the mess they’re in. The Shepherd is taking the flock somewhere. He has a destination in mind, and there are specific paths that lead to that goal. The Shepherd is not telling the sheep that “all roads will get you where I want you to be.” He only chooses the right way. “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6
Similar to the very first point from two weeks ago, the first way that “God is the One,” this reminds me that God is not shrugging off sin with a “boys will be boys” and a shake of his head. He calls our going astray an act of rebellion and open hostility. He isn’t willing to accept and call good whatever path we choose. And why is that?

God is the One who is worthy.
He guides us for His name’s sake. It’s not simply because He cares for the sheep, but He cares about His reputation.
“I will not share My glory with another.” Isa 45:8
“And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12 NASB
“For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Php 2:9-11 NASB
He protects His reputation. He makes sure everyone knows He is all He claims to be. It’s about Him, not us. His love and care is not because of something we’ve done to deserve it. It’s because of who He is. He stoops down to shepherd us, not because sheep are special, but because He is humble. “Your gentleness has made me great.” Psalm 18:35

God is the One who is true.
The Message puts “for His name’s sake” as “True to Your word…”
His promises and His mercies come to us because He is faithful. He will not go back on His word. We don’t earn blessings like a paycheck, by doing good deeds and cashing in at the Bank of Heaven. We don’t go to God with a list of what He owes us since we’ve done so much for Him. But we do get to go to Him based on His faithful and true nature. Like the child who reminds the father, “you promised,” the responsibility and the commitment are on His end. God our Shepherd is reliable even if we are not.

God is the One who gets into the mess with me, lifts me out, and points me on the way to truth, which is why He is worthy of praise.

Morning Snack #2

35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? – Romans 8:35-36 NASB

OM NOM NOM
Fig Newtestaments, maybe?

I’m thinking of this verse, pondering the greatness of the love of Christ, and remembering the past/present/future style of the first Morning Snack.

There’s nothing in my past that can disqualify me.

“While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us…” Romans 5:8 (and here’s the passage in the Message).

“…anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone…” 2nd Corinthians 5:17 (MSG)

If God showed us such love when we were His enemies, cut off from Him by our sins… what makes me think He’s going to not accept me now that I belong to Him?

There’s nothing in my present that can separate me.

“I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.” – Hebrews 13:5 (NASB, but here’s the Message again)

“I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” Galatians 2:20 (here in context)

You can’t get un-crucified. There’s no take-backs. If you came to Christ, He is in you, and God has a “No Return” policy.

There’s nothing in my future that can overwhelm me.

“In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NASB)

“Greater is he who is in you than he that is in the world.” 1st John 4:4 (NASB).

God grants us grace that trains us to say, “No” to sin and He limits the strength of the temptations and trials we face.

None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us. – Romans 8:38-39. 

Morning Snack #1

One type of recurring post I would like to include on this blog is reflections on Scripture… something short and sweet.

A little morning snack, if you will.

OM NOM NOM
They always said I was supposed to get the Word inside of me.

This was the subject of my meditation this morning, and I thought I’d share what came to mind:

Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude. (Colossians 2:6, 7 NASB)

I see three tenses here, and questions arise in my mind.

Looking back, I was taught the Gospel. As a result, I received Christ by grace through faith. When that happened, I was rooted in Him. Have I wavered from that teaching? Have I left my first love? Is my foundation still sure? Am I still committed to the relationship like I was at the beginning?

Looking at the here and now, am I still being built up in Him? Am I being ever more securely established in my faith, or am I letting distractions get in the way? Also, am I grateful for what God has given and what God is doing? Am I compelled to respond to Him in praise and worship?

Looking forward, am I following after Him? A good friend of mine often taught that our present closeness to Jesus doesn’t matter so much as the direction we’re walking. The most spiritual person could be moving away or getting left behind if he or she is not continuing after Christ. The most vile sinner might be doing well by drawing near, even though that may not be obvious to the rest of us. No matter where I am in relation to Jesus, whether intimately close or coldly distant, is the path I am walking on leading me toward Him or away from Him?

Also, credit where credit is due, you can find more about those Bible cakes here.

Use Your Words!

Just do it carefully, it’ll be fine!

Sometimes you know exactly what you want to say, but you can’t quite find the words.

(Usually they come to you ten minutes after the conversation in which you wanted to use them.)

Add in a language barrier, and you’re in trouble!

In 14 years living in Japan, I utterly failed at learning to speak Japanese. I say this to my shame. It would have made for so many better interactions with the Okinawan and Japanese people I and my family encountered during our time there.

The one thing I learned to do was to sing songs in church in Japanese. We had a number of songs that had been translated, and we were given the “rumaji” — Japanese words in romanized alphabet, like this:

Shuyo ten wo hiraki ima chiwo yusabiri

I studied Vietnamese (and later Chinese), so I understood the importance of getting the pronunciation right. I learned to hold the ‘n’ the length of an additional syllable, like “te-n” in the example above. I tried really hard to imitate the “r” that sounds more like a soft “d” or “l” (hence the racial stereotypes about eating flied lice and such).

At first, I was nervous. How am I going to sing and not understand what I’m saying? Won’t everyone tell immediately what a pretender I am?

But the chance for our Okinawan and Japanese members to sing in their own language brought them so much joy that I quickly overcame my fears. Maybe I sounded like “Engrish” to them, but they welcomed my attempts and we worshiped together.

My wife and I played a special set of songs for a Women’s Conference, and the first two songs were strictly English. The Okinawans seemed to enjoy it; they clapped, they smiled, they lifted hands, and so on. But when we started singing Matt Redman’s Blessed Be Your Name, I had a Japanese copy prepared. We got to the pre-chorus, and I sang out, “…When the darkness closes in, Lord, still I will say…”

Shu no mina o homeyo…

There was a visible and near tangible wave of emotional reaction. The ladies’ faces lit up with joy and gratitude at the chance to sing their words, and not the words of another.

I want to create moments like that as often as possible.

At one point, I wrote a song that was popular in our church, but we wanted to make it available to others on the mainland. I was able to find a translator–oddly enough a tall Scandanavian girl named Naomi who spoke fluent Japanese–and we worked together to find the right phrases.

That word… I don’t think it means
What you think it means.

A lot of songs get translated, but the words don’t always match up to the original, or in the effort to make a perfect translation, too much gets shoved into the timing of the music.

Naomi talked about how a lot of translated songs bothered her, because the two sets of lyrics really didn’t communicate the same message.

Ours did.

It wasn’t possible to get a word-for-word translation, but I had Okinawans tell me, “I was really happy to hear that the English and Japanese matched up so well.”

When I studied Chinese Mandarin, I had an idea for a song, and again I aimed to get it right. I love singing in another language, providing people the opportunity to worship in the familiar, in what they understand.

This is our Savior and King, the righteous Lamb of God slain for us.

This is our God, who calls us to Himself and makes our relationship possible.

This is a message I want to get right in any language.

我的神 / Wo de Shen (Link to SoundCloud where you can listen to the song)

你是我的神
在你的面前
因你的伟大
我只好跪下
你不但是神
也是我的王
你让我过来
因此我崇拜

耶稣 哦 耶稣
神的公议羔羊
耶稣 我的救主
你是我爱的王

Lord, You are my God
Here before Your face
I can only kneel
Because You are so great

Not only are You God,
You also are my King
It’s You that I revere,
for You’ve called me to draw near

Jesus, oh Jesus
Righteous Lamb of God
Jesus, my Savior
You are the King I love

Song: Jesus the Righteous

He was the man who ended an epidemic with no thought for his own gain.

In 1955, Dr. Jonas Salk went public with news of the success of a polio vaccine.

Three years earlier, there was a severe outbreak of polio, the worst in U.S. History. About 58,000 cases were reported that year. But polio was an ongoing crisis affecting America and other nations long before that.

Epidemics of polio had become regular events, usually in the summer. The disease caused paralysis and death for thousands of people, mostly children.

A 2009 PBS documentary described the disease as the second greatest fear affecting Americans, behind the atomic bomb.

Salk conducted a trial of his hopeful vaccine that was the first of its kind, with 300,000 workers of various types and 1.8 million children in the experiment. The polio vaccines he and others developed are credited with reducing polio cases from about 100,000 per year to under 1,000.

He was hailed as a miracle worker. His goal was prevention and cure, not profit. Regarding a patent on the vaccine, he is quoted in a 1990 televised interview as saying, “There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?”

Such selflessness and compassion is impressive.

Such a hope in the midst of despair was worth celebrating.

“My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” (1st John 2:1-2 NKJV)

“Propitiation” is a big and unfamiliar word. It means “to gain or regain the favor or goodwill of.” It is the atoning sacrifice for wrongdoing, the paying of the debt owed as a result of reckless or harmful action.

The Bible teaches that humanity is broken, crippled and riddled with a disease of the spirit called sin. We were created for fellowship with God. But the wrong that we do–and more than that, the way our hearts have been twisted and warped away from our original design–separates us from God.

Jesus didn’t just create the vaccine for sin.

Jesus Christ, the solution to the epidemic of sin

He IS the vaccine.

He’s the cure to the disease, the solution to the epidemic, the answer to a worldwide problem… a problem that doesn’t just affect some of us, but affects every man, woman, and child on Earth.

The Message paraphrase puts 1st John 2:2 this way:

“When he served as a sacrifice for our sins, he solved the sin problem for good—not only ours, but the whole world’s.”

Like Dr. Salk referring to the patent, this spiritual vaccine is for everyone. There’s not a person on Earth who is exempt from the offer.

Where does this put us?

Some who have received this “vaccine” may act as if they are more loved, more deserving, more important, or simply better than everyone else. This is foolish. I’m not a better person than anyone else just because I got a flu shot (or a polio vaccine). If I think I have somehow earned God’s favor or deserved this gift of grace, then it’s no longer a gift, really. It becomes a wage I think I’ve earned by what I’ve done, and Scripture is clear about what we’ve earned by what we’ve done. (Spoilers: Rom 6:23 – the wages of sin is death.)

Some who have not received or even do not desire this ‘vaccine’ act as if Christians all look on nonbelievers with a sense of superiority. “Oh you benighted fools, who have not been cured of your sin. How sad for you, who do not know how bad off you are… Too bad you’re not as wise or spiritual as we are, who have received this medicine for our souls!”

I assure you, that’s not what we (generally) think. That’s not how we feel. Like I said, there may be some who act this way, but they miss the entire point of the Good News — GRACE.

God’s grace is amazing. It takes us, cleans us up, adopts us into His family, and begins the work of changing us into what God has designed us to be. We have hope that one day we’ll be like Christ, and we have power through grace that says that today we can be like Him. His love is transforming us; it has cured us of the disease of sin, and it works now to abolish the effects of sin on our lives. More than that, it strengthens us and inoculates us so that we can be spiritually healthy from now on.

That’s something worth singing about.

Link to SoundCloud: Jesus the Righteous
(Warning: there’s a lot more guitar and noise on this one compared to previous songs.)

What incredible love You have shown, bestowed on me

That I should be named and counted among the children of God

Now I have this awesome hope, one day I’ll be like You

Purify me, Lord, cleanse me, make me new

 

Jesus the Righteous, the atoning sacrifice

Taking away my sins and the sins of the world

Jesus the Righteous, You came to give me life

Now may I glorify You in everything that I do

Jesus the Righteous

 

What incredible power to transform and make complete

The work of the cross, the hope of glory, Christ in me

Now I have this awesome grace, today I’ll be like You

Teach me, train me Lord, as I follow You

 

Now I have this awesome love, it’s making me like You

My Savior and my Friend, I live to worship You

Song: I Can See You

New song post:

I Can See You (link to the song on SoundCloud)

Have you ever seen a child hiding behind a parent when the child is in trouble?

Have you ever been that child? (Don’t answer!)

It can be scary to own up to failures and mistakes, especially when we’re facing someone we have wronged. As little children, hiding behind Mom or Dad was a place of refuge, knowing that they were going before us and could protect us if someone was really upset.

About twelve years ago, Jami and I were discussing how sometimes as Christians, when we go to God, we sort of hide behind Jesus the way that small child hides behind a parent. We know how screwed up we are, and we know all the ways we’ve blown it. Surely we can’t just come to God. We need to take cover, so that when He looks, all He sees is Jesus.

Jesus is the righteous one, not us. Jesus is the accepted one, not us. Jesus can come to God without fear… not us.

Or so goes the logic.

That logic is wrong.

We are called to come boldly before the throne of grace (Heb 4:14-16). We are declared redeemed, cleansed, purified, made holy (1 Pet 2:9-11). We have become the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus (2 Cor 5:21).

God paid a great price to get you, because you are part of the special treasure and precious possession He wishes to set on display for His glory. Jesus Christ’s righteous life and sinless blood are the payment by which God has purchased us.

Think of it this way.

A young man saves up money and puts forth effort to purchase a beautiful engagement ring.

He finds the perfect moment, gets down on one knee, reveals the surprise, and proposes marriage to the woman he loves. She gets excited and says yes.

And from then on, whenever he looks at her, she holds up the receipt for the ring.

“Don’t look at me. Look at what you paid to get me. I’m not good enough. I don’t deserve your attention. But remember the price you paid for this, so that you can stand to be around me.”

What sort of relationship would that be?

Come boldly. He said you could. Come stand before Him as the object of His affection… not because of any merit on our part or any sort of pride that says we deserved this.

Come, simply because He loves.

I Can See You (lyrics):

 

In the darkness I can see your wounded soul

Hiding from the eyes of fire

From the fear that’s holding you

I can see you   Child, I know your every part

I can see you   I can see inside your heart

 

And I like what I see  My child, I love you

Will you let Me set you free

From the fear that’s holding you?

 

In the brightness you stand behind My Son

You’re afraid that I’ll see you

That I’ll see what you have done

I can see you   Child, I know your every part

I can see you   I can see inside your heart

 

And I see you clothed in white

I have thrown your sins away

You can come into the Light

You don’t have to be afraid

 

I have seen your tears and pain

I have compassion for you

All the hurt you hold inside…

My heart hurts for you too

I can see you   Child, I know your every part

I can see you   I can see inside your heart

 

And I see how hard you try

How you’ve worked to be set free

My grace will sanctify

Child, you can rest in Me

And I see your heart’s desire

Is to please Me in every way

Let Me hold you in My arms

Let Me wipe your tears away

 

I have heard your desperate plea

There is nothing now to fear

You can boldly come to Me

My precious child, draw near

My treasure, draw near

Rain Over Me

Sow for yourselves righteousness;
Reap in mercy;
Break up your fallow ground,
For it is time to seek the Lord,
Till He comes and rains righteousness on you. Hosea 10:12 NJKV

Rain Over Me – SoundCloud

I was playing Hide and Seek with my kids the other day. They’re quite talented, but I excel at cheating. While I was counting, I kept messing up… skipping numbers, counting past the agreed upon number, forgetting what number I was on.

That way, I got them to talk and tell me I was doing it wrong.

And them talking told me roughly where they were hiding.

Jonathan is the sneakiest of the bunch. Deborah and Justin do pretty good at hiding, but Jonathan–it’s like he can fold himself up into a little cube and hide anywhere. He’s a ninja.

True story: When he was seven years old, we had the following conversation:

“Dad, I think I want to be a scientist who studies rocks when I grow up.  …or maybe a ninja.”

“Jonathan, that’s really neat. But being a ninja is hard.”

“I think I’d make a great ninja.”

“Really? Why is that?”

“Well… Ninjas have to be good at climbing, and I’m great at climbing. I climb the trees around our house better than any of the other kids.”

I knew this to be true.

“And ninjas have to be good at sneaking, and I’m great at sneaking. I was hiding in the bushes right next to my friend, and he didn’t even know I was there!”

He thinks for a moment.

“Ninjas have to be good at martial arts, too. I have to work on that.”

Back to Hide and Seek… Jonathan lurks in a cabinet. Jonathan climbs up on the shelves above the refrigerator. Jonathan squeezes himself into a small cabinet at the bottom of our entertainment center. It’s ridiculous how easily he hides anywhere he wants.

Then it’s my turn to hide, and I decide to have some fun. Justin (our seven year old) is now the “seeker,” so I make it easier on him. I try stuffing myself into the cabinet where Jonathan hid. Sadly, I’m a little pudgy compared to him, and so try as I might, I can’t quite fit in there. My head is sticking out.

But the point of Hide and Seek is to be found. That’s part of the fun.

In his book, God Chasers, Tommy Tenney writes about hide and seek with his daughters (if memory serves). And he equates the game of hide and seek to our relationship with God.

There are times when we seek God but He seems hidden, far removed, silent. Tenney talks about how he stays hidden while his daughters are enjoying the game, but there comes a point where they become desperate. Maybe Daddy has really left. Maybe he’s not here anymore. Maybe I’m all alone. 

Their tears start to flow and their laughter turns to crying. And the heart of the father is stirred to make himself known, to burst out of hiding and rush to the child, to catch them up in his arms and reassure them that “I have been here all along. I would never leave you nor forsake you.”

Tenney talks about that cry of desperate need and how it catches the Father’s heart and, in a way, commands His attention.

Can you imagine God that way? Can you see the loving Father who sometimes hides His face? Can you picture the tug on His heart when we become desperate and cry out for Him? Can you see the “Hider” turning into the “Seeker” as He rushes to scoop us up and reassure us that all will work out, everything will be fine? Can you hear Him whisper, “It’s okay, I am here. I never left you, even though you didn’t know where I was.”

Hosea 10:12 was a theme verse for our church back in 2001 (if memory serves).  We really focused on the thought that God is out there just waiting to be found, and as we live out righteousness and experience His lovingkindness and mercy, as we break up the hard ground of our hearts in our desperation for Him, we can trust that He will turn and respond to our cries. He will come and rain down His righteousness upon us.

“Draw near to Him, and He will draw near to you.”

“Seek the Lord while He may be found.”

“It is time to seek the Lord, till He comes and rains righteousness upon you.”

We seek God, calling out to Him… until we discover He is coming toward us — the father running out to meet the prodigal child — ready to embrace us and pour out His love on us again.

I always want to surrender to that love. I always want the “ground” of my heart to be broken up, softened, ready for His work. I always want Him to come and pour out the rain of His Spirit over me.

Rain Over Me

You are all I need

Jesus, You’re my everything

You’re the One I’ll seek

For all my life

 

Your all-sufficiency

Answers my dependency

Your unfailing love

Is now my life

 

I will seek You with the rising sun

And serve You till the day is done

Jesus, every day I’ll praise Your name

I will follow You in righteousness

To know Your lovingkindness

Seeking You until I catch Your heart

And You rain over me

 

Rain over me, rain over me

(repeat)

 

The Exhibit

We are each a display case for God’s glory. We are meant to be a visible image of the invisible God.

This leads to two questions for personal reflection:

1) What sort of case am I?

I always make the mistake of going to the store hungry. I go with five or ten things in mind and leave with a basket full of everything that looked good. I have one dinner plan figured out and intend to buy what I need to make it, but suddenly I have a week of meals planned (and not a few snacks).

Most of the time, I hesitate to try new things. I know what I like and I stick with it.

My wife is a bit more brave.

She’ll come home with a new product and open the package, ready to give it a chance.

And immediately she gets upset.

“Are you kidding me? They needed this huge bag for that little bit? Half the bag is empty! And look at this box! It has three inches of empty space at the top! What did I spend my money on?!”

The outside doesn’t always reflect what’s within.

The gimmick of false advertising is true in other areas of life. Things aren’t always what they seem.

Nice, but not TOO nice.

The display case isn’t there to attract attention. It’s meant to reveal what’s inside. But sometimes our ‘displays’ can be calculated to look good, drawing the eyes of the audience to us instead of to God.

Imagine going to a museum for a once-in-a-lifetime exhibit. You pay your money, get your tickets in hand, and head inside. When you get to the viewing room, you’re treated to a series of gold-layered, jewel-encrusted, ornately crafted cases. They’re so extravagantly decorated that you can’t even see the contents. Sure, they look great, but what’s the point?

Jesus spoke of the hypocritical Pharisees as whitewashed tombs made to look pretty but full of death and uncleanness. They were cups washed on the outside to look useful but full of spiritual dirt and grime. They did their good deeds for people to see, so that everyone knew how holy they supposedly were.

Sure, they looked great, but they missed the point.

The case can attract attention in another way.

A few years back, we heard about a zoo on Okinawa, and we were excited to take the kids to see the variety of animals. Our kids had not been to any stateside zoos yet, so this was a unique experience for them. We arrived and started the tour through all the various pens and cages, and they were delighted to see living animals they had previously only read about.

But my wife and I were shocked.

The cages were dirty. Most of the animals seemed miserable. The grounds appeared untended. Our kids didn’t know any better, but we had seen well-kept zoos before.

We couldn’t enjoy the sights because the poor condition of the displays stole our attention from the animals we came to see.

Paul wrote about vessels and containers in a house. He said some were made for honor and some for dishonor. Paul encouraged his protégé to live a godly life and thus be recognized as a vessel of honor.

A friend of mine modernized this analogy by talking about porcelain.

“A Lladro figurine is made of porcelain, and so is the toilet. Which would you aspire to be compared to?”

Take your pick.

If the display case is covered with filth, or if it’s covered with dust from lack of attention, no one will see what’s within. Inside, there may be great treasure or beauty, but the ugliness on the outside keeps people away.

I think of the many times I have seen people pushed away from the gospel by the hatred, pride, or condescension of the messengers. Similarly, one grave mistake or angry word can ruin our reputation and close the door of opportunity to share the good news.

Sometimes we need to dust off that display case!

We don’t want fake “picture perfect” lives or public good deeds to become a misleading distraction. But we also don’t want people to refuse to look closer based on the mess they see on the outside.

That leads to the second question:

2) What is on display in my life?

20+ years captured on display

Military veterans are often presented a “shadow box” upon retirement. The design and contents of the shadow box tell the whole story of a military career. All the awards and medals the individual won will be displayed. Rank insignia occupy a prominent spot. Unit patches may be shown, and various emblems or badges that identify specialties will also be featured. A folded flag is often the centerpiece.

Imagine a beautiful hand-carved wooden case with a rich varnish that shines in the light. There’s an engraved golden plate on the bottom with rank, name, date of enlistment, and date of retirement. Underneath that is a funny quote selected by friends and peers. The pristine glass window reveals a lush navy blue velvet interior.

And it’s empty.

Or worse yet, the few medals and stripes leave more navy blue empty space than they cover up.

What achievements are in my shadow box, I wonder.

Are they all based on what I used to be long ago? “I used to lead worship… I went on that missions trip one time… I led a Bible study for a few months…”

Are the contents of my display case even worthy of public viewing?

Think of the peril of public ministry. Far too often, we see the decline and fall of some notable preacher as the secret doors of their ‘display case’ are opened for all to see. It’s easy for me to point a finger and judge. My life isn’t in the public eye.

Yet the world around me is walking past the exhibition of my life every single day. Is there something in that case that tugs at their attention? Is there anything of value, anything of interest? Or do they only see what they’ve seen before?

The display case isn’t made just to hold stuff from years past. It’s not made for great achievements I will do “someday.” And there’s no secret compartment that is completely hidden from the eyes of others.

What sort of case am I setting out for the world to see?

What have I put within it?

I was made to be a visible image of God, an exhibition for the eyes of the world to see His glory.

They’ve got their tickets in hand.

Is the display worth their attention?