Monday, March 29, 2010

Wait and See or Weep and Plead?

When God saw what they (Nineveh) did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened. Jonah 3:10
But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. Jonah 4:1 Jonah went out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. Jonah 4:5

I have been in the book of Jonah for weeks. I knew that it was a word in due season for me. Everywhere I turned…someone was talking about Jonah. This morning as I was getting ready for church, it really hit me. Jonah had God’s message, but he did not have God’s heart.

Jonah had been sent to those who were not of his own people. In fact in approximately 50 years Assyria would come against Israel and take them into captivity. Even so, four times in the very short book of Jonah, Nineveh is called a great or an exceedingly great city. Archaeology is replete with the scope and historical significance of this ancient civilization. However, God was not impressed with their accomplishments; it was the state of their hearts that sent a putrefying stench heavenward. As always His mercy triumphs over judgment. God wanted them to repent so that He didn’t have to bring destruction to end their moral decay. Jonah took God’s message into the streets of Nineveh, “Forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” Jonah had God’s message, but he did not have His heart. He wanted them to perish. He wanted the word he spoke to be accomplished. He wanted his word to be validated and his reputation intact. He didn’t want to see his enemies blessed. He sat above the city under the shade of his arbor hoping against hope that they would be overthrown. He took a wait and see attitude.
How different would be the one who would come and make Himself of no reputation. Philippians 2:7 In Luke 19:41 we are told Jesus wept as He looked out over Jerusalem and prophesied the destruction that was coming upon them. Jesus grieved over the hardness of Jerusalem’s heart in Luke 13:34 and expressed His desire to gather and protect them like a hen her brood. In the Old Testament Ezekiel was commanded to tell God’s people that He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but would rather they turn from their way and live. God clothed in human flesh would weep and plead.

I’ve asked myself why this would be so pertinent at this time. We know that America is in peril. Not only from enemies without, but by our own moral decadence. The church itself is filled with those whose lives are indistinguishable from those who don’t even profess Christ. God may give us a hard message to speak forth, but He wants it spoken with a lump in our throat and hope in our hearts that it will be received. He doesn’t want us sitting in cold hearted judgment dispassionately waiting for His wrath to fall all the while more concerned for our own reputation than His.
In the past year, I had to speak a strong word of warning to someone. At first, I was burdened and greatly concerned praying fervently that they would give heed. They didn’t. I realize now that I have taken a wait and see attitude. Pride sits on a perch and judges, humility gets down on its knees and intercedes. I am going back to my knees.
I can shake my head over Jonah in chapter four. What is revealed about him is not attractive at all. However, on deeper reflection and conviction by the Spirit of God I realize that I can fall into the same self-centered trap. How about you?

MY PRAYER: Lord, I want to have Your message and Your heart. Jesus left me an example to follow and the Spirit to empower me. I thank you that mercy triumphs over judgment.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Hold Me Jesus

Awake in the Dark

Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the stomach of the fish, and he said, "I called out of my distress to the LORD, and He answered me. I cried for help from the depth of Sheol; Thou didst hear my voice. Jonah 2: 1-2

In chapter one Jonah is asleep in the light, but at this point we find him awake in the dark. God had appointed a great fish to swallow his disobedient prophet. I have heard it said that we can choose to disobey, but we don’t get to choose the consequences. Although Satan isn’t mentioned in this passage we can detect his presence. Doesn’t he fill our thoughts with what it will cost if we obey God? He will never breathe a word of what it will cost us to disobey.

I can’t imagine the horror and hopelessness that must have gripped Jonah as the reality of his predicament began to sink in. Oh wait, yes I can. I have experienced the sickening realization that my disobedience is exacting a higher price than I ever dreamed. Often our thoughts are self-centered and not focused on how we have spurned the direction of our God. We count the loss to ourselves and not the loss to His kingdom. Finally, Jonah says, “While I was fainting away, I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple.” 2:7 The focus finally shifts from the consequences to the heart of the matter, which was the matter of Jonah’s heart. He seems to be coming to the place of compliance and the acknowledgement that there is no way out except for the Lord’s salvation.

Our God resides over this whole potentially disastrous story in majestic splendor. He saves the sailors physically and more importantly spiritually despite the terrible example set by Jonah. He rescues Jonah from certain death through a manner so incredible that it becomes a sign of the death, burial and resurrection of the coming Messiah. Matthew 12:40 Only God can come into the middle of our folly, redeem it, and use it for His glory.

Then the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah up onto the dry land. Jonah 2:10 Deliverance can be messy and this was no exception. I wish more could be said for Jonah. As his story unfolds, we see Jonah never did get his attitude straightened out. I know better than to sit in harsh judgment on him. I am just glad that our God uses imperfect people to carry out His purposes. I am glad that He is a God of second chances. I am so glad that within the hidden folds of our story redemption can be found.

MY PRAYER: Lord, thank you for your patient and longsuffering attitude towards your people. Thank you for redeeming the messes that we make when we reject your plans for us. Thank you Jesus for being obedient and drinking an unwanted cup for our sake. You are beautiful beyond description. Amen.

Monday, March 22, 2010


Everything from justin pae on Vimeo.

Is this your heart cry? I want it to be.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Asleep in the Light

Keith Green was a prophetic voice to my generation. His voice is still speaking, still convicting.

Asleep in the Light

And the LORD hurled a great wind on the sea and there was a great storm on the sea so that the ship was about to break up. Then the sailors became afraid, and every man cried to his god, and they threw the cargo which was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone below into the hold of the ship, lain down, and fallen sound asleep. So the captain approached him and said, "How is it that you are sleeping? Get up, call on your god. Perhaps your god will be concerned about us so that we will not perish." Jonah 1:4-6

I find this scenario in Jonah revealing and convicting. Here are heathen sailors doing all they know to do to survive in treacherous seas and it isn’t working. They begin crying out in fear to their “higher power” and find no relief or help there either. In their frantic fight for survival they find Jonah snoozing in the hold of the ship. Can you imagine a lost person coming to you and imploring you to call on your God to see if perhaps He will show some concern for their situation? I am not going to point the finger at Jonah without knowing 3 are pointing back at me. Am I the only one who can be appalled at my own lack of concern for the plight of those around me? Sometimes the Holy Spirit has to shake me out of my snoozing indifference saying, “Carol, call on Me, cry out to Me on behalf of those who are perishing Speak to them of My saving grace.”

There is such pathos in the captain’s hope that perhaps “your God will be concerned about us so that we won’t perish.” We truly have the good news that our God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish.

God help me, I can see myself in the lyrics of this Keith Green song. Please pray for me and let me know how I can pray for you.

Asleep in the Light
By Keith Green

Do you see, Do you see
All the people sinking down
Don't you care, don't you care
Are you gonna let them drown

How can you be so numb
Not to care if they come
You close your eyes
And pretend the job's done

"Oh bless me Lord, bless me Lord"
You know it's all I ever hear
No one aches, no one hurts
No one even sheds one tear

But He cries, He weeps, He bleeds
And He cares for your needs
And you just lay back
And keep soaking it in,
Oh, can't you see it's such a sin?

Cause He brings people to your door,
And you turn them away
As you smile and say,
"God bless you, be at peace"
And all heaven just weeps
Cause Jesus came to your door
You've left him out on the streets

Open up open up
And give yourself away
You see the need, you hear the cries
So how can you delay

God's calling and you're the one
But like Jonah you run
He's told you to speak
But you keep holding it in,
Oh can't you see it's such a sin?

The world is sleeping in the dark
That the church just can't fight
Cause it's asleep in the light
How can you be so dead
When you've been so well fed
Jesus rose from the grave
And you, you can't even get out of bed

Oh, Jesus rose from the dead
Come on, get out of your bed

How can you be so numb
Not to care if they come
You close your eyes
And pretend the job's done
You close your eyes
And pretend the job's done

Don't close your eyes
Don't pretend the jobs done
Come away, come away, come away with Me my love,
Come away, from this mess, come away with Me, my love.

MY PRAYER: Lord, I repent before You. I have been so well fed and yet I can be so numb. Help me not to close my eyes and pretend the jobs done. By your Spirit rouse me out of my apathy. In Jesus’ saving name, amen.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Be Thou My Vision

Asking For Wisdom

James 1:5-8 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. James 3:17But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.

One of the real gifts to evangelicals was Henry Blackaby’s Bible study Experiencing God. He taught that God speaks through His word, prayer, and our circumstances. He urged the body of Christ to realize that God is still issuing invitations to His people to recognize His activity in this world and how to know when He is inviting us to join Him. God clearly invites us through James to ask Him for the wisdom we lack. We do need to be in God’s word, but knowledge alone is not enough. Knowledge is raw information, but wisdom knows how to use it. Wisdom sees how to apply it to the complexities of life. So ask in faith and don’t doubt His ability to give or your own ability to receive. Sometimes we fall into wrong thinking: “I don’t want to bother God, He is so busy.” Actually we know from Isaiah that He runs the universe seated on His throne. He knows when a sparrow falls and the number of hairs on your head. You are not exasperating Him with your neediness. Have you ever considered that He allows the needs and pressures in your life to draw you into that place where you press in to a deeper relationship with Him? We may think, “I’m not worthy so I don’t think He will speak to me.” We focus on our worthiness when we should be focusing on His great generosity and love. Do you need wisdom? Ask in faith and don’t doubt His goodness. Stand on His Word!

MY PRAYER: Lord, I have asked for wisdom. I thank You in advance that the answer is coming. I need Your great presence in my life to guide me. You are so gracious. Give me ears to hear, eyes to see, and a heart to obey and believe when Your answer comes.

MY CONFESSION: I have asked for wisdom. You promise to give it. My mind and my heart are alert to hear and stand fast on the wisdom that comes from above. I will depend on Your Holy Spirit to illuminate Your answer to my heart and mind. I wait with faith and anticipation. I stand on Your word!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

El Shaddai

The God Who Sees

Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it. Psalm 37:4-5 NASB

My husband and I had made a huge move in our lives. We had given up well paying jobs in Dallas, Texas to live in the mountains of North Carolina. We had a real sense that God was in it and so we made such a life altering change. My husband had been an industrial engineer with the Federal Reserve. He really wasn’t happy in his work. He had a growing desire to work with his hands. Rell wanted to become a builder. He was hired onto the crew of someone who was a well established contractor with a reputation for excellence. As an apprentice, my husband’s income was very modest. We had a two year old daughter and an infant son so while we were getting by, our finances were tight.

It was nearing Easter and I went into the only dress shop in our little town. There hanging in beautiful display were gorgeous Easter ensembles for little girls. There was a dress, a coat, and a hat. They were adorned with smocking, lace and embroidery. I stood there admiring them and realizing that there was no way we could afford anything like that for our little girl. I said in my heart, “Lord, they’re beautiful, but it’s okay, I know that we can’t afford it.” I didn’t mention it to anyone.

A week before Easter I went to the mailbox to find a package hanging on the outside of the mailbox. It was from my mother who lived in another state. She had gone to an outlet store and picked the exact outfit that I had admired the most even though she and I had very different tastes. I was so overwhelmed. It was as though the God of the universe wanted me to know like Hagar in Genesis 16:13b "You are the God who sees me," for she said, "I have now seen the One who sees me." I was grateful to my mom, but in my spirit, I knew that God had shown me His heart and hand. I was learning as a young Christian how intimately acquainted He was with all my ways. I could sense His delight in showing me what an amazing God He truly is. In Daniel 2:21-22 we learn "And it is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men and knowledge to men of understanding. It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with Him.” He also would take the time to fulfill a little heart wish in a young mother. Isn’t He beautiful?

MY PRAYER: Lord we are told to delight ourselves in You, and we do. You are beautiful beyond description; You are too marvelous for words.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Safely Home

"I will go before you and make the rough places smooth.” Isaiah 45:2a

Yesterday I received a phone call from my husband. I was in an adjacent community about a half an hour from our home in the mountains of western North Carolina. It was the day I work as a volunteer at a local ministry. He said, “I don’t want to alarm you but you need to know that it is snowing quite heavily here and it is sticking. Even my truck was slipping until I put it in 4-wheel drive.” I drive a Honda that has front wheel drive so he got my full attention. It was raining where I was so I was completely unaware of the dangerous road conditions that were getting worse by the minute. He then began to tell me what I would encounter at every step of the way. He knew because he had just made the trip. He told me what speed and gear to be in as I approached the danger zones. He said, “Carol, if someone comes up behind you don’t allow them to pressure you into speeding up.” He knows me well. I hung on every word and followed his advice like my life depended on it.

The road from our home to town needs to be driven with careful respect on a good day, but in the snow it becomes treacherous. I can tell you I prayed without ceasing as I saw cars abandoned on the shoulders of the road and the parade of 3 emergency vehicles, two of them ambulances from clearing a wreck at the bottom of a long hill. I knew I had an even steeper hill to descend which was the last danger spot between me and home. I kept rehearsing my husband’s instructions on how to get safely down it. When I got there a man was blocking the way. He told me that several cars were sideways on the road and I would have to take another long and curvy side road. Fortunately a big suburban had just been diverted too and I was able to get in its tracks which made it easier.

My home and driveway never looked better. I felt jubilant, but I prayed for those I knew were still trying to make their way home.

Reflecting on that experience made me realize that what my husband did for me mirrors what Christ did for us. He has gone before us and has given us His word and His Spirit to guide us. In 2 Timothy 4:18 Paul expresses confidence that the Lord will protect him from every evil and bring him safely to His heavenly kingdom. I would have been incredibly foolish to resent or ignore my husband’s instructions. He wanted to get me safely home. How much more does our heavenly Bridegroom desire to do the same?

MY PRAYER: Lord thank you for going before us. Thank you for your word, your warnings, and your Spirit to guide us through and around every danger. Thank you that because we are following and trusting Christ we will arrive safely home. In His name, amen.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Be Magnified

Surrounded with Favor

For it is Thou who dost bless the righteous man, O LORD, Thou dost surround him with favor as with a shield. Psalm l5:12 And the LORD gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians. Exodus 11:3 NASB

Thirty-six years ago we moved from Dallas, Texas to a small rural town in North Carolina We left behind two well paying jobs with a sense that God was leading us to a new place. We had fairly large payments on the 70 acres we had purchased. We had no problem paying them and at times even doubled our payments. However, when we moved it became evident after many months of living off our savings and finding nothing but low paying work that we needed to refinance.

We had to engage a lawyer to complete the paper work. I don’t really remember how we came to choose the lawyer that we did, but evidently we didn’t do enough research. A couple of days before our scheduled appointment a neighbor told us that we had picked the most expensive lawyer in the area. We were so discouraged and so we bowed our heads and asked the Lord for His help in the whole process.

We entered our lawyer’s office with great trepidation. He smiled at our little girl and asked us some personal questions about why we had moved to the area. He left the room and came back with some legal documents for us to sign. You can only imagine our surprise when he told us that he was foregoing his fee. He told us that we reminded him of the days when he and his wife were first starting out and he wanted to give us a break. Ten minutes later we were standing absolutely stunned on the sidewalk outside of his office with money in our hand. Neither one of us can remember the exact amount, probably under a hundred, and yet it seemed like a small fortune to us. We were astonished, humbled, and grateful. We kept looking at each other wondering if we were going to wake up and find that we were dreaming.

Neither one of us can explain that whole incident apart from the favor of God. Not many people had good things to say about this lawyer and yet he had treated us with kindness and favor. He admonished us not to tell people what he had done for us. As long as he was alive we didn’t, but you can know that we told people he was very good to us.

According to the dictionary favor is something done or granted out of goodwill, rather than from justice or for remuneration. The Hebrew word for favor is ratson and means to show delight or acceptance. I have since found myself in situations where I have asked God to give me or those I love favor in the situations that we find ourselves. I have faith to do so because I see the biblical precedent in Noah, Daniel, and Esther’s lives just to name a few. I have more than one story to share and I’m sure you do too. Remember to thank Him.

MY PRAYER: Lord, thank you for the favor that you show to your children. Thank you for those unexpected kindnesses and markers along the way that encourage us that you are intimately involved in our daily nitty-gritty’s. We delight in you and you watch over us with tender mercy. It humbles us Lord. In Jesus’ name, amen.