Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Relentless Pursuit

We held a men's retreat for the men of our church.  The theme was, "The Greatest Thrill, Becoming Fisher's of Men!"  It has stirred me with a thought that has continued to linger in my head.  It is like when we get a tiny break in the clouds and a little sunlight breaks through.  It is as if a tiny glimpse of the heart of God broke through and I can't get past it.

The ray of light that penetrated my heart began with my brother sharing out of Jeremiah 16 a passage that pointed to the Judgement and Redemption of Israel.

16 “Behold, I am sending for many fishers, declares the Lord, and they shall catch them. And afterward I will send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain and every hill, and out of the clefts of the rocks.
Click to read the entire chapter

In the same way God pursued men for judgement, He also pursues them for redemption.  In fact the judgement of God is nothing other than the Lord revealing to men their need for deliverance from their sins.  It is the way that God pursues men that I have not been able to escape.  He pursues with a Relentless Pursuit.  That is the character and heart of God.  This passage ends with God expressing His desire for men to know His power, His might, and to know His Name Yahweh!

When Jesus then says in Matthew 4:19 "Follow Me and I will make you fishers of of men."  He is revealing His heart of relentless pursuit of men!  And chooses men that were already in a relentless pursuit of fish.  They could fish ALL night and not catch anything without giving up and still let down their nets one more time at a strangers suggestion.

We so easily miss the heart of God in His word and in our lives.  There is a depth to Him that makes it hard for us to fathom when we love to swim at the surface and in the shallow water.  In the depth of His character we see He does have a heart that is relentless in His pursuit of men, but WHY?  He has a relentless love that manifests in a relentless pursuit of men.  It is why we see time and time again God pursuing men with His faithful and gracious love.  John 3:16 "For God so LOVED, He SENT His son."  God has a relentless love for you and me!  God has a relentless love for your neighbor and lost sinners.  Do you?

Jesus always connected love for God with love for others.  The great commandment reflects this reality with perfect clarity.  All the law and prophets hang on loving God and loving others.  Peter after being called to become a fisher of men goes back to catching fish after Jesus death.  Jesus meets him again on the very shore he called them out of their boats the first time.  He connects for Peter love for the Lord with a love for others.  He asks him "Peter do you love me?"  to which Peter proclaims he does, then Jesus commands him "Then feed my sheep." (Read passage here)  Jesus is trying to connect love for the Lord and love for others.  Peter's life is no longer marked by betrayal, but rather a relentless pursuit of men as a fisher of men.

It is such an incredible thing when a fish gets out of the fish bowl, picks up a fishing pole, and starts to fish because he loves God and others more than himself.  A little scary too!

Lord help us to love you and others enough to pursue you and others with a relentless love that causes us to pick up the fishing pole and proclaim the greatness of your love this week....Amen!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Why do I Doubt God

There is a tea house atop one of the world's most daunting trails to reach it.  I can only imagine someone being led to embark on that trail by a friend without them telling them how long the trail was or what surprise awaited them at the top.  "Just trust me it will be worth it!", might not be enough to get some to go the distance.  I think this is really the issue between us and God.  His promise is not enough for us because we struggle to really trust Him.  We need way more details.  Like how long is this going to take?  How safe is it?  What exactly is up there..."Oh really, well what flavors do the serve?"  We fundamentally struggle to trust anyone but ourselves and that is why we think we need way more than the beautiful promise of Romans 8:28.  Actually it is not a promise....It is something we KNOW already!

Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

I find that if everything does not go my way right away, then I don't believe that God is really going to work this out for my good.  Yet so many times, God has to bring me to the point of it being out of my hands before He is willing to step into the situations of my life.  I can't imagine how much despair and a sense of everything being wrong that the disciples and followers of Christ must have felt seeing Jesus arrested, then beaten, then seeing the sentencing of execution, then actually seeing Him nailed on the cross.  I can only imagine how hard it would have been to believe that God was in complete control and that the greatest work God had ever done was being done right in front of their eyes.

I just have a hard time admitting how little faith I have, and slow to recognize how little I have sought for God to give me the gift of greater faith and trust in Him.  To my shame I am all too often content with little faith and a much too small view of God.  So here is to all those out there like me that long to draw in a full breath of Christ's trust in His Father and see our fears fade like distant thunder.  If you are seeing things go different than you would have ever written the script, take heart it is in these moments when He takes us down paths that none of us would choose that He does what none of us can, so we can taste what we have never tasted before.  Tea Anyone?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Praying prayers that are scary

I was trying to explain something the other evening and it has been still clinking around in my head like a rock in a tin can.  It rattles around in there but won't quite come out.  The thought is this: What do prayers of real faith actually look like?  Do you only pray prayers that feel safe or is there an element of risk, yet you press in harder?  I often find myself praying in such a way that I "leave room for God to answer however He wants"  It sounds spiritual and holy, yet often all I have done is leave room for Me to save face.  I don't want to send a prayer up that gets shot down and comes crashing back moments after it is sent up.

I get the point that Jesus asked if there was any way for this cup to pass from Him, but not His will be done.  He yielded to the Fathers will.  That was still a daring prayer knowing what was about to happen immediately after he finished praying.  I see many times of Jesus engaging with much bolder prayers than I would ever pray and with a much greater quickness of answer than I could imagine.

To tell the lame to walk, the blind to see, and the dead to rise would bring me to a crisis of belief to utter such words over a person in any of those conditions even if I sensed the Lord wanted me to.

Back in December I was challenged by a friend that prayed for a need in our church to be met today.  He kept asking for it to be done...Today....Today Lord!  I didn't know what to think about it.  Was it brash and arrogant, or was it a greater picture of what faith really looks like.  Well it was Christmas Eve and as many of you know one of the needs of the church was to have paved parking places for some of the members who are a little less sure footed to have a safer exiting of their cars than the rock parking lot we had could provide.  Well, that very day a whole crew of pavers pulled into the parking lot unsolicited to meet up with the owner of the company and it worked out that they poured the first section of our parking lot on Christmas Eve.  Today was answered on a day I was not really believing God was going to do anything significant.

The passage we read in our Life Group this past Sunday was Mark 5:35-43
35 While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler's house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” 36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 37 And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. 38 They came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40 And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside and took the child's father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was. 41 Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” 42 And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. 43 And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

It struck me how bold Christ was to speak such words believing the Father was going to do just that, at just that moment.  He put all of the people out of the house that was covered with grief!  I have trouble praying prayers for healing when death seems more eminent than life and I don't even fathom praying for the dead to come back to life.  Yet Jesus just speaks the words, Little girl I say to you, Arise, not affected one bit by the reality that had dried up everyone else's faith in that moment.  If it is impossible to please God without faith, then I pray that God would help me to pray more of those white-nuckled, God pleasing prayers that leave me no out but to rely on Him and trust in Him completely.  May we see God do things that resemble more of what we read in the early church in Acts.  May we see God inhabit the prayers of his people.  May I see the Lord teach me to pray with more faith....Today

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