Wednesday, December 31, 2008

“Resolving to Change”

As the new year rolls around each year, we tend to stop and reflect upon all that has transpired in the past year. Then we look ahead and consider all that we would like to see different in the future. We feel bad about our past failures, sometimes even burdened down with guilt over them. So we resolve to change and do better in the new year. We make resolutions to lose weight, pay off the credit cards, get more organized or spend more time with family and friends. We are determined to stop drinking or smoking and swear that we are going to control our anger and treat those around us with more courtesy and respect. But despite all the tears we shed over our past behavior, despite all the resolutions we make, and despite all the new leaves we try to turn over, more often than not there is very little actual change that occurs in our lives.

For us to actuate true change what we really need is a good dose of “repentance.” I know it sounds like I’m getting all “religious” on you, but hold on a minute, for quite the opposite is true. My religious upbringing lead me to believe that repentance was about crying, moaning, and beating myself up over my faults and failures. While that may possibly happen as part of the repentance process, much remorse over our past failure can occur and yet not have one ounce of actual repentance take place. Just being sorry about something is not repentance and does not necessarily lead to change.

So if repentance isn’t about remorse, than what is true repentance? Repentance simply is “the changing of the mind, the changing of how we think“. True repentance happens in the mind, and not in the emotions. Wanting to change, knowing we need to change, or feeling remorse over our behavior will never bring us lasting change regardless of how many resolutions we may make. True change will only come when we repent-- that is change the way we now think, to a new way of thinking.

I use to be confused by the verse in scripture that says, “.. the Goodness of God leads us to repentance.” Romans 12:4 If repentance is being sorry for something, how could God’s goodness lead one to remorse? I now have come to understand repentance as the changing of the mind, thus truly seeing God's goodness, love, and grace will leads us to change the way we think about Him. In all situations, when our thinking is changed then our actions will be changed; when our actions are changed then our lives will be changed. Repentance works the same whether we are talking about spiritual things or physical things. We are changed spiritually when our minds are renewed from our way of thinking to God's way of thinking. Likewise, in the physical, the way we handle money will only truly change when our mind is renewed to desire freedom from debt more than we desire a new HD TV or whatever. If I think differently about food, it will change the way I eat. If I think differently about my wife and family, it will change the way I treat them. If I think differently about God, it will change how I interact with Him.

“And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind,” Romans 12:2

So if you are thinking of a New Year's resolution this year, pray and seek God for the “renewing of your mind." With a new way of thinking new actions will just naturally follow.

Friday, December 19, 2008

“Where Is He”

“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem saying, where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east and are come to worship him.” Matthew 2:1-2

The wise men from the east are the first recorded God chasers found in the new testament. They would have been called pagans and there customs considered abominable under Mosaic law. The word Magi as they are called in some versions of the Bible suggests that they may have been magicians, or sorcerers. How they got their revelation of the coming of a Messiah King is certainly speculative, but God will always reward hungry searchers. Regardless, the Magi came from a great distance, at great personal cost, seeking the newly born Messiah King. They had gifts in their hands and worship in their hearts. After a long and taxing journey they took their eyes off the star that had guided them thus far, and decided instead to seek man's wisdom. They stumble into Jerusalem, the city of the kings, asking, “Where is He?”

They were not the first, and they certainly weren‘t the last people to ask this important question. The prophecy that foretold that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem of Judea was given approximately 700 years before the time of Jesus birth. For all those years the faithful had been watching and waiting and asking this same question, “Where is He?”

There are few people who have ever lived any amount of time on this earth, be they atheist or the most religious among us, who have not ask this question from time to time. The atheist will look at all the hunger, disease, and natural disaster happening throughout the world, and use it as an excuse to say, “If He does exist, Where is He?” The faith-filled believer who has been waiting, praying, and believing for God to deliver a loved one from cancer will also ask, “Where is He?” Others will say, “my house is about to be repossessed,” or “my spouse has just died and I feel so alone, Where is He?” There are a myriad of situations, but the question remains the same Where is He?”

Why does it often seem that God is so slow to show up on the scene of our despair? Why is it seeming so hard to find Him? While a 700 year wait is not something we can physically or mentally accept, the fact remains that no matter how long it may take, or hard the process, God always fulfills his promises. He comes, however, according to His time and His purposes, not according to ours. “..while they were there the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son…” Luke 2:6-7 “But when the fullness of time was come, God sent forth his son, made of a woman, made of the law.” Gal. 4:4 God is not moved simply by our need. If he was, we would never have one. For as sinful mortal men, we are always in desperate need.

I wish I could say I had the answer to your particular question of “Where is He?” But the simple truth is, I can’t. I will however try to give you a few bits of encouragement to keep you on your quest to find Him.

There are times when there is nothing we can do but wait and earnestly pray for the day to be hastened when God's promises to us will be fulfilled. We see this in the stories of Simeon and Anna found in Luke 2:21-38. The scripture says Simeon “was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel.” Because his heart was so passionately bent on seeing the messiah, God had revealed to him “that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” And so he did. Likewise Anna a widow for 84 years was so determined not to miss her chance at her God encounter, that she did not even leave the temple “but served God with fasting and prayer night and day.” These two may have asked for many years, “Where is He?” But their passionate persistence paid off, for they both got to experience what Moses longed for, to see the face of God.

There are other times we must do more than just wait. We must be moved to actively seek Him with all that is within us or our opportunity will pass us by. Once they reached Jerusalem after traveling for so long and so far and still not finding the Messiah King, the wise men may have began to doubt the truth of the revelation that they had received, prompting them to ask, “Where is He?” But the simple fact remains, that had they stayed in Babylon, simply waiting and praying, rather than being moved to pursue Him, they would never have encountered him. But because of their persistence, these so called pagans also got to see the face of God, worship at his side, and present to Him their gifts.

So, where is this Savior King? Where is this promised Deliverer? He is as close as the end of a whispered prayer. But our usual self centered casual prayers may not move Him to our side as quickly as we desire. Just as a casual request from your child to come to them, may not move you from your easy chair, but upon hearing a crash, followed by a bloodcurdling scream, you will move from your place of rest to your child’s side at the speed of light, taking the door off the hinges in the process, likewise our cries of brokenness and desperation for Him moves Gods heart quickly toward us. If we, like Anna, were determined to seek the Lord night and day for as long as it took, lest we miss our encounter with Him, we, like her, would surely see His face.

“If from there you will seek (inquire for and require as necessity) the Lord your God, you will find Him if you (truly) seek Him with all your heart (and mind) and soul and life.” Duet. 4:29 Amp

“… the Lord is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him (inquire for and of Him, craving Him as your soul’s first necessity), He will be found by you;…” 2 Chron. 15:2 Amp

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

“No Room in the Inn”

“So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David., he went there to register with Mary , who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” Luke 2:4-7
Why was it that Jesus had to be born in a manger inside of a smelly old barn? Was it that there were no rooms in the inn? No, the inn had plenty of rooms, the problem was that all the rooms were already filled. Although the inn owner had lots of capacity to accommodate the birth of the baby Jesus, He had filled his inn with less important people and had no place left to entertain the King of all creation. He was so preoccupied with making a living and accommodating his lesser guests that he failed to recognize the life changing opportunity that was before him.
Before we get too judgmental of the inn owner, we must take a look at ourselves. How much room have we made in our own lives to accommodate Jesus? As Christians we talk about seeking God and wanting God to fill us, but how much room have we actually made for Him to do so? We spend our time and energy entertaining ourselves with all the lesser lovers that this world has to give. Counterfeits, like money, pleasure, and recognition seem to promise satisfaction but leave us with little inner peace and, even worse, leave us no room to entertain the Prince of Peace himself, Jesus Christ.
In order to have room for Jesus in our lives we must empty our “inn” of our lesser guests. There was nothing wrong with the other guests in the inn on that first Christmas eve, but when they were occupying the room where Jesus was meant to be, they should have been asked to leave. Likewise, there may be nothing wrong or sinful about many of the things we spend our time, money and energy doing, but if they are occupying the space where Jesus belongs, they also need to go.
The Bible tells a story of a woman who was in desperate need. Her husband had died and the creditors were coming to take her sons as slaves as payment for her debt. In her desperation she cries to the prophet of God for help. In response, the prophet asks her what she has in her house. She replies that she has nothing except a little bit of oil. The prophet then tells her to go and barrow as many empty pots as she can find and then pour the little bit of oil she has left into the empty pots that she has collected. Once the woman collects a sizable amount of empty pots, she does as the prophet tells her and begins pouring her little bit of oil into the large empty pots she has gathered. Vessel after vessel is filled to capacity until there are no more empty vessels left, at which time the oil from the widows small pots stops flowing. She sells the oil to pay her debt, saving her sons from slavery, and then they live on the remainder of the money received. (2 Kings 4:1-7)
What does this story have to do with having "no room in our inn" for Jesus? Well we discover in this story that the amount of emptiness that the widow woman collected, determined the amount of oil that she was able to receive. If she would have collected even more empty pots, she would have been able to received even more oil to satisfy her need. Likewise, the more empty we are, the more room we have for Jesus in our lives. The more full we are with other things, the less capacity we will have for Him. If we are to truly pursue Jesus, it is not enough just to say we are seeking Him, yet like the inn keeper make no room for Him. This emptiness is what Jesus was talking about when He said in Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven” Those who are "poor in spirit" recognize their empty condition without God and know that only Jesus can satisfy the void in them. If we desire a life that is filled with meaning and purpose beyond the ordinary, then we must learn to empty ourselves and like the "wise men" from the east, become hungry and passionate about "seeking Him.” Our emptiness creates the environment needed for a life changing, problem solving encounter with the King of Glory, just as the widow woman had. Being too busy and preoccupied, the inn keeper made no room for Jesus to be born in his inn. And because he made no room for Jesus, he missed his opportunity for a life changing moment with "Emmanuel" the God with us. He missed his opportunity to worship with the other seekers who came that night to bow before the new born King. What about you, have you made room in your "inn" for Jesus this Christmas? It's not too late.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled.” Matt 5:6

Thursday, December 4, 2008

“The birth of a blog”

I first began to write “The Watchman Chronicles” newsletter back in June of '02. Each issue had 4 to 6 short blog type articles on topics ranging from what the Lord was teaching me to political issues like abortion or the silencing of Christian free speech. I would print them off and mail or hand them out to family and friends. I wrote five issues of “The Watchman Chronicles” newsletter before unintentionally stopping. Then in late ‘07, I felt the Lord nudging me to begin writing “The Watchman Chronicles” once again. This time I changed the format a bit and began to e-mail them out. Recently my daughter approached me about putting “The Watchman Chronicles” on a blog sight. I was a bit reluctant at first, for my writing and English skills have a lot of room for improvement. Besides, do I really have anything to say that is worthy of the whole world's interest? After much thought and prayer, I came to the conclusion that, no, “I” don’t have anything to say that is worthy of the world's attention. However, I believe the Lord has some things He wants to say through me. So I surrender my apprehension to the Spirits leading, believing that God wants to use “The Watchman Chronicles” to lead you into a closer relationship with Himself. I confess that my opinion is a total waste of your time, but whatever the Holy Scriptures and the Holy Spirit may have to say to you are unfailing and of eternal value. My only desire and purpose for “The Watchman Chronicles” is to point you to Jesus, and to stir your spirit to seek Him. You don’t need any more religion, and we don’t need any more church in the manner that most of us are used to. In fact, unfortunately, church often obscures our view of God. As Tommy Tenney says in his book The God Chasers, “People don’t want doctrine, they don’t want tracts, and they don’t want feeble arguments, they just want Him.” I am in pursuit of Him, come along if you care to join me.