Monday, December 14, 2015

Called By Name!

Yahweh is the One True God, and there is no other! He has been working and showing Himself to mankind, His creation from the beginning. For instance, take this passage in the Book of Isaiah, "Who says of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be inhabited,’and of the cities of Judah, ‘They shall be built, and I will raise up their ruins’; who says to the deep, ‘Be dry; I will dry up your rivers’; who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd, and he shall fulfill all my purpose’; saying of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be built,’and of the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid.’”Cyrus, God's Instrument, Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped, to subdue nations before him and to loose the belts of kings, to open doors before him that gates may not be closed: “I will go before you and level the exalted places, I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut through the bars of iron, I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hoards in secret places, that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who call you by your name. For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name, I name you, though you do not know me. I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me, that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things" (Isaiah 44:26b-45:7). Now, that doesn't mean a whole lot until you look at the first few verses of Ezra, "In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing: “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. 3 Whoever is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem" (Ezra 1:1-3). Now, obviously there is a connection. God calls Cyrus out to do something, and he does it. The crazy awesome part about this is that even though Isaiah comes after Ezra in the Bible, it was actually written about 140 years before it! That means that God called out Cyrus by name and said what he would do about 1000 years before he was born! Isaiah didn't know who Cyrus was! Cyrus didn't exist yet! However, God knew each one of us before He made us. Through the prophet Isaiah, God showed Cyrus who He is. Josephus even wrote to back up the biblical account that Cyrus did indeed read Isaiah's prophecy, and through that, He shows all of us who He is. He is God, and He holds all things in His hands!


Injustice is an unfortunate fact in this world, and it is something I really get upset about (you can ask Courtney). There is no nation that is free from it because there is no nation that is without people, and there always seems to be corruption born of greed or some other motive. Habakkuk poses a question about this to God in the first chapter of his book, " O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you 'Violence!' and you will not save? Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted" (Habakkuk 1:2-4). Yes! Exactly! Why does this go on, God? God's answer is telling. He tells Habakkuk that He is working. The injustice Habakkuk sees in Judah will not go unpunished, though God's action will not look like Habakkuk expects it to, "Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told" (Habakkuk 1:5). God then goes on to tell Habakkuk that He is raising up the Chaldeans (Babylonians) to come down upon the transgressions of Judah. He also says that He will hold the Babylonians to account for the evil they do as well. Reading verses 12 and 13, we know that Habakkuk accepts the answer, even if he doesn't like it. I think this is something we have to accept as well, that God will not always do what we think should be done, and why should He? He is God after all! He is sovereign, and we certainly do not see everything that is going on, even in our own lives, much less our nation or the world. We can certainly come to God with any question or any uncertainty, but we have to be ready to hear what He will say, even if we cannot understand it or don't like it. He is God, and He is good. With the answer given, Habakkuk responds in worship, which is completely correct. He is worthy of our worship, even when we don't get the answer we want. It is a beautiful picture of how we ought to relate to our Creator when we have a question or don't understand what is going on in our life.
I don't understand why there is so much corruption in the United States, but I do know that God is sovereign and good. He will handle it, however He decides to. If you have something you don't understand, go to God with it. Just be ready to hear Him, whatever the answer is. Think on that.

Sitting By The Fire

"When Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and put them on the fire" (Acts 28:3). After the shipwreck on Malta, we see Paul gathering firewood. In Paul's company were other, more physically capable men, sailors, natives, etc. Yet, it is Paul up and gathering firewood. It is not to say the others were not doing anything, but this old missionary was pitching in. He could have sit there by the fire to be served, but he was serving, exactly how Jesus had taught. When Jesus taught, He meant for us to obey. Discussion, even debate, can be useful, but ultimately, obedience is to follow. In this case, service. Are we following in the tradition of Jesus and Paul, or do we sit by the fire too much, letting others gather the wood. Think on that.


I was on my way to work today, and the song Lighthouse by my favorite band, Rend Collective came on. As I started listening to the words, I began to wonder how many Christian songs could be mistaken as or are self focused. Lines like "my lighthouse" or "you will carry me" could be taken with a focus on self. While it is important to remember what God has done, is doing, and will do in our individual lives, I think it is more important to remember that He is God, what He is doing in this world, and what He can do through us to glorify Himself. When Jesus spoke, He spoke often of the Kingdom and what it was like as what God is bringing about. When He spoke to the individual it was often to reveal who He was (miracles) and/or bring them to repentance. Yes, God does love us to the point the He died for us, but if that is where our attention ends, we are missing God and rather selfish. It is like reading Ephesians 2:8-9 and forgetting verse 10 even though it is right there.

Armed Or Unarmed?

The Navy Chaplain Corps decided that chaplains will be non combatants. Basically that means that we don't have weapons. It even goes so far as to prosecute any chaplain who picks up a weapon in a war zone. Personally, I wanted to option. I don't think it was out of the question to defend myself, and I doubt that any enemy is going to take the time to look for my insignia before they started shooting.
We are in a spiritual war, whether we like it our not, everyday, and I think it makes even less sense to go out into that war unarmed. We have two weapons with which to combat the Enemy, the Word of God (Sword of the Spirit) and prayer. Too often, Christians disarm themselves out of laziness or business or pride (thinking they are alright without it). In doing this, they give Satan an in and make provision. For the flesh to take over and have its own way in them. It is subtle at first, but one day you wake up and realize that you've been broken down without even seeing it. Today, arm yourself with the Word of God like I'm about to do by getting in the Bible, and talk to God. Don't go into the war today unarmed. Think on that.

The Naming

Thanks to my wonderful wife, I am reading through a book series while at work called Pellinor, by Alison Croggon, who has been influenced by J.R.R. Tolkien enough to name one of the bards in her series Tulkan. So far the first book, The Naming, has quite nicely kept at bay the hours of boredom that naturally come with working a job that, for the most part, calls on you to wait for something to go wrong. By God's grace, this does not happen very often. About halfway through The Naming, a situation comes about in which one of the main characters has to make a choice. He has the power to heal a child who is about to die, but he knows that if he does it will likely bring attention to the group, who is trying to go unnoticed, and endanger if not bring to ruin the group and their mission. Without hesitation, he heals the child. At first even the parents are suspicious of his powers and rather ungrateful. One of his companions later asks, "Was that wise? If we are trying to hide... Mr. Dringold obviously suspects us." He responds, "If that is all that matters: no, it was not wise. However, what is wisdom, if it means allowing that little boy to die?" In the same way, I think we as Christians are called to do good, even if it may cost us. The Scriptures recount Jesus doing this often. He healed people, even when it seemed to bring Him unwanted attention from the religious leaders who meant to do Him harm, and He is to be our example. Make sure to take the time to notice the good you can bring to someone and do so, even if it costs you. Think on that.

The Power of Mercy

I don't know about any of you, but I am not a naturally merciful person. I thought for a long time that if someone hit you then the best way to show them that was a bad idea is to hit them back harder. Maybe I was right about that, but whether you think that's true or not, the bigger picture and most important thing is not to teach them that was a bad idea at all. The bigger picture is that God be glorified in what you do. Now I don't know if God is most glorified in you taking another punch. Maybe He is. Expand this idea to all realms of wrong doing and think about the one doing wrong. Before we were saved, we didn't even know what sin was. How could we be expected to fight against it? Many people are still there, lost. They cannot see that they do wrong. Sometimes all they see is that they get punched in the face by a Christian who tells them God loves them before hitting them again. Maybe instead of hitting them back, yelling at them, condemning them, or whatever else we just throw a ton of mercy and love at them, and then we let God take up the sword when it's time fore that. What does that look like in everyday life? Maybe we don't freak out or get offended when people swear. Maybe we shrug off the crude humor. Remember that they can see you walk out of the room. I don't like it either. When I hear God's name taken in vain, it's like fingernails on the chalkboard in my soul. Think about when Jesus hung out with tax collectors and prostitutes. I think He probably heard things He didn't want to either. I may be wrong, but I don't think He walked out of the room. People will notice when you don't take part in the gossip after a while. They will notice very quickly when you don't cuss. They will notice even more quickly when you refuse to be around them. Maybe if you hang out with them and be their friend, you can share the Gospel with them and watch them move from death to life. "And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—" (Ephesians 2:1-5).