The Urgency of Death

Just last week, one of my high school classmates died unexpectedly.  I’m getting to “that age” when more and more of my contemporaries are experiencing health issues– diabetes, heart problems, cancer, arthritis, even early-onset dementia– but this friend seemed to be in good health.  She had just been celebrating the birth of a grandson, and other milestones.  Death sometimes comes when (and to whom) we least expect it.  It is shocking, saddening, and frightening all at once.  

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Death has an urgency that pushes other concerns away.  Death is final; permanent.  Death is powerful– we can’t cheat it, defeat it, or comprehend it.  Death frightens us, angers us, and mystifies us.  We begin to look at our own life and ask questions–Who am I?WHY am I?  What makes me “me”– individual and uniquely different from everyone else?  Is there a purpose to my being– to my being “me”, “here” and “now”?  How can I find and fulfill that purpose if it exists?  Do I have an eternal destiny after this life?  If so, how can I know what it might be?  Can I change that eternal destiny?

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Some people argue that our origins are accidental; our uniqueness is merely a random generation of genetic code; our purpose non-existent or self-determined; and our destiny no more than dust. They avoid talking about death–and the meaning of life. They want to “live in the moment,” but they don’t want to ask any questions of the past or future. And they mock anyone who does. Many of them hear me or read what I write and dismiss me as intellectually lazy, gullible, or crazy.  I’m all right with that, as long as they will be intellectually honest enough to admit to the questions; and open enough to acknowledge that there may be more than a quick denial as an answer.  Crazy– well crazy is as crazy does, I guess…I’ll let my actions answer that one.

Death is powerful and mysterious, but I believe that God is more powerful, and omniscient– he has already crushed the power of death, and invites us to view death from a different perspective.  When we take everything– including death– to the Lord in Prayer, he takes the weight of it, the fear of it, the pain of it off our shoulders and carries it to the cross.  HIS death overshadows even our own, in its power to overcome. The urgency of death is not that it is the end of all things.  The urgency of death is that it signals the end of our opportunity to recognize and live out the purpose of this short life.

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If that isn’t an urgent reason to pray for those you love, I don’t know of a better one…

It’s also an urgent reason to pray for those around you who are grieving the recent loss of a loved one.  And don’t just be someone who prays..be an answer to prayer– reach out with a card, a note or e-mail, or spend some time with them.  Let them know that a) their loved one is not forgotten, and b) neither are they!

Christmas Prayer

Father, this Christmas, I want to

Confess that I have not really comprehended what Christmas really means. There are times throughout this year when I have not made “room in the inn;” I have not welcomed Christ in the “least of these.” I have not followed the star, or listened to the message of the angels. I have not come to the manger with gifts. I have been like the people of Bethlehem– asleep and unaware of the miracles taking place under my nose. I have not acknowledged that you are

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Here. Not just that you came. Not just that you lived, and died, and rose again. But that you are present with me–Now! Every moment! Forever. Here. Not just beside me, but indwelling…living in me and working through me, flawed and cracked vessel that I am. Living in and working through other ordinary people You send into my life (as You send me into theirs).

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Righteous Redeemer, help me to understand better Your Wisdom, Your Power, Your Glory, and Your Holiness. You did not come to rescue us from some failed plan or cosmic mistake. You are altogether perfect in Your plan of Salvation. Even when I cannot understand Your ways, they are higher and better than anything I can imagine. And Christmas, with all its wonder and glory and contradiction was never a surprise to YOU. It wasn’t Plan B. It was timed down to the minute, scripted to the very last detail, and part of the eternal plan of Salvation.

Inspire me again with the wonder of Your Mercy and Grace. Help me to experience the Joy of the Shepherds, the Awe of the Magi, and the Hush of Heaven as You left Your throne to become a little lower than the angels who shouted Your Glory into the darkness.

Send me, as you sent the Shepherds, to make known Your wonders, as you sent the Angels to tell of Your Good News of Great Joy, and as you sent Your Son into the world to make reconciliation. Strengthen me as an instrument of Your Grace, as a Witness of Your Might, and as an Ambassador of Your Love.

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Transform my thinking. Build my Trust in You, that I would spend less time fretting about my daily needs and the unforeseen circumstances of my days, and more time praising You for what you have done, and will do, and are doing. Help me to embrace Your

Might, Your Majesty, and Your mystery. That the same voice that spoke galaxies into being and the same right arm that raised up empires was wrapped up in rags and laid in a Manger, meek and tiny. That Your glory was hidden in a cattle stall in a quiet village of a conquered nation. That Your plan to bring us life involved Your own painful death at the hands of people You had raised up to power That all of Eternity could be changed in a single instant, even as the Earth slept.

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Accept my adoration, incomplete and uncomprehending as it is. And equip me to Act in ways that bring You Glory and Honor. Advance Your Kingdom, and Thank You for making it possible to be reconciled to You.

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Sovereign Savior and Gracious Shepherd, let Christmas be born in me anew this season. Let me grow in Faith and Obedience. Let me shine like that first star– drawing others to worship You.

Amen.

…And the Word WAS God!

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In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:1-5; 14

Emmanuel– God WITH us. The Baby Jesus in the manger is the same Jesus on the Cross; the same Jesus who was involved in the Creation of the universe.

We love seeing the Baby Jesus in the manger. We like the idea of Jesus, the good teacher and friend. We even bow our heads to honor the Jesus of the cross. We pray to Jesus, acknowledging that He is the God-Man who came to save us from Sin. But sometimes, we get so comfortable seeing Jesus lying peacefully in the manger or serenely enduring the pain of the Cross, that we ignore His absolute Holiness and Power.

Jesus was fully human– he ate, slept, cried, felt cold, and felt pain. But He is also God– fully Divine; fully Sovereign. He doesn’t force us to worship Him– not now, anyway. Someday, though, every knee will bow, and every tongue compelled to confess that Jesus is the Ultimate Authority in Heaven and on Earth (Philippians 2:10-11). Larger than life; more permanent than history; eternally Sovereign.

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We pray to a God who is so awesome and glorious that no person can see His face and live. And yet, we pray to a God who so loved mankind that He came and walked among us, lived among us, and died among us. We look at Baby Jesus in the manger– we see the face of God. And when we look at our neighbors and friends, we look at those made in the image of God– we see those beloved of God; those Jesus came to save.

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This is not new theology. This is basic Christianity. But sometimes, in the bustle of the “Season, ” we forget the wonder and the miracle that is the very reason for it all. God is NOT distant. He is not looking for reasons to reject or condemn us. He reaches out to us EXACTLY like a baby reaches out– seeking to be held close. He is as close as the person sitting next to you at the dinner table, or sharing a seat on the bus. GOD! Not a theology; not a list of do’s and don’t’s. Not an esoteric idea. A Presence; a living Christmas Present! An eternal Gift of Love! One with arms and legs; a twinkling eye and infectious smile.

In this season of Advent and Christmas, may we let the Glory of God fill us with awe and wonder. And may we let the Love of God fill us with hope and joy. May our prayers be like the sweet singing of the Angels on that Holy Night so long ago. “Glory to God in the Highest! And, on earth, Peace among those with whom He is pleased.” (Luke 2:14).

…And the Word Was With God…

We get excited about Christmas coming–we put up trees and decorations, and often a manger scene or Creche, with Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus in the manger. But Jesus didn’t start as a baby. Long before He ever came to Bethlehem, Jesus was one with the Father. He ruled from the heights of Heaven. He saw the first dawn of the first day on Earth. He walked in the Garden with Adam and Eve. He was a witness to all the events leading up to His own birth.

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We like to picture Jesus as a baby. We like to picture Him as a man. We like to think of Him as a good teacher. And these are all correct. But we miss the full picture if we never imagine Jesus with God before He ascended to Heaven. The Ascension was Jesus returning to His rightful place, after the work of Salvation was accomplished in chronological, Earthly time. Jesus walked with His disciples. He ate with them, He laughed and talked with them. But He spent His earthly life talking and walking and relating with His Father, too. Nothing separated them, until that moment when Jesus became Sin for us so that we could be restored to a relationship with the Father.

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On the Cross, Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken ME?”(Matthew 27:46 or Mark 15:34). God was not just “sending” His son as an emissary or a benign sacrifice to demonstrate how much He could love us. Jesus came, fully intending to be a living sacrifice. He endured the “imposed” separation of a human body, bound by time and place, separated physically from the glories of Heaven. But this separation– this knowledge of being forsaken, banished to Hell and Death–was what Jesus came to take upon Himself. The one who had eternally existed in loving harmony with the Father and the Spirit, had to be ripped away from Himself, forsaken by the Father and Spirit as one condemned. The one who had lived a perfect life of obedience had to be shunned as one who was unclean and unworthy of life, so that WE could have the right to be adopted as sons and daughters of God. We can be “with God” because He chose to endure the inconceivable pain of the rejection that we deserved. But there is another miracle of the Birth of Jesus that we overlook.

At the moment of Jesus’ birth, He was Emmanuel– God with US. Just by entering into a human existence, God already fulfilled His promise to bring us to Himself. When Jesus ate with His disciples, God was eating with them. When He laughed with them and walked side by side with them, the fullness of God was there. By His death, He continued “with us” to the grave and beyond. There is not a single moment of life –or death– that God, through Jesus, has not experienced and shared with us. In His resurrection, Jesus broke the power of Sin and death to separate us from God. Even the power of God’s justice cannot condemn those who put their trust in the finished work of Jesus, because Jesus has paid the debt in full. There is NOTHING that can ever separate us from God’s love and His loving presence. The Word was with God– and that same Word was with us. That same Word lives with, and in, and through us throughout our days on earth. And, if we have put our faith in this same Emmanuel, we will be “with God” throughout eternity.

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I need to meditate on this truth today. Even in the Holiday season, I can feel very separated from God–surrounded by stress and worries; focused on my own struggles and goals; chasing after a temporary joy in the busyness of preparations. Jesus has not forsaken me to return to Heaven– He is no less “with me” for being once again “with God.” No, He doesn’t physically walk beside me and eat with me, or talk audibly to me. But His presence is constant, steady, and promised.

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The Word– the same Word that spoke galaxies into being; the same Word that conquered Death and Sin–is “with us!” Today. Every moment! We will never have to cry out, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” And we know this because Jesus CAME! He didn’t just “say” it. He gave us “His Word.”

In the Beginning Was the Word…

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. 11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not. 12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13 which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

John 1:1-14 (Authorized KJV)
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We celebrate Christmas as the “birth” of Christ. Yet, the Bible tells us that Jesus (Christ) was in the beginning with God: Jesus had no beginning and no end. He is eternal with the Father and Spirit. We call this season before Christmas “Advent”– we await and celebrate, not the birth of a new being, but the advent of His coming from Heaven to earth.

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Jesus came to Earth for many reasons– some of which are given in the Bible, and some of which are likely beyond our comprehension. He came to live among us as a man of flesh and bone (John 1:14); He came to bring life and light (vv.4-9); He came to live a sinless life, which He sacrificed as a ransom for the sins of the those who repent: and He came to serve others–to model the kind of service that God desires from us (Matthew 20:28). Jesus came in obedience to the Father (John 6:38). Finally, Jesus (as a member of the Triune Godhead) came because “God so Loved the World” (John 3:16) –He Wanted to come! The Advent was part of God’s perfect plan. It was not Plan B, developed after the fall of man. It was so “from the beginning.” It was foretold and prophesied. It was planned down to the tiniest detail.

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Jesus has always been. He has always been The Word of God. Jesus speaks. Jesus listens. When we pray, it is natural to speak words to The Word. Jesus created us to communicate. Unlike any other creature on earth, mankind chooses to communicate through complex and subtle language, as well as through art, music, dance, architecture…even food! We chatter about trivia; we choose to wear certain colors to express our moods; we make silly faces at infants and delight in their own facial contortions.

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Prayer is so important, because it is the essence of expressing our hearts and minds to the very one who created us to BE communicators. God listens through all the words of all the languages we use (or the non-verbalized thoughts, groanings, etc.) to hear our true heart-cry.

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This season, we take time to reflect on just what it means that Jesus was “In the Beginning…” as well as in the manger. We reflect that “before Abraham was”–He IS (John 8:58). We glory in the knowledge that He is the same yesterday, today, and forever! (Hebrews 13:8). These “words” give us life and hope and joy– not just now, but throughout all the years of our lives.

What a reason to say just a few words today in prayer!

Prayer on a Dreary Day

Father,,
Today is a dreary day.
It is not warm or sunny; it is not filled with joy or peace.
The house is a mess.
I’m not even dressed.
I feel emptied and drained.

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And yet…

Even though I can’t see
Your glory in my surroundings,
I know You can see
The glory of eternity.
You see the brighter days ahead.
You are already there,
Celebrating.

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You have not journeyed here to
Listen to my prayer…
Because You have always been here
Right beside me.
You are not put off by my
Dirt or disheveled appearance;
You are not unaware of my sadness–
You know my thoughts before I think them!
You know my emotions better than I know myself!

Today is a dreary day,
But it is just a speck in the fullness of
Your Eternal Light.
Shine into my darkness
Dispel the dreariness around me.
Help me to reflect, not the clouds,
But the Son!

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Thank you, Lord.
Even on a dreary day,
In Your presence, there is fullness of Joy–
Not the giddiness of a sunny springtime,
But the glow of a hearth-fire,
Sustaining me.

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So my praise today may not explode
In bright colors and exclamations.
But it will be a steady and steadying
Ember–warm enough to survive
Ready for You to
Ignite tomorrow’s fresh flame!

What a Waste!

(The following is an updated post from a couple of years ago..)

The author of Ecclesiastes (presumed to be King Solomon) was a wise man. Yet he concluded that almost every aspect of life was meaningless– nothing more than “chasing after the wind.” Health, wealth, learning, entertainment, popularity, achievement– they can give pleasure and temporary satisfaction. But in the end, everyone dies, and their health is gone, their wealth goes to someone else, their learning is lost, their name and accomplishments are all forgotten and/ or destroyed.

In chapter 3, the author states that there is a time for “everything”– all the seemingly important activities of life–building, and tearing down, war and peace, living and dying…https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ecclesiastes+3&version=NIV And then he makes a curious statement in verse 11: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Solomon describes this as a burden– mankind can sense eternity, but only lives to see a brief span of it. What a waste! What a tragedy!

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So what are we to do?

First, we need to make an important distinction– Solomon explores the pursuits of life and finds them all meaningless. At no point does he say that life itself is without meaning. Life itself is not a waste– but the things we do can waste the precious (and brief!) life we have been given. Nor does he say there is no difference between wisdom and foolishness, honest labor and laziness, or self-indulgence and connectedness. I know some people who, after a quick reading through Ecclesiastes, use it to justify a hedonistic lifestyle. “Nothing matters,” they say. But that’s not what this book actually promotes. It isn’t that “nothing” matters. Rather, it is that none of our personal pursuits produce meaning in and of themselves or beyond our own limitations.

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Next, we should be wise in light of the eternity that God has placed in our hearts. Even if our pursuits seem trivial and temporary, they have consequences that ripple through time– long after we are gone. We may not be able to see the future, but we CAN see the effects of wisdom and foolishness in the lives of others, and we can heed the advice of those who have come before us. Most of all, we have the wisdom that comes from God. Solomon’s wisdom, though incredible among humans, was limited to his own experience and learning. His frustration and despair came from knowing how limited it was!

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Finally, we must read Ecclesiastes in context. Solomon was wise, but he seems to have lacked the vision of his father, David, to fully anticipate the coming of Messiah. Solomon’s ambitions were for the span of his own earthly life. He did not have his hope firmly rooted in a resurrection and an eternal life shared with his Creator. For all his wisdom, he was found lacking in his faith. After writing such wisdom (not just in Ecclesiastes, but throughout the Proverbs), Solomon ended his life in a foolish pursuit of relativism and compromise that ruined much of the strength and prosperity he had brought to Israel in earlier years.

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Solomon reaches a final conclusion. One thing remains– to fear God and follow His commands. God is eternal–and all that is done for Him and by Him and through Him will never be wasted. Solomon’s life may have ended with failure, but his words and wisdom live on. Our lives may be short; we may have wasted precious time in meaningless pursuits–but God has promised that “all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 CSB) and that “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6 NIV)

My prayer today is that we would not waste a single minute! And that we would see that even in the wasted moments and foolish mistakes of our past, there is redemption, hope, and renewal. In God’s economy, nothing is wasted!

The Now and the “Not Yet.”

As followers of Christ and believers in an Eternal God, we live in the “here and now,” but we also live in something called the “not yet.” Our life here is finite, but our life in the “not yet” is eternal.

Most of what we pray for belongs in the “here and now.” We pray about what we see and know. We may pray for an upcoming surgery, or a looming job loss, or give thanks for something that happened in the recent past, but most of our prayers do not venture into the eternal future.

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Yet, God speaks to us of things to come. No, He doesn’t always reveal details or give us a calendar of times and dates; but He does remind us that what we see is not the whole picture. And we need to remember this when we pray and when we look around us.

Much of the Old Testament, plus parts of the New Testament, are given over to prophecy– visions, promises, warnings about the future. Many of the prophecies have already been fulfilled– in detail. Some of the prophets prayed for revival in Israel and Judah; others prayed for the coming of the Messiah. Their prayers were answered– but not always in their lifetime, and not always in a way they understood. The Apostles, writing to Jesus’ followers looked forward to His return– but they never saw it in their lifetime.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see…And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Hebrews 11:1, 6 (NIV)

Following Christ involves living in both the “now” of immediate life, and the “not yet” of our faith. We can have confidence in what was, what is, and what is to come. And we must learn patience, and stand firm in God’s promises, as well as living “in the moment” of service and obedience,. We cannot sit back and wait for life to come to us; neither can we live such short-sighted lives that we waste our energy chasing after constant gratification and emotional peaks. Sometimes, the very circumstances we are praying for God to “change” or take away are the circumstances He will use to teach us, grow us, and bless us!

Prayer is not just about us and our immediate needs. Today, spend some time praying with an eternal mindset–that God’s will would be done, in His time and His way. And then, trust that whatever is going on in the “here and now,” it is all part of God’s perfect plan. One that we will understand more fully in the “not yet.”

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The Genie in the Bottle

Among the stories of the Arabian Nights, there is the tale of Aladdin and his Magic Lamp. A young man named Aladdin finds himself in possession of a lamp which contains a powerful Genie (Djinn), a magical spirit who can grant fantastic wishes. Aladdin makes use of this magic to rise to power and win the hand of a beautiful sultan’s daughter, and defeat an evil sorcerer.

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In the Walt Disney movie version, Aladdin expresses his desire to be as powerful as the Genie. But the Genie sums up his situation in bleaker terms. “Phenomenal, cosmic powers–itty, bitty living space!” The Genie has great power, but no freedom. He can act only on behalf of whoever is “master” of the lamp; he has no power to act on his own or for his own benefit.

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There is a perception among some people in our culture that God is a myth; that He is merely a figment of the imagination, and that those who pray to Him are like those who would seek to command a Genie in a bottle. Just pray to God for the things you want, and “Hey, Presto!” God will provide. There are even some who preach such a gospel– that God wants whatever you want– God wants His followers to be happy, healthy, wealthy, and popular, and belief in Him will magically transform our circumstances.

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But God is no Genie in a bottle. Yes, He has phenomenal cosmic powers–of course, He does! He created the cosmos! But He also inhabits the cosmos, and He acts in His own sovereignty, according to His will. He does not respond to our command, nor is He confined by any limitations. The only “itty bitty living space” for God is when He takes up residence in the heart of a believer.

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20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, 21 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

Ephesians 3:20-21 (KJV)

God’s power isn’t limited to what we ask or think or imagine. It’s not even limited to something a little more than all that. God is able to do “exceeding abundantly above ALL that we ask or think” (emphasis added). And that power isn’t working “for” us or at our whim…it is working IN us! God does not primarily want to change our circumstances, remove our obstacles, or improve our situation. God wants to transform us from the inside!

In the story of Aladdin, there is no spiritual growth, no personal transformation. Aladdin defeats the evil sorcerer, and lives (we assume) happily ever after with great wealth and power. In the movie version, he experiences some personal growth, learning to “be himself.” And he uses his “last wish” selflessly to grant the Genie his “freedom.” The lamp becomes just an ordinary lamp, the genie just an ordinary spirit, and Aladdin just an ordinary guy. (except for being married to the sultan’s daughter). But God wants so much more for His children! He is not content with having us defeat a single enemy, and retire into the world of history, mythology or children’s fairy tales. He is not content with us learning a simple life lesson and making a few good decisions in this life.

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God is sovereign over the entire Universe! He has eternal power and glory! And He lavishes His love on you and me– using that awesome power in and through us to transform and reconcile a broken world back to Him. He reveals His glory to us, through us, and for us throughout this life, and the life to come.

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Today, let’s ask God, not to give us what we can ask or think for ourselves, but to work His will in and around and through us. The results will be beyond our imagination! Exceeding abundantly above our imagination! We don’t possess a genie in a bottle. Instead we belong to the Lord of all creation. Phenomenal cosmic power– infinite and eternal living space!

Holy, Majestic, Awesome God!

5-9 So don’t lose a minute in building on what you’ve been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus. Without these qualities you can’t see what’s right before you, oblivious that your old sinful life has been wiped off the books.

2 Peter 1:5-9 (The Message) (emphasis added)
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I think one of the hallmarks of a Christian is not knowledge about God, but personal experience of God. And one of the signs of such experience is a reverent wonder– an overwhelming AWE– of God. Of who He is and how He works, what He has done, and what He has promised to do. As we grow in faith, good character, understanding, discipline, and patience, we are ready to absorb the absolute WONDER of this majestic, mighty, amazing God we serve. We revel in our own personal experience of Salvation, but we also begin to see the magnitude of God’s Grace, His Power, His Wisdom and His Holiness.

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Many of the ancient prophets tried to describe their encounters with God’s presence. Daniel and the Apostle John were paralyzed and prostrate when visited by angels. Paul was blinded by the light. Moses’ face had to be covered after being in God’s presence. because his face was so radiant. Isaiah was struck dumb. The list goes on… We may not experience the presence of angels or receive prophecies like they did, but we can experience a sense of ecstasy in contemplating our marvelous Lord and Savior.

One prophet who had such an experience was Habakkuk. Habakkuk lived in perilous and evil times. His nation was in rebellion toward God’s law, and its citizens, from the leaders and priests to the farmers and townspeople, were paying lip-service to God while prostrating themselves to foreign gods and foreign countries. The leaders lived in splendor, while many of their own people starved, or were sold into slavery. Habakkuk, in frustration, prayed to God, pleading for relief from evil, and judgment for the righteous. He had faith, was of good character, understood the law, had developed discipline, and had a passionate patience– but his patience was mixed with frustration. “How long must I wait to see justice and reform?” “How long will my people keep seeking help from wicked foreigners?” “When will we be free of oppression?”

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Habakkuk was not just whining. He had a heart for his own people, and wanted to see what God would do. God’s answer was not what Habakkuk was expecting. God promised justice and redemption– but only after invasion, more oppression, and exile! God was sending a vast and merciless army to crush not only His own people, but all the wicked nations in whom they had placed their trust. God was going to “pull the rug out” from under the entire region. But then, He would punish the invaders, wiping out their power and restoring His people to their own land.

What was Habakkuk’s reaction to such news? At first, he was stunned; then confused. But in a very short time, his horror turned to worship. He resolved to stand at his watch; to station himself on the ramparts to see God at work. And as he waited, his perspective changed. God DID see the injustice and wickedness; the violence, lies, and betrayal. God had a plan– a plan so much grander and glorious in scope– a plan that had been in place from long before Habakkuk was born; long before his complaint. It was a plan that would not leave wickedness unpunished, but would bring justice in its proper time, and allow for redemption, restoration and renewal.

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Habakkuk’s prayer (chapter 3) is a marvel of praise and worship:
“His glory covered the heavens, and his praise filled the earth. His splendor was like the sunrise; rays flashed from his hand where his power was hidden…” (v. 3b-4)
“You split the earth with rivers; the mountains saw you and writhed. Torrents of water swept by; the deep roared and lifted its waves on high. Sun and moon stood still in the heavens at the glint of your flying arrows, at the lightning of your flashing spear… (v.9b-11)
“I heard and my heart pounded; my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled. Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us. Though the fig tree does not bud, and there are no grapes on the vines; though the olive crop fails, and the fields produce no food; though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to go on the heights.” (v. 16-19a NIV)

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How often does my heart pound and my lips quiver as I contemplate our Awesome God? How often am I joyful in God my Savior– especially in the midst of expected hardship and continuing evil around me? How often do I limit my sight to what is immediately before my eyes, instead of looking up at the one who holds every moment of the past and future; who controls the vastness of millions of galaxies, yet also sees each individual hair on 7 billions human heads, knows every grain of sand in the desert, and every drop of water in all the oceans; who tracks every molecule in the universe, but knows me by name?!

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May today be a day filled with reverent wonder, as we consider the Holy, Majestic, and Awesome God who has the power to redeem, inspire, and strengthen us for whatever lies ahead.

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