Cut Through the Noise

Recently, events going on at my church in San Diego have been testing my Biblical knowledge and understanding of God. I ask myself one question, which leads to another question, which builds onto a different topic with its own set of questions… on and on and on! I am confused out of my mind! Even more frustrating are all the voices around me, with different opinions on doctrine or how to respond to different understandings of doctrine. Each voice scrapes and scuffs me with its intimations of “I’m right!” and “I’m right!”

I don’t know if you have encountered a similar struggle, but I have found that, in circumstances such as these, it is crucial to cut through the noise and listen for God’s voice alone. Prayer and reading God’s word. These are the simple and solid foundations for your faith, for building your relationship with God.

Still, I am encouraged that, although current situations may be unsteady and unsettled, God is unchanging and steadfast. His character, His word, His promises are with us to anchor us through suffering and celebration, through peaks and pitfalls, from generation to generation. And I rejoice all the more knowing that these trials are God ordained and for His glory!

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28 NASB).

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More Than Enough

Once again, I am amazed by God’s faithful and continual pursuit of His people, this time through the book of Hosea.

Hosea 2 begins with a description of Israel’s infidelity to God. The Lord describes Israel’s actions as “harlotry”; she continues to pursue other “lovers,” not realizing that all blessings she receives are actually from her “first husband” (v. 7). Then God, in righteous jealousy, promises to unleash wrath and vengeance upon Israel (“I will hedge up her way with thorns”, “I will uncover Her lewdness/In the sight of her lovers”, “I will punish her for the days of the Baals”, etc.). Yet even though Israel deserves all these punishments, in the end He seeks to purify and restore her:

“Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
Bring her into the wilderness
And speak kindly to her.
“Then I will give her her vineyards from there,
And the valley of Achor as a door of hope
And she will sing there as in the days of her youth,
As in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt.”
– Hosea 2: 14-15

Why does God still desire Israel’s restoration after all the sin she has committed against Him? The answer is given in verses 19 and 20:

“I will betroth you to Me forever;
Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice,
In lovingkindness and in compassion,
And I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness.
Then you will know the LORD.”
– Hosea 2: 19-20

God wants Israel to once again taste the fruit of the greatest love of all; He wants her to “know the LORD.” Israel was engrossed in pursuing all those “lovers” because she thought they would satisfy her and bring her joy. She failed to see all that God had to offer her — most importantly, Himself!

Each day I chase after wind; I chase after vanity — but God, in His pursuit, reminds us of His divine and perfect love for us. He is more than enough.

Family

Recently, I made a resolution to actively and intentionally be a Godly light/witness to my family.

It is no easy feat. Many times I lose patience, lose hope, even lose the will to be a light at all. And all this just makes me feel like an utter failure. No matter how hard I try, I can do nothing.

Which is exactly the point to this post. One of the underlying themes God has revealed to me in my study of the Word and daily walk with Him is that ALL WORKS ARE DONE BY GOD. And this of course applies to my family’s salvation. God’s living Word says:

“In love he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” [Ephesians 1:4-6]

What does this tell us about how sinners are adopted into the mighty spiritual family of God? (These are based off of my small group notes on adoption)

1) Adoption is from God:

– Eph. 1:5 – In love HE predestined us!

2) Adoption is a fully Trinitarian work:

– i.e. It involves the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is the love of God revealed through HIS initiative of sending forth His son for us! (Eph. 1:5 — according to the purpose of HIS WILL)

3) Adoption is through Jesus Christ:

– Jesus came to redeem those who were under the law. Back in the day, the law was made to show how short we fall from the glory of God, since no one could have followed these laws perfectly. And since we could not save ourselves, Jesus suffered our payment in full.

4) Adoption is confirmed by the Holy Spirit

– After adopting us into His Kingdom, God then sends us the Holy Spirit into our hearts so that we can experience a close, familial relationship with God the Father!

Conclusion: God did everything.

With my family, most of the time I feel completely inadequate (which we are — Romans 3:23). Then one night my dad comes into the kitchen and takes the giant pot of porridge from the stove. His face is all lit up and giddy. I ask him,”Dad why are you taking the xi fan away…” He explains that it’s his turn to bring food for the Monday night Ping Pong/Bible Study Fellowship! Heeheehee!

This event may not seem like a big deal, but just seeing how excited he was to fellowship (and study the Bible!) with Christians was an amazing miracle to witness. And the critical realization is that I didn’t do anything to spur this on. It was ALL God, to the praise of His glorious grace.

God is so good, and whether He saves my family or not, He is still good. I am already so thankful to be part of His heavenly family, and I anxiously await those who will be joining it in 2010. Happy New Year! :D

The Pursuit of Job

Though He slay me,

I will hope in Him

Nevertheless I will argue my ways before Him.

– Job 13:15

In my devotions, I have been revisiting the life of Job. As I read, I can see more and more of myself in Job. After the first wave of woes hits Job, his initial response is to submit to God and praise His sovereignty (Job 1:20-22). But the hypocrisy of these words quickly sets in by chapter three, and from there he wallows for many pages about how cruel and unfair God is to place such suffering upon his life (ex. Job 10 – “I loathe my own life […]”).

Although I have never had my children, servants, land, livestock, or health swept away from me in a matter of three chapters, I could definitely empathize with the intense anguish, sorrow, lament, and helplessness, that Job felt. Thus I found his actions rather predictable and altogether very natural for a human being. Until this verse.

v. 15a: “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.”

Obviously Job has not been slain by God. God basically allows Satan to perform every harmful thing to Job but slay him. In the original Hebrew and Greek, “slay” has many meanings: to smite, to strike down, to inflict disease upon, to deprive of power/destroy the strength of, to send judgement upon… and this is not an exhaustive list. When Job describes God’s dealings with him, he truly encompasses all those dealings in the single word “slay.” Job is not exaggerating or being dramatic in his lament. He feels the weight of God slaying him in its entirety.

But that conjunction “Though”! Though God sends all this iniquity upon Job, Job concludes, “I will hope in Him”!

Hope: yet another loaded word. To hope in means to expect, to wait for, to look for (the noun form also means trust and having confidence in). This means that, despite all the things that have been inflicted upon Job (in part described by the definition of “slay”), Job expects, waits for, and looks for… for what?

Job does not say “I will hope for deliverance” or “I will hope for an explanation of why I had to suffer all this.” He exclaims, “I will hope in Him.” Do you know what this means? Even though Job has lost virtually everything the world had offered him, in the end he does not desire God’s materialistic blessings, or contentment, or anything else… Job desires God Himself!!!

Finally, the verse ends by saying, “Nevertheless I will argue my ways before Him.” By no means should we interpret Job arguing his ways as demanding repayment from God for all that He took away or for an explanation of why it happened. Rather, it seems Job wants to tell God,  “You see! You brought me strife upon strife, but in the end, I still sought you above all else. I still love you above all else! You did not pursue me in vain! You are more than enough for me!”

When God slays us in pursuit of our love, can we confidently declare these same words to Him?

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

11 The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake.

12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.

13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

– 1 Kings 19:11-13

Is this not a beautiful passage? I love this passage.

For those of you who are well versed in the Bible, you will know this passage, and you will know it is signifcant that God comes at the end in the form of a gentle whisper (NIV), or gentle blowing (NASB). But do you remember why this is significant? And just as importantly, do you listen for the gentle whisper of God’s voice in your daily life?

I want to start by focusing on the relationship between God and Elijah. In v. 11 God tells Elijah to go stand on a mountain and wait for Him. Elijah goes. Then in v. 13, Elijah approaches the mouth of the cave after hearing the gentle whisper. As he is about to meet with God, he pulls his cloak over him to shield his face.

Some questions come to mind when I ponder what I have just written. How does Elijah know that God is in the “gentle whisper”? Why does he pull his cloak over his face?

After some deliberation here is what I think:

1) Elijah trusts and obeys God. God tells him to go wait in a mountain so he goes and waits!

2) Elijah has respect and fear for God. The powerful wind is gone. The giant fire is gone. So there’s no need for Elijah to cover his face from ashes or dust or anything. He shields his face in God’s presence as an act of humility and reverence.

3) Elijah really knows God. The passage does not say, “an earthquake came and Elijah peeked out the cave to see if God had shown up yet.” It says simply, as if it were common knowledge, that the earthquake came but the Lord wasn’t in the earthquake. The sentence structure implies that Elijah can recognize the voice of God.

If all these qualities of Elijah are true, then it follows logically how Elijah knew instantly that God was in the gentle whisper. Like God’s own custom ring tone on Elijah’s cell. Ok sorry that was a stupid analogy. But I think Elijah still had to listen very closely and carefully for God. Even if he knew God would be in a gentle whisper, or a rustling leaf, or some ripple in a pond, he would still have had to pay attention in order to perceive it. Why?

First, there was a powerful wind that “tore the mountain apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD.” This sounds more like a violent tornado to me. Basically pieces of mountain are coming off and rocks are flying at you like bludgers. I would find this pretty distracting.

Next there was a tremendous earthquake. So the earth. Quaked. I have been in a few earthquakes in my short lifespan, and they are by no means silent. Even the smaller ones have a powerful rumbling that causes your hearing and mental prowess to be disturbed. A large earthquake was probably deafening, especially in a mountain cave where everything echoes.

Finally we have a fire. If you live in the Conejo Valley area or Malibu or somewhere there in Southern California, you will know all about mountain fires. The ash will spread over a ten mile radius and no one will breathe properly for the next few days. I am imagining this occuring on Elijah’s mountain. Perhaps his eyes teared up, perhaps he coughed a little.

Despite all these catastrophes, in the end Elijah is still sensitive to the sound of a tiny wind. But he doesn’t just hear God in the wind. And after hearing it, he boldly leaves the cave! He didn’t fear any more natural disasters that might come again. Elijah’s faith in God, his yearning to meet with God, was so great that he left all worries of impending doom behind.

APPLICATION!

Maybe some of this analysis was a little dramatic. But you get the idea. So how should we emulate Elijah?

1) Closeness – As mentioned before, being able to hear God’s will really takes a close relationship with Him. Otherwise, on a mountain all by ourselves, we would surely be blown away by powerful winds or become lost in a fire.

Starting a new chapter of my life in college can really make me feel like I am standing on a mountain alone with wind and noise all around me. If I relied on my own strength, I would surely fail! But fortunately, God is there, and God comes to us if we just look past all the noise and listen.

I really believe spending time in prayer and alone time with God brings us closer to Him. And the best way to know God is to read about Him through the Word. Plus knowing God will give you more trust in God. Elijah never questioned why God wanted him to go on a mountain. He knew God and trusted God’s perfect goodness.

2) Submission/Acceptance – Once we can hear God’s voice, it’s possible He is telling us to do something that we are afraid of or that is not our will. But really God’s will is the perfect will.

3) Action! – Don’t just hear His voice and go back to sleep. Elijah was both anxious and eager to meet with God. No natural disaster could have stood in his way. And there ain’t no mountain high enough to keep him from getting to God :) So when we hear God, let us joyfully meet Him where He leads us!