...a weekly devotional

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Your God is Too Small!

"Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the horse from Jerusalem; and the bow of war will be cut off. And he will speak peace to the nations; and His dominion will be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth."
-Zechariah 9:9-10

When Jesus entered into Jerusalem on what we know as Palm Sunday, His riding on a colt (a young donkey) was the fulfillment of this prophecy in Zecharia 9:9. The people recognized this and heralded Him as their king. They knew that Zecharia 9 was all about proclaiming the end of war and oppression, and the beginning of peace and a kingdom. What they failed to recognize is that the way God works usually differs from our timetable and our purposes. They saw Him as the political leader who could lead the revolt and free them from the tyrany of Herod and the oppression of a foreign government. But His purposes were so much higher than that. He was there to give them the freedom, salvation, and peace that they really needed. His action of salvation at the culmination of the Passion Week brought about spiritual freedom and paved the way for God's Kingdom to eventually be established eternally on a new earth. 

That is why the very same people who proclaimed Him as "Hosanna" upon His entry into Jerusalem could turn around yell, "crucify Him," just days later. It is because He was not there to do their bidding and give them what they wanted, instead He provided for them what they actually needed. They could not see past their current situation and desires to recognize the greatest event in the history of mankind- the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ which brought about the salvation of all who believe!

I cannot help but see how often we are guilty of this same misunderstanding. We want and expect God to work in a way that we deem best, but His character, plan, and purposes far outweigh our thinking. We want God to be our pupet. To work in a way that will bring about our comfort and ease, and to speak the exact words that we feel we want to hear. However, God's primary purpose is for His own glory and our sanctification, and, most often, genuine sanctification is quite an uncomfortable process. 

I have started to see one of the current ways we put God into a box while I have been reading through the devotional "Jesus Calling" by Sarah Young. I want to first say that I am excited to see this devotional as a top selling book, not just on Christian booklists, but as an overall best-seller! I think it is great that people are taking the time to seek God by reading this book and she is helping people develop a deeper, more intimate relationship with God. My problem is that she writes each devotional in the first person of God's voice speaking directly to us. She teaches a type of, what I like to call, "Christian mysticism,"1 that encourages people to clear their mind and wait for God to speak.2

I believe this is a very dangerous practice, because our hearts our decietful (Jer. 17:9), our fleshly desires cloud our judgement (Gal. 5:16-24), and it makes it so that God "speaks" what we conveniently want to hear. It, in a way, forces God to speak and work on our level according to what we want. The reality is God already has spoken in His Word!3 He has already given us everything we need that pertains to life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3ff).4 

This is just one of the many ways that we want God to say and do what we think is best as opposed to submitting to His ultimately grander plan, which is so much better for us! We need to stop making God so small by expecting Him to work according to our plans and being angered when He has a different way of doing things. As you take time to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, I urge you to bask in the vastness of God's purposes and power. He is the God who dwells in unapproachable light, yet He has stooped to bring salvation to mankind enabling the Creator of the universe to have a personal relationship His lowly creatures. Now that's a big God! 

1 If you would like more information on this topic, please e-mail me at leah.gingery@gmail.com for an excellent and more in-depth essay titled, "Christian Mysticism Within Evangelicalims" by Ken Hornok.

2 While she supplements he devotionals with Scripture, the verses are most often taken out of context. One such example is her favorite verse, "be still and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10). This verse is not about clearing our minds and seeking God. It is best translated as "cease striving and know that I am God." Meaning we need to stop trying to do everything ourselves, we need to stop trying to be god and just let God be God. Another example was her May 27th devotional where she spoke of "putting on God the way we put on clothing" citing the verses Rom. 13:14 and Col. 3:12. But we do not put on God's presence to help is with our day, we are called to put on righteousness, purity, and Christlikeness. 

3 Of course I also do not want to put God in a box by saying that He cannot speak audibly today. No doubt He can do any miraculous thing He desires, He is God! But He has already revealed Himself through His Word and we grow to know Him more by knowledge and experience of His Word.  

4 So much so that He gave us Song of Solomon, a book devoted to instructing us on how to have a good and godly sex life!

5 Image taken from souljournaler@blogspot.com

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Chaos Before the Storm: Facing Change

When facing times of difficulty, stress, and change it is easy to lose sight of truth. We start to allow our problems to outshadow God's strength. I have not written a post recently because I am facing a storm and not only am I struggling to find something uplifting to say, but I am personally struggling at clinging to truth. I am a wife preparing for her husband's deployment and I recently read that the few weeks leading up to the deployment are sometimes harder than the deployment itself, essentially, that the anticipation of difficulty ahead sometimes causes more stess than the actual situation. This is due to a number of factors:

1. Overwhelming Circumstances- the anticipation of a storm is an extremely busy and stressful time. For us it has involved packing, storing our belongings, and moving. Also, Jon has long hours of training each day, so even our last little bit of time together is spent very much apart. When facing stress, even attempts to relax seem to fall short because there is a heaviness of heart that you cannot lift alone.
2. Relational Stress- when facing stress it is that much easier to become short-tempered and emotional. In other words, you cannot help but stress the small stuff. When we do this, those closest to us feel the brunt of it. Jon and I find ourselves bickering over the littlest things; I have heard this is a subconcious attempt to prepare our hearts for the pending separation, but the last thing on earth we want to be doing is fighting. When facing a storm it is easy to alienate those closest to us. We become so focused on our own problems that we forget we are not the only ones in pain. When we do this we push away those we need most.
3. Change Itself- my mother recently said that "change is never easy, you always lose something." There is so much truth in that statement. With change also comes the uncertanty of the future. This is both circumstantial and personal- what will happen and who will I become? So not only do you experience loss, but you feel lost!

I share this because I want to offer some words of truth, as a reminder to myself, but also as an attempt to encourage others facing a similar situation, whether it is deployment, loss, change, or just stress.

"You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in you." - Isaiah 26:3 (ESV)
With that in mind, here are some ways to be "stayed":

1. Stay in the Word-
"Sanctify them in the truth, Your word is truth" (John 17:17). In order to keep ourselves focused on truth, we have to know God's Word and His promises. The Holy Spirit illuminates, reminds, and comforts us, but in order to do this He needs some truth to work with. No matter how busy or stressful things get we have to prioritize time in the Word to meditate on God's truths. 

2. Stay healthy- "Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. 'I have had enough, LORD,' he said. 'Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.' Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, 'Get up and eat.' He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, 'Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.' So he got up and ate and drank." (1 Kings 19:3-8a NIV). 
Sometimes what we need is just plain physical nourishment. Get some sleep! Eat healthy and stay active. Our minds will not stay in a healthy place if our bodies are all out of whack. 

3. Stay connected- "Then the LORD God said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him'" (Gen. 2:18). The only thing in God's creation that He calls "not good" is when man is alone. God is a God of community and He designed us to be in community. That is why it is so important not to let our stress and self-centered focus aleinate us from those we need most when we need them most. We must keep up good communication with our spouse, and utilize the  support of friends and family. Do not be afraid to ask for help, it may be just a phone call away.

4. Stay hopeful- "Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come" (Prov. 31:25). Rather than being anxious about the uncertainty ahead, we can smile in hopefullness at the future because God is good. He has a purpose and a plan and will not abandon us. He is using the difficulty to produce greater holiness and trust. "For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison" (2 Cor. 4:17). 

1. Image taken from dora4yiu.wordpress.com