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The Spirit then lifted me up and took me away, and I went in bitterness and in the anger of my spirit, with the strong hand of the Lord on me. I came to the exiles who lived at Tel Aviv near the Kebar River. And there, where they were living, I sat among them for seven days-deeply distressed.
~Ezekiel 3:14-15 (NIV)~
From where I sit, it is easy for me to say that God is in control and that there is a reason for what happened in Boston yesterday. It is easy because I didn’t lose someone. I didn’t lose my sense of security. I didn’t have the rug jerked out from under me as I attended an event that was intended to celebrate the endurance of the human spirit. The impact of this tragedy for those directly involved in it is in no way diminished by the fact that I know my God and how powerful He is and that I’m sure He has a plan for every single thing that happens in this world; the good, the bad, and the horrific. This fact only makes it easier for me to cope with hearing about what happened. But for those who were a part of it, God’s presence and involvement in the thing can be very confusing.
As it happens, there are many horrible things that happen outside the boundaries of my bubble of faith each and every day. People experience pain and loss and try to make sense of it from where they are at the time of impact. Sometimes they are at a place where they can trust that God has it in His hands; sometimes they cannot fathom how God could ever let something like this happen. It really depends on our perspective and on what we have come to know about Him and His desire for us when the thief shows up to kill, steal and destroy.
There have been many tragedies in my life; some that I have brought on myself and some that I was involved in through no real fault of my own. Through these times, I remember asking myself why these things were happening to me. I remember being very confused about why God would allow these things to happen to me. I also remember that these questions came at times when I had put such distance between He and I that it was as if I had entered the Witness Protection Program. How could I ever expect Him to find me when I spent much of my time and energy running away from Him or putting up roadblocks wherever I suspected that He was pursuing me?
When I came back to Him, I found that the things I had once blamed Him for and even hated Him for were actually quite necessary to bringing me full circle in my journey. Had I never experienced that grief and pain, I never could have appreciated the grace and mercy. I never could have seen the blessings that He had bestowed upon me even in my darkest hours. The very fact that I woke up every morning was no testimony to the life that I had lead. It was all due to the magnificent grace of an ever-merciful and patient God who wanted nothing more than for me to gain redemption. His tolerance of my inability to accept the salvation that Christ died to give me is unparalleled. And if He has been so forgiving for just me, what does that say of His willingness to wait for the whole of humanity to come around?
There are many things which we cannot know; we cannot see the reasons why things play out in the manner that they do without acknowledging God’s hand in all things. Yes, He wants us to be happy. Yes, He wants to show us His love. But by the same token, He expects our devotion to Him and He is angered by the lack of that devotion that He sees in this world. Undoubtedly, we are approaching a time in which there will be many unexplainable events that represent God’s wrath on a disobedient nation. But His wrath is reserved for the ungodly; for the evil that exists in this world. It is not God who seeks to destroy us. And for all who are caught in the crossfire between good and evil; know that He will protect His children. For those beautiful spirits who are lost in the darkness, He seeks to bring you out by any means necessary. If this be through grief or loss, then please know that this is necessary and that He will bring you beauty for your ashes.
My heart goes out to those who lost loved ones yesterday. I pray that you find comfort in the arms of the Lord and that you not seek to blame Him, but to see and understand Him in all of this. That you take solace in the fact that your loved ones are in God’s hands and that He will avenge your loss. To everyone who has witnessed yet another act of violence at the hands of the wicked, I say that it is time we start to see these things for what they truly are; signs of end times. Not so that you would lose hope; but rather that you would run, full throttle into the arms of Jesus and accept Him as your Savior. Because our tendency is to commiserate with one another when there is any sort of threat or attack; but in reality, the more effective thing to do would be to accept those things as a call to arms. It is time to rise up and fight against those things which permit evil to thrive in our society. He is waiting patiently for us to turn back to Him and allow Him to take us all home. All we need to do is trust Him.
What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory—
~Romans 9:22-23 NIV~
For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.~Psalm 103:14 NKJV
This is the first in a series of verses I will be attempting to memorize this year. I figured I would share them here as I try to study each of them so that you can follow along if you choose. Beth Moore is doing a Bible verse memorization project on her LPM Blog and since I’m participating there, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to post useful information about the various verses I’m trying to learn on Leading the Follower. If you have comments as you follow along, please share your thoughts here. God bless!
This verse speaks of God’s mercy and the realization that we are not a mystery to Him. He knows what we are made of, literally, and He is never surprised by the decisions we make or the actions we choose to take or not to take. Our God takes pity on us because He is fully aware of the demons with whom we wrestle and He wants us to learn from the experiences we have while we are struggling to understand how to defeat them. According to Nelson’s Compact Bible Handbook, this particular Psalm is an anthem of praise and may have been written by Ezra or Nehemiah.
When reading this verse, I am reassured that when I make mistakes, He will forgive me. I know that He will stick with me because He made me. The same way I would never be able to turn my back on my own child, God has that mercy on me and I live in the ever-forgiving shadow of His grace. What a wonderful blessing!
The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?
During last night’s church service, we talked about fear and how what we fear most represents the area of our lives where we are trusting God the least. This got me thinking about what it is that scares me the most. I’ve been afraid of many things in my life, but as different experiences have come to pass, there simply isn’t much left that really shakes me up. The thought of losing people whom I love still looms large on that list, but the biggest fear I have is of not meeting the expectations that God has for me as His child. Every day I find areas where I’m still falling short of what I believe He would want me to do or how He would want me to act, but for some reason I seem to be refusing to fix those areas. Not out of any sense of malice toward God; more out of a sense of not feeling good enough to continue down His path. I think everyone struggles with something at one time or another, but really, should we still be harboring issues of low self-esteem if we truly believe that God loves us? Isn’t His love better than any other love we can find here on earth? If so, and if we know He loves us through our shortcomings, then why do we still feel so undeserving?
I feel compelled to answer that last question by saying we feel undeserving because we are told so often as Christians that we don’t deserve the sacrifice that God made for us by allowing the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Somehow, we are supposed to come to an understanding that His love is unconditional while at the same time understanding that we didn’t deserve the biggest, most significant display of His love for us which was intended to be a gift. It doesn’t really make sense, but I guess, maybe it isn’t supposed to fit into our very small, very human idea of what true love really is. It’s like He said, I’m going to do this for you to show you I love you, but you really don’t deserve it…which should reinforce just how much I truly do love you. In anyone else, that might seem rather abusive, but in our God it just gives us one more example of how little we understand Him.
God doesn’t want us to spend our lives dwelling on how much we can do to deserve His love. When we do this, we inevitably do either too little to meet the mark or too much of what isn’t necessary. We overdo the works and lay off of the faith. Or we lean too heavily on faith and grace and forget to do anything worthwhile. With God, it’s about achieving a balance of wanting to know Him, needing to know Him and at the same time, trying desperately to know Him so that we can have an inkling of who we really are. There is a part of Him in all of us and until we come to terms with who God is to us, we cannot love what He loves about us. That’s the great mystery. And if we are ever to solve it, our focus cannot be forever turned inward, looking at who we should be, who we shouldn’t be, who we have been and who we hope to be. It has to be on who He is in us.
So, when He says to us, “Whom shall I fear?” our answer should be no one because if God lives in each one of us, then we need to learn how to first see Him in ourselves and then try our best to find out how He is working in the lives of others. While it may seem like there are some people out there in whom nothing Godly is happening, don’t be fooled. He lives in each and every one of us and wherever we find ourselves on the continuum; devout Christian to lowly sinner, we are all deserving of His love and we are all part of a much bigger plan that only He can see and understand.
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.
The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
~1 John 4:18~