The Word Came a Second Time…

Open Bible 2“The Word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time…” (Jonah 3:1).

This was the text from my devotion time this morning and it struck my heart, so I thought I might share a reflection or two. In the encounter with Jonah recorded in Scripture, God gave Jonah a command. Jonah was an Israelite…so he was one of God’s people…therefore, he had an obligation to obey. (Actually, everyone has an obligation to obey since God alone is God and God alone is deserving of obedience of all people at all times.) Jonah, as one of God’s people…called by God and under covenant to trust, obey, and follow after God is certainly obligated to obey Him.

But then you add in the prophet component…and what was Jonah thinking in disobeying God? Of course the preacher has to obey God! [Now the reflection...I'm no different. There have been times when God has directed me to act and I've not acted. He has instructed me through His Word to do something or to stop doing something...and I refused...or delayed...which is just slower refusal. I am Jonah].

What I was reminded of today is this:

  • God is Sovereign. His message will get out and accomplish what He intended and we cannot mess it up. We can’t stop it, slow it down, or subvert it. We can try! We can even get on a boat headed
    out-of-town and God will provide a “whale of a storm” to turn us around. [See what I did there?]
  • God is Loving. He does not allow us to live in a constant state of rebellion as His people. If you are under conviction or are being hammered on for your sin…it is not the devil doing it. It is God. He loves you too much to watch you kill yourself and Him not act.
  • God is Gracious. He did not own Jonah a second chance. He did not need to use Him a second time. If Jonah had died in the belly of the fish, no one would have known or understood why. It would have been a story of a “man overboard” at sea. But God restored the prophet and gave Him a second time to be obedient.

What I believe to be true is this: When we repent, God often gives us a second chance. He doesn’t have to. He doesn’t need to. He might not. But He often does. He does so because He is good and gracious and loving and sovereign.

BTW: Between the first and second Word from the Lord…God was silent. He did not speak. He simply waited for Jonah to respond and return to the Lord.

Blackaby said it this way in the devotional time today:

“If you have not received a fresh word from God, return to the last thing He told you and examine your obedience. Is the Lord still waiting for your obedience?” (Henry Blackaby, EGD)

The Christian life may not always be easy but it also isn’t complicated.


Reflection: Does the world hate you?

“Because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.” John 15:19

As I was reading this morning in one of my devo reads (John MacArthur’s Daily Readings for the Life of Christ, vol.3), this was my text. It lined up with a couple of other things I read today and resonated with my heart. So…here is a thought on the statement…”Does the world hate me and do I care?” As much as I would like to reply YES…I am not certain that is true…or even if it makes sense to drive this to a categorical statement.

The issue is not that we should desire for the world to hate us. To the contrary…our lives should look like Christ. Most of the “world” liked Him…or ignored Him…or were oblivious to Him. Religious lost people hated Him, because He challenged their very existence to the core. He questioned their motives and shined a Holy Spirit powered spotlight into the recesses of their hearts. But most of the world did not.

The NT universally tells us to dwell in peace, to pray for civil governments, to lift up holy hands without wrath or dissension. The testimony of the NT is that the disciples “turned the world upside down” with their teaching…not their revolutionary agendas. We further see that the testimony of the disciples and their manner of life was well received by the community.

So what is Jesus speaking of here? Simply…I see Jesus pointing out that our very existence, if we were truly walking in faith and by faith, will make people who are living in opposition to God uncomfortable. People living in sin like to hang out together. Introduce a “Christian weirdo” (or if you prefer…a peculiar person” -1 Pet 2:9) into the mix and it throws off the rhythm. People are uncomfortable. Unchecked sinfulness is now hidden or masked or defended. IOW…people hate you.

So the question in two parts: Does the world hate you? Not if we are too similar to the world. If we do not offer enough contrast to the self-serving hedonism that is pervasive in our culture…probably not. If we live for the same materialistic pursuits as the world…it is doubtful. If we value life and relationships and morality in the same way as the world…not a chance. Now if we live “separate/sanctified” then maybe so…but do we?

The second part…”do we care if the world hates us?” Well…we shouldn’t and we should. We should not care in the sense that we seek the approval of the world. It would place us at enmity with God to desire the world’s approval more than God’s. In another sense…we should care. We want to present enough of a contrast that the world asks “Why?”. We want them to know what makes us peculiar but that question never arises if we are not living as “peculiar people.”

We want to live without blame before the world so that we can maintain bridges to the gospel…but we recognize that we will be blamed anyway for making others uncomfortable…not by our obnoxious presence, but due to our sanctified convictions.

One last reflection…these are our convictions…not the world’s. By nature, they have other convictions and will maintain them until they come into relationship with Christ. That’s why Jesus said that the world will hate us. So…it is not our mission to impose our ideology on people who have no relationship with Christ; rather, it is our mission to engage in the relationship and conversation in order that our friends (yep…same lost people) can learn the value of returning to the created design and be redeemed to relationship with the One who invades and occupies their hearts. Then, our godly convictions become theirs as well.

Reflection: Wherein does your trust lie?

img_1209567403677_531“He who trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like the green leaf.” Proverbs 11:28, NASB.

On a day like today, the 13th Anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, I am a bit reflective of the source of our trust. Like many, I can tell you where I was when I heard of the first attacks. I can replay what I did afterwards. I can remember the Sunday after, how churches were filled to capacity and people were searching for answers.

What people? Where did they come from?

These were the people that the writer of Proverbs speaks of. People whose trust was in their own ability to provide. This proverb deals with money…which could certainly be the subject of much discussion; however, the broader principle is that of self-willed insurance.

For a season…a short season following the attacks…there was a keen awareness of the vulnerability of our nation. After years of relative peace within our geographical borders, the citizenry was lulled into a complacent slumber…resting comfortably upon a bed of feigned security that we had made. It was our defense department, our intellect, our preparedness…these things made us safe. Then the attacks. Suddenly we realized the need for a Protector.

Soon after that “capacity Sunday” in churches in our land…seats became available again. Those who were faced with gripping fear soon moved past it. We hired TSA Agents, held hearings, mobilized our military to war, and placed certain domestic security measures intended to give us more security. Since then, we complain about the invasiveness of these security protocols and cast stones at the measures taken by authorities…who merely answered the call to MAKE US SAFE as a nation!

Truth is though…there is no safety in riches or security in cameras or TSA body searches or in restricting border access. REAL SECURITY (and the peace that comes as a byproduct) comes only in yielding to the Protection and Will and Sovereign Control of a Good and Righteous King who alone is in control and alone has the power to save and to secure. He is our Protector.

King David recounted in the 23d Psalm that because the Lord was his Shepherd, David lacked nothing. His Shepherd Provider prepared a banquet for David in the presence of his enemies. David was secure, not due to the absence of evil or the strength of his resolve, but in the protection of the Sovereign King to whom the King gave allegiance.

If we as a people are ever to live up to the mottos we espouse on days like today “Never Forget” and “We Remember,” we MUST truly remember the keen awareness from the morning of 9/11/01…when we knew unmistakably of our own inability to protect ourselves and our desperate need for God. We should REMEMBER that in the hours following those fateful events, prayers and petitions and commitments were offered to God. We must never forget our need for God to care for us…because He never forgets the Covenant He made with us.

Today, we should remember those who ran into the danger zones while other fled for their lives. We should remember first responders and our military. We should honor them and we should honor those who have stepped in to take the place of those who died in service on that day. They DESERVE, by nature of their office, HONOR from us. At the same time, we are fools if we place our TRUST in our first-responders as our protectors. They respond to danger with heroic values, but we serve a God who is Sovereign over and powerful to guard us from danger before it happens.

So live out, “NEVER FORGET”…how God comforted us in our hour of greatest need.

So live out, “WE REMEMBER” as you return to Him placing your trust in Him for protection and for purpose.

Then you will be RIGHTEOUS with the righteousness of Christ…and you will flourish like the green leaf.


Reflection: The lips of the righteous

Thinking Man 2“The lips of the righteous bring forth what is acceptable, but the mouth of the wicked what is perverted.”

Proverbs 10:32, NASB

Sometimes, if not often, we focus more on symptoms than problems…on effect more than cause. This does not seem unnatural since the symptom is right in front of us. It is our immediate concern. This is true physically: I have the sniffles so I need something to stop my runny nose…rather than “what have I come across that caused my nose to run?” This is true in our vocations: I was passed over for promotion for the second time. how do I get by boss to promote me…rather than “What is it about me that is not competitive with those being promoted?” It is true spiritually: I am not “being fed” or finding fulfillment in my church…so I should find another church, rather than asking the question, “What has changed in my that makes that which once satisfied…now less than palatable?” This is true of relationships: I am not happy with the quality of my relationship so I should change it, rather than “What is the source of my dissatisfaction with that which once satisfied?” 

Our desire to “fix” the symptoms rises from two things: We think that we are fine and that the issue in our situation must be someone elses doing. Second, we think the symptom is the problem and if we correct that, then we will be great! Both assumptions place us on a highway headed the wrong way with no off ramp. 

Years ago, I read a BUNCH of books on conversation, positive mental attitude, positive self-talk, etc. The premise was that our “stinkin’ thinkin’ ” was the cause of our woes. If we simply thought positively, and spoke positively, we could change our destiny! Now…while a lot of people need a positive attitude and positive speech…these are not the problems. An attitude is simply our position or assessment of a situation. The situation is still there! Simply changing the way we speak of it does not change the situation…it only makes us look like weirdos and become frustrated at the lack of “change” that occurs even though we speak positively. 

That is the issue the writer of Proverbs addresses here. The “lips” of the righteous simply speak forth that which they draw up out of the heart. Same is true of the wicked. They speak what is out of the heart. To try to manipulate a situation by addressing the symptom (lips/mouth) is to dismiss the real problem. The reason the lips speak hate is because the heart of full of it. The reason the mouth speaks “no hope” is because of the hope deficit in the heart. 

If we address the heart issue, then the manifestation of the heart will change. You will speak righteous things when the bucket that you lower in the the well of the heart is lowered into a righteous heart. 

If we were going to apply this truth to our lives…and I hope we will…before we address symptoms…we would look to the root cause. Am I defensive because people are always against me…or is it that in my heart I am harboring a desire for control and recognition? Am I offending people because I choose the wrong words…or are my words simply coming up from the well of the heart? If I subject my heart to the scrutiny of God and His Word…I believe His promise is true and He will remove the hardened and wicked heart and replace it with a heart of flesh that is sensitive to Him again.

Reflection: Kindness and Truth, Proverbs 3:3

Thinking Man 2“Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.” 

Proverbs 3:3, NASB. 

This short proverbs speaks a ton of wisdom into our lives. It admonishes us to value and cling to the qualities of kindness (goodness) and truth (faithfulness). It reminds us that holding onto these qualities is an intentional pursuit. We MUST choose to pursue it…to hold fast to them…to prevent their dissipation or escape from our lives. Why? Because the world and its system will suck the joy and the will to be nice or tenacious right out of you. 

We persevere in holding fast to these qualities by keeping them ever before us (bind around your neck) and we allow them to be the wellspring of our thoughts and actions (written on the tablet of our heart). In other words, we allow our conversation and our actions to spring up from the source of goodness and faithfulness to God. We do this by choice. It requires active rather than passive response to the circumstances around us. 

Perhaps this is what “mom” meant when she said, “If you can’t say something nice…just don’t say anything at all.” (active, not passive). 

Today…choose good and kind, not apathy or ill-mannered. Today…choose faithfulness to God…not indifference or capricious responses to situations that arise. 

Do so, because He said so…and His ways lead to abundant life. 

Why Violence toward the Police is more heinous than other violence

thinking man originalOk…as provocative as the title may seem, it is not intended to produce sensationalism or elicit a wide readership. It is simply a reflection on my thoughts for a couple of days in light of the shooting of a GPD (Greenville Police Department, Greenville, SC) Officer in recent days. (You can google the story…but here are the broad strokes…and a link to the most recent update on the shooting from local news outlets). 

A 23 y/o male approached the Law Enforcement Center (LEC) entrance with two weapons. When he found the doors locked (security procedure), he shot out the windows. The Desk Officer requested backup on scene and a nearby officer responded and confronted the criminal (not suspect since we don’t suspect him of being a criminal…he is one. It is illegal to shoot up the police station). The criminal shot the officer three times before turning his weapon on himself. 

The officer, unidentified to the public, is currently being treated for GSW (gunshot wound) and is, by all accounts of the third hand information I can gather, going to make it. 

Now I read (mistakenly) some of the commentary on the incident by the public. I read prayers for the officer’s recovery, well-wishing for the police, prayers for the suspect’s family…and then there were those people who wanted to make the incident about their own agenda. These folks commented on how Police are too authoritarian and should be more like Andy Griffith if they wanted to avoid such encounters. I read how gun control should have been enacted (as if disarming the citizenry would have stopped this triple murderer and police assaulter from committing his crimes). I read how society should not treat this violent crime any differently than other violence…which is the impetus for my limited response here.

Crimes against the police SHOULD be considered more heinous than other violent crimes, since a crime against a police officer is a crime against all of society collectively. An officer is not just some person who was shot…he is someone we as a society CHARGED with the sworn responsibility to enforce the enacted legislation we affirmed as a society to be important and binding. He/she is only a target of the attack because he/she is representing us (the society) by enforcing our shared values. 

When I was a deputy sheriff, now MANY YEARS AGO, it was a minor crime to resist a police officer. It was a more significant crime to arrange a dogfight or a rooster fight than it was to refuse to stop for a police officer on the highway. That’s WRONG. It should be universally considered a felonious to act out against a police officer performing his sworn duties, since he is simply enforcing the rules that we the people have enacted. To resist him…is to resist all society. 

This officer was shot, not because he was putting in his shift at work, but because he embodied the weighty responsibility to run toward danger when our social order is challenged by a criminal. He sought to protect society from a dangerous criminal and to uphold the laws that we enacted and charged him to uphold…and he did so. 

As a society, our OUTRAGE should be focused on the audacity of a criminal who would dare confront all of us, the people, and spurn the civil government’s attempt to enforce our values. We should be outraged at the bold and flagrant disregard of our collective will embraced by this singular criminal who would (and I am speculating here) still be killing if our officers were not intent on fulfilling their charge to uphold our laws. Their commitment is on display today as one officer continues the fight…this time the fight back from injury to health…an injury he sustained simply carrying out our will. 

So…for any officers or deputies or agents who might accidentally stroll by this post…thank you. I am one of you in spirit and I THINK that my opinion represents the majority in our society…but even if it did not…I’d still stand for you. You are instruments of good and until someone has strapped on a “Sam Brown” belt and pinned a badge to their chest…they cannot truly understand the nature of your calling, sacrifice, professionalism, and contribution to our civilized society. 

For the officer injured: Thank you. Get well. Your beat partners want you back. You matter. You and your family are in my prayers. 

For the family of the criminal who perpetrated these acts: I am sorry for you and I pray for God’s comfort for you in this season of dealing with loss and bewilderment as a result of your family-member’s choice. You are going through difficult days and I pray you persevere. 

For my fellow citizens: I pray we would never forget that the crimes perpetrated by this criminal were crimes against all of us, not a couple of police officers or a police organization. He attacked us. We, as a society were pinned down, and would remain in such a lawless and chaotic state if it were not for the bravery, professionalism, and instincts of this officer and others like him in blue, tan, gray, or other colored uniforms everywhere. They rescued us, and they make it safe for us to sleep at night…and they only do so because we asked them to and they agreed. Give them respect, honor, grace, and the benefit of the doubt. 

For those who might disagree…feel free to comment. My rule on this forum is that I invite dissenting opinions as long as you keep vulgarity and profanity to yourself and share your views in a respectful way…otherwise they will never see the light of day. 



Reflection:How Obedience and Blessing are Related

Open BibleI don’t know of any desire spoken of more than “success.” It has many forms: “I just want to be happy”…”I would just like to be able to lie down at night with a clear conscience”…”I just want to know that my contribution mattered,”etc. The desire for success is not bad, or prideful, or vain. It is good, natural, and profitable for us. 

In my reading this morning, I focused in on two sections of the 2d chapter of Proverbs.

“My son, If you receive my words and treasure my commandments…then you will discern the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God.” (Prov 2:1-5). 

The chapter is bookended with this claim at the end: 

“So you will walk in the way of good men and keep to the paths of the righteous. For the upright will live in the land and the blameless will remain in it; but the wicked will be cut off from the land and the treacherous will be uprooted from it.” (Prov 2:20-22). 

Between these two claims, there is a ton of information about how the Word of God helps us to avoid sin and its trappings. The thrust of it is that the Word/Wisdom of God in our HEART facilitates discernment of the path we are on so that we will choose correctly in the course of our journey. It does not IN ITSELF, SIMPLY IN KNOWING, BRING ABUNDANT LIFE; rather, the Word applied leads to prosperity and abundance and glory for God. 

When we apply this a number of things should become evident: 

  • There is NO “real” success apart from obedience to God. If it were possible any other way, then Jesus’ sacrificial death was a waste…meaning the Father was unwise or unknowing…meaning we can’t really trust him at all. 
  • A person’s life is not static but active. We do not remain dormant and stationary…we are constantly progressing along a journey for either good or bad. 
  • The “enemy” has the home court advantage. (Let me define that). The paths of life are wrought with pitfalls and SUCCESS is not in finding a different path, but in avoiding the traps/pitfalls along the way. As long as we are in this world, we MUST realize that the path is the path is the path. You can complain about it, but you’d do better to simply navigate it. 
  • Simple knowledge is insufficient for abundant life. Just because you KNOW much about the bible does not make you happy or “successful” or “prepared” for the path. There is much wisdom in applying knowledge (the Word) but there is nothing wise about storing up knowledge without application. 
  • God did not abandon us to this world wrought with “booby-trapped” paths. He gave us a GPS and a “trap early warning and detection system” WITHIN US (in the indwelling presence and relationship with the Holy Spirit)…as we treasure the Word of God. The fact about both of these though…they do no good if we ignore them. If God’s GPS says turn right and you proceed straight…you cannot really blame God that you are now disoriented or the trip had to be recalculated and now you are significantly delayed. 
  • We never get to a place where we are able to navigate the paths apart from active dependence on God and His Word. (You never outgrow God’s Word). [Some think that since they have walked with God for decades that they've "got this" in such a way that they don't need to turn on the GPS. That's foolish and arrogant.] 
  • God’s directions are trustworthy because of who God is. He knows everything, can do anything, and is motivated to conform us to the Image of His Son. Whenever we act contrary to or without consulting God’s Wisdom…we are claiming to be better suited at discerning the path than He is. That’s pretty bold. 
  • Finally, the choice to rely on God is simple in this respect…we simply follow. We are not responsible for planning the trip, only taking the steps. The journey is about Him and His purposes and His meta-narrative of the Kingdom and its coming. We are not the centerpiece of the narrative. We are supporting “actors” but He is the lead.