Thursday, July 31, 2008

Was Jeremiah an American?

Over the past month or so my Thursday morning Bible reading has taken me through the book of Jeremiah. As I read the indicting words that He penned for God in this prophetic book I can't help but see more than a little bit of America in them. For instance, just today I was reading in chapter 35 and ran across the story of the Sons of Jonadab. Here was a family, or tribe, or clan that had been given a directive by their forefather not to drink wine;

"But they answered, 'We will drink no wine, for Jonadab the son of Rechab, our father, commanded us, 'You shall drink no wine, neither you nor your sons forever."

Now, before you think I'm getting ready to go off on an anti-alcohol tangent let me explain. What we discover later in the chapter is that it was not because they abstained from wine that they received blessings from God, it was because they were faithful to the command of their father. God tells Jeremiah that He is going to unleash His wrath on Israel because they had disobeyed Him time and time again and yet there was a family that held firm to one command from their earthly father. God says;

13b Will you not receive my instruction and listen to my words? declares the Lord. 14 The command that Jonadab the son of Rechab gave to his sons, to drink no wine, has been kept, and they drink none to this day, for they have obeyed their father's command. I have spoken to you persistently, but you have not listened to me.

Followed by;

17b Behold, I am bringing upon Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem all the disaster I have pronounced against them, because I have spoken to them and they have not listened, I have called to them and they have not answered.

My question is this; with all the "progress" that we believe we have made in this modern world. With all the philosophical and scientific breakthrough, with a few thousand years separating us, have we really come so far from the Israelites? I would wager, "no." If you have just a few more moments I would like to illustrate why I thus believe.
If the doctor tells us to lay off of the salt because we have high blood pressure and we will soon find ourselves on life support, what do we do? We do not hesitate to rush home and cleanse the house of all forms of sodium chloride. We listen to the doctor.
What if the latest study shows that eggs are bad for us? We rush to the store to stock up on "Egg Beaters." We listen to the scientist.
What if God tells us not to have premarital sex? We not-so-politely usher Him to the door and proclaim with loud voices that "We have risen above such prehistoric notions about sex!!"
What if God tells us not to lie, covet, steal, murder? What if God tells us that man was made for woman, and woman for man? What if God tells us that following our sinful nature leads to death? Finally folks, what if God tells us that His Son and the shedding of His blood is the only way to spend eternity with Him? We do not listen to God. Let me be very clear on this, we do not listen to God.
The first chapter of the book of Romans gives us the same message from God that Jeremiah does. If we don't listen to God we will suffer. I will not reproduce the passage in its entirety here but please read it. Over and over in this passage we are given lists of things that "men" exchanged God for such as; images, worshiping the creature rather than the Creator, unnatural sexual relations, etc. Do you know what God did? "He gave them up." Now they, "receive in themselves the due penalty for their error."
If the doctor told you how to avoid getting an STD, you would do it. If the judge told you how to avoid going to jail, you would do it. If Oprah told you how to live a better life, you would do it. God tells us all these things in His Word, from beginning to end. We don't do it.

Though they know God's decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

Sound familiar?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Quenched But Not Satisfied

Quenched but not satisfied.
Anyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life. John 4:13-14

I have come to realize lately that once one tastes of the water that Jesus is speaking of in this passage there may in fact no longer be a thirst for salvation or eternal life but the thirst takes on a different tone. In the 42nd Psalm the author relates to us how they thirst for the presence of God, the living God. I do not believe this to be the contradiction that it appears to be. It would be very easy to look at these two verses and come to the conclusion that the Psalmist was not saved or otherwise secure, eternally speaking. However, I think we are dealing with two different kinds of thirst or at the least, two different needs being met. Jesus is clearly speaking of salvation when He addresses the woman at the well and that at the acceptance of His water the soul will no longer thirst for immortality in eternity.

Now, when one receives this living water then there is no need to seek salvation in other sources, which is a good thing since they will not be found. However, once salvation is secured and one decides to accept the glorious gift that Christ is offering a new type of thirst is able to manifest itself in the passionate believer, the thirst for the presence of God. This is altogether different than the thirst of a soul that is lost and seeking the completion that Christ offers. Enter Psalm 42.

You see, over the past year I have become acutely aware of this thirst. Now sometimes it is subtle and other times it is overwhelming but it has been growing steadily for some time. I believe that if we take our faith seriously and earnestly seek God then there will be a deep, deep desire to experience the reality of God. The idea is fairly hard to explain but I will try. One good example would be fellowship (Let me say here that I am drawing on conversations that I have had over the past months, so these ideas are not entirely mine). In the church and in our lives as Christians the idea of fellowship takes on myriad meanings and forms. Commonly the idea of fellowship is evidenced in things such as youth meetings, cookouts and prayer meetings. While these are all fine examples of ways to fellowship it can take on a much different meaning after it has truly been experienced.

I believe that there is a rich type of fellowship that needs no particular venue or excuse other than itself. This type of fellowship runs deeper than enjoyment of company and it far outreaches any worldly distance. This is because it is anointed by God Himself and facilitated by the same. It is a connection that goes beyond personal commonalities or shared interests and it is a connection of souls and hearts that can only come from being blood kin in Christ. Many share this type of fellowship in marriage but it is certainly not limited to it. Nor does this fellowship require words, whether verbal or written, it just happens and sometimes at the most inopportune times. After this has been experienced once the real joy and the real curse of it comes. Once it has been tasted the imitations will no longer do and one is forced to look upon lesser conceptions of fellowship, sigh and say, "if only they knew."

The same feelings can be said for any experience with God whether it be fellowship, worship, praise, prayer, etc. Once the authentic has been seen then all other attempts seem to come up short. This may sound overly harsh but that is not the intention. To be sure, I can no more define someones version of worship that I can define their idea of good wine. I suppose the point is that there is something so much deeper and sweeter than church on Sunday or youth meeting on Wednesday.

It is not the job of the passionate Christian to seek deeper communion with the Almighty, it is the privilege! If someone thinks that they have "arrived" spiritually then they are simply fooling them self or being fooled by the enemy. Everything, I mean everything, we experience or see in this world is but the tiniest fringe or outskirt of the actual glory of God. To think that we have come to a point of completion in our walk is utter foolishness. No matter how much we think we know of God, or how deeply we think we've experienced Him it is only a small fraction of the reality of it. There is always something to be learned from scripture, always a reason to pray and always a need for true fellowship whether we are the Pope or the newest addition to the Christian family.

I say all of that to say this, once the the truth is seen and tasted, the thirst only grows and soon only the very presence of God will satisfy the craving of our soul. Do I feel that I have reached this point? Certainly not, and that is the beauty of it. As we draw closer to God and see less and less counterfeit things it becomes overwhelming to think of what may happen next. You find yourself saying, "if what I'm experiencing now is this good, whatever comes next must be unbelievable." It is up to us not to be satisfied with what we do have and seek that deeper, closer and richer walk with Christ. We cannot out seek God, not until the day of our glorious entry into heaven when we can at last be in the presence of our Savior. So until that day I will continue to be quenched by the living waters that Christ has so graciously offered but I will not be satisfied by my current position. There are alot of things that we should be satisfied with but our proximity to God is not one of them.