Authentic Christians are open to God’s questions

God ask questionsThere is a great need in our land for authentic Christians who rise up to demonstrate and declare the gospel of Jesus. Romans 8:18-23…(19)  In fact, all creation is eagerly waiting for God to show who his children are.  (20)  Meanwhile, creation is confused, but not because it wants to be confused. God made it this way in the hope  (21)  that creation would be set free from decay and would share in the glorious freedom of his children.  (22)  We know that all creation is still groaning and is in pain, like a woman about to give birth.  (23)  The Spirit makes us sure about what we will be in the future. But now we groan silently, while we wait for God to show that we are his children.

Authentic Christians increasingly submitting all their lives under the loving Lordship of Jesus.  In order to embrace God’s dealings to help us grow we must be open to His questions.

Adam

Adam, where are you?”   Have you ever had God ask you a similar question?  We all remember the question asked to Adam.  God came into the garden to connect with Adam and Eve like He always did.  Now it was different.  Instead of Adam being ready and eager to talk with God, he now hid in shame behind the bushes. Gen 3:9 Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?”   Did God, who holds all knowledge and power really not know where Adam was?  Did God somehow lose him?  Could God not see behind the bushes?

There is a theme in Scripture of God asking people questions.  When He asks people a where-are-youquestion it isn’t because His doesn’t know the answer.  When God asks people questions it is about His dealings in their lives.  God knew where Adam and Eve where and what had happened.  The question was for Adam and Eve’s benefit.  He wanted them to know the condition they were in and caused it. His questions unlocked a dialogue that revealed their current condition so they could find a way out of their mess.

Elijah

Throughout Scripture God used this method to deal with His people.  When Elijah was running from Jezebel and wanting to give up and die, God directed him to a place in order to ask him a question.  1Ki 19:9 Then he came there to a cave and lodged there; and behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”  God even repeated the question a second time. 

On one hand the answer was obvious, God told him to go there.  But God wasn’t asking the question about his geographic location, but his spiritual condition.  He was asking a question that revealed Elijah’s present condition and how he got there.

Both times Elijah’s response to the question revealed the real nature of what lead to his current condition.

1Ki 19:10 NASB  He said, I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.”

1Ki 19:14 NASB  Then he said, “I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.”

In the midst of moving mightily in God, Elijah became disappointed and full of self pity at the response of the people he was trying to help.  The source of his spiritual downturn was self focus and self pity that lead him to depression (and some would say bitterness).  God went on to reveal that he wasn’t the only one who was faithful to God (there were 7000 who had not bowed their knee to Baal).  God was breaking the self pity and deception in Elijah’s current condition.

 David’s brothers and the army

God had David ask a question to God’s people when they were hiding in their tents, intimidated by Goliath.  1Sa 17:26-29 And David spoke to the men that stood by him, saying, What shall be done to the man that killeth this Philistine, , and taketh away the reproach from Israel? for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?…(28)  And Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spoke unto the men; and Eliab’s anger was kindled against David,… (29)  And David said, What have I now done? Is there not a cause?

The question David asked revealed the nature of the dilemma.  Goliath was bringing a reproach on Israel; he was defying the armies of the living God.  God had anointed them to move in His great power.  How could they let a Philistine spew out reproaches upon God’s people?  Why didn’t someone go after Goliath in the power of God?  David was exposing the self-centered fear that was their real problem.  Their fear caused them to avoid the purpose and calling of God. The questions revealed the true nature of what was going on in their hearts

Woman at the well

Jesus asks a question of the woman and the well.  Joh 4:16…”Go, call your husband and come here.”  His question was designed to show her the problem in her spiritual state.  She had five husbands and was currently living with a man in immorality.  Jesus brought up the issue because He wanted to deliver her out of her bondage.  When God asks anyone a question it isn’t just to expose and bring shame.  It is to expose and remove deception to get people out of the state they are in.  His questions are born out of love.

It was easy for the woman to downplay her immorality because her people and the Jews had different views of God.  As long as she wasn’t sure about God then her immorality wasn’t that bad.

The Pharisees

Jesus asked Peter a question (in front of everyone so they all could hear it) when the immoral woman came and anointed His feet at the Pharisee’s house.  The Pharisees were upset because Jesus was letting an immoral woman show Him great affection.  Jesus told a story about debtors then asks Peter the question.   Luk 7:42 NASB  “When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. So which of them will love him more?”

The question was designed to reveal the spiritual state of those questioning Him.  The woman was broken and knew she needed forgiveness.  She was amazed that Jesus forgave her.   The Pharisees, on the other hand, were full of self justification and condemnation.  His question about forgiveness revealed that they were trusting in their own self justification and that was why they didn’t really love God much.   Again a question was asked to reveal bad spiritual conditions.

We must always be open to the questions of God.  This is one of the main ways God moves to cut off dead branches and help us grow and produce fruit.  Joh 15:1-2 NASB  “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.  (2)  “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.

Spiritual GPS

GPSWe cannot repent (turn away) from negative spiritual directions if we don’t know where we are at.  It works like a GPS.  In order to find a right direction to a destination we must begin with where we are at now (current location).  God asking questions brings light into our darkness and helps locate us.  His questions often reveal our stuck positions and wrong paths.

Sometimes He brings the questions through others (messages and dialogue), sometimes it is brought to us alone in prayer, and often it is some combination of the two.  The important things is to embrace God’s questions, “what are you doing here, where are you, etc.”  Then we can begin the process of change.

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Fellowship that brings clarity in the midst of confusion

clarityWe certainly live in confusing times.  Moral lines that used to provide a sense of structure and security have been either blurred or erased.  “There is nothing wrong with it as long as it makes you happy” has become a mantra of this generation, including many of those identifying themselves as God’s people.   It is eerily similar to the times Isaiah lived in.  The northern 10 tribes of God’s people were taken away into judgment and captivity because of their continued disobedience.  Those who were left in the homeland, among whom Isaiah lived, where doing the same things and were heading in the same direction.

In Isaiah 5:20-30 he gives warnings to them.  Isa 5:20-22  Woe (CEV you are heading for trouble) to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!  21  Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes And clever in their own sight!  22  Woe to those who are heroes in drinking wine And valiant men in mixing strong drink.

Doesn’t this sound like today?  Our culture is progressively calling good things evil and evil things good.  Orthodox Christians ideas are now considered hateful and evil, not worthy of bringing up in public arenas.  If you do you will either lose your job or get sued.

Even as recently as 10-20 years ago we could not imagine our culture would be celebrating things now that were universally considered perversion then.   Our culture is making heroes out of people who are doing things that God considers evil.  What is even more shocking is that many of God’s people march right along in that same parade.

Book of remembrance

The last prophet in the Bible, Malachi addressed a similar time.  God’s people were doing things that were sure to bring judgment.  Right in the midst of it hope rises. Some of God’s people took steps that caused them to move in a different direction.  Chapter 3 begins with a future oriented passage as he announced God was sending a messenger, later identified by Jesus and other NT writers as John the Baptist (Mal 2:7, Mal 4:5; Mat 11:10, Mat 11:11; Mar 1:2, Mar 1:3; Luk 1:76, Luk 7:26-28; Joh 1:6, Joh 1:7).  He would announce and usher in a new age with the coming of Jesus.

Malachi then refers to the steps taken by a group of God’s people that caused them to change their trajectory from evil towards God’s desire.  Mal 3:16-18  Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD gave attention and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who esteem His name.  17  “They will be Mine,” says the LORD of hosts, “on the day that I prepare My own possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.”  18  So you will again distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him.

Fellowship that promotes Kingdom advancement

Those who “feared the Lord” entered into a process we often refer to as “fellowship” that caused clarity and turned them.   I sometimes dislike using the word “fellowship” because it conjures up images of something that it isn’t.  Some see it as a sort of  therapeutic moral support group where we sit around and “share” our struggles, needs, and desires.  Then we appeal to Jesus to help us all have better lives in which struggles disappear, perceived needs get met, and He helps us achieving the desires of our hearts so we feel better about our lives.  It tends to be somewhat self centered and anemic.

The “fellowship” Malachi refers to was different.  It caused a strength and clarity to come among them, “then they will be Mine…My own possession…So you will again distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, between the one who serves God and the one who does not serve Him.”

Those who “feared the Lord began to speak to one another.”  Whatever they spoke about caused them to write a “book of remembrance before God.”  What is a book of remembrance?  Like any family album or keepsake we record and call to mind the things that are important.  In their case what God has done in the past.  How He designed them as His people.  It is what He desires for His people that is revealed in His word.

A book of remembrance is recalling and rehearsing the valuable in God that make us His people.  It reveals the direction He is pleased with.  A book of remembrance entails fresh revelation of His design and call.

This type of fellowship isn’t the safe, sanitized, or tame efforts designed to produce “nice” people with respectable lives.   It is the type of fellowship the writer of Hebrews mentions that “provokes” change and action.  Heb 10:24-25  and let us consider how to stimulate (provoke)  one another to love and good deeds,  25  not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

This is the type of fellowship Daniel and the three Hebrew children experienced when the met together after news about the King’s threats to destroy them (Dan 2:12-45).  The result was that they didn’t “bow or bend” to his wishes and went on to stimulated a revival in the land.

It is the type of fellowship the early church experienced when they were threaten to quite speaking about Jesus (Acts 4:23-34).  The result was prayer and a fresh forward movement to speak the message of Jesus clearly.

We need “book of remembrance” types of fellowship and gatherings that will cause clarity and fresh awakenings to come that promotes Kingdom advancement.   In the midst of a culture that is pressuring God’s people to conform to it’s image “book of remembrance” fellowship advances the Kingdom of God.  In them we connect with God, call to mind His ways, and encourage each other to pursue Him no matter the cost.

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Five Minute God Thoughts: Is the sun setting on Western Christianity or the dawning of a new day?

Cultural commentators are labeling our current western experience as “Post Christian.”  It seems that every idea is tolerated in the public arena except Christianity.  Will the recent Supreme Court ruling be a further  impetus to remove authentic Christianity and Christian ideas from any public forum?  Will Christians be reduced to only practicing their faith privately or huddled in religious buildings?  Is the sun setting on historic Christianity in the west or could it be the dawning of a new day.


 

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