Tuesday, July 21, 2009

IOW: A Quiet, Yet Deliberate, Rebellion

Miriam at Miriam Pauline's Monologue is hosting In Other Words. Visit her to view more posts and to add your own take on today's quote.
But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD.” Jonah 1:3
What a strange time I am experiencing right now! What an appropriate quote for me to ponder...

My home is empty this summer except for my husband and myself. I never thought what "empty nest syndrome" really meant. Our children are all grown and on their own life paths. When our son left for USMC boot camp just over a week ago, my house and my cell phone became very quiet. I, who dearly cherish alone time, am finding myself at a loss as to how to fill my moments.

How do I redefine myself? Gain a new identity? I am still a mother, yet have no mothering responsibilities. How strange this is...something I have done for 25 years is no longer necessary to the extent I have previously known. Part of me is excited for the opportunities ahead, part is shaking with the thought of becoming an afterthought to those in whom I have invested more than half of my life. Yet, it is right that this should come.

When I look at Jonah, I see a reflection of myself. I had so much filling my days that it was easy for me to drift off to Tarshish on a ship of full of responsibilities. If some call from God seemed difficult or time-consuming - well I had meals to cook, a house to clean, little hands to wash, soccer games to attend, Sunday school lessons to study, books to read, new TV shows to watch, phone calls to answer. My life was overflowing with important things, good things, mundane things.

Yet, how often did I hear a Voice whispering for me to stop and listen, to kneel and learn, to prepare for His call? And how often did I let myself judge the task (or recipient of the task) unworthy of the precious time I had available?

Is a full life a life fulfilled?
But Jonah got up and went the other direction to Tarshish, running away from God. He went down to the port of Joppa and found a ship headed for Tarshish. He paid the fare and went on board, joining those going to Tarshish - as far away from God as he could get. ~ Jonah 1:3 The Message
How did Jonah, a prophet of God, think he could escape the Presence of the Lord by changing his location? When a task God gives us seems distasteful, is there a way to remove ourselves from His gaze?

One of my favorite Latin phrases is Coram Deo - living before the face of God. When I am walking on the path I know to be the one on which He is leading me, I rejoice in the idea that the omnipotent Creator of the universe is watching me and walking with me. Yet when that path seems filled with potholes and mud... I tend drift to the path of soft grass and no responsibility. What makes me feel like God doesn't see my rebellion? Or perhaps a better word is defiance.

Dictionary.com defines defiance as "intentionally contemptuous behavior or attitude." Wasn't that how Jonah acted? He openly disobeyed God because he decided that the people of Nineveh didn't deserve a chance to repent. His attitude conveyed the idea that God doesn't have the right to offer salvation to whomever He pleases.

In my full life have I ever deliberately turned away from someone God has put into my path? Yes.

Not too long ago I arrogantly turned away from someone who asked me for money. I detest panhandling. I told this person I had seen him earlier in the day doing the same thing.

As I self-righteously walked away with my $5 coffee in hand, his response reverberated in my ears, "I live here." There are no houses or apartments where I was...just a square filled with entertaining distractions and the river-front park. This man had no home other than a blanket under a tree by the river.

Did this man know that God loves him? I will probably never know - the city cracked down on homeless living by the river...they were driving customers away from the entertainment area. Will he have another opportunity to hear the Gospel? I pray it will be so.
Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I'll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age. ~ Matthew 28:19-20 The Message
Father, please forgive me when I disobey. Make me sensitive to Your call. Help me live a life worthy of that call. Amen.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

IOW: Remembering Your First Love

Debbie at Heart Choices is hosting In Other Words. Visit her to view more posts and to add your own take on today's quote.
To just read the Bible, attend church, and avoid "big" sins - is this passionate, wholehearted love for God?

~ Francios Fenelon, The Seeking Heart

In every new relationship there is an initial sense of exuberance. The joy of being together drowns out all other distractions. Spending time with each other is the most important thing in the world.

When we are children we seek out every opportunity to be with our friends, even as the initial intensity of the friendship wanes and other friends come into our lives.

When we fall in love for the first time, we are consumed by thoughts of the object of our affections. Sometimes even minor separations feel like excruciating pain. But eventually, even that intensity also fades with familiarity.

If we truly care for the other and our feelings are reciprocated, we make deliberate effort to grow the relationship into one with strong and steady communication that includes daily contact.

But there comes a point even in the deepest relationships where we become so comfortable that we begin to take the other person for granted. Our excitement dims into expectation. The passionate farewells turn into quick kisses and an automatic "I love you" thrown over the shoulder as we go on to more interesting activities.

As we get older, we may see this as a normal progression. Maybe we are at a level where the intensity has dimmed and our relationship is one of simple contentment with little effort required to maintain it.

There is a very serious danger to allowing our relationships to become that comfortable.

We may discover a distraction or new relationship that stirs our sleepy passion, causing us to neglect or turn our backs on the relationship that once consumed us.
...and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Revelation 2:3-4
The church at Ephesus experienced the all-consuming intensity of first love when the apostle Paul came to them and established the early congregation there (Acts 18:18-21).

The next time Paul went to Ephesus, he stayed three years and his ministry to them helped the Ephesian church become a center for evangelistic outreach in the Gentile world.
And many who had believed came confessing and telling their deeds. Also, many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all...So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed. Acts 19:18-20
The faithfulness of the Ephesian church even sparked a riot among the pagan business people in the city because so many were being drawn to Christ through the passion of the Ephesian believers that the pagans were loosing their businesses due to a lack of customers for their idols.

What drew the metropolitan people of Ephesus to leave their popular and politically correct pagan worship practices and follow a Carpenter from a dusty little town in Palestine?

It was not the believers' habit of reading a Proverb a day.

It was not the church's great programs and fellowships.

It was not the members' good deeds and honest living.

Although these things will get people through the church doors...

Only a dynamic, passionate relationship with God is enough for a person to give up a comfortable "good" life and turn to a life of holy living in Christ.

Yet we know that even the Ephesian church let themselves get comfortable.

They took for granted their security in the salvation from Christ.

They turned from their first love and let themselves be consumed with

going through the motions of worship...

singing all the right praise songs...

doing all the right things...

I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and found them liars; and you have persevered... Revelation 3:2
The danger of becoming content in mediocrity and routine is real for Christians today. Jesus was specific in what the consequences of that is -- we will no longer be useful to Him in bringing others to Him and therefore
I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place. Revelation 2:5c
Our salvation is secure in Him (Ephesians 1:13-14), but our usefulness is completely based on our

"passionate, wholehearted love for God"

Jesus told the Ephesian church
Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works. Revelation 2:5a-b
We also must REMEMBER:

And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God... Ephesians 3:17-19


Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. Ephesians 5:1-2


...speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ... Ephesians 5:19-20


Oh, love the LORD, all you His saints! Psalm 31:23a


You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. Matthew 22:37