Trust in the Lord with all your heart!

I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but I am an avid journaler. Is there such a word? I haven’t always been, but it’s been my experience that if I don’t write it down, I will forget and then it will be gone with the wind. I journal what I believe the Lord is showing me, revealing to me, or telling me. I can’t tell you the number of times where I thought for sure I was making it up in my head, and then when I go back later, I know it was Him. So this morning, I thought I would be smart. I asked Him the following question: “Lord, if you could answer any question that I could ask, what would your answer be?” I was of course basing this on the realization that I don’t even know what questions to ask Him, He is so far above my understanding. His response was gracious, He always is. He told me it was a good question, since I am finite and He is eternal. But then He pointed something out. He told me that my question was actually based in fear. Yes, the Lord does know my heart! The fear was that I was somehow missing the mark. I was afraid of getting it wrong because I didn’t know the right question to ask. He told me that He is not a formula. If He were, then if I could just get the right combination, the right method if you will, I would then get my answer, or my prayer answered. Think of it as a slot machine. If you do it just right, you hit the jackpot. But our Father is not sitting up in heaven, tapping His foot, waiting for us to get it just right. He knows our finite minds, He knows our limitations. And, our relationship with Him should be based on love and trust, not a formula. This is how He described it to me. Think of it as a child/parent relationship. Children do not understand their world. We, as adults, do not understand ours right now. Paul tells us that now we “know in part” (1 Cor 13:9) and “now we see in a mirror dimly” (1 Cor 13:12). A child trusts the parent to protect them, because they know, or should know, that the parent is safe. They do not understand everything, but they know they can trust their parent. We do not understand everything, and we don’t need to, in order to trust Him. I love to understand. I think we all do. It somehow makes me feel safe, if I can just understand. But my sense of safety should not rest in my understanding, it should rest in Him. Proverbs 3:5 tells us “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding”. There is good reason for this admonition. If we lean on our own understanding of things it will be very easy to become deceived. The enemy loves to deceive us based on our need to understand. Satan will give us “a form of understanding” so that we can trust in it, but that understanding, will not protect us. All it will do is create a false teaching, another form of deception. The Lord took it further for me and showed me why there is so much fear, panic, confusion and hopelessness in the world right now, even among Christians. People do not understand what is happening. They thought they were trusting Him, but their trust was actually in their own understanding of who they thought He was, or what they thought He was. A mental graven image, if you will. I know that sounds harsh. But I think, if we are honest with ourselves, we will realize that we are all tempted by this problem. We want to understand Him who declares to us “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts”. (Isaiah 55:8-9) We all come to times and events in our lives, where we thought we understood Him, but then we didn’t! So what do we do now? Nothing makes sense. It would enrage people if I stated that God allowed this to happen in the world. Yet, He tells us in Proverbs 17:3 “The crucible is for silver, and the furnace for gold, and the Lord tests the hearts”. Do we choose to believe He is good and He is trustworthy or do we become like Job’s wife and curse God? Will we trust Him, when He tests our hearts, will I trust Him as He is testing my heart? I have learned through the trials and tests of my life, that He knows things I don’t. I have learned that if I trust Him, no matter what happens to me or those I love, He will work it out for good. And even better, He will work it out in such a way that I will stand amazed, in awe of His goodness and I will bring glory to His name. He is good. He is trustworthy, even when nothing makes sense.

The rapture of the church

Have you ever had a kairos moment in your life? I’m sure you have, we all have. Kairos is a Greek word that means a critical moment in time, an opportune and decisive moment that has to be acted upon. When I look back at my life, I can point to certain moments, moments where I had to make a decision, and that decision changed my life or perhaps the life of another. 

The Bible is full of kairos moments. Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus would be considered a kairos moment. But not all kairos moments start off being that dramatic, and often times they initially appear to be just an ordinary event. It’s only later, sometimes much later, that we look back and realize, that moment, that decision, changed the course of our lives. I ran across such a moment in my Scripture reading the other day. I was reading the book of Genesis, chapters 18 and 19 and I realized as I read this very well known story of Abraham and Lot and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, that this story started off with a kairos moment. Let me explain. This story begins with Abraham taking what would appear to be a nap in the heat of the day: 

And the LORD appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day. He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing in front of him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth and said, “O Lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant. (Genesis 18:1-3)

Whether he was taking a nap or just dozing I don’t know, but I did notice that Abraham did not see the men approaching. He looked up and saw them. When you first read this story, it appears as though Abraham knew who was standing in front of him. And he did! My first question is how did he know? It says they were three men, or mortals, not angels. But, if you look at Hebrews 13:2 the writer tells us the following:

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. 

The cross reference of this verse is interestingly enough, Genesis 18:3 and also 19:2. What that tells me is that Abraham discerned who was standing before him, but not with his natural eyes. Somehow, Abraham knew the Lord! We know this because he called Him Adonai, which is the proper name of God in Hebrew, spoken in place of Yahweh. Our English translates it simply as Lord, and so it is only in the Hebrew that we understand the significance of what Abraham said. So why do I call this a kairos moment? 

Imagine if Abraham had not recognized Who stood before him? Imagine, if he had thought this was just a group of strangers and had ignored them.? Would I know if the Lord came to my front door and knocked, especially if He had two friends with Him? Would I open the door, invite Him in, make Him a meal and spend the day with Him? Would I have the discernment to realize what was happening in my life that day? I won’t pretend to know the answer but I certainly hope so. That day changed the course of history. It was during that luncheon that God told Sarah and Abraham that in about one year, they would have a son. (Genesis 18:10) That son of course would be Isaac, who became the father of Jacob, who was given the name Israel. That moment, when Abraham realized Who was standing in front of his door, became a kairos moment not only for Abraham and Sarah, but for the whole world. 

Before I move on in the story I want to point out one more thing. I couldn’t help but notice Abraham’s reaction once he realized it was God standing in front of him. In verse 2 it tells us that Abraham ran to meet them. In verse 6, Abraham went quickly to Sarah and told her to quickly make 3 loaves of bread. And finally, in verse 7, we are told that he ran to the herd and took a young calf, and gave it to the young man who prepared it quickly. Abraham wasted no time in getting lunch together for his divine visitors. Let me point out what had not been obvious to me before, Abraham recognized his kairos moment and moved fast! His reaction to the situation however, is the complete opposite of Lot’s reaction just a few hours later, when the angels show up in town to assess the situation in Sodom. Lot is also hospitable and invites them home and feeds them. But, if you look at the scene, it becomes obvious that Lot does not recognize his visitors as divine, he is merely concerned for their safety because he knows Sodom is an evil town and these two “men” want to spend the night in the town square. (Genesis 19:2-3) In the English it says “he pressed them strongly”, but the Hebrew is not so kind. The word used here is quite negative, implying a stubborn, arrogant pressure or pecking at. If you read just a few verses on, this same Hebrew word is used to describe what the men of Sodom do to Lot, when he refuses to let them rape these two visitors. “They pressed hard against the man Lot and drew near to break the door down.” (Genesis 19:9) I guess Lot had learned some of the ways of the world around him. 

This same word is translated as presumption in 1 Samuel 15:23, when Samuel says: 

For rebellion is as the sin of divination,

and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.

Lot was pushing them and I would venture to suggest he was rude and presumptuous in his demands that they come home with him. I’m sure he was afraid for them, but it’s not clear to me why he acted the way he did. However, I do not believe he knew who these men were. Just in case it’s unclear to us, the Bible switches between calling them angels and calling them men. When they first enter Sodom, it calls them angels. After that they are called men, by both Lot and the men of Sodom, and only when it is time to flee Sodom early in the morning, before dawn, are they once again called angels. The point I am trying to make here is that Lot clearly did not recognize his kairos moment! It is only when the angels tell him that God has sent them to destroy the city and ask him if he has anyone else in the city that he wants to save, that it begins to dawn on Lot just who these visitors might be. But, even then, in total contrast to Abraham, he lingers. (Genesis 19:16) 

May I also point out that if it had not been for the intercession of Abraham for his nephew Lot and his family, Lot would have perished. If it had not been for the angels taking them physically by the hands and almost dragging them out of the city and telling them to flee for their lives because they could not destroy the area until they were safe, Lot and his family would have died. And his wife did die, because she did not recognize her kairos moment. She did not take what they said seriously, and when they said “Do not look back” she disobeyed their word and looked back. (Genesis 19:17)

When I look at this story with fresh eyes, I have to remember Jesus’ words to all of us in Matthew 25:13:  

“Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour”.

Over and over the scriptures admonish us to keep watch. Luke tells us in 12:35 “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning”.

We are living in perilous times. I believe that we are living in the end of days and that we are the final generation. Jesus tells us in Matthew 25 that these days will grow more and more perilous. Luke tells us in chapter 17:28-30: 

Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all— so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed.”

We must stay awake and be aware. We must keep watch and intercede for our friends, neighbors and family for we do not know the day or the hour when our Lord will come. I have this sense of urgency these days and I want to encourage you to stay awake and keep watch. As much as we each have our own kairos moments in life, there is a kairos moment coming that we don’t want to miss. It is called the rapture and it is what Paul talks about in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18:

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

I am encouraging you with these words, stay awake my friends and keep watch.

The rocks will cry out and praise Him!

I realized something a few weeks ago, that made me change the way I read the Bible. I used to read several chapters a day, simply because I love the Word. But one day I realized that I needed to slow down, and instead of just reading a chapter, I decided to actually meditate on it. What is the author trying to convey, what is being said between the lines, or perhaps even by the lines, what is the obvious and often what is the not so obvious? I decided that as I read each chapter of a book, I would ask the Holy Spirit to give me understanding, to give me wisdom, to show me the mysteries, the hidden things that are not obvious to my western eyes. Truthfully, I was amazed at what I began to see. I want to show you what I mean, so follow along with me as I unpack some of the things the Holy Spirit began to show me this morning as I read Psalm 136. 

The very first thing I noticed is what could perhaps be the most obvious, but I had never considered before. There are 26 verses in this Psalm and every single one of them ends the same way, “for His steadfast love endures forever”. It was like I saw the significance of this phrase for the first time and suddenly realized that the author was making a series of statements which to my western eyes should not have included that phrase! He was talking about calamity, death and devastation, and yet, he was telling us that these things happened because God’s love endures forever. As I pondered on that thought, I couldn’t help but think about the verse in Deuteronomy 32:4, “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice”. If all His ways are justice then I am also reminded of the verse in Isaiah 55:8-9: 

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. 

If all His ways are justice and His ways are not my ways, then perhaps I have to rethink my ways? Perhaps, instead of believing in the thoughts that I have, I have to sit at the Lord’s feet and ask Him what His thoughts are. I’m not asking a question here. I’m making a suggestion to myself, and maybe to you as well.

Another thing that I noticed was also astonishing to me. Verses 7,8 and 9 say the following:

to him who made the great lights, for his steadfast love endures forever; the sun to rule over the day, for his steadfast love endures forever; the moon and stars to rule over the night, for his steadfast love endures forever;

You might have noticed this, but I hadn’t. The sun rules, or has dominion over the day, and the moon and stars rule or have dominion over the night. Ok, I’ve known this, but I’ve never actually thought about what that means. How can a bunch of chemicals, gases and rocks have dominion? And then it hit me. When you obey God, and do exactly what He tells you to do,  what He created you to do, even a rock can cry out and praise Him! Even a rock can have dominion! Hello. 

And that took me to even another rabbit trail, if you will. I began to think of the scripture in Ezekiel 36:26,  

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

As I pondered on this particular scripture, I couldn’t help but think that we have a choice while we are on this earth. We can choose to allow Him to take our heart of stone and give us a heart of flesh, or we can choose to continue in our own ways, thinking our own thoughts. I couldn’t help but think about the thing that Jesus said to His disciples in Matthew 7:21-23:

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Could it be that the reason He never knew them, is because they had a heart of stone? Could it be that He never knew them, because they “honored Him with their lips, but their hearts were far from Him”? (Matthew 15:7-9)

What started out as a simple Psalm, repeating a simple phrase, “for His steadfast love endures forever”, turned into a much deeper understanding of who He is and what obedience can bring about. Yes, even the rocks will praise him. If I have a heart of stone, then my heart will still praise Him, but it will be standing before the judgement seat of Christ. If I allow Him to take my heart of stone and give me a heart of flesh, a heart that can love Him and obey Him, then I will praise Him both in Heaven and on the earth. What an amazing promise, a God who knows who we are, understands our sin, yet, sent His Son Jesus, to die on a cross for our sin, and if we are willing, will give us all that we need to love and honor and obey Him. Truly, His steadfast love endures forever!