Tuesday, June 17, 2014

It Just Ain't Fair

My Grandma Merna believed in fairness. She wanted everything to be fair for her family. Her compulsion to fairness always showed up at Christmas. She would, of course, spend the same amount of money on every grandchild. But she wouldn’t stop there. Every grandchild had to have the same number of gifts under the tree, so it would be fair. They were usually sized the same as well! When Santa came overnight, he miraculously believed as she did, and every grandchild received the same number of gifts from him too.

1 Kings 13 tells the story of a man of God who was sent with a message from God to King Jeroboam. The Bible doesn’t name the man of God, so let’s call him Frank.

King Jeroboam didn’t like the message, so he ordered the guards to seize Frank. But as his hand stretched out, pointing toward Frank, it shriveled up so he couldn’t pull it back.

As you can imagine, it scared the dickens out of him. Amazingly, he had a change of heart. He asked Frank to pray for the restoration of his hand. God answered. Did this change Jeroboam’s heart? Of course not. But he did see the wisdom of having a man of Frank’s stature on his side so he invited him to dinner.

Frank declined. In verse 8 he says, “Even if you were to give me half your possessions, I would not go with you, nor would I eat bread or drink water here. For I was commanded by the word of the Lord: ‘You must not eat bread or drink water or return by the way you came.’”

He heads home.

Another “old prophet” hears about Frank’s response (Gossip chains were alive and well, even in biblical times). He saddles up his donkey, chases after him, and invites Frank to dinner. Frank gives the same response.

The old prophet says, “I too am a prophet as you are. And an angel said to me by the word of the Lord: ‘Bring him back with you to your house so that he may eat bread and drink water.’”

He lied.

Frank listens. Returns. Eats. Then...dies for his disobedience.

It’s not fair.

What about the old prophet who lied?

We all know that life isn’t fair, but stories like this tweak our fairness meter, and make us question God. God’s fairness meter will never be tweaked, even when we don’t understand how it works. We can trust Him. Others…maybe not so much.

I don’t know why the story unfolds this way. But I have thought about who I listen to.

I had a church member once tell me that “God told me that you were supposed to put me on the worship team.” She couldn’t sing well enough. I had the wisdom to respond with, “When He tells me too, I’ll do it.”

Then again, I’ve done lots of things where I felt like the Lord was saying no and others (godly people) were pushing for yes. And then, whatever it was bombed. I listened the wrong way (fortunately death hasn’t been the result…yet).

We, who follow Christ, have the same power that raised Him from death, living in us. God speaks to us. He leads us. Who will we listen to? Will we cultivate the discipline required to recognize His voice and obey when He speaks? Will we have the courage to say no, when others are saying yes? Or yes, when others are saying no?

Frank would tell you to listen to and obey God.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Cloudy with a Chance of Sun

I love the sun.

I love the beauty of it when its light bends around the horizon, painting the sky like an artist’s canvas. I love the warmth it brings (to clarify, not the 117 degree warmth of Phoenix, just “normal” warmth).

Uncharacteristically, I found myself driving east this past week in the early morning (remember I am a musician…mornings aren’t generally my thing).

As I was driving, I was looking out at the horizon and the sun was up just far enough that the bottom edge of that beautiful orb just kissed the horizon. It was glowing bright and beautiful and yellow, and there were just enough clouds gracing the horizon that it captured the colors like a beautiful sunset, only it was morning!  It was absolutely gorgeous!

And as I looked at it, I noticed that there was what looked to be a beam of light coming up from the top of the sun, shooting toward the skies and filling what I imagined to be the throne room of heaven.

It was awe inspiring. I marveled at the majesty of God and His creation. It was beautiful. And I was reminded of how much I like sun (after winter and spring in Oregon, I need to be reminded).

Just as I like the warmth and glow of the sun shining in the sky, I like the warmth and the glow when my life is sunny. You know, when there really aren’t any problems more than just a few wispy clouds on the horizon. When I just get to live life and it goes the way I want it to.

Later in the morning as I was doing my quiet time, I was reading in the book of Kings about the dedication of the Temple that Solomon built.

When construction was finished, he called Israel together to celebrate and dedicate the Temple. They sacrificed upwards of 150,000 animals, they worshiped, they honored God.

1 Kings 8:10-11 says, “When the priests withdrew from the Holy Place, the cloud filled the temple of the Lord. And the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled his temple.”

I got to thinking about the cloud. In my mind I pictured a nice, pretty, white fluffy cloud. But in the next verse Solomon says, “The Lord has said that he would dwell in a dark cloud.”

Wait. A dark cloud?

I don’t like dark clouds. I like sun.

But what Solomon says is true. When things are dark and rough and hard; when my soul, in desperation, cries out for the presence of the Living God. That’s when he meets me in a personal, life-changing way.

Whether sun or clouds, they’re both the presence of God. They’re both incredible. But they are different. And I know that I need both of those moments.

The beauty is that God is in both of those moments. And that leaves us with the ability to sing “Hallelujah” no matter what our circumstance.