Jehovah was not in the wind. And after the wind, an earthquake: Jehovah was not in the earthquake.
And after the earthquake, a fire: Jehovah was not in the fire. And after the fire, a soft gentle voice. (1Kings 19:11-12)

Friday, January 27, 2017

The One Test You Don't Want to Fail

We’ve made it to the last few squares of January. Already we’ve been given days of grieving or days of great joy. We will flip the page in a few days, blink our eyes and find ourselves at the end of another year.

How are we doing with the things we set out to do? We don’t want to get to the end of the year, the end of our lives and realize we missed the most important thing in the world.

My family is off skiing today on some crispy snow-covered slopes puddled with white slushies at the base of some hills.

Life can seem pretty amazing when we are high over top with spectacular views, but when you get down to the bottom of things, well, there may seem like there is a lot of slugging to plow through.

I don’t have the strength right now to strap on skis all day, and my blood has been too thin from the blood thinner medication I’m on for the rest of my life, to chance falling or being run into and tripped up, and I woke this morning with a little chest congestion that makes things even harder.

So, I'm home all alone for the day. Not something that I get to experience very often.

I wasn’t discouraged that they all drove off and left me behind. Maybe I should say, I wasn’t until they sent a snapshot of smiles under helmets and goggles on their way up a chairlift. I truly am grateful for the day they all have together, but I do miss being a part of it.

I miss the gliding down gentle hillsides, enjoying the winter wonder of the beauty of God’s creation, the laughter, the six year old trying to race her fifteen-year-old sister, the fresh air, being on the adventure together. I don’t miss the cold fingers and toes.

Today, I sit at home alone. I appreciate the quiet, the space to think, to wrestle with some hard things. To seek God in His wisdom and grace and truth and steadfast love.

It’s a difficult exercise to examine your own heart. It’s really easy to see the speck in another’s eye, but remain blinded to the log in your own.

First and foremost, I must confess, I do not think I have it all figured out. I am aware of my own short-comings and at the same time recognize that, too often, I am more willing to ignore my own log while determining how I might help another see their speck.

But I keep coming back to my one thing for this year: to know Christ. 

I will likely keep coming back to that. It is worth giving up everything in this world “for the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ my Lord.” That’s what the Apostle Paul claimed in his letter to the Philippians. That is what I want. But, when I examine my heart, my life is it truly how or why I press on each passing day? Is it what I am living; could you tell by the blisters--or lack of blisters--on my knees.

Paul also warned the Corinthians to:

“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!”
He tell us we are to scrutinize our own souls. Examine, prove, test our own selves. Are we in the faith? Do we realize we are in Christ? Is it evident that Jesus Christ is in us?

Faith is not persuading our selves. It is graciously given to us by God; it is inwrought in us, but we are to examine ourselves to see if we have come to this quiet confidence in God.

Faith always pleases and glorifies God.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones suggested two factors that determine the strength of our faith.

First, and the chief factor, he said is our knowledge of God.

Do we know God? Do we seek to know God by reading and studying His Word? Do we seek His face by coming into His presence in prayer? Do we wait upon the Lord with a quiet resting? Do we consider His greatness, His glorious attributes, His power, grace, mercy, holiness, His character, His promises? Do we realize who He is and what He has done?

The second factor, Lloyd-Jones said, is the application of what we know. Do we apply what we know and bring our knowledge of God into consideration?

Do we stand on His greatness? Do we look to Jesus and to eternal things or do we get hung up on things of this world?

Are we living out what we know?

Robert Murray M’Cheyne asserted, 

“What a man is alone and on his knees before God, that he is, and no more.”

We may fool others. We may even fool ourselves.

Dr. David, my heart surgeon, had no idea how sick my heart was because even the scores of tests did not indicate how frail it was for it was all turned and twisted and on the wrong side. I didn’t look like the typical heart patient and until the surgeon pried open the cage holding my broken heart no one knew that it was ready to quit beating at any moment. Until my heart was examined on the inside they couldn’t fully explain my symptoms on the outside. Until he cut out the hard, he couldn’t replace it with healthy.

Don’t be fooled: God knows every heart. We are to examine ourselves to see if the delight of our heart is the Lord.

It is the power of God that works in us to bring us to saving faith, to give us life. What is inside, deep in our souls, will come out in our actions. Faith always leads to actions that please God and give Him glory.

Do we seek to glorify God in all of our lives? That is the secret of faith.

Whether I am on the mountaintop or in the valley, in elation or in disappointment, am I resting in God, waiting on Him, seeking to know Him more or am I more interested in preserving my own name, setting up idols when I need to get down on my knees? 

My skiers crash through the front door chasing after their laughter, fragrant with fresh air, wearing contented grins on pinked faces, and animated with tales of jumps and tumbles as I roll out dough for turkey pot pie. We are back to the noise rattling the bones of our home. The bustle is loud after a quiet day. I slip the fluted pie into the pre-heated oven and in a moment of distraction I toss the oven mitts on top of the stove and nearly start a fire.

We are so easily distracted from the things that really matter.

I breathe a prayer of gratitude for God’s hand of protection and when the famished skiers gather around and dish up large slices of pot-pie and thank-you portions of greens we quiet down for a few minutes to listen to familiar lyrics of a song.

Jimmy Needhem penned this song, entitled, “Clear the Stage” that begs us to examine ourselves. There are many things in this world to take our devotion away from He who is is the most worthy of all our adoration. 

{The second verse and bridge of "Clear the Stage".}

“Take a break from all the plans that you have made
And sit at home alone and wait for God to whisper
Beg him please to open up his mouth and speak
And pray for real upon your knees until they blister
Shine the light on every corner of your life
Until the pride and lust and lies are in the open
Then read the word and put to test the things you've heard
Until your heart and soul are stirred and rocked and broken

Anything I put before my God is an idol
Anything I want with all my heart is an idol
Anything I can't stop thinking of is an idol
Anything that I give all my love is an idol

'Cause I can sing all I want to
Yes, I can sing all I want to

And still get it wrong.

Worship is more than a song.”

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