Thursday, November 19, 2020

"Just" as I Am...God's Answer to Habakkuk

Over last weekend, I began prepping for a few Christmas crafts I've been wanting to focus on before the holiday rush hits.

This has become one of those pre-Christmas, intentional, non-Jesus-dropping go-to's over the years.

(A few years ago, I put together a few random thoughts for an Advent Devotional, titled "I Dropped Baby Jesus." That link for a .pdf through dropbox is here. Feel free to duplicate and download.)

I like finding a key theme for the season that helps me keep Jesus in the season...

So, as I set out supplies on Saturday, I was humming a few little Christmas carols to myself (I simply CAN NOT bring myself to turn on Christmas music, or decorate, until Thanksgiving is over...gotta keep my mind fully engaged in one thing at a time). 

A favorite, Joy to the World, popped into the next-to-hum-line-up:

I love this line.

Our Lord has come...

And with Him came the opportunity for salvation for all men...

The right to be called children of God for all who receive Him...

The door to heaven flung wide open on Christmas Day, when Jesus came as a babe, lived flawlessly, died selflessly, and bridged the great divide for me to be His own...

Joy to the World offers an invitation in the next sentence:

"Let earth receive her King..."

Oh, that we would!

In this soon-to-be-upon us celebration, oh, that the world's eyes would be opened to the truth that there is but One King...

...and He purchased the right to be on the throne of our hearts.

But, there isn't room for Him, or me, or.....?,  to be on that throne. 

There's only room for one.

May it be Him!

XXXXX

That one line got me thinking way, way, way back.

Fifty years ago this coming Tuesday, November 24th, 1970. 

That night, somewhere around 9:00 PM, earth stood still and the angels held their breath, as one, young, bold high school girl shared with her very "lost" friend (me) the gospel story.

That night it all made sense.

The story was personal to me.

Jesus became personal to me

And that night (I can't believe it was 50 years ago!!!), I did exactly what the writer of Joy to the World invited us to do (one earth-person-at-a-time).... I received Christ as my King!

What did that look like?

To receive: Greek word, lambano...

**to take to oneself in order to be carried away

**to welcome another, giving that one access to oneself

**to claim, procure, or associate with oneself as a companion

**used of that which, when taken, is NOT LET GO

Next to each one of those potential definitions, I can place a !

I became His and He became mine that night...and, I have never once, not ever, thought of letting go...

Not only is He my King, He's my most intimate friend.

That night, fifty years ago, the angels erupted the quiet of the moment with shouts, trumpets, and a huge party was held in heaven....

I had come into the Kingdom for such a time as was coming ahead...

XXXXX

So, how does this tie in with my study of Habakkuk?

Once again, I found myself focusing on the blessed night of my salvation as I read God's answer to Habakkuk in Chapter 2.

God begins to answer Habakkuk, who is still standing on his watchtower, waiting for the Lord's response (remember, he's at attention, watching, ready to receive whatever the Lord says...).

God has a lot to say to Habakkuk...but verse 4 holds what could be six of the most important words in all of Scripture (it was so important it took 3 New Testament Books to explain it...Romans, Galatians, and Hebrews):

"The just

shall live

by faith..."

Fifty years ago, I was made righteous (just) as I stepped by faith into the grace of Jesus' arms through faith.

I could do nothing to earn my way...

Jesus had done all the work for me!

Now, how do I live out that life?

What is my role for as long as my feet are planted on this earth?

In these last days (if they are the last days and even if they aren't), how do I walk out my life as a follower of Jesus?

I simply live the same way I came into the heavenly Kingdom of my new King...

By grace alone...

Through faith alone...

In Christ alone...

And don't forget...

As He once came...

He IS COMING AGAIN.

Make sure you have truly received Christ (in the full sense of "lambano") by grace alone, through faith alone, in Him alone...

Thursday, November 12, 2020

I Hate Giving Bad News, but.... (Lessons from Habakkuk)

This week I stopped in the middle of Habakkuk chapter 2, verses 2 and 3.  

I had just applauded Habakkuk's openness to listen, really listen, to the Lord.

He was ready with

*the right posture.

*the right heart.

*the right response ("I WILL listen and obey"). 



Then God answered....

....and, immediately, I felt deeply sorry for Habakkuk.

Before the Lord gives the prophet His full response, here's what The Lord Almighty said to Habakkuk (Peg's paraphrase of verses 2 and 3 above):

Write down what I'm telling you.
Make it plain, make it public, make it permanent (to write it down meant it would have to be on stone common of Babylonian writings for all to read).
This revelation I'm giving you may seem slow in coming, but IT WILL COME at the appointed time.

Here's why the pity:

NO ONE!

Not doctors, not law enforcement, not an assigned military notifier, not a teacher, and DEFINITELY not a dorm parent.

XXXXX

However, that job fell on us more times than I ever would have imagined during the years we served as dorm parents at Rift Valley Academy.

As I thought about the bad news Habakkuk had to deliver, my mind went back to a mid-October-Monday-evening, right before mid-term break for our students at RVA. 

We all just had to make it through one week of mid-term exams and then a breath-releasing-long-weekend off-campus for us all.

The boys from our dorm (15-16 years of age) were milling around in our apartment, when our phone rang.

One of the boys answered and called for "Forro" (that's what the boys had taken to calling Bay as a "term of endearment" - well, that and "Chubs," which is what they were teaching the African gray we were bird-sitting to call him). 

I could tell immediately the news was bad.

When he got off the phone, he informed me, and we determined he was the best of the two of us to break the news to the sweet, quiet Ugandan boy, who was a part of the current chaos in our living room.

While he performed that horrid task, I would inform our dorm boys.

Bay called Tim outside where he had the grim duty of letting him know that the Ugandan Airline flight his father (a Ugandan pastor) was on from London Heathrow to Entebbe had crashed as it made a typical brief stop in Rome. Of the 52 on board, there were 33 casualties. His dad was one of them.


As I quieted the boys in our living room, from outside we could already hear the wailing begin. 

It started softly and grew louder and louder for what seemed to take forever, until all that was left was quiet sobs. 

All Bay could do was hold our dorm son and weep with him.

During times like this, there are no words.

You just hang on...and be a presence...

...a tangible touch of Jesus in the middle of hard. 

As we processed through the grief with Tim over time, the one thing that made the hard bearable....that makes ANY HARD BEARABLE...is HOPE. 

And, as a follower of Jesus, we have HOPE in abundance.

This is the GOOD NEWS OF THE GOSPEL!

XXXXX

This is what the Lord was asking of Habakkuk...to be the bearer of bad news....

...but, fortunately, the bad news was laced with HOPE!

It was this HOPE that helped Habakkuk transition to worship. 

Habakkuk, however, was the messenger.

First the bad news:  Judgment is coming! The Lord will use evil to wake up His sleeping children bringing them back to a renewed faith. Judah will fall into the hands of the Babylonians (modern day Iraq), many will die, and multitudes will be carted off into captivity for 70 years. 

How would you like to give that message? 

Then down at the bottom of the chiseled-stone-tablet came the hope...

...there it is in fine print interspersed amongst the bad...

For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (2:14)...


The Lord is in his holy temple (2:20)...

And, the God who worked wonders for the Israelites from ages past will swoop down again riding on the clouds in His chariot holding out salvation for His anointed people (3:8, 13)

In all of the bad news, Habakkuk's contemporary, Jeremiah, also declared, a future and a hope for God's people (Jeremiah 29:11)....

That future and hope comes as they would seek Him with all their hearts (Jeremiah 29:12-14)...

XXXXX

Obviously, the message Habakkuk wrote passed down through the generations.

Those who read it RAN WITH IT!

The bad news came some 54 years later...just as the Lord declared through men like Habakkuk and Jeremiah. 

The message echoes still.

There's bad news coming.

A judgment we all deserve.

We've wandered so far from the truths of Scripture. 

We hold it in our hands in various forms - but we don't know it. 

Worse yet, we don't live it.

BUT THERE'S GOOD NEWS.

BETTER-YET NEWS.

JESUS.

Jesus will come again!

He may seem slow in coming.

But wait for Him.

The writer of Hebrews repeats Habakkuk's words, but he changes the "it" to come with "he" will come.

Jesus is sure to come riding in style on a cloud to receive His own.  

Salvation is ours in Him. 

In the midst of the bad news, let's hang tightly to the good news! 

And whether we want to share it or not, we must.

We must warn....

BUT, we must be hope-dispensers.

The world needs us!



Thursday, November 5, 2020

Find Yourself Wrestling With God Over Circumstances and Events? Lessons in Habakkuk on Listening.

When I used to teach elementary school (first grade), I seated the students on the floor before me, and always, always I'd ask for two things: look me in the eye and put on your listening ears.

Watching and listening are essential to hearing and responding.

Listening is a great art...

Learning to listen is a lost art...

The verb listen, according to Merriam-Webster is to "hear something with thoughtful attention and consideration."

In the Scriptures, the word translated listen means "to hear with understanding and to give heed to and consent to what is heard." Involved in this is an unspoken, but fully understood, idea of responding to and obeying, when obedience is called upon by the hearer.

With that said, one can hear, but not listen. 

The problem may be as simple as having never been taught how...

Over the years, I've really, really tried to learn the art of listening.

I'm not great at it.

It doesn't come easily.

Some people seem expertly gifted in listening.

Others....not so much.

That's the category in which my name lands.

But, I've had occasion to realize just how important this gift is on so many levels.

As well, I've learned a secret to good listening...

So, listen and I'll share the secret I've learned from some of the BEST LISTENERS...

 XXXXX

Over the years, as we've been gifted the ability to travel, speak, and share Jesus-stories (this was pre-2020, pre-COVID 19, of course), what a privilege it has been to meet new people.

Some we've served with at events (event organizers and volunteers).

Some we've stayed with as they've opened their homes in hospitality.

Some we meet over meal tables, in discussion groups, in activities, and in general conversations.

Recently I've looked at my "collection of friends" that's reflected over social media.

I'm blessed beyond measure.  I consider myself wealthy in true friends, even though I rarely see them.

Indeed, one of the benefits of travel is that there are folks I cherish all over the world - of all nationalities. 

The one distinguishable trait among the closest of these is that they each have a unique gift of listening...

How do I know?

Because they've all shared one commonality - they know how to ask good questions. 

Our conversations are two-sided.

They ask, I respond.

I ask, they respond.

Back and forth it goes as we learn from and about one-another.

The more I listen, the more questions are raised and asked.

The end result is that amidst the questions asked, the answers given, and the responses we make to what we have truly heard, a sense of value is created.

When people ask questions, we know they are listening.

Listening means we value one another as individuals... AND...

Value offered leads to deeper relationship.

XXXXX

The opposite has also been true - we've met folks from time to time, had them in our home for meals, only to sit and listen as they've gone on and on about themselves, their lives, and their families, but never once asked any questions of us in return...

This has hampered deeper relationships.

We've, sadly, seen ourselves in these folks, too...and, over time, we've attempted to make course corrections....to not be those people anymore!

The secret to good listening is asking good questions.

A sub-secret is being totally present in the conversation in order to ask those questions without trying to figure out what my next words will be...

XXXXX

Habakkuk is a good listener.

He questions God appropriately, without argument, without doubt...

 He asks. He waits. He listens for what God will say....

Then he repeats the sequence.

And, this. This is the very thing that bridges the gap between the wrestling of Chapter 1 of Habakkuk and the worship of Chapter 3.


That first verse of the second chapter is so IMPORTANT!

When we are wrestling with the Lord, wondering what He is doing in the world about us, and questioning/lamenting the "why" of God's seeming indifference and inconsistence, we need THIS VERSE!

Habakkuk goes to the ONE PLACE where He can wait, watch, and LISTEN best (for Him it's an ancient watch tower). 

He goes high in order to look out over his field of complaints...



Habakkuk's actions speak to his heart! 

He has taken a listening stance.  

His posture says that:

1. He intends to be stubborn in his waiting (there is even a sense in the Hebrew wording that Habakkuk's arms are crossed and there is within him a limitless determination - "I'm here as long as it takes, Lord!")...

2. His heart is prepared for whatever he might hear... He simply wants to listen to what God will tell him. Another picture from the Hebrew language is that not only are Habakkuk's arms crossed in stubborn determination, but he is leaning forward...His body language is inviting the Lord to speak back. "I am ready!"

4. He's not trying to figure out his next steps, his plan of action, or, even his reply to the Lord.  He's just paying attention so he doesn't miss that still small voice of God... "I am paying attention."

5. Once he hears, Habakkuk will plan his way forward. "I will obey."

XXXXX

This stubborn determination of Habakkuk...

His desire to LISTEN (in the full sense of the word)...

His heart and his intention...

THIS must make God's heart SOAR!

Over 190 times in the Scriptures, the Lord begs His people to be good listeners...

This is generally followed up with these heart-breaking words:

"But they did not listen..."

The Lord is still crying out to us to listen to His voice...

Are we so busy talking, talking, talking...issuing up complaint after complaint, that we aren't paying attention to His still small voice? 

Are we making our questions all about us, or are we seeking to learn from Him, as well?

Have we put on our listening ears? 

The kind of listening ears Habakkuk modeled for us?

The kind of listening that says, "I value our relationship, Lord...and I want it to go deeper..."?

This kind of listening will do for us what it did for Habakkuk.

We will smoothly transition from worrying and wrestling to worshipping and fully embracing the ways of the Lord.