Today's Sermon Notes: Aside
1. Today's sermon notes.
2. Reflections on said notes.
3. Reflections on life and lessons learned.
4. Reflections on the road ahead.
Reason for writing: I wrote this post to the Lord, emphasizing that I trust Him.
How to Glorify God in the Middle of a Mess
May 31, 2015
Habakkuk was a prophet of God who grew up during one of the last great revivals of Judah. See 2 Chronicles 34-35 and 2 Kings 22-23. Habakkuk is a unique book compared to other Old Testament books, because it is a dialogue between a prophet and God rather than a narrative.
1. Habakkuk's question (1:1-5): "God, why don't you do something?"
People say that you shouldn't ask God why. Well, Habakkuk apparently hadn't heard that message. He asked God things that many of us wouldn't dare to. He sounded almost angry: God why are you letting this happen? Don't you hear? Don't you care? Don't you see the injustice that Israel has fallen into and how righteousness is being trampled in the streets and the wicked people are winning? Why aren't you doing anything about it? Aren't you paying any attention to what is going on?
2. God's answer (1:5-11): "I am doing something."
God says (1:5), "Look at the nations and watch -- and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told." He continues, saying that He is going to raise up and use a group of wicked, ruthless people to punish injustice.
People like to take this verse out of context and use it to mean that God was going to do something GREAT. But here, His answer isn't exactly one that makes sense to Habakkuk or is something that He would like. It wasn't great seeming for Israel. He was bringing correction / punishment by people more wicked than they were.
People can so easily become proud and think that they do not need God. Prosperity is far harder to survive than adversity. See Deut. 8:2-5, below, of what God told the Israelites just before they entered the promised land, after their 40 years of wandering:
2 And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. 3 So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. 4 Your garments did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years. 5 You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the Lord your God chastens you.
Habakkuk is given a revelation BUT NOT an explanation. God has no obligation to us to justify His actions. We don't get the privilege to create God in our image.
3. Habakkuk responds with doubt (1:12-17) - "How can You do that?"
There is a great chasm between doubt and disbelief. Doubt says "How could this be in your plan, God?" while disbelief says, "I don't even believe there is a God if this could happen."
Habakkuk basically responds in doubt - "God, how could you do this?" (1:12-17)
4. God's answer: "Do you trust me?" (2:2-4)
God says, "Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay. See he is puffed up; his desires are not upright -- but the righteous will live by his faith -- [...]"
The pastor went on to discuss how "the righteous will live by his faith" had been quoted and used to base whole books of the New Testament (see Romans 1:16-17, Galatians 3:11, Hebrews 10:38, Hebrews 11). People who believe in God lived by believing that God's big plan would happen even if they never saw it in their lifetime -- they trusted God's character over and above what they saw.
They did not live by sight.
Nor by logic.
Nor by understanding.
But by faith in God's character and in His boundless goodness.
5. Habakkuk's Promise
Habakkuk answers God, "Yes," and praises Him with defiant worship. Habakkuk 3:17, "Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the live fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer's; he makes me tread on my high places."
6. God's Promise
Habakkuk 2:14, "For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea."
We know how the story ends. No matter how things look right now, God wins.
The book of Habakkuk is a vaccination against the "health and wealth gospel" which claims that if you follow the Lord, you will only have blessing upon blessing. A faith that is not tested is no faith at all. We live by faith and trusting His commitment to us, regardless of how things look.
The pastor then related a short piece about the starting of the Mid-town Grace church campus in ATL. People told him it would never work - college kids would not spend their time in the evenings to come to a church. Even the board wouldn't go with him. No one would. He had about 20 people down there when he started, and was preaching a sermon that had been really powerful at the Snellville church but it fell horribly flat. And during the music, he sat on the sidelines and prayed, "God, are you going to DO something here or not?" And God told him, "That's my business." (That's actually what the pastor said He said.) Your job is to preach. My job is to bring life to things. Whether it succeeds or fails is not your concern. That's my business.
(I thought that was really funny, because God says that to me a lot.) Of course, now, the Mid-town campus is incredibly successful. So ...
Whether the things happen that we dream of or whether they turn into nightmares, we will rejoice.
(End of Notes)
Thoughts: Important Lessons Learned
1. I've always been trying to know / hear the Lord. What He showed me in the past two years was that I wanted to hear Him more than I wanted to know Him, and that I had to want Him more than the hearing of Him only.
2. I also assumed that God had a perfect road map of the perfect life that I should follow and not deviate from one jot, so I always wanted to ask Him what the road map was so I could follow it. Perhaps that is partially true, but not the best picture, I've come to find. God doesn't want puppets that dance to His commands. He could have that any time. I thought I knew that, but I wasn't behaving like it. He wants a real relationship with us as real people -- that means we have initiative, get to chose, and have responsibility for our actions. I loved this quote I read in Dallas Willard's book:
"It may seem strange but doing the will of God is a different matter than just doing what God wants us to do. The two are so far removed, in fact, that we can be solidly in the will of God, and know that we are, without knowing God's preference with regard to various details of ours lives. We can be in his will as we do certain things without our knowing that he prefers these actions to certain other possibilities. Hearing God makes sense only in the framework of living in the will of God.
When our children, John and Becky, were small, they were often completely in my will as they played happily in the back garden, though I had no preference that they should do the particular things they were doing there or even that they should be in the back garden instead of playing in their rooms or having a snack in the kitchen. Generally, we are in God's will whenever we are leading the kind of life that He wants for us. And that leaves a lot of room for initiative on our part, which is essential: our individual initiatives are central to his will for us."
3. The Lord does speak. (I'm loving Dallas Willard's book right now. It's very true to Scripture. But right now, I only read a few paragraphs here and there every once in a while. Soon, John and I will both read it, because I always want his opinion on things.)
4. I know nothing. (I thought I knew nothing before. It's just, I had no idea how much really nothing I knew.)
5. I am nothing apart from Him and can do nothing. John 15:5, "I am the vine, you the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing." (Again, I thought I knew this, but I had no idea really, how much I needed Him and how much I am nothing without Him.)
6. You cannot hear the Lord with an idol in your heart.
7. God can and will teach me in His own time and way. He's thought about this long before me. He knows what I can bear.
Note on my hearing Him: So, I feel like the Lord got enough of my attention to help me learn to hear Him better or so in the last five years. But then, I got over-excited about it, jumped the gun, and misinterpreted Him, and also interpreted my own ideas into things He said and / or got what He said wrong. Maybe I heard Him right about some things, but increasingly, I got more and more off-track, until I was WAY OFF.
And, the Lord allowed it, because He had to burn some misconceptions out of me. It's called the Lord's correction. And it was very effective. Prov. 3:11-12, "My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord,
Nor detest His correction; 12 For whom the Lord loves He corrects, Just as a father the son in whom he delights."
It was kind of like this ...
Me: *understands something* OH I UNDERSTAND *jumps to hasty conclusions*
God: Warns me this ain't so, but I ignore Him. So, He lets me go.
Me: AHHH HAAA!! *becomes ballistic missile Jess into CONCRETE WALL* KA-BOOOM!! *gigantic explosion* *me falls to ground like a dried up splinter* THUD.
Me: ... ow
God: So, was that me?
Me: No, definitely not.
God: Will you be willing to trust me even if you don't understand anything?
God: Or if I never answer your questions?
God: Or if I don't give you anything you ask for?
God: Or if you never hear me at all?
Me: ... ... yes (small voice) ... I was really stupid, wasn't I?
*big hug from God and He picks me up off the floor*
It turns out, God is the best parent.
Reflections on the future
((You know, if you just stop and think about it, God is incredibly unfathomable and Other. Just the fact that He is eternal is mind boggling. ETERNAL. Think about it. I promise it will bust your mind if you think about it for 5 min straight.))
I have no hope of hearing Him myself. I no longer have any hope in any of my abilities, skills or strengths. The only hope I have for anything at all is in Him. Without Him I'm a mess.
And so far, this has been going really well. I've been surprised. God is still with me. In fact, the more I forget about myself, the more He gives me little signs and encouragement that He is still here. It's comforting. And sometimes, I even think I hear Him, but I just note it, for future reference, and think about it. I note and think about a lot of things without passing judgment. I'm just waiting for Him to teach me in His own way and time. And before then, I answer nothing and I write nothing. I still like talking to Him, even if I don't hear Him very well.
But anyway, that's all. My brother once asked me, "Why do you blog? No one reads it." True that. Especially now that I've not blogged so long, and even before, I'm pretty sure I got and still get a lot of spam bots. Weebly gets spam, you know. But I don't blog to be read. I just write when it seems appropriate to me. But gone are the days when I write everything I think. Or most of what I think, especially about the Lord. For, I might be wrong, and I don't ever want to mock Him again. EVEN IF I wasn't wrong, I'd like to avoid offense. Thus silence.
I can't imagine the future -- but you know what? God imagines things for me that I never do.
So who knows?
It wouldn't be much of an adventure if I knew the ending, would it?