Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Habakkuk 2:1

1 - I will stand my watch and set myself on a rampart, and watch to see what He will say to me, and what I will answer when I am corrected.

I love that Habakkuk waits for God's answer. He expects God to answer his prayer, so much so that he stands watch. A rampart is a defensive wall, much like the one at Helm's Deep that the Elves shot arrows from in the Lord of the Rings. Habakkuk knows that he doesn't see things God's way and that God will correct him.

Do we expect God to answer us when we pray? Do you? Do I? Do we expect it so much that we wait for His answer. I will admit that my prayers are more along the lines of... I'm thinking of doing this for You, God, and if You don't want me to do it, please tell me to stop. I know this means that I have to be listening for God to say no, and I will admit that it's more difficult when I'm excited about something, but He has done it. However, Habakkuk's prayer is more about a question. God is doing something that Habakkuk doesn't understand and he's asking why. I don't think it's wrong to ask God why. I think it's good and healthy to ask Him. However, He may not choose to explain it to you and you'll have to trust Him. Most of the things I've understood about why God did something, He's explained it after I trusted Him to do it. He wants our trust, even though we want understanding. Also, I love how Habakkuk is willing and desiring to be corrected. I want to be correct with God and my understanding of Him, even if that means my current understanding is wrong. I want to be right, not look right. How about you?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Habakkuk 1:12-17

12 - Are You not from everlasting, O Lord, my Holy One? We shall not die. O Lord, You have appointed them for judgement; O Rock, You have marked them for correction.

13 - You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness. Why do You look on those who deal treacherously, and hold Your tongue when the wicked devours a person more righteous than he?

14 - Why do You make men like fish of the sea, like creeping things that have no ruler over them?

15 - The take up all of them witha hook, they catch them in their net, and gather them in their dragnet. Therefore they rejoice and are glad.

16 - Therefore they sacrifice to their net, and burn incense to their dragnet; because by them their share is sumptuous and their food plentiful.

17 - Shall they therefore empty their net, and continue to slay nations without pity?

Habakkuk didn't understand God's answer. I don't blame him. He asks God why He doesn't do anything about the evil that Israel is doing in His name and He answers saying that He will bring a more wicked nation to take them captive. Habakkuk doesn't get it, and I wouldn't either if I didn't have the perspective of the cross. The answer to his question is that God wants to show people their sin so they can hate it and ask for forgiveness, but that's not the point I wish to bring out tonight.

We don't always know what God is doing and why He is doing it. Isaiah 55:8-9 says, "'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,' says the Lord. 'For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts higher than your thoughts."We need to trust that God is doing the right thing even if we don't understand. Habakkuk looked at the situation and nothing made sense. He couldn't understand how a God who hates sin would use a more sinful country to correct His children. I personally don't understand how God puts up with me and has patience enough to love on me when I tell Him that I won't sin anymore... and then I do. But just because I don't understand His patience with me doesn't mean I want Him to stop having it. I welcome this mystery in my life. I'm not sure if it is a good idea to question God in this way. I fear God so I have a hard time asking Him "why." But Habakkuk is a brave man and asks, and God answers gently. Hebrews 4:16 says, "Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need."Maybe that means I'm allowed to ask God "why."It doesn't mean I fear Him less, but I need to check my motive. I can ask "why" for two reasons. I can ask to understand and learn or I can ask to challenge and negotiate. The first option is good, but the second is bad. I don't want to challenge the authority of God. I don't want to try and negotiate His will. I know that His will is better for me than my own, even if I don't understand it. I know His decisions in my life are right, even if I think it's not the best idea. He has a better vantage point than I do. He can see everything. It's like me walking on a trail I've never been on, trying to choose my path. And God is there and He knows the area inside and out and He has a map. I would trust Him, no matter what the trailheads looked like, wouldn't I? Because He would know what's around every corner. But it's the same in life and I try to make my own way sometimes. I tell Him that this way looks good and go without asking what He thinks I should do. But I need to listen.

I'm still not sure when I can ask God "why" when something happens that I don't like. I'm not always too clear on my motives. I think if He told me why, I might foolishly try to argue. Instead, I just ask Him what lesson can I learn from this. It seems a safer question in my mind.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Habakkuk 1:5-11

5 - "Look among the nations and watch - be utterly astounded! For I will work in your days which you would not believe, though it were told you.

6 - For indeed I am raising up the Chaldeans, a bitter and hasty nation which marches through the breath of the earth, to possess dwelling places that are not theirs.

7 - They are terrible and dreadful; their judgement and their dignity proceed from themselves.

8 - Their horses are swifter than leopards, and more fierce than evening wolves. Their chargers charge ahead; their calvary comes from afar; they fly as the eagle that hastens to eat.

9 - "they all come for violence; their faces are set like the east wind. They gather captives like sand.

10 - They scoff at kings, and princes are scorned by them. They deride every stronghold, for they heap up earthen mounds and seize it.

11 - Then his mind changes, and he transgresses; he commits offense, ascribing this power to their god."


God is answering Habakkuk's question of, "Where are you? All I see is wickedness among your people, are you going to do nothing?" God is going to bring in the Chaldeans (We know them better as the Babylonians) to punish Israel for its rebellion. They are not a righteous nation and in fact are worse than the country of Israel. But it's God's way of showing Israel that they are far from Him. When we sin, God will allow us to be taken captive by the consequence of our sin until we cry out in repentance. (It takes 70 years for Israel to be restored.) God's justice is supreme, but His mercy is limitless. We often seek justice for others and ask for mercy for ourselves. We should seek mercy and love justly. Micah says it beautifully in Micah 6:8.

"He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God."

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Habakkuk 1:2-4

2 - O Lord, how long shall I cry, and You will not hear? Even cry out to You, "Violence!" and You will not save.

3 - Why do You show me iniquity, and cause me to see trouble? For plundering and violence are before me; there is strife, and contention arises.

4 - Therefore the law is powerless, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; therefore perverse judgement proceeds.

Habakkuk is burdened with what He sees. He is trying to reconcile what he knows is a good and just God and the evil he sees in the world before him. And to make matters worse, he sees this evil in God's own people. How much can we relate to that, Christian? How many of us have been asked, "If God's so good, then why is there evil in the world?" We answer it the best we can. We explain free will and human choice and that we have chosen against God, but the answer isn't what I want to focus on today. Let's look at the problem.

Habakkuk cries out to the Lord for justice, and the Lord is silent. Habakkuk sees that the Lord is doing nothing to stop these people from being evil. Habakkuk realizes that everyone he sees is disobeying God and His law has no effect on the people. And as far as Habakkuk can tell in these verses, God is doing nothing.

In today's world, it is difficult to see God work. The news is filled with wickedness and wicked people pointing fingers and arguing about how other people are more wicked than they. Our schools are filled with promiscuity and our television and our movies are filled with lust and violence. And where is God? If America is one nation, under God. If we believe our money and we really trust in God, if God really does bless America, how did it get so sinful? Are we really better, in God's eyes, for following our dreams and hearts than the Arab countries are for following Allah?

In my understanding of God, it's either Him or nothing. Jesus is the only way. When the world is over, those who trusted in Allah and those who trusted in their wealth and those who trusted in their hearts will all be in the same place together.

Our world is evil. And we live in an increasingly evil time. And where is God? Where is justice? Oh, He's coming. And justice will rule over the earth before its time is past. Just wait and see.

But while you wait, make sure you're on the right side. God has already sent Jesus to earth to live and die in order to save us from what is to come. He offers His life to save yours. Will you accept? The world is going to be in trouble, but those who belong to God will be removed His wrath, and united with Christ in Glory. Email me if you have any questions. me@jonathandow.com

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Habakkuk 1:1

1 - The burden which the prophet Habakkuk saw.

This simple title for this section describes that the problem Habakkuk saw weighed heavily on his heart. His heart was for the Lord and when someone's heart is for the Lord, sin grieves it. When you and I see sin, we should be grieved, but how many of us rejoice when we see sin in movies or television. We justify it by saying that it is fake sin, made up, written into the script... but still, what does it do to our hearts? Do we watch movies to see sin? We don't say this to ourselves, but could it honestly be the heart of our justifications? "I can't be violent in real life, I would get in trouble, but I want to sometimes, and watching it makes me feel better." or "I know I'm not supposed to lust after a woman, but it's a hard thing to do, and watching this movie helps satisfy that urge for a while without me having to go and do it in real life."

Sin should grieve our hearts. Instead, we build up walls and callouses on our hearts so that we can not only endure sin, but actually enjoy it. How far are our hearts from God at those moments? We still praise Him with our lips, but it's just a show... for those around us, but also for us. It's a way of us lying to ourselves about what we do. The presence of sin should be a burden on us that we constantly have to give up to the Lord. We should seek comfort from Him not only for the pain that comes from our sin but the pain that comes from those who sin near us. It should affect me when I see someone else sin. My heart has been too hardened. Please soften it, Lord.

Habakkuk

So a dear friend suggested that I blog through a book of the Bible. I thought it was a great idea. Another friend of mine was talking about how great the book of Habakkuk is, so I thought I would try that. I think the hardest thing about the book of Habakkuk is trying to spell it, but maybe, just maybe, after I blog through all three chapters, I'll have the spelling down.

Habakkuk. Habakkuk. Habakkuk.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Sleep is an elusive creature

Sleep is an elusive creature. When I find it, I always find it on my bed, under the blankets and on the pillow, but it's not always there. Sometimes, I lay in wait for it, and it doesn't come. Other times, I get there and it's ready for me. And once I have it, I struggle to let it go. I want to hold onto it far beyond the reaches of night. I want to hold onto it under the sunlight coming through my window. I want to hold onto it throughout the day, but it struggles from me and breaks free. So I go about my day, hoping to meet up with and capture it again when the sun has set, and the moon is aged in the sky. When the stars start to droop and the world is tired. Then I get on my bed, look under the covers and on the pillow and it is there. I slide my arms around it and hold on tight.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

The Power of a Pencil

"Do you see this pencil, Harvey?"

Harvey peeked across the table, over the top of his papers. "Yes, Ned. I see the pencil."

"It's interesting. Harvey. This is an interesting pencil." Ned rotated it between his fingers mere inches from his eyes.

"You can't just tell me that the pencil is interesting, Ned, you have to tell me why it's interesting. Describe it."

"Well, it's yellow, and about six inches long with an eraser at one end and a writing tip on the other. It has a two on it."

"Don't tell me that, Ned. I know all that just from you saying it's a pencil. Just describe the interesting part."

"It's got bite marks on it."

"Have you been biting my pencil?" Harvey snatched the pencil away from Ned to examine it. "Ned, that's gross." Harvey wiped the pencil on his shirt before tossing it onto the table.

"Sorry, Harvey." Ned twiddled his thumbs. "I just thought it was an interesting pencil."

"Why?"

"I don't know, it was something. Something I can hold in my hands, put in my mouth. It was real. Harvey. Things aren't real around here, have you noticed?"

"Sure Ned, I've noticed. Things aren't real around here until they need to be, like the pencil."

"I don't get it."

"Okay, Ned." Harvey put his papers down on the table and took off his glasses. "Check this out."

"Woah, Harvey, you wear glasses?"

"I didn't until I took them off. The world you and I live in comes to life as we use it. Where are we?"

"We're sitting at the table."

"That's what we're doing, but where are we?"

"We're in a room." Just as Ned said the word 'room,' he was suddenly aware of the room around him. It was a kitchen.

"That's right. We're in a room. What am I wearing?"

"It's a kitchen! Is it your kitchen or my kitchen? How did we get here?"

"One question at a time. What am I wearing?"

"A shirt. You wiped the pencil on it."

"Good, Ned. I'm wearing a shirt because I had to wipe the pencil on it." Harvey reached out and touched Ned between the eyes. "Focus on me, Ned. Until I needed a shirt to wipe the pencil on, it didn't exist. Until you asked me to look at the pencil, the pencil didn't exist. We didn't exist."

"We didn't?" Ned sat back in his chair and put his hand to his head.

"No, we didn't. We're in a story, Ned, and stuff comes into existence as it is needed. Plates, spoons, knives, all the things that go in a kitchen aren't there until we need them, then they are."

"I don't get it."

"The story teller doesn't write an inventory of everything in the room to tell the story. They just say what they need. The reader fills in the rest with his or her imagination. But the story teller doesn't just say what he wants to say either, he must describe it, not factual like you did the pencil, but what is interesting about whatever he's describing. So this story is about you, me, and a pencil."

"So what do I do?"

"I don't know, go outside, describe what you see."

Ned stands up and walks to the door. His hand is shaky as he turns the handle, but the door opens smooth for him as if it wanted to be open. A cool breeze welcomed Ned as he stepped into the garden. The sun dropped a blanket of warmth on his face. Harvey followed.

"What do you see?"

"I see flowers and grass and the street and cars and other houses and fences and all sorts of things."

"What's interesting about all of that?"

"It's not real, Harvey. They are all just drawings of those things."

"Those are just drawings from my pencil."

"Were they ever real?"

"Only to us and for a short time."

"Will they ever be real to anyone else?"

"Just those that read."

"I'm confused, Harvey. Was our story really about a pencil?"

"No. It was about how the pencil can create existence, but it's not real. Everything that pencil can create can, at best, allude to something real. It can remind the person looking at the picture or reading the words of what exists in real life, but it can never replace. From our world of allusion, we can bring out real emotions, but nothing else. Everything else, even what we use to bring out those emotions, are something the reader can relate to real life, or there is no basis for understanding. The pencil is a symbol. It is interesting, because it's a piece of wood with some graphite in it, and with it, we can create anything we can imagine."