Putting on my Hard Hat!

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©iStock.com/andresrimaging

This will be my last post for a few weeks — a month, I’m guessing. My website will be undergoing reconstruction during this time. I’m already a bit foggy about how to do what needs doing, so I’ve decided not to confuse myself further by adding more material while in the process of transferring the old.

The remodeled website will look different, but the address itself (DellaLoredo.com) will stay the same. If you’re already on the email list, you should receive a notification when the new site’s up and running. If you’re not on the list, but would like to be notified, you can join the list by hitting the “Follow This Blog” button to the right of this blog.

God’s Delights

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©iStock.com/Warren_Price

Have you ever had divinity?  Mmm, mmm, good!

As a kid, I thought that this yummy confection of egg whites, sugar, and nuts was actually from Heaven. I mean, who but God had the right to give it such a pretentious name? So I figured it must be His favorite candy, and I imagined Him mixing up batches of the stuff, using the angels as taste-testers before sending it down to earth. (I’ve always had a pretty active imagination.) In other words, I thought divinity delighted God.

Somewhere along the way, I realized that God was a bit deeper than that. And I began to wonder: well, (if not divinity) what does delight God? What warms His heart and brings a smile to His face?

The Bible tells us that God delights in:

  1. Showing mercy. God enjoys reconciling His estranged children to Himself.

“He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy” (Micah 7:18, NKJV).

  1. Our obedience. His commands are not arbitrary; they are given to help us safely negotiate our dangerous world of sin. Just as it grieves Him when our disobedience causes pain, it delights Him when we dodge harm by obeying.

“The Lord … delights in those whose ways are blameless (Proverbs 11:20, NIV).

“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord?” (1 Samuel 15:22, NKJV).

  1. Blessing those who turn to Him. Have you ever seen new parents as they watch their child open presents on their first Christmas? If so, you’ve probably seen that look of sheer delight in their eyes as the baby babbles excitedly over her gifts. In the same way, God, just like any good parent, enjoys giving good things to His children.

“The Lord will again delight in you and make you prosperous, just as he delighted in your ancestors,  if you obey the Lord your God and keep his commands and decrees that are written in this Book of the Law and turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 30:9, 10, NIV).

  1. Communing with His children. When parents send their kids off to college, they sometimes joke that the kids only call when they need money. Similarly, God likes to hear from us—and not just when we need something.

“The prayer of the upright is His delight” (Proverbs 15:8, NKJV).

Did you catch the common theme in all of these verses? What is it that warms God’s heart and brings a smile to His face?

You do.

“ Blessed be the Lord your God, who delighted in you.” (I Kings 10:9)

Delighting in God

©iStock.com/yulkapopkova

©iStock.com/yulkapopkova

“Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4, NKJV).

Wow! That’s some promise, isn’t it? Just delight in God, and He’ll give you whatever your heart desires!

There’s just one problem: delighting in God isn’t exactly natural for us sinners. In fact, in Romans 7, Paul describes an internal battle that makes it impossible for us to truly delight in God.

So what’s the deal? Is God taunting us? Does He purposely dangle a carrot in front of us that He knows we can never reach?

No. As Paul goes on to point out (Romans 7:24, 25), Jesus is able to deliver us from this battle. All we have to do is accept His victory and cooperate with the Spirit as He transforms us into the image of Christ—and into people who truly delight in the same things that delight God.

But cooperation isn’t a passive endeavor. We can encourage this transformation by choosing to participate in certain activities. For instance, we can:

  1. Submit to God—rather than fight Him as He does His job of cleansing and remaking us.

“If you return to the Almighty, you will be built up; you will remove iniquity far from your tents. Then you will lay your gold in the dust … Yes, the Almighty will be your gold and your precious silver” (Job 22:23-25, NKJV).

  1. Cultivate the Attitude of a Learner—by seeing God’s Word as the treasure trove of wisdom He intended it to be.

“Let Your tender mercies come to me, that I may live; for Your law is my delight” (Psalm 119:77, NKJV).

“Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who delights greatly in His commandments” (Psalm 112:1, NKJV).

  1. Meditate on Scripture—rather than rushing through a quick reading. We don’t get as much nutrition from food that moves too quickly through the GI tract. Similarly, we glean more from passages of Scripture that we take the time to really think about.

“But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:2, NKJV).

  1. Memorize Scripture—and make it truly part of our psyches.

“Receive, please, instruction from His mouth, and lay up His words in your heart … For then you will have your delight in the Almighty, and lift up your face to God” (Job 22:22-26, NKJV).

“I delight to do Your will, O my God, And Your law is within my heart” (Psalm 40:8, NKJV).

  1. Get to Know God—really know Him, not just know about Him.

“Now acquaint yourself with Him, and be at peace; thereby good will come to you” (Job 22:21, NKJV).

“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him! … Those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing” (Psalm 34:8-10, NKJV).

  1. Expect to Enjoy God’s Presence—rather than seeing our time with Him as a chore on our to-do lists. Can you imagine dating someone with that attitude? How much more should we look forward to an audience with the King of the Universe!

They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light” (Psalm 36:8-9, NIV).

  1. Enjoy God’s Gift of the Sabbath—our very own weekly date with God Himself!

“If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord honorable … then you shall delight yourself in the Lord” (Isaiah 58:13, 14, NKJV).

  1. Focus on Spiritual Things—and disappoint Satan by looking up, despite his many attempts to distract us.

“The ones sown among thorns; they are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world, and the delight in riches, and the desire for other things, enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful” (Mark 4:18-19, RSV).

What delights does God have waiting for you today?

Jonah the … Jerk?

Okay, maybe that’s a bit strong, but, really, what was Jonah thinking? He preaches to a doomed city, gets probably the best response any evangelist has ever received … and gets mad?

I’m talking about Jonah 4, which is today’s chapter in the Revived By His Word reading plan. If you’re not familiar with this program, you can check it out here. The commentary by Jim Ayer on that blog today focuses on the remarkable fact that God continues to talk to the curmudgeonly, even nasty, Jonah as long as Jonah keeps talking to God. This is a great point, and one that’s key to spiritual growth: Never stop talking to God, no matter how you feel.

But something else impressed me in this chapter—an unusual side-by-side comparison of how a good God and a sinful human respond to exactly the same event. Now, in case you don’t remember, the event they’re reacting to is the total conversion of an entire city (120,000 people). And this is how the two react:

            Jonah                                                                                     God

   Angry (verse 1)                                                 Calm & respectful (verses 4, 6)

   Harsh (v. 2)                                                                            Gentle (vv. 4, 9-11)

   Vengeful  (vv. 2, 9)                                          Relents from doing harm (v. 2)

   Ill-tempered (v. 9)                                                       Abounding in love (v. 2)

  Bitter (vv. 1, 3, 8)                                                       Gracious & merciful (v. 2)

           Resentful (vv. 1-2)                                                                 Forgiving (vv. 2, 11)

           Self-centered focus (v. 2)                                       Other-centered focus (v. 11)

           Accusatory stance (v. 2)                                 Redemptive stance (vv. 4, 10-11)

 

©iStock.com/GeoM

©iStock.com/GeoM

Take a good look at these two profiles and ask yourself which one you’d rather become. We do have a choice here, because we’re changed by what we behold, and especially by what we admire and worship.

It’s easy to become Jonah the Jerk. You don’t have to look very far to see that this is the default program in our world. People often become harsher, pickier, less understanding, and generally harder to get along with as they get older. If you don’t believe it, try volunteering in a nursing home for a week.

But becoming like God is more difficult and we really have very few role models. That’s why it’s so important that we spend quality time with God every single day—at least.

“Beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, [we] are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” 2 Corinthians 3:18, NKJV.

How stubborn are you?

©iStock.com/ djedzura

©iStock.com/ djedzura

Anyone who’s ever been around a toddler knows the meaning of the word “stubborn.” To a two-year-old, “No!” means “Try again later when mom’s not looking.”

Although we don’t generally consider stubbornness to be a desirable quality, I have to wonder if it wasn’t one reason for Elijah’s effectiveness. He just kept on praying for as long as it took to get an answer. When the son of the Sidonian widow died, Elijah didn’t pray once, dust off his hands, and say, “Well, I guess it’s not God’s will that he should be resurrected.” Instead, he prayed again. And again. Three times he stretched out over the boy and prayed (1 Kings 17:21).

But three times is nothing compared to the incident on Mount Carmel. God had already told Elijah that He was going to bring rain (1 Kings 18:1). Given the directness of His message, it would be entirely understandable if Elijah had prayed for rain once and headed for home to await God’s timing. After all, faith grasps His promises with confidence, right?

Elijah wasn’t satisfied with a passive approach. Instead he prayed, sent his servant to check for signs of rain, and then prayed again—seven times!

Why did he keep praying? Didn’t he trust God to deliver on His promise?

I consulted some Bible commentaries to see what the experts say about this. All pointed to a human need for prayer and a metaphorical understanding of this event. It wasn’t that God needed to be convinced to come through on His promise. Rather, the people who had just witnessed that amazing miracle on Carmel needed Elijah’s intercession on their behalf.

Remember, these people had been following false gods for some time. Although their idolatry was most marked during Ahab and Jezebel’s reign, they had been moving away from God since the time of Jeroboam. They needed much more than one Wow moment. They needed true revival and reformation—a change of heart. So Elijah continued to plead for his countrymen as the Spirit worked on those hardened hearts. The physical rain came only when the hard ground of their hearts had been readied to receive the spiritual rain.

We face a similar crisis today, and we can’t afford to get apathetic about it. Satan is working harder than ever before to distract us from eternal issues—and he succeeds in waylaying many people. As a world, we’ve been drifting farther and farther from the Father. This is no time for us to shrug our shoulders and adopt and wait-and-see attitude. Like Elijah, we must pray persistently—stubbornly—for revival and reformation. And we must continue to pray—whether it takes a month or a decade.

“You too must be patient and stout-hearted, for the coming of the Lord is near”  James 5:8.

Pastors Are People Too

©iStock.com/Kovalvs

©iStock.com/Kovalvs

Who has the power to shake you to your core?

When I was young, I noticed that my mom always shooed us kids outside when one particular woman from the church came visiting. Naturally, this made me curious. What did they talk about—some fascinating adult topic that kids weren’t supposed to hear?

So one day I sneaked close to the screen door, staying out of sight but within earshot. The woman was seated at the dining table with my mom, a cup of coffee in front of her. And she was absolutely excoriating one of the church elders, reporting on some ghastly sin he had supposedly committed.

My mother hates gossip and repeatedly tried to cut the lady off, but she wasn’t having much luck. When the woman finally took a breath, my mom tried to steer the conversation in another direction. The woman exclaimed rather indignantly, “Margie! Didn’t you hear? Doesn’t this just make you wonder? Doesn’t it shake your faith in him … in the church … even in God?”

Now you should know that my mom was actually quite a new Christian at this time. What’s more, the woman challenging her was one of the so-called pillars of the church. Nevertheless, my mom replied at once, “Oh, no—not at all! My faith isn’t based on what Elder — does. It’s based on Jesus and what He’s done.”

I’ve never forgotten that simple statement. Church pillars, celebrities, even pastors are just people. They make mistakes. They may be hypocritical. Some may even be full-time hypocrites. And in this age of cameras everywhere, social media, and TMZ, mistakes are less likely than ever to be successfully covered up.

So if we look to these people as models of behavior, we will be disappointed. If we look to them to ground our faith, we may even shaken. But if Christ is our model—if we are grounded in him—the mistakes of others can’t shake our faith.

“There can be no other foundation than the one already laid: I mean Jesus Christ himself” 1 Corinthians 3:11, REB.

The Final Judgment — Good News?

©iStock.com/alphaspirit

©iStock.com/alphaspirit

What images pop into your head when you hear the term “Judgment Day”? Standing all alone before a great white throne, your knees knocking together? A wrathful God holding you over hell’s hungry flames? A gigantic balance that weighs your good deeds against your not-so-good deeds?

Many of our ideas about the final judgment are still rooted in the odd mixture of superstition, Roman mythology, and partial scriptural references that come to us from the (aptly named) Dark Ages. But how do these notions compare to Scripture?

Never without an IntercessorMorris L. Venden discusses the Final Judgment  in Never Without an Intercessor: The Good News About the Judgment (Pacific Press, 1996). I recently ran across this 159-page book in a used bookstore. I found it engaging, strongly based in Scripture, and surprisingly easy reading for such a heavy topic. And, as the title suggests, the conclusion is good news. More

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