Watchman and Watchtower

Monday, November 23, 2015

Today we are concerned about the horrible acts of violence and murder that are taking place around the world by Islamic extremists. Some wonder how a good God can allow such atrocities to exist. I am reminded that the prophet Habakkuk questioned God about similar atrocities he witnessed from the Babylonians as they attached Judah. Let’s see what we can learn from Habakkuk.

Habakkuk was saddened by the violence and corruption he saw around him and he poured out his heart to God. The book of Habakkuk is the prophet’s dialogue with God. Habakkuk was appalled by Judah's violent acts, evil, misery, destruction. He was also appalled that God tolerated this wrong. Habakkuk saw a dying world, and it broke his heart. He asked questions of God that we often ask:
 If God is good, then why is there evil in the world? And if there has to be evil, then why do the evil prosper? What is God doing in the world?  Why do the wicked seem to be winning? Habakkuk did what often we are afraid to do. He boldly and confidently took his complaints directly to God. Then we see in Habakkuk 2, the prophet waited patiently for God to reply.
I will climb up to my watchtower
    and stand at my guardpost.
There I will wait to see what the Lord says
    and how he will answer my complaint.
Habakkuk 2:1
The watchman and watchtower are often used by the prophets to show an attitude of expectation. They are images of Habakkuk’s attitude of patient waiting and watching for God’s response. Stone watchtowers were built on city walls or ramparts so that watchmen could see enemies and messengers approaching their city while still at a distance. Watchtowers were also erected in vineyards to help guard the ripening grapes. Habakkuk wanted to be in the best position to receive God’s message. What are concerns we have today that we should take to the watchtower – things that we need to wait on an answer?
The NIV says in verse 1, “I will station myself.” Station means stay put. It means, ‘I'm not moving.’ It means, ‘I’m going to be still.’ ‘I’m going to sit here and I am not going to move until I hear from you, God.’
How well do you wait?
David says there are three things to do as you wait –
  • Wait quietly -- “I wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him.” (Psalm 62:5 NLT)
  • Wait patiently -- “Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act.” (Psalm 37:7 NLT)
  • Wait expectantly -- “I wait expectantly, trusting God to help, for he has promised.” (Psalm 105:5 LB)
Sometimes our best act of faith is not to try to answer life’s hard questions, but to reflect instead on the character of God.
The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. Psalm 145:8
These four attributes are mentioned over and over in scripture.
  • Gracious
  • Compassionate
  • Slow to anger
  • Rich in love

When we begin to wonder about God’s presence in the world during times of crisis, let’s remember that we serve a sovereign God who is ultimately in charge of this world. Let’s say these things out loud when you are having trouble and the world seems against you.
  • God is love.
  • God is good. He’s good all the time.
  • God is just.
  • God is holy. In the Greek, to be holy is to be righteous – or to be right. Wouldn’t our lives be easier if we realized that God is always righteous?

Abba Father, Lord of All, O Lord our God, our Holy One, you who are eternal.  We often struggle with what we see in the world. We’re troubled by wars and rumors of wars. We’re heartbroken by images we see of hurting people throughout the world. We often cry out as Habakkuk did, Must I forever see these evil deeds?  Why must I watch all this misery?”  We want to know where you are. Help us to remember our thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways our ways. We know you are a sovereign God, one in total control of all things past, present, and future. Nothing happens beyond  your knowledge and control. At the same time, you give us free will. Help us Father to choose wisely for we know that decisions we make will affect not only us but many others. We also know you are a God of grace. Your grace extends to those who have not earned it. It is undeserved favor. Help us to be still and know that you are at work that you keep your promises, and that you are good and you are love and just and holy. Amen.

Be Silent Before God

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Being silent before God teaches us to rest in Him and enjoy His presence. It gives us an opportunity to meditate on who he is – to stop focusing on ourselves and our own activities. 
    ...let all the earth be silent before him. Habakkuk 2:20
Occasionally when we sit before God in silence we hear Him speak through thoughts or remembered Bible passages. Solitude is a spiritual discipline.
In her book Sacred Rhythms, Ruth Haley Barton describes solitude as a place, both a place in time and a physical place. She says, “solitude is a place inside myself where God’s Spirit and my spirit dwell together in union.”
Solitude is the most basic spiritual discipline. Silence and solitude are very connected.
Silence = letting go of our inner distractions.
Solitude = letting go of our outer distractions.
It is often hard for us to totally unplug and listen to God. Our culture discourages solitude. Culture wants us to always be doing. I suffer from “frenetic doing.”  It’s hard to unplug. These are some of my “noisy” distractions:
·         Phones
·         Technology
·         Email
·         Friends
·         Family
·         TV
·         Computer
·         Radio
·         interruptions

Exodus 14: 13-14 tells us The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still. What in this verse comforts you?

Let’s look at how busy Jesus was. He had more to accomplish in 3 years of ministry than any of us will accomplish in a lifetime. He was changing the world. Jesus consistently found time for solitude and encouraged even commanded his disciples to experience solitude. Imagine the daily life of Jesus for the 3 years of his ministry. He taught, healed, preached, traveled, told stories, dealt with demons, dealt with Satan, was surrounded by crowds of people, settled disagreements among his followers. It was often very challenging for him to get away.
  • He spent 40 days in the desert alone before launching his ministry. (Matthew 4:1-11)
  • He spent the night alone in the hills the night before he chose the 12 disciples. (Luke 6:12)
  • When he learned of John the Baptist’s death, he left in a boat to a “lonely place apart.” (Matthew 14;13)
  • After feeding the 5,000 he went into the hills by himself. (Matthew 14:23)
  • After healing many people, he went to an isolated place to pray. (Mark 1:35)
  • When the 12 returned from preaching and healing, Jesus instructed his disciples, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” (Mark 6:31)
What are some steps into solitude?
Be intentional. Set aside a time and place and spend at least 10 minutes in silence and solitude. Assume a comfortable posture. Select a scripture verse to focus your mind. Then choose a simple prayer to express your need for God.
Be aware of your body, mind and soul. Know when you are weary in body, mind, and soul. Recognize your need to rest in God’s presence. Take deep breaths and allow yourself to relax. Ask God to quiet your mind. Confess to God anything that is weighing on your soul.
Resist distractions. Commit your regular time to God.
Listen for God’s voice. The more quiet time you spend with God, the more you’ll learn to recognize his voice. As you spend this time, pay attention to how God speaks to your spirit. The Holy Spirit will give you comfort and direction only as you’re able to hear it.
Bless others. Use the love God shows you in your solitude to be a blessing to others. Speak and act in love as you serve others.

Prayer: Ask God to quiet your mind. Confess to God anything that is weighing on your soul. Spend time in silence and active listening.

To hear my related lesson on Habakkuk, click here.Habakkuk 2

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