Tuesday, December 16, 2008
The sons of Aaron offered "strange fire" to God. That phrase struck me this morning as I was reading this passage in Leviticus. It got me to thinking about what we offer as strange fire these days. No longer do we have the tent of meeting and burnt offerings to God like in the time of the Israelites. No, we now have the perfect sacrifice, Jesus Christ and so we don't have to make atonement for our sins according to the laws of the Old Testament.
Now, my initial question was "What were these guys thinking?!" We know that everything had to be just so in order for the priests to make any type of sacrifice to the Lord and here are these guys, THE SONS OF AARON for cryin' out loud, who decide they want to play with fire (pun intended). If anyone should have known the consequences of not doing things God's way it should have been these fellows. Their father was the original high priest charged with taking care of the tabernacle.
This brings me to my next point. The pastors, theologians, preachers and teachers are the ones that should know the best. Please pay special attention to the emphasis on "should." Remember, the sons of Aaron should have known better than to do what they did in offering "strange fire" to God... but they didn't. Folks, there is some strange fire going around churches, seminaries and theological books these days. Some of the concepts that theological students are taught are far from what God has commanded. In some versions the word "strange" in this passage is translated "unauthorized," how fitting. There is strange fire that says that the old Gospel of sin and repentance is no longer good enough. Strange fire that says Jesus was not who He said He was and is not the only way to salvation. Strange fire that says that the Bible is not the Word of God and that very little of it can be trusted. While on the other hand all of what Bart D. Ehrman, Paul Tillick, Karl Barth, Soren Kiirkagaard and Oprah say can be trusted implicitly. Strange fire that twists the scripture to fit social inclinations rather that calling society to conform to the scripture. Strange fire indeed that says that God is not a man of His word. This is all wrapped up in wonderful ideas of free thought, tolerance and Godly love for our neighbors. Remember, Nadab and Abihu didn't do it completely wrong they just "added incense" to their firepans.
There are two very important things to remember though; one is that not all people in or associated with theological education are offering this putrid odor to the Almighty. Two, strange fire is not limited to anyone or any profession. Satan is an equal opportunity deciever and no one is omitted. What then is the solution, or, what does this have to do with me?
First we must see what kind of offering God wants from us. For the answer let's look at Psalm 51:16-17, For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. So, do we approach God with a humble spirit and humble heart or do we approach God as is we have Him all figured out?
Second, we must prepare ourselves to fend off the deception that is going to come. More and more of the "mainstream" churches are inching their way further from the truth of God's Word. By "mainstream" I mean denominations such as; United Methodist, Prebyterian, Episcopal, Lutheran, and such. Again, this is an inaccurate generalization and not meant to speak for every member or every congregation. The same can be said for institutions of theological education and it may be that this is what is driving the direction of the churches. It has become fashionable to make mockery of tradtional Christianity and God and His Word. Strange fire. Anyway, we must make sure that we are properly prepared for the attacks of the enemy. That means saturating ourselves with the Word, constantly being in prayer and seeking the very face of God, all while clinging tightly to the Cross that got us where we are.
So, just as in the time of Aaron and his unfortunate sons, there is a strange fire being offered to God. It is up to each of us to recognize this and not be consummed ourselves by it.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21
For the past two months or more the talk of bailouts has become the new chic conversation piece. It started with the banking industry, or the credit industry, or was it the real estate industry? Who knows! In any event the federal government has been inundated with bailout...excuse me, "rescue" plans, packages and those wanting a piece of the proverbial pie. Of course, just like every other problem we have in this modern age, the solution is to throw inordinate amounts of money at it in the hopes of drowning the problem in cash. It seems a little bit like the person who wishes to drown their troubles in alcohol only to end up with a splitting headache, a pickled liver and no memory of how it all happened. I digress.
I have a question. What if people desired a bailout from sin and guilt as much as they desired a bailout from bankruptcy or foreclosure? What if people actually went to God with faces down begging for help, begging to be delivered from the terrible place they find themselves? Would God be as gracious and loving and kind as the government? I hope you have detected by now that these are rhetorical questions. The obvious answer is that YES, not only will God be gracious, loving and kind to we sinners who repent BUT, He has already offered the best bailout package in history! Let me turn your attention to on of my favorite verses in the Bible, 2 Chronicles 7:14
if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from Heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
and then in Romans 5:8
but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died to us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God.
I'm not going to sit hear and tell anyone that if they give their heart to Jesus then He will heal their bank account or save their company from going out of business. It could very well be the case that the Lord sees fit to do these things, however, this is not the guarantee that the Word give us. That is not what Christ came to do though. He came to save us from our sins, redeem us to God and redeem our entire life. Why then do we not see people storming altars and churches begging God to forgive them like we see C.E.O's and C.F.O's storming Washington D.C with outstretched hands? Well I think people like Charles Spurgeon and Ray Comfort have the right idea. People don't know that they have done wrong. We have told them that God will heal their bank account if they follow Him and when that isn't the Lord's plan they...bail out. You see God does not have to make good on our deals. God is not responsible for making sure that we are not liars. We are, however, responsible for telling people the truth that He has given us in His Word. This is the truth about God's ultimate bailout package:
1) God created the world, everything in it including us.
2) We messed up and sinned, every one of us.
3) Because of that sin we cannot enter into the presence of the Holy and Perfect God.
4) God loves us and doesn't want to live without us so He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ.
5) Jesus paid the penalty, He picked up the tab, He bailed us out of moral bankruptcy, sin.
6) By accepting this sacrifice we are forgiven of our sins and allowed to enter into Heaven.
7) God's bailout plan is the only one that will work.
Now, if we do choose to accept God's rescue plan then some things are going to change or should change. One thing for sure, there will be no $400,000 executive retreats. We don't just get forgiven and then turn right back to our old ways. Will we still be in the woods? Yes, but we will be heading in a different direction. We have a new life, new hearts, new minds and new desires and new motivations. God wants to give us a new life not because He is fundamentally against fun, but because He created us and knows how we are supposed to function best. The point is this, God is able to do and has done far more than we could ever imagine. He has offered us salvation from a terrible, horrific eternity in Hell. He has also offered us eternity in Heaven and to make us a new creation even while we are here on earth. God's bailout package didn't cost $700 billion, it didn't cost a trillion, it cost Him the life of His one and only Son. To us it is a free gift.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters,
and hewed out cisterns for themselves,
broken cisterns that can hold no water.
If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it. And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, and if it does what is evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it...But they say, "That is in vain! We will follow our own plans, and will every one act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart."
And many nations will pass by this city, and every man will say to his neighbor, "Why has the Lord dealt thus with this great city?" And they will answer, "Because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord their God and worshiped other gods and served them."
Therefore, thus says the Lord, the God of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I am bringing upon Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem all the disaster that I have pronounced against them, because I have spoken to them and they have not listened, I have called to them and they have not answered.
To all those who think like me...
Prepare yourselves baggage for exile,
O inhabitants of Egypt!
For Memphis shall become a waste,
a ruin, without inhabitant.
Now before you go thinking I've gone off the deep end of doom and gloom let me share with you some of the laws that were voted on last night in the election, and their results. Taken from www.cnn.com
1. Colorado: "Life from the Moment of Conception."
2. Michigan: "Allow Medical Marijuana"
3. South Dakota: "Limit Abortion"
The next one just blows my mind.
4. Washington: "Allow Dr. Assisted Suicide"
Now, I need to give the good news. I am not worried about our nation. I am concerned about some of the directions that we seem to be heading but I know above all else that God is in control and God has a purpose for whatever will happen. I have a deep and abiding love for my country, democracy, and the free market and, yes, I do think we may be headed down a path that jeopardizes these things but this is not the end. Furthermore, we as Christians have a mandate from God to pray for our leaders whether we agree with them or not. We also have a duty to not stand by silently if we see things that do not line up with Scripture. Therefore, it looks like this; we must pray for our leaders. That is, honest prayer that God will guide them. Then we must evaluate everything in light of God's Word. We may not be able to do much, but we must not be silent, especially when there are those who have no voice whatsoever. Jeremiah was not silent and we should take his example. Stand on the authoritative Word of God! There is hope, the Bible tells us that it remains, it still abides and our hope comes from Jesus Christ in whom we are more than conquerors!
Monday, November 3, 2008
This not actually how it came out but this is what I was working from for the actual sermon.
Have you ever heard the phrase “We’ve won the battle but not the war”? For instance, the Confederates won several battles during the Civil War but ultimately lost the war. The Germans and Japanese and Italians won many battles in World War Two but they ultimately lost the war. The same goes for nearly every conflict that has ever taken place in the history of mankind, even the losers win once in a while. I believe the same thing happens to Christians many, many times. We claim victory over death and Hell but we don’t claim the same victory over this life. It is as if we don’t seem to understand that Christ came to give us, not only salvation, but a “new life” in Him. That is, a total transformation of every part of our life. It’s not just that we get to go to Heaven now but that He has won us victory over the everyday stuff.
I don’t know if this type of victory is something that Christian’s don’t want, just like the Pharisees didn’t want the kind of Messiah that Jesus was, or if Christian’s don’t realize Christ gives this kind of victory. It was around the time of the Civil War, and certainly any conflict afterwards, that the idea of “Total War” came about. Up until that time war was confined to specific battlefields and when the fight was over, it was over and the civilians weren’t involved in the fighting. This can be seen especially in the fighting of World War Two in Europe where entire towns and cities were destroyed in an effort to achieve victory.
Jesus Christ waged total war on the devil. Here me clearly, JESUS CHRIST WAGED TOTAL WAR ON THE DEVIL!! He didn’t come to take back part of what Satan stole; He came to take all of it back! Just as God has every hair on your head numbered, He came to reclaim every aspect of your life. Let’s look at the first chapter of Colossians for a moment, starting with verse 15.
READ COLOSSIANS 1:15-23
· V. 18- that in everything He might be preeminent.
· V. 20- and through Him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of the cross.
“In everything He might be preeminent…” and “reconcile to Himself all things…” There is more. Paul repeatedly called the believers of the churches to live in a manner worthy of the Gospel. In Ephesians 4:1 he says, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,” and in Philippians 1:27 “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” In another translation there phrase reads like this, “Just one thing: live your life in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ.” Just one thing! He didn’t tell the Ephesians to die like they were going to heaven he told them to live like they had been redeemed. LIVE! Christ has come to invade our lives!!
Thankfully Paul does not leave the Ephesians, or us, without some further direction in the matter. If we look, still in the fourth chapter, starting at the seventeenth verse we find some more directions.
BEGIN READING EPH. 4:17-32
· No longer walk as the Gentiles walk, b/c they are callous, greedy, sensual, impure.
· V. 22- put off our old self which is corrupt, deceitful
· Put on the new self, “created in the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness”
How does this look for us in the twenty-first century? How does living a life worthy of the Gospel look, today? Do we live a life worthy of Christ by coming to church on Sunday? Yes. Do we live a life worthy of Christ by helping with church activities? Yes. Do we live a life worthy of Christ by praying for our brothers and sisters? Yes. But does it end there? Does it end at 12:01 on Sunday afternoon? NO! We “put off our former self” all the time, not just on Sunday morning or Wednesday evening. Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:16 that we are to make “the best use of the time because the days are evil.” Have we done that? Do we make the best use of the time? Have we allowed Christ to invade our entire lives from church, to our work, to our relationships, to our play? Do we allow our business practices to glorify God? Or do we set our “religion” aside and separate it from the “rest of our lives.”
The second we begin applying the redemptive work of Christ to every aspect of our lives we begin to understand the true meaning of the cross. The moment that we understand that Christ came to “reconcile all things” to Him we start to have the true picture of His mission. We don’t do this so we can have happier more fulfilling lives, we do it because that is what God has called us to do. We do it because that is what He wants from us. He declared total war and He will settle for nothing less than total victory. Jesus died so that our sins could be forgiven, that is part of the beauty of the Gospel.
There is more to the story though. Every person He came in contact with that would follow Him, He asked to leave everything behind and trust Him completely. You don’t believe that Jesus wants your whole life? Look at Zaacheus, his business practices changed after meeting the Lord. On the other hand, look at the rich young ruler who had all the right answers but couldn’t part with his wealth. Am I telling you to go home and sell all you have? No, only God can do that and only He can tell you what He wants you to give up for Him. But know this, Christ came for all of us. Not just all of us, as in every one of us, but all of us, as in every part of us.
The greatest amphibious invasion of all time happened on June 6th, 1944 when the Allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy, France. At 0630 hours 130,000 troops hit the beaches in the face of Hitler’s “Atlantic Wall.” Over 10,000 American, British and Canadian troops were killed, wounded or captured in the invasion. This was the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany.
Christ’s birth, life, death and resurrection was the beginning of the end for Satan. When Jesus proclaimed on the cross, “It is finished,” the fate of Satan was sealed. The war was not over though it was won. However, Christ did not come only to defeat Satan in Hell but to defeat Satan in the world, in my life and in your life. So, will you let Christ claim total victory over your life or will you only allow Him to have you once you die?
Friday, October 17, 2008
There were signs along the way but they were too badly damaged to be read and some of them seemed charred as with fire. He tried to make them out but it was no use. After a while longer he found himself at a place where another path merged with his own and he could see footprints of someone who had gone on before him. There was no other sign of the other person just their footprints leading him onward.
The next thing the man came across was a small stream of running water. Though he could not tell how deep or what the condition of the water was, he was thirsty. In fact, he realized that he had not had a drop of water in some time and was very thirsty. Then as he knelt down to draw some water from the stream a piercing light broke through the darkness of the woods. As the light shined from where he had journeyed from he was stunned at the scene that surrounded him. He could see along the edges of the path the charred remains of trees, shrubs and underbrush. He could see just off the path the remains of other travelers and the eerie forms of creatures in the shadows. Not only that but he could see clearly the putrid water that he was about to drink in and the poisonous nature of it. He knew that he had to turn around.
The man did not know exactly where he was but he knew that he was deep in these terrifying woods. At that moment he set his mind at making his way back out of this place. The path seemed much steeper now that he had turned back. Though the light illuminated his way he still became tangled in some briers. As he rushed away from the danger he found himself slipping and falling but clawing his way up. With each step that he took the mud and mire became thicker and he could hear the vile shrieks of the creatures and they swarmed in the shadows around him. He tripped falling face first in the wretched muck and collapsed. He felt he could not move and could sense the creatures drawing closer, coming to reclaim him. They came nearer and nearer and just as he believed they were upon him they could come no closer.
Suddenly he felt a wave of life surge through his body and it was as if a hand reached down a plucked him from the oozing filth and a voice proclaiming to the darkness, "This one is mine, you may not take him." The light shown brighter and the creatures retreated to the shadows from whence they came. He felt a renewed sense of energy and purpose. He knew that he was not alone in these dark places and that the light that guided him would also uphold and protect him. The man did not know how much further he had to journey but he knew that he would not turn back and that, in time, he would reach the source of the light and find his way out of the deep dark woods.
Friday, October 10, 2008
I would like to take just a brief moment and share something that the Lord brought to my attention this morning in my quiet time. I was meditating on some quotes from Charles Spurgeon and John Wesley about the nature of revival and evangelism and I found myself asking God for that compassionate heart that hurts for the lost. Now, I don't want to see people go to Hell but these great men of faith seem to have had an exceptional passion for the lost and this is where I want my own heart to be. So I found myself asking God for that kind of heart. As He so often does, and I so often forget, the Lord reminded me that if I draw near to Him and seek His face then a deep compassion for the lost will follow (I have preached this before and still I manage to forget).
The Bible is filled with this very same advice. The passage at the beginning of this entry from Philippians, your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. This is rich and applies, as the book I'm currently reading by Nancy Pearcy suggests, to all of life. Not only that but we know that Jesus' own description of His mission was to seek and save the lost (John 19:10). Why was this Christ's mission? It was His mission because that was the will of the Father, that was the heart and mind of the Father, to redeem His creation.
As a prelude to this friendly reminder in my reading in My Utmost for His Highest this morning Oswald Chambers was encouraging us to "be in stride with God." He tells us that God has a different way of doing things and that it takes discipline and effort to get in that stride. This turned out to be the other very clear thing that God pointed out to me, this is going to take time. I, not unlike many others, like for things to happen "tout suite." If the Lord could only do to me like they do in The Matrix and simply download all of this instantly I would be okay with that. I know better than that though. I know that, if I could use the immortal words of Aerosmith, "life's a journey not a destination." The spiritual journey that we find ourselves in is a process that only ends, or perhaps begins, with death. I know that the lessons learned along the way come with effort not instantaneously.
So in the end, as He has so many times before, God whispered to me and said simply, "draw close to me." How many requests is that the answer for? Most of them I would wager.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
From the sixth grade until my graduation from High School I attended a Christian school. This was a fantastic experience for which I am very grateful to my parents. Now, in that I did not attend a public school during this time I am not certain as to what sort of things were debated around the proverbial water cooler. However, at this fine Christian institution I often witnessed debates amongst perfectly qualified middle-schoolers as to whether or not someone might become unsaved. Truthfully the question never bothered me. I thought it was perfectly logical that if one could become saved then it was equally possible for them to reverse the situation. Now, in my twenty-seventh year of life, and for some time leading up to it, I have changed my position and would like to offer some reasons why. Please note that much more learned men than myself have exhausted themselves over this subject so please don't think this is definitive, nor is it comprehensive.
#1 Grace alone
I believe, as the scriptures clearly indicate, that it is by grace alone that a person receives salvation. It is by no action or effort on my own part but only a willing acceptance of a gift. I receive Christmas gifts by no action or effort of my own but simply by the generosity of the giver. I must only open and accept the gift. It is the complete power of God that offers and carries out the work of salvation, no work of my own. Unlike ill-fitting Christmas gifts that I may return of my own accord the gift of salvation is not so easily rejected once accepted. Primarily, it would be an utter fool who returns such a gift and the scriptures are equally clear on this matter. We are told that one who has seen the gift and turns from it is in no way able to regain it. Why would one taste of the glory of God and experience the gift of salvation and turn from it? It would be senseless. Thus the age old statement, if you loose your salvation you never had it to begin with. More on this later.
#2 Russian Roulette
How many sins does it take to exclude one from Heaven? I submit, only one. Now, does one stop sinning after they have become saved? I am proof that this is not the case. Even saved folks have the remnants of the sin nature and are bound to slip and fall. Look no further than Paul who wondered out loud why he did what he did not want to do and did not do what he wanted to do. Let me give a short scenario. I, who am saved, get up in the morning and go to work. At some point during the day I sin in some manner. On my way home I am in a horrific accident and die. Because I did not repent for that sin of the day am I cast into Hell? Did I lose my salvation at that moment? If this is the case then not only can we lose our salvation, we do several times each and every day! Suddenly our salvation comes not by the grace of God but by our adherence to the Law that we claim to be freed from. This, my friends, smells suspiciously like works salvation. Granted, this would keep the streets of Heaven conveniently uncrowded. Luther would say that it is much the same as the man who finds himself accosted by thieves in the woods on his evening walk.
#3 God's pencil does not have an eraser.
In my own theology, and that of many other Christians, God is omniscient. God knows everything. Thus, if a person approaches God for salvation that God knows will eventually be rejected would God give it on a temporary basis? The image is used of the "Book of Life" in which God inscribes the names of His children, the saved. Why would God write someone's name in this book if He knew, because He is all knowing, that He would end up erasing it? If one is falsely converted then God can look into that person's heart and see that it is false, He can see that it is only temporary. A person cannot lose their salvation because God knows if a person is truly saved and He knows if a person will become "unsaved" therefore they never were to begin with. We may not be able to tell if someone is honestly saved but God can and that is what matters.
All that being said, we can know that we are saved. This comes not from a feeling that we are saved but a knowledge from God, His Word, and the Holy Spirit. So many people get caught up in feeling like they are saved and as soon as this feeling leaves then they are left wondering about their eternal destination. This is dead wrong. What about those times when you find yourself in the dry, arid places or those "dark nights of the soul" when there is the feeling that even God has abandoned you? To be sure, as Christians we should be in a constant state of repentance for the sins that we do commit on a daily basis. However, as I've heard it said, faith is trust that God has saved you, cleansed you of your sins, and forgiven you. It is a peace that passes all understanding. God's work on the cross is greater than our sin and nothing, I mean nothing, can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ.
Friday, September 5, 2008
So I was listening to the radio this morning and over the past few days I have been rapt with the punditry over Sen. McCain's choice for VP candidate, Sarah Palin. As some of you may or may not know, I received a minor in Political Science from Western Carolina (evidently a major in History was not sufficient and they required a minor). Well, I also abhor politics, strange I know. Well this whole business about Palin has reignited my interest in politics but this is not what I'm going to address here. In listening to the radio the war in Iraq invariably comes up. As I listened I couldn't help but hear the words "unpopular war in Iraq" echoing in my ears. Then this thought entered into my mind, if something is unpopular does that automatically qualify it as wrong?
This is where a culture driven by moral relativism has brought us. You see, the flip side is that if it is popular then it must be right. This can't possibly be right can it? Let me just run down some of the things that would be "right" if being popular made them so:
- Britney Spears
- Unrestricted free sex
- Tom Cruise
That is to name just a very few. Now let us look at a small list of things that would automatically be "wrong" if being unpopular made them so:
- Taxes, or at least paying them.
- the 10 Commandments
- Brussell sprouts, or any other green veggie.
- most of what Jesus said
Again, this is just a short list of things. I hope that by now you have guessed that I am not really going to address the war in Iraq. If you know me then you know how I feel about the subject and if you don't then I'll just let there be a little mystery in our electronic relationship.
The real point is that we live in a society that bases right and wrong off of what it likes and dislikes. Ever wonder why the old Gospel of sin and salvation has come under such heavy attack? Probably because it isn't nearly as "popular" as the newly reinvented Gospel of prosperity. Well, the fact of the matter is that what we like doesn't define what is right. Nope, as it turns out right and wrong are not defined by our tastes. Listen to what the Word says about this subject, be haunted by these prophetic words and how we are watching them come true.
"For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths" 2 Timothy 4:3-4 (ESV).
There is a reason that God has given us right and wrong. No, it's not to take the fun out of life and be an iron-fisted dictator on high. He gave us right and wrong so that we might have the most abundant, healthy, peaceful, happy life possible. If we lived life by what we liked and what we wanted to do we would have a real state of anarchy. No one would go to work. No one would pay their bills or taxes. With loving charity removed from society we would be inundated with the corpses of the homeless and helpless. The aborted bodies of children would be piled to the heavens. Killing would be the order of the day, that is if anyone could extricate themselves from their recliners. All forms of STD's would become pandemic and eventually society would collapse. I do believe that deep down we know that this is the logical outcome of this foolish notion that morals are driven by desires. However, like every teenager in the world we humans feel the need to rebel against our Heavenly Father and go at it alone.
Now, I realize this sounds awfully doom and gloom. Well, it should. However, we are not without hope. This, you see, is the Good News of the Gospel, we are never without hope. Christ is the Christ of hopeless cases, lost causes, serial killers and company C.E.O's, you and me. God has provided the answer to the toughest questions, Himself and His Son. He is the only answer and He tells us so in His Word, "I am the truth, and the way, and the life" John 14:6. We must only drop our selfish, proud, arrogant desires and ideas then submit to the Master, the Savior, the One who has given us right and wrong, the Author of creation and life. If you'd like to hear more about this One whom we bow to follow this link:
So no, the popularity of a certain idea or action does not define whether it is right or wrong. In fact, it can be seen that it is usually quite the opposite. Generally speaking the right thing is not the thing we want to do or the easy thing. That does not mean it should not be done. If we continue down the road of defining morals by desire and popularity we will surely have greater problems than "an unpopular war in Iraq." It doesn't taste good in the beginning but the cough syrup that God offers for our ailment is the only cure, so we need to drink it.
Monday, August 25, 2008
Difference #1: Why were you hired?
When an individual is hired for a job by an employer it is for a specific reason. Perhaps a particular skill, talent or level of education qualifies someone for a particular job. The employer hires the person that is the most qualified to fulfill the task. Granted, this is the way it is supposed to work. We all know that hiring practices are not always so pure.
On the flip side I think it would be far-fetched to suppose that God "hires" us because we have talents, skills or an education that He needs for His work. Yes, we all have various talents that God can use. However, I do not think that He has ever been in the business of hiring the most qualified people for certain tasks. Just look at some of the people He has used to do His work throughout history: a six-hundred year old farmer/shipbuilder; a stuttering, murderous, former prince of Egypt; a ruddy, young shepherd; twelve average Joe's from Galilee; an overeducated Christian hater, and the list goes on. I think back to the old adage that I have heard so many times, "God doesn't call the qualified, He qualifies the called." How many CEO's would hire someone completely unqualified just to give them a chance? I dare say that God's plan for the world is slightly more important than a bucket load of stock options.
Difference #2: Compensation
When someone is hired for a position there is usually some kind of agreement as to what sort of compensation will be given for services rendered. In modern America this comes in the form of a salary, medical benefits, retirement, and so on. The idea is that if an employee does what they were hired for then they will receive suitable compensation.
Now, what sort of compensation is made to a slave or servant by their master. The agreement is usually something like this, "If you do what I tell you then I won't beat you or kill you." We could rephrase it something like this, "If you do as I say then you will have a fairly good life." Jesus phrases it as such, "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." John 10:10b.
What does God owe us? Nothing. The creator of the world owes us absolutely nothing. He gives to us out of the riches of His immeasurable mercy, grace and love. If we do as God has called us to do, if we enslave ourselves to Him then we can have the abundant, full life that He wants us to have. Not to mention the fact that by being completely His, we are given the amazing gift of eternal life and the privilege of spending eternity with Him.
Let me pause here and mention something that is very crucial, listen carefully and do not miss this. God's version of the abundant life and our version may be two very different things. Our version may be wealth, health and prosperity. The vast majority of the time, this is not God's version. The abundance of the life lived for God comes from within, not from without. Our full life comes through a relationship with the Almighty and not from a relationship with what He choses to give us. If our fullness of life comes from the blessings that we receive then we have missed the point and we will soon find it not to be so abundant.
Difference #3: Feedback
Many times an employer will ask for feedback from the employees in order to ensure that they are leading the company in the proper manner. I think it is a good thing for bosses to ask their charges how they are doing. This, indeed, is the mark of a good boss. The fact that one fallen human is leading other fallen humans means that mistakes will be made on both sides of the relationship.
God, on the other hand, does not need our feedback. He doesn't need to know that He is doing a good job being the ruler of the Universe and the Master of our lives. You know why? Because He is God. The moment that we think we need to give God our feedback, that we think there is an area He could be doing a little better in, we have elevated ourselves to His level. This is a sin. If we elevate ourselves to His level then we have made a God in our own image. Shame on us.
Difference #4: Rights
In the United States today there are long lists of what rights employees have and what rights employers have. These are in place to make sure that all parties are treated fairly and not taken advantage of. Even in the military subordinate soldiers have the right to refuse an order if it is unlawful. Again, when fallen people are leading other fallen people these rules and regulations need to be in place.
God gives no unlawful orders. Let that sink in for a moment, God gives no unlawful orders. Slaves have no rights, they are at the mercy of their master. So it should be with our relationship to God. We have nothing that He did not give us anyway. We should lay it all down before Him and give our "rights" and lives back to the One from whom they came. To be honest, this is where I struggle. It is a hard thing to give up the one thing that I think I have control over, my own life. This, however, is exactly what God desires from us, complete and utter dependence on Him. This is what Jesus calls us to do, to die to self and become alive in Him.
Needless to say these are only a few of the differences between a boss and a master. Let me also assure anyone that has a "My Boss is a Jewish Carpenter" bumper sticker that I am not against it in the least. In fact, I am thankful that there are those willing to admit that the person they work for is Jesus Christ. It sure does make for interesting thinking though.
Let say another word on this whole idea of being a slave to God. Becoming God's slave does not begin with selling all our belongings and going into the mission field. It does not begin with a great many actions and deeds. It begins by turning our hearts and minds over to the servitude of God Almighty. We must first have our hearts given over to the will of God and then the rest of us will follow. This is a lesson that I must learn first and foremost. We must all decide within our own minds that when the Master of Masters asks for us to become His servants, His slaves, we should only respond by asking Him to take the awl and pierce our ears so that we may be His forever.
Thursday, July 31, 2008
"But they answered, 'We will drink no wine, for Jonadab the son of Rechab, our father, commanded us, 'You shall drink no wine, neither you nor your sons forever."
Now, before you think I'm getting ready to go off on an anti-alcohol tangent let me explain. What we discover later in the chapter is that it was not because they abstained from wine that they received blessings from God, it was because they were faithful to the command of their father. God tells Jeremiah that He is going to unleash His wrath on Israel because they had disobeyed Him time and time again and yet there was a family that held firm to one command from their earthly father. God says;
13b Will you not receive my instruction and listen to my words? declares the Lord. 14 The command that Jonadab the son of Rechab gave to his sons, to drink no wine, has been kept, and they drink none to this day, for they have obeyed their father's command. I have spoken to you persistently, but you have not listened to me.
17b Behold, I am bringing upon Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem all the disaster I have pronounced against them, because I have spoken to them and they have not listened, I have called to them and they have not answered.
My question is this; with all the "progress" that we believe we have made in this modern world. With all the philosophical and scientific breakthrough, with a few thousand years separating us, have we really come so far from the Israelites? I would wager, "no." If you have just a few more moments I would like to illustrate why I thus believe.
If the doctor tells us to lay off of the salt because we have high blood pressure and we will soon find ourselves on life support, what do we do? We do not hesitate to rush home and cleanse the house of all forms of sodium chloride. We listen to the doctor.
What if the latest study shows that eggs are bad for us? We rush to the store to stock up on "Egg Beaters." We listen to the scientist.
What if God tells us not to have premarital sex? We not-so-politely usher Him to the door and proclaim with loud voices that "We have risen above such prehistoric notions about sex!!"
What if God tells us not to lie, covet, steal, murder? What if God tells us that man was made for woman, and woman for man? What if God tells us that following our sinful nature leads to death? Finally folks, what if God tells us that His Son and the shedding of His blood is the only way to spend eternity with Him? We do not listen to God. Let me be very clear on this, we do not listen to God.
The first chapter of the book of Romans gives us the same message from God that Jeremiah does. If we don't listen to God we will suffer. I will not reproduce the passage in its entirety here but please read it. Over and over in this passage we are given lists of things that "men" exchanged God for such as; images, worshiping the creature rather than the Creator, unnatural sexual relations, etc. Do you know what God did? "He gave them up." Now they, "receive in themselves the due penalty for their error."
If the doctor told you how to avoid getting an STD, you would do it. If the judge told you how to avoid going to jail, you would do it. If Oprah told you how to live a better life, you would do it. God tells us all these things in His Word, from beginning to end. We don't do it.
Though they know God's decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
Friday, July 25, 2008
I have come to realize lately that once one tastes of the water that Jesus is speaking of in this passage there may in fact no longer be a thirst for salvation or eternal life but the thirst takes on a different tone. In the 42nd Psalm the author relates to us how they thirst for the presence of God, the living God. I do not believe this to be the contradiction that it appears to be. It would be very easy to look at these two verses and come to the conclusion that the Psalmist was not saved or otherwise secure, eternally speaking. However, I think we are dealing with two different kinds of thirst or at the least, two different needs being met. Jesus is clearly speaking of salvation when He addresses the woman at the well and that at the acceptance of His water the soul will no longer thirst for immortality in eternity.
Now, when one receives this living water then there is no need to seek salvation in other sources, which is a good thing since they will not be found. However, once salvation is secured and one decides to accept the glorious gift that Christ is offering a new type of thirst is able to manifest itself in the passionate believer, the thirst for the presence of God. This is altogether different than the thirst of a soul that is lost and seeking the completion that Christ offers. Enter Psalm 42.
You see, over the past year I have become acutely aware of this thirst. Now sometimes it is subtle and other times it is overwhelming but it has been growing steadily for some time. I believe that if we take our faith seriously and earnestly seek God then there will be a deep, deep desire to experience the reality of God. The idea is fairly hard to explain but I will try. One good example would be fellowship (Let me say here that I am drawing on conversations that I have had over the past months, so these ideas are not entirely mine). In the church and in our lives as Christians the idea of fellowship takes on myriad meanings and forms. Commonly the idea of fellowship is evidenced in things such as youth meetings, cookouts and prayer meetings. While these are all fine examples of ways to fellowship it can take on a much different meaning after it has truly been experienced.
I believe that there is a rich type of fellowship that needs no particular venue or excuse other than itself. This type of fellowship runs deeper than enjoyment of company and it far outreaches any worldly distance. This is because it is anointed by God Himself and facilitated by the same. It is a connection that goes beyond personal commonalities or shared interests and it is a connection of souls and hearts that can only come from being blood kin in Christ. Many share this type of fellowship in marriage but it is certainly not limited to it. Nor does this fellowship require words, whether verbal or written, it just happens and sometimes at the most inopportune times. After this has been experienced once the real joy and the real curse of it comes. Once it has been tasted the imitations will no longer do and one is forced to look upon lesser conceptions of fellowship, sigh and say, "if only they knew."
The same feelings can be said for any experience with God whether it be fellowship, worship, praise, prayer, etc. Once the authentic has been seen then all other attempts seem to come up short. This may sound overly harsh but that is not the intention. To be sure, I can no more define someones version of worship that I can define their idea of good wine. I suppose the point is that there is something so much deeper and sweeter than church on Sunday or youth meeting on Wednesday.
It is not the job of the passionate Christian to seek deeper communion with the Almighty, it is the privilege! If someone thinks that they have "arrived" spiritually then they are simply fooling them self or being fooled by the enemy. Everything, I mean everything, we experience or see in this world is but the tiniest fringe or outskirt of the actual glory of God. To think that we have come to a point of completion in our walk is utter foolishness. No matter how much we think we know of God, or how deeply we think we've experienced Him it is only a small fraction of the reality of it. There is always something to be learned from scripture, always a reason to pray and always a need for true fellowship whether we are the Pope or the newest addition to the Christian family.
I say all of that to say this, once the the truth is seen and tasted, the thirst only grows and soon only the very presence of God will satisfy the craving of our soul. Do I feel that I have reached this point? Certainly not, and that is the beauty of it. As we draw closer to God and see less and less counterfeit things it becomes overwhelming to think of what may happen next. You find yourself saying, "if what I'm experiencing now is this good, whatever comes next must be unbelievable." It is up to us not to be satisfied with what we do have and seek that deeper, closer and richer walk with Christ. We cannot out seek God, not until the day of our glorious entry into heaven when we can at last be in the presence of our Savior. So until that day I will continue to be quenched by the living waters that Christ has so graciously offered but I will not be satisfied by my current position. There are alot of things that we should be satisfied with but our proximity to God is not one of them.