Sunday, March 25, 2012
Why do bad things happen? What kind of loving God......? Questions which cycle through with each generation. What is God's purpose? What is on His mind? How can I know it? Having the mind of Christ, and understanding God's overarching will and purpose "is" an attainable truth! His truth is not hidden from us, though some work is certainly intended for our disclosure of it. So, how do we have this mind? How do we know His general and specific will? How can I have God's perspective of living, while in this present world? This question assumes what I hope is already obvious. We will not be in the presently provided vehicle (our human body) forever! Whether a predetermined, or yet determined, number of years ....our time on Earth is, as Scripture states it, but a vapor. With that understanding in mind, it would only behoove you and I to share The Creator's perspective while we are here; His perspective on "things", on our "health", our "outlook" on living. His word has plenty to say on this subject.
"Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish." (Psalm 146:3, 4 ESV)
"As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life." (1 Timothy 6:17-19 ESV)
God's word, and His direction for living, are not vague, inconclusive, or uncertain at all. What "is" uncertain is our own willingness to observe and obey what He "has" instructed.
Let's begin this discussion with some self-disclosure, a statement of truth, an agreement between us... if you will. Truth is.... we only want to know God's will in two ways most of the time.....
1. We want to know His will when we feel hurt, abandoned, confused, or uncertain.2. We want to know His will in how it can benefit us.
What is equally true is that we want a hands-off God when things are going well, or when things are going our way.
It would do us good to understand that He is either Lord "of" all, or He is not Lord "at" all. As elementary as it sounds.... this is the real root of the problem. It proves that selfishness and sinfulness are nearly synonomous words.
So, if we don't really think that we need God (at least actively speaking) when life is "ok", what does He have to do to have a complete relationship with us, to demonsrtate His Lordship to us, to get our attention for what is further beyond our understanding than the tips of our noses? To save us from ourselves? Most often, the answer is "friction", to put it in a pleasant term. Trial, testing, or difficulty ...are more expressive terms. We want a God who saves us when we are drowning, and who leaves us to our own decisions otherwise. This may be the very God we get.
"The reason why many are still troubled, still seeking, still making little forward progress is because they haven't yet come to the end of themselves. We're still trying to give orders, and interfering with God's work within us. " ― A.W. Tozer
"It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply." ― A.W. Tozer
Let's observe, from His word, a statement about these very realities.
"Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him." (James 1:12)
Q: What are "blessings"?
They are gifts from God, and what God makes, or provides, is good (vv. 16-17). "Blessed" is the man; not necessarily successful on his own, but for God's purpose and Christ' cause. Would you consider God's servant, Job, to have been blessed? We all know the story; how God allowed his family, his wealth, even his health to be taken away. Does this conclude that Job was never "blessed"? Job's health, wealth and his family were all God's provision to begin with, His to take away if He wanted. Let's be perfectly clear. I do not observe that it was God's desire to rob Job of these provisions. Instead, it was God's goal to draw Job even closer to Himself, for Job's "eternal" good, and God's glory. We put too much stock in stuff; the provisions, even the blessings, we aquire in this world. This dependence clouds our view of God's "true" goodness, His eternal goodness.
Q: What is "the test"?
"Trials" are allowed for our growth in the Lord, and dependence upon Him.
"A crown of life" is promised. Christ' own crown was painful and meant to mock and humiliate Him! Will your crown be one of your own glory?? Or will any achievment you experience be for His glory, and redirected to him?
"Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God," for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one." (James 1:13)
"If we are free to praise God, then we must be free to curse God. The very nature of our divinely given freedom makes evil possible." -Norman L. Geisler | If God, Why Evil
Liar, leunatic, or Lord?? Each must decide, and God's gracious allowance of free will allows you and I to choose, this day and each, whom we will serve. A flawless, sinless, perfect Lord cannot be tempted by evil. He is not the instigator of evil, yet He allows you and I to choose His goodness or our own decided evils. His interest is righteousness; that none of His created should perish, but have everlassting life in presence with Him.
"But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire." (James 1:14)
It is our free will to choose what we desire. No excuses of God pushing evil on us. No doubt, bad things happen to good people. We're all in this game of life together, and none of us is an island unto him/herself. Effects are rippled, good and bad, to others. When this happens we can grow or drown in our own sorrow. The choice is still ours ....separate and apart from our circumstances. This is a difficult statement to be sure. Yet when we stumble, or evevn fail, we have an opportunity made available to "depend" on Him.
"Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death." (James 1:15)
Put simply... we have been warned of the results of selfish, God-less, desire and it's outcome. We are, here, without excuse.
"Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change." (James 1:16-17)
If God created it, it is "good"! If He allows it, it is ultimately good for us.
"Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures." (James 1:18)
We did not, and do not, choose Him. We choose ourselves, and our own needs. Yet, through Christ ....God chooses us.
"but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8 ESV)
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
I recently ran across an article of an interview with former president, long-time Christian, and Sunday School teacher, Jimmy Carter. Granted, I've heard passing, and various, thoughts on Carter's views on Christ-followship, and I think I had heard that he had separated himself from Southern Baptist culture, in particular, some time ago. I had reserved even internally sizing-up his thoughts on genuine Christ-followship. I had no basis to wonder ....before today.
The below snippet of an interview with The Huffington Post reveals a source problem for any confessed Christ-follower..
Sunday, March 18, 2012
The "Butterfly Effect", or more technically the "sensitive dependence on initial conditions" is a theory of small cause, big effect ...at least in simple terms. The theory is derived from the theoretical example of a hurricane's formation being contingent on whether or not a distant butterfly had flapped its wings several weeks before. Could such a "reality" be true?
To be honest, I'm less about theories, and more about practical, literal, impacts these days. However, life has taught me that too much of that thinking, to the neglect of long-term impact thinking, can definitely lead to an altered lifestyle for my children and grand-children someday; whether positive or negative. This, too, is practical thinking. Balance.
So how do we learn to "think" beyond immediate needs? Is it selfish to make decisions for the here and now? Is it dismissive to think only of the future? Do decisions I make today really affect my children, grand-children, and future societies? Can one person have a ripple-like impact on culture and society? If so... how do I discern the difference? When are we making mountains of mole-hills, and when are those hills worth dying on?
As I keep discovering, the Scriptures of the true God exemplify very practical thinking. It is worth saying... God's word, while it certainly exists as a guide to our thinking (Psalm 119:105, 2 Tim. 3:16-17), serves a far more practical purpose; to glorify Him! I cannot substantiate this in one writing, nor can anyone else. Nor should you merely take my, or anyone's, word for it. I would encourage you to investigate / read for yourself. It'll take a lifetime, but I do not believe there is a greater pursuit than the truth. That said, here's a nugget to kick-start........
As I read the story, in scripture, of Pharaoh's "hard heart" ...I am reminded that it wasn't only his temporal life that he was making difficult. In his unwillingness to "let go and let God" he created an effect on his own people. "What happened to our plenty?" ...they must have surely asked as they dug for water while their beloved Nile was polluted.
How often do our decisions affect those within our influence? I'd dare say... almost always; with lesser / greater effects, dependent. Our decisions, today, will post an effect on future generations. Teach me, Lord, to forego temporal thinking in exchange for the eternal ....and the wisdom to know the difference.
"So Pharaoh's heart remained hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the Lord had said. Pharaoh turned and went into his house, and he did not take even this to heart. And all the Egyptians dug along the Nile for water to drink, for they could not drink the water of the Nile." (Exodus 7:22-24 ESV)
Sunday, March 11, 2012
Have you ever been wrong ...and had the courage to admit it? A humbling, but liberating, feeling to be sure. Remember Mr. Harold Camping? He, and his organization, had made several, as recent as 2011, predictions of Christ' coming. Camping's recent statement of wrongness and repentance seem to indicate a primary example of the good from admitting wrong-doing..... "We tremble before God as we humbly ask Him for forgiveness for making that sinful statement, -- "We are so thankful that God is so loving that He will forgive even this sin." ...repented Camping.
Have you ever been at least wrongly accused? Ever been set up to fail? I know a preacher who spent his entire ministry under this cloud. His evangelism plan did not convince all to follow the way. There were even some who followed and soon fell away. Yet there were indeed some who stayed the course. Following the way cost them more than they likely, at least originally, anticipated. Despite the good works the preacher performed, he was doubted and viewed, at best, unstable in his ways and teaching. At worst, a blasphemer of God by many in religious circles. And persecution? Definitely.
The gospel according to Matthew draws this picture of false accusation, defense of the truth (not the proclaimer), denial of the truth, and a clear statement of the only excuse our Lord could find NOT to forgive us. Was He, is He, a liar, a lunatic, or Lord of all?
Those who knew Him then saw Him as Healer
"Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, "Can this be the Son of David?" vv.22-23
The religious establishment, and unbelievers, called Him Blasphemer
"But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, "It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons." v.24
Many today call Him "friend of sinners" and Forgiver
"Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can someone enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come." vv.25-32
Love and forgiveness were Christ' major, over-arching themes. Though He spoke so much of the reality of Hell, and our free choice toward it ...it was His desire that none should perish. In healing, in encouragement, in rebuke, in warning ....He was intent on proclaiming, and being, the truth, To a fault.... many would say! He made clear that there were higher offenses of sin beyond lying, thieving, adultering, even murder. Only ONE unpardonable transgression ....utter, deliberate, continual, to the point of final, rejection of the work of the Holy Spirit.
"We have met the enemy and he is us." ...said Pogo
Our worst enemy may be ourselves, but our best friend, our advocate, our forgiver, is most definitely in Jesus Christ.
Tuesday, March 6, 2012
"If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways." (James 1:5-8 ESV)
What is "knowledge"?
Aquaintance with truth, facts, or principles, as from study or investigation.
The sum of what is known.
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction." (Proverbs 1:7 ESV)
What is wisdom?
"The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps."
(Proverbs 16:9 ESV)
"We must not confuse it with knowledge. Knowledge is information; wisdom is application. Knowledge is comprehending facts; wisdom is handling life. Knowledge is theoretical; wisdom is practical. We can think of it in terms of driving a car. We can have very good knowledge of a car and not drive very well at all!".
-Opening Up James, Roger Ellsworth
What is "common sense"?
Common sense is defined by Merriam-Webster as, "sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts." Thus, "common sense" (in this view) equates to the knowledge and experience which most people already have, or which the person using the term believes that they do or should have. The Cambridge Dictionary defines it as, "the basic level of practical knowledge and judgment that we all need to help us live in a reasonable and safe way".
So, what do wisdom and endurance have in common? Is James speaking of two separate qualities here? I think not. Life's circumstances can manage you, or you can manage life's circumstances. What you cannot control can either bring you contentment ....or confusion.
Overheard In An OrchardSaid the Robin to the Sparrow,"I should really like to knowWhy those anxious human beingRush around and worry so."Said the sparrow to the Robin,"Friend, I think that it must beThat they have no Heavenly FatherSuch as cares for you and me."-Elizabeth Cheney
Surely the poet was thinking of the Scriptures of Matthe 6:26.....
"Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?"
What is a present trial you face? Will you trust God's provision (present & future) and His guidance, jointly, through His communicated word and through the leading of His indwelling Holy Spirit? If you "will" trust God in your trials you can be assured of more to come ...because He "does have a purpose, and a plan, for you; plans for hope and a future. But you may also be assured of a growing contentment, and strengthened commitment, in how His all-knowing, all-powerful hand will guide you. Each of your struggles can become minor opportunities to bring major glory to a faithful, loving, just, and merciful Lord. These same struggles will bring joy, and fulfillment to an, otherwise, empty life.