Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Anger

He (God) did not have regard for Cain and his offering. Cain was furious, and he looked despondent. Then the Lord said to Cain, "Why are you furious? And why do you look despondent? If you do what is right, won't you be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it." Cain said to his brother Abel, "Let's go out to the field." And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.
Genesis 4:5-8 (HCSB)

And so anger has plagued the human race ever since.  It happened to me just the other night.  I came home from work and went to put the dog's in and saw that the pool cover was at the bottom of the pool.  So I fished the cover out getting wet in the process.  I noted that burn beginning to build.  I fought through it.  I then attempted to put the cover on as I moved around the pool I felt the fence snag the back of my shirt.  I could not see it but I was sure that my shirt was ruined.  Then I stepped into a puddle of water and my foot sank in soaking my sock.  Ugh!!!  As if that was not enough the liner began to sink.  "This will never do!" I muttered to myself.  I thought, "Why did they not tie the cover to keep it secure."  Having no idea who "they" was.  For all I knew it could have been any of the kids.  It is a minor feat for me to get the cover on for them it would have taken a lot.  I did not think of that at the time.  It was their fault and I was angry.  I walked in to the house very upset at this point and called up the stairs (yelled my wife later informed me), "I need someone to come help me with pool cover."  I did not use any hurtful words, but my wife said my tone of voice was bad enough.  My son helped me get the pool cover on.  All was well or so I thought.  You see my anger had already set fire to the evening.  Too late it was ablaze.  Within the first five minutes I created an evening of discontent and discomfort.  Anger is such a wonderful thing.  Not!  Well we recovered, but God has not let that go until I write about it here. 

I feel like I have just been to confession Winking smile 

Anger is a fire according to the Bible.  The first murder recorded in Genesis 4.  "Cain was Furious."  The Hebrew word charah means to burn or kindle.  Cain was angry and that anger was burning.  God saw that anger and warned Cain that "Sin was crouching at the door."  God also said that Cain, "must rule over it."  It seems to me anger is one of those passions that must be ruled over or it will rule over you.  I hope that you have better reaction than I did.

Father God, Teach us to rule over the passion of our emotions.  You created us to have these passions.  In and of themselves they must be good.  You do not create anything evil.  Sin has marred our passions as it has the rest of creation.  Teach us how we might be angry and not sin.  Teach us to rule over that sin crouching at the door.  Quiet our souls when anger rules the day.  Lead us into paths of peacemaking that we might be blessed.  In Jesus Name AMEN

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Monday, June 28, 2010

Doubters Beware

In my last post I suggested that we demonstrate grace toward those that have doubts.  However, if we are to rescue them (or be rescued if that is the case) we also need to be ready to give a warning.  Sometimes I need the warning.  If I stand in two places I need a reminder of the danger of standing in that place.  Any believer that stands in two places needs to hear the warning about doubt.  The Bible has the warnings and we must take heed:

But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. An indecisive man is unstable in all his ways.
James 1:6-8 (HCSB)

And as they were saying these things, He Himself stood among them. He said to them, "Peace to you!" But they were startled and terrified and thought they were seeing a ghost. "Why are you troubled?" He asked them. "And why do doubts arise in your hearts?"
Luke 24:36-38 (HCSB)

There are three warnings here.  First when we doubt we become susceptible to what ever blows our way.  I know in my own life that I can get carried away with various things.  If I have doubts then I can be caught up in the wind of the times and leads me down all sorts of paths.  Other times I have been asking in guilt and not faith only to find that I can only find a path of least guilt (no fun to be sure).  Doubt can make you more open to ungodly influences in your life.  You become driven by these influences and not the Holy Spirit.  The second warning is that doubt impedes our prayer life.  The warning is quite clear that doubt leads to unfulfilled expectations.  What is interesting to me is that doubt breeds more doubt.  Instability is the outcome of being driven by the winds of the moment and ineffective prayer.  The third warning is that doubt robs us of the peace that Jesus desires for us.  Notice Jesus leads with "Peace to you!"  The offering of peace was there, but the peace was not received.  Why?  because they were troubled and doubts arose in their hearts.  The same to happens to us when Jesus says:

Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Your heart must not be troubled or fearful.
John 14:27 (HCSB)

When we doubt that peace cannot be received.  If you don't feel like you are in that place of firm faith that is OK as long as you make the first step.  The point is that doubt robs us, but a weak faith can be strengthened!

"If you have faith the size of a mustard seed," the Lord said, "you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you."
Luke 17:6 (HCSB)
Then Jesus said to him, "'If You can?' Everything is possible to the one who believes." Immediately the father of the boy cried out, "I do believe! Help my unbelief."
Mark 9:23-24 (HCSB)

Do You Doubt?  Don't worry you are in good company:

Momentary Doubts*

Abraham as to the inheritance of Canaan
Genesis 15:8
Gideon as to victory over Midian
Judges 6:17
John The Baptist as to whether Jesus was the Messiah
Matthew 11:3
Some Of The Disciples
Matthew 28:17
Martha as to the resurrection of Lazarus
John 11:39
Thomas as to the resurrection of Christ
John 20:25
Early Christians as to the deliverance of Peter
Acts 12:14-15

I was particularly interested in the verse in Matthew 28:17.  It seems that even at the appearance of Christ there were still people who doubted.  What is important is that if you or someone you know is caught in doubt that we receive the warning and get on solid footing again.  Lest we fall into a hole, get tossed about like a wave in the wind, become unstable, lose effectiveness in our prayer life, and be robbed of the peace that Jesus offers. 

Doubt is like a desert waste land.  There is not a drop of water to drink.  Jesus is the living water that can quench our thirsty souls.  Drink up Jesus is offering it to you right now.


*  Frank Charles Thompson, “Faith - Unbelief,” in Thompson Chain Reference Bible, (Indianapolis, IN: B. B. Kirkbride Bible Co., 1997), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: "Faith - Unbelief".

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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Doubt (Standing in Two Places)

There are times that we stand in two places.  We have the faith to believe in God and his promises.  On the other hand we are uncertain that He is really concerned with us at all.  "Where is God?"  Doubt is the standing in two places at the same time.  One foot on the Rock of Jesus Christ and one foot on the shifting sand of human understanding.  This is a disconcerting place to be.  You by placing your feet in both places make yourself vulnerable to spiritual attack, discontent, anxieties, and ever growing skepticism about God.  I have had a chance to talk with people who are in this state and I can assure you that they are not happy people.  I admit I may have a limited interaction in this matter, but I would go on to say that those that are content with this double mindedness have sunk themselves into blissful unawareness (which could be even more dangerous in my estimation).  I must also confess that doubts have been in my own heart so I know that I am not immune to this standing in two places. 

When you stand in two places then you tend to sink toward doubt.  Consider standing on the edge of a sinkhole.  one foot on the ground that is in in place and one foot on the part that is sinking.  If you continue to stand in this position it will not be long before you fall into the hole and are swallowed up.  In the same way doubt (standing in two places) will swallow up our faith if we do not change our position. 

It is also interesting that this doubt tends to dissipate with worship of God.  The opposite is also true, when we enter into a time of lack of worship our doubts arise.  I believe that worship keeps our spirit in tune with God's Spirit and allows His power to flow into our lives. 

Have mercy on those who doubt;
Jude 1:22 (HCSB)
The merciful are blessed, for they will be shown mercy.
Matthew 5:7 (HCSB)

I have been guilt of letting my frustration get the best of me when dealing with someone that doubts.  It is good to have zeal for the Lord, but if that zeal is against a person standing in two places you are more likely to push them into the hole than to put them back from their doubt.   Compassion on the other hand is what is called for.

Consider if someone was drowning in the pool.  You would not take this as an opportunity to explain to them why they need to be cautious around the water, learn to swim, or that they should be wearing a life jacket.  The immediate need is to rescue them. 

save others by snatching them from the fire.
Jude 1:23 (HCSB)

Doubt languishes in silence.  It robs the soul and destroys the gladness, the full life that God desires for us.  It is a wasting away in silence. I read an article about pastors "loosing the faith*."  It was sad to me that in each of these cases they were isolated and the first person they shared this with was researchers who explain religion in terms of evolutionary survival.  It is sad that none of these men had a brother or sister to turn to.  It seems they were too afraid of the implications of sharing doubt.  They were pastors after all.  Hogwash.  Would God put in His word to be merciful on those that doubt if we were not to admit our own struggles.  Superstar Christianity is a complete farce.  It is time for us to lay bare that which has been kept secret.  Bring it to the light.  Perhaps if these pastors had done this they would have found God's mercy working through the lives of other believers.  Leading to greater understanding of God's place and plan for their lives.

 


 

Father I ask that you be with these men.  That you would lead them through this dark valley of their lives.  Help them to see the power You have manifested in their lives up to this time.  Help them to hope for the blessing that you have before them.  Open their eyes that they may see that no man is an island.  God lead them to a fellowship that would be merciful and snatch them back from the fire.  Lord renew, restore, reconnect your salvation with them.  Lord help us to take heed.  We go there with them if we stand in two places.  Help us to recognize when we stand in this manner.  Help us to get back onto solid footing.  Bring others into our lives that we can lean on.  People willing to pull us back.  Lord rescue your people from doubt.  In Jesus Name.  AMEN

 


 

* "For Clergy, Losing Faith Can be an Occupational Hazard"  Solange De Santis, Religion News Service, June 22, 2010, Retrieved June 27, 2010 http://www.crosswalk.com/pastors/11633654/

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Friday, June 25, 2010

Remorse without Repentance

Forgiven | Redeemed | Restored | Reborn | & Se...

Image by ashley.adcox via Flickr

There are times when we are filled with regret.  However that regret does not lead to any sort of life change. 

For godly grief produces a repentance not to be regretted and leading to salvation, but worldly grief produces death.
2 Corinthians 7:10 (HCSB)

This is worldly remorse.  I have posted on this before here.  However I thought it would be good to draw a contrast between feeling sorry about something and true repentance. 

Unmerited Self-Reproach

There is a type of regret that comes when you have not done anything wrong.  Perhaps it is dealing with a consequence of someone else's sin.  Perhaps it is dealing with negative consequences of making the right choice.  That's right we can regret making the right choice if we let regret come in to our hearts.  At other times we are quick to assume that we have done something worthy of apology.  Perpetually saying "I am sorry."  This type of regret is pointless. 

The only thing it does is make us feel badly and there is nothing to repent of other than turning from the inward self-focus to a outward God-focus.  It seems that we become so self absorbed that we begin to take credit for everything good or bad, but especially bad.  That is somewhat arrogant if you think about it.  How could all things be my fault? 

Some other things that might be going on:  God could be showing you something (like how to trust Him), there might be a person that needs to experience God's love and God has place you in their path to show them that love, you may be experiencing persecution for doing the right thing, maybe your opinion needs to be heard and is wisdom that God has given you.  What ever the case may be unmerited self-reproach is not repentance it is worldly sorrow and it kills the spirit. 

Guilt of Being Caught

We have a great capacity to sear our conscience to dull the conviction that something is wrong until we get caught.  For the Christian in addition we grieve the Holy Spirit until He leaves us to experience full consequence of sin.   What ever the case may be we continue in this sin until we are caught.  At that moment we have a choice.  Do we put our effort into damage control and minimizing the effects of getting caught or do we seek genuine repentance. 

The guilt of being caught is not repentance.  Repentance requires a true change of heart, a change of direction, a change is purpose.  What is difficult is that guilt of being caught and true repentance can look very much the same.  In both there is cessation of the offending behavior.  In the case of guilt of being caught the cessation is more like a pause than a change.  This pause can continue for a long time, sometimes indefinitely.  Both can be accompanied by expressions of remorse.  Both can be accompanied by renewed religious devotion. 

The difference?   Well there are a few.  The guilt of being caught is self-centered.  Repentance is God/Spirit centered.  The guild of being caught is more interested in removing consequences of sin, where as repentance is more interested in removing the guilt of sin (through a right relationship with God).  Guilt of being caught is motivated by the desire to escape pain.  Repentance is motivated by the desire to experience God's peace.  It seems that arrogance is the root of the lack of repentance in this matter as well.  It is a attitude of "I can fix this." This I can fix this attitude leads a person to arrogantly undo and restore what cannot possibly be repaid. 

In the end it is an empty pursuit not leading to lasting change.  Often the end of guilt from getting caught leads to blame of others, resentment and bitterness, or avoidance that festers in the soul like a infection under the skin.  What is needed is humble repentance from the arrogant attitude that "I can fix this!" and from the original offence to trust in God and His forgiveness. 

Melancholic Guilt

There are times that people experience genuine remorse, but never get around to repentance.  Their guilt is overwhelming and they cannot remove it.   They become intensely aware of their own shortcomings becoming anxious, distressed, and depressed.  They discover that no amount of undoing will ever make things right.  Don't get me wrong; you can make amends to restore a relationship or pay restitution for damages, but you can never come up with a payment big enough to undo the guilt of sin. 

Melancholic guilt is a deep intimacy with the hopelessness of the guilt of un repentant sin.  Sometimes people live lives of desperation in this place because they are not aware that there is another option.  Other times they know about the peace of God, but believe the deception that either they have to undo the guilt then come to God, or that the guilt they bear is to great for God to forgive.  Still other times Melancholic Guilt occurs when a person realizes that repentance does not remove the consequences of sin.  The biggest problem with melancholic guilt is that it never leads to a changed life and it robs you of the peace that God offers through His Son Jesus Christ. 

To repent of Melancholic Guilt one much without reservation confess the sin that has brought the guilt into your life.   Then trust in God to work through your circumstances for better or for worse, but always for your good (Romans 8:28).  To fall back into melancholic guilt after you have turned to God for forgiveness is really a sign that you do not trust God to work through your circumstances.  If there are ongoing consequences to your sin embrace them and then turn them over to God.  This ongoing turning to (repentance) God will allow His peace to flow into your life. 

If you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
Romans 10:9 (HCSB)
If we confess our sins, He (Jesus) is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:9 (HCSB)

Have a Blessed Day

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Repent, Remove, Refresh

Refreshing

Image by seanmcgrath via Flickr

I have heard it said that nobody wants to hear about repentance.  I even seemed believe that a bit myself.  This morning I am not to sure that is true.  Perhaps it is not the word so much as the way that the word is handled.  Repentance is a beautiful, marvelous, and glorious thing.  Lets consider some verses

Therefore repent and turn back, so that your sins may be wiped out, that seasons of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus, who has been appointed for you as the Messiah.
Acts 3:19-20 (HCSB)

"So that you sins may be wiped out."   If there was a reason that people do not like to hear about repentance it is probably because it goes hand in hand with the other word "sin."  Again I think this is in part due to the way the word "sin" is handling.  The word sin seems to have been relegated to the most gross offences and immorality.  But the word is really simply missing the mark.  Remember that harsh word you spoke toward your spouse?  Sin.  Remember that coworker you gossiped about with your friends?  Sin.  Remember that time you got away with it by letting the other person believe something that was not true?  Sin.  Recall the time when you questioned everything including God?  Sin.  Remember the time that it was on your heart to do some nice act of kindness and you simply ignored it or forgot?  Sin.  I could go on, but I think you get the point.  Simply put sin is any time that we fail to meet the standard.  You simply do not measure up.  Something is missing.  What is interesting about the concept of sin is that I do not even have to include God in the discussion to create an awareness of sin.  Each of us is keenly aware of our own shortcomings long before we reach the place of turning to God. 

Note it is that you sins may be wiped out!  Not overcome, not worked through, not coped with, not reframed, not embraced, but wiped out.  Think of it wiped out.  Think of other things that could be wiped out.  Usually it is a horrible thing to have something wiped out.  For example a hard drive that is wiped out means that the data is irretrievable (gone).  If your house is wiped out, then it is destroyed and cannot be repaired.  Now jump back to sin.  What if your every mistake, short coming, slip up, doubt, could be wiped out.  It seems to me that would be a very good thing.  Some people are prone to say I wish I could go back and redo that.  I have something even better, "wiped out." 

As if that was not good enough then we add to this seasons of refreshing.  It is a strange thing that a person would trade the putrid waste water of sin to indulge some momentary gratification of the flesh over the refreshing that comes from the Lord.  Yet we have all been there.  I do not know what sin you have indulged.  Nor do I have the taste of the pleasures these sins may have brought.  I do know that all this world has to offer cannot compare to the overwhelming glory and refreshing that God has in store for us.  Indulgence or refreshing that is the choice that is set before us.  That is the route that we choose.  I for one am tired of indulgence are you ready for refreshing? 

When we turn Jesus is there waiting for us.  His very presence in our lives is what we are choosing when we turn.  He has been appointed our Messiah.  A deliverer in whom we can trust.  This is no fantasy flight.  It is no trick of the imagination or some chimera of the mind.  This is the very spiritual food that keeps you out of hell!  I have seen it in my own life and in the lives of others whom God has given me the grace to fellowship with.  God has a deliverance, that deliverance is a person, that person is the very Son of God, the Son of God is Jesus Christ.   

I think this through and I cannot but wonder why I or anyone else would not choose the fruits of repentance over the fruits of sin.  Sin give us heart ache, broken relationships, fear, anxiety, food that tastes good for a moment but turn our guts to wretch, and leaves us with no hope and no deliverance.  Repentance on the other hand gives us a clean slate, a new start, no condemnation, freedom, refreshing of the the Lord, and a savior that will carry us into the way everlasting, and fill us with love and hope.  To me the choice is obvious.  Will you Join me?

God Bless You

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

God Changes His Mind and I am Glad He Does

Moses mosaic on display at the Cathedral Basil...

Image via Wikipedia

This post will take the risk of sounding heretical, but only to those that misunderstand what I am saying.  So please read it carefully!

Often times we hold on to doctrine and then extend that doctrine way beyond the original teaching.  One teaching about the nature of God is His immutability.  Immutability deals with the unchanging nature, character, and will of God.  It is supported by several verses throughout the Bible (Num. 23:19; 1 Sam. 15:29; Ps. 102:26; Mal. 3:6; 2 Tim. 2:13; Heb. 6:17-18; James 1:17).  This unchangeableness is best described by the statement:

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Hebrews 13:8 (HCSB)

This seems pretty straight forward until you come across verses in the Bible that suggest that God does in fact change (Gen. 6:6; Exodus 32:14; Deut. 32:36; 1 Sam. 15:11; 1 Sam. 15:35; 2 Sam. 24:16; 1 Chron. 21:15; Isaiah 38:1-5; Jer. 15:6; Jer. 18:8; Jer. 26:3; Jer. 26:13; Jer. 26:19; Jer. 42:10; Amos 7:3, 6; Jonah 3:10). 

One might suggest that God Cannot both change and not change otherwise the Bible is contradicting itself making it an unreliable source for knowledge.  This is often a position of atheists or agnostics. 

The problem is not with the suggestion of contradiction.  It seems very apparent that this is a contradiction.  The problem is in the understanding of the nature of God.  Let me just affirm that I do believe in the teaching of the immutability of God.  So then what do we do with these contradictions?

I think one important attribute that we need to understand about God is that He is relational.  That is to say He is knowable and he relates to those that seek Him (Jer. 9:23-24; John 17:3; I John 5:20, I John 2:13; Gal. 4:9; Phil 3:10; I John 2:3, 4:8).  This truth is very well summed by this:

Now without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him.
Hebrews 11:6 (HCSB)

This verse indicates to me that God rewards those that have faith and seek Him.  This is the foundation of Christian faith.  It is by trusting (faith) and turning to God (repenting/seeking) that we are saved from sin. 

Since relationship with His creation is an attribute of God then this attribute is unchangeable.  That is to say it is an immutable characteristic of God.  It is is in that context that these apparent contradictions begin to make sense and resolve.  Let's take a look at a couple of them. 

When the Lord saw that man's wickedness was widespread on the earth and that every scheme his mind thought of was nothing but evil all the time, the Lord regretted that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.
Genesis 6:5-6 (HCSB)

When God finished His creation He saw that it was "very good (Gen 1:31)."  So then we had the fall of man into sin.  From this event things got progressively worse.  It seems that as man became more bent on doing evil the more it grieved God's heart.  This grief produced a feeling of regret.  Note that this is a feeling and not an action or change in will.  If God had wanted to act on this feeling of regret he could have very well wiped out man and started over.  He has the power to do this.  So the feeling of regret is not the same as the action of regret (which would lead to undoing).  This feeling is based on the fact that God desires a relationship with people.  As people reject Him by acting evil it grieves Him. 

The Lord also said to Moses: "I have seen this people, and they are indeed a stiff-necked people. Now leave Me alone, so that My anger can burn against them and I can destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation."
Exodus 32:9-10 (HCSB)
But Moses interceded with the Lord his God...  ...So the Lord relented concerning the disaster He said He would bring on His people.
Exodus 32:11, 14 (HCSB)

In this section it is clear that God is relating to Moses.  He is plainly saying step aside Moses so that I can destroy these people.  God was angry with them because they had given the Glory of their deliverance from Egypt to the Egyptian god Apis.  God was offended that they would worship the false god of the very people that He had just delivered them from.  "Stand aside Moses." 

However, Moses chose not to stand aside, but to intercede on behalf of the people of Israel.  He identified reasons why God should not act on the anger to destroy the people of Israel.  Moses was appealing to another attribute of God, His divine Mercy.  Mercy is unwarranted compassion or leniency for wrong behavior.  God changed from His righteous anger to mercy.  In fact as we look at these situations that are described God as changing it is this very fact that God changes in His dealing with people from righteous anger to unwarranted compassion and leniency that happens the majority of the time.  This attribute of God is the central tenet of the Christian Faith.  It is this capacity to change in His dealings with mankind (from judgment to mercy) that led to providing the ultimate sacrifice of His son that we might have the forgiveness of sin and restored relationship with God.  Let's take a look at another verse.

Then God saw their actions-that they had turned from their evil ways-so God relented from the disaster He had threatened to do to them. And He did not do it.
Jonah 3:10 (HCSB)

God's righteous anger was burning against the people of Nineveh.  His anger was based on them being a violent people.  Being consistent with His nature God provides an opportunity for repentance for the people of Nineveh.  That opportunity would come from the voice of the reluctant prophet Jonah.  It is an very interesting story in that God used a prophet that did not want the Ninevites to repent (that is face God's wrath) to preach repentance (staying God's wrath).  In this situation God is changing based on the relationship with the people of Nineveh.  They repented, that is  they trusted in God's mercy and turned their ways to Him.  This is another example of God's changing from righteous anger to mercy. 

In short since God is relational His disposition will change with regard to a person or people based on their actions.  That God's disposition would change does not in any way diminish that He is unchangeable. 

Let me give an example.  If one of my kids is doing something wrong that leads me to feel upset, I have not changed in my relationship as their father.  What is more, if they come to me and seek forgiveness with a sincere heart then I am again likely to change my disposition toward them, but I have not change in the nature of the relationship of being their father.  Now this analogy falls apart if we press it to much as being fallible and imperfect I do in fact change in nature (and as a father), but I think it illustrates the point I am trying to make.

If someone suggests to you that God has changed then let me suggest that you determine if that change is related to a feeling of remorse, the result of someone's intersession, or the result of someone's repentance.  In these God does change, and I am sure glad that he does.  Facing God's righteous anger without mercy is certainly no place that I want to be. 

Lets look at one more verse:

You have left Me. This is the Lord's declaration. You have turned your back, so I have stretched out My hand against you and destroyed you. I am tired of showing compassion.
Jeremiah 15:6 (HCSB)

This verse is an example of God changing in His disposition from Mercy to divine wrath.  It says to me that God is overwhelmingly merciful. However, He cannot forever extend mercy (longsuffering in this case).  This is especially true when people leave Him.   Notice that this change in disposition is based on the actions of the people themselves.  They turned their back on God and refused His offer of mercy.  God is saying that he will not relent based on the intersession of the Prophet Jeremiah or any other prophet (see Jer 15:1).  However, there is still room in God's heart for a repentant people (see Jer 18:8, 11).  Take heed this warning that you can reach a point at which intersession of others will not be effective and without repentance judgment is certain.  We would do well to weigh this truth and not presume upon God's longsuffering.  It is this change that leads me to look to the Lord with awe and holy fear. 

God does change in his dealings with his people and it does not diminish that He does not change in nature, purpose, or character, but rather the change is based on the fact that he is a personal God that relates favorably to those that believe in Him and seek Him and unfavorably to those that turn their backs on Him. 

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Meditation: Know, Serve, Seek

John Chrysostom and Aelia Eudoxia

Image via Wikipedia

Passage
1 Chronicles 28:9

Context
David is commissioning his son Solomon to build the Temple in Jerusalem.

Key Words
Know, Serve, Whole, Willing, Seek

Message
In my last post I talked about running away from our pet sin.  However, running from sin is not the only needed action.  We need to be running to something.  That is to God through Jesus Christ.

David is about to give Solomon one of the most important public works tasks of his future kingship.  However Solomon needed to be in the right place spiritually to take on this task.  He starts by telling him to "Know God."  This is an intimate knowledge of God.  This type of knowing is a relationship that is close (like a marriage ought to be).  We need to have this same knowing of Christ in our relationship with Him.  Next David moved to serving God.  Service to God is  the highest human endeavor.  It is a act that can be performed everyday.  It can even be accomplished in your daily work (Colossians 3:23-24).  Serving God in all things is a way to grow in intimacy as well as to be found a faithful servant and receive greater purpose.  What is more service please our God and it is good.

Do you seek any further reward beyond that of having pleased God? In truth, you know not how great a good it is to please Him."
John Chrysostom
347-407 a.d.

This service is to be with a whole heart.  Wholeness is a attribute that is fullness, completeness, maturity, with a full grasp of the task at hand.  And a willing mind.  Sometimes we do what is right, but only begrudgingly.  This type of right action is shallow, lacking genuineness, it also robs of joy.  I no longer feel good about doing the right thing, but rather I am avoiding feeling worse by doing the wrong thing.  It is a form of hedonism in that I do things based on whether they make me feel better or keep me from feeling worse.  In truth without willingness it is not pleasing to God.  Take a step back allow God to examine the heart and transform your mind.  Allow Him to measure the integrity of your ways.  In this you will be seeking the Lord.  He will find you and give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4).  Which means He will place the desire for and be the fulfillment of your life. 

We cannot play games here.  God is slow to anger and rich in loving kindness.  However, this verse ends with a grave warning, "If you forsake Him (God), He will reject you forever."  Presuming upon the riches of God's grace is a gamble that far too many are willing to engage.  It is time to repent of this haughty spirit and humble ourselves before the Lord while today is still today. 

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Friday, June 11, 2010

A dream about snakes

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I took a few days off to spend some time with the Lord.  A sabbatical if you will from writing.  There is great value in taking some time off to reconnect with God. 

I wanted to share a dream and an interpretation of the dream.  This is a new area for me so if it seems a bit off or is not your cup of tea then that is OK I will be back to the normal posts in the next day or two. 

 

The Dream

I was walking down the street and a man came up to me asking for help.  I told him that he could join me as a walked to my office.  My office seem to be along a busy thoroughfare.  The scene reminded me of a coastal highway that I knew visiting when I was young. 

As we walked along there were these bags that were lying along the way. I noticed that this man had one of these bags that he was carrying with him.  As I entered my office there was a waiting area filled with people waiting for me to see them.  They too had these bags.  I looked down at my side and noticed that I also had a bag.  These bags were undulating.  This got my curiosity.  Just then one of the people in the waiting area (a strange looking fellow) grabbed a bag and emptied the contents into his mouth.   As I was watching him he opened up his mouth and out launched a snake with its venomous fangs readied to sink into me. 

I woke up.

Needless to say my heart rate was going and I laid there terrified for a moment.  I though to myself I would avoid picking up undulating bags for which I do not know the contents.  In fact I would be very cautious if I ever saw such a thing.  Then the though occurred to me what if the dream was symbolic.  What would it mean to me. 

The Interpretation

The snakes very clearly represented sin to me.  So I thought back through the dream with this in mind.  The man I met along the way was having some sort of problem.  He did not tell me what it was, but I do know that he was carrying some sin.  What is more the sin was hidden in a burlap bag.  If I had paid closer attention I would have noticed it moving.  I think that his problem in part or in whole had to do with the fact that he was carrying sin.  When I entered the office I saw that most if not all the people seeking my help were carrying some sin in their bags.  I noticed the bags but not the contents.  That is very interesting to me.  We notice the way that sin is carried without actually knowing the sin it is that they carry.  It seems that I had my own bag as well that I had been carrying without paying attention to it.  The odd man that put the snake in his mouth was some person, some spiritual force, some devil, I am not sure, but it was clear that what ever he or it was it did not have my best interests in mind.  The forceful attack of the snake was quite scary. 

Application

There is none righteous not one (Romans 3:10).  Having a pet sin is like having a pet snake that is venomous.  Most people would never dream of owning a snake, and even less so a venomous one.  And yet I think many people carry a pet sin around without realizing the spiritual danger they are exposing themselves to.  Venomous snakes are only a danger when you stand within striking distance of them.  It seems to me sin is the same way.  I think sometimes we play games with sin thinking we know better or some how we will be able to "be spiritually strong."  However:

If the snake bites before it is charmed, then there is no advantage for the charmer.
Ecclesiastes 10:11 (HCSB)

What is more the Bible has a clear instruction for us when we come up upon sin crouching in the high grass, RUN!

But you, man of God, run from these things, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness.
1 Timothy 6:11 (HCSB)
Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry.
1 Corinthians 10:14 (HCSB)
Run from sexual immorality!
1 Corinthians 6:18 (HCSB)
Flee from youthful passions, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
2 Timothy 2:22 (HCSB)
She grabbed him by his garment and said, "Sleep with me!" But leaving his garment in her hand, he escaped and ran outside.
Genesis 39:12 (HCSB)

It seems to me that we ought to have the same healthy fear of sin that we have of snakes.  There is a danger when we become comfortable with sin and sinfulness.  Lets face it we live in a sinful sensual society.  It is easy to stop seeing snakes and start seeing pets.  When sin becomes a pet then it will never leave us alone. 

May God give you the eyes to see sins that have become pets, wisdom to know when to flee, and the strength to turn and run if needed from these sins. 

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Friday, June 4, 2010

Meditation: Suffering Exalted Servant

La Passione di Riccardo

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Passage
Isaiah 52:13-53:12
This passage will take several posts.  This post deals with Isaiah 52:13-15

Context
Isaiah is discussing the salvation of Israel.  In the midst of this presentation he inserts the "suffering servant."  In the context of the whole Bible (Old and New Testaments) this suffering servant is Jesus Christ.

Key Words
My Servant, act wisely, raised, lifted up, exalted, disfigured, sprinkle, see, understand.

Message
Jesus is the one that acts wisely.  He was raised from the dead.  He has been lifted up and exalted. In His crucifixion He was so completely beaten up as to be unrecognized as being a human being.  What is so completely amazing to me is that He did that for me.  His suffering was for me.  To demonstrate His/God's love for me.  His suffering was for you.  Praise Jesus our Lord.  I exalt Him in my life.   Making Him the very center of my life my all in all. 

This suffering was the spilling of blood.  That blood is sprinkled on many people (nations).  The purpose of that sprinkling was for purification.  He shuts the mouths of leaders, He reveals truth and understanding to those that have not heard before.  There is a blessedness that comes from opening your mind and your heart to hear from God.  He tends to break in at the most interesting moments rarely when it is expected.  Overwhelming joy and peace that comes from God's revelation is unsurpassed by any earthly pleasure. 

God reveal Your Truth, Give understanding, cover us with the sprinkling that purifies our hearts.  Lead us into the way everlasting.  In Jesus Name AMEN.

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Thursday, June 3, 2010

Meditation: Drink, Eat, Heal, and Serve

Passage
Revelation 22:1-3

Context
John is sharing a vision of heaven. 

Key Words
Living Water, Throne of God and the Lamb, Tree of Life, No...Curse

Message
The image of life giving water flowing from the Throne of God and His Son Jesus Christ is quite astounding.  This river flows through the city and waters a tree so large that it roots are on both sides of this living river.  This tree is the tree of life.  It's fruit brings a perpetual harvest every month.  It's leaves have the power to heal.  The curse is removed, and God's people serve Him. 

This is an amazing picture of what will be.  I also believe that it is symbolic of what can be now in our lives.  Follow my logic if you will.  Jesus is the source living water (John 4:13-14).  This living water is flowing into our lives giving life.  God's wisdom is a tree of life to those that embrace it (Proverbs 3:18).  God's wisdom is ready at all times in season and out of season and is perpetually producing a harvest.  This Wisdom is healing to the world.  When we drink of Christ, and Eat of God's wisdom the curse is removed from our lives.  We are called to serve Him. 

This life with all it's imperfections is an opportunity to learn and grow in order that we would be prepared for the next life.  We need to drink, eat, heal, remove curse, and serve. 

Have a Blessed Day

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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Meditation: Love, Love, and Obey

Passage
1 John 5:2

Context
John is finishing a section on love.  He is summarizing that we are to love others and to love God through obedience. 

Key Words
know, love, God's Children, obey, commands

Message
There is an interesting convergence when we love.   Jesus said that the two greatest commandments are to love God (Matthew 22:36-37) and to love others (Matthew 22:39).  John is pointing out that you cannot have one without the other.  Just a few verses back (1 John 4:20) he calls those that say they love God while hating a brother "a Liar."  Then in this verse he says that we know that we love other's (children of God) when we "love God and obey His commands."  Christian integrity demands then that we love others, love God, and obey his commands.  

Have a wonderful week.

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