Sunday, March 2, 2014

Walk on the Water

In my last post we looked at the love of God even though He had to administer judgment on Moab.  I don't suppose it would seem that strange to parents who have told their children 'this is going to hurt me more than it is you.'  God does not send judgment flippantly, it causes Him serious grief when He is forced to inflict judgment.

However I think many who want to blame God for their woes, don't have a proper understanding of God. If our concept of God is that He is good because He supplies all our wants, despite how we treat Him, then our concept of God may be warped.  Perhaps we need to understand who God really is.  Let's go back to the idea of a parent.  After all God is a Father. I am speaking specifically to Christ-followers now, because God is not your Father if you have not sought forgiveness for your rebellion.  It should not seem odd that God disciplines us when we stray from the way.  This is taught in Heb. 12:5-6, but it would be good to read though verse 12.

And if we are trusting God to lead us, don't expect things will then be rosy, because He has a better purpose for you than to make your life easy.  You see, He wants to prepare you for Heaven.  I have no idea how much dross God still has to purge from me, but I am trying to learn what I need to give up, and what I need to embrace, as I walk through this mortal life.  God wants me to shake off the deeds of the flesh, and He wants the fruit of the Spirit to ripen.  All the idols in my life need to be toppled.  These and many more areas of my life need pruning by the loving hand of God.  This doesn't happen without some serious painful sessions!

And then God wants to take us into a deeper relationship with Him.  When we come to Jesus in child-like faith, trusting in His sacrifice on the cross for the forgiveness of sins, we just use the faith we have.  It may not be much, but it is enough.  God gives everyone enough faith to trust in His Son.  However, He wants more from His children. 

Let's look at an episode described in the Gospels: Peter coming to Jesus, walking on the water.  Before belittling Peter for his lack of faith, we need to commend him for his faith in getting out of the boat in a storm, letting go of the boat, and actually walking on water!  It is a pity that his faith dimmed to the point he started sinking.  But even then, Jesus didn't react in anger at Peter's lack of faith, deciding to let him drown.  No, He was there instantaneously, pulling him up and walking with Peter to the boat.  You can read the account in Matt. 14:22-33. 

Sometimes when God wants us to increase our faith, He doesn't give us a boat to hang onto.  He wants us to come to Him, walking on the water.  You probably have heard of George Muller, who had the orphanage for poor, unwanted orphans in England.  Time after time this man of God prayed for the food his charges would need, knowing the cupboard was bare.  At breakfast, he would thank God for the food they would receive, and he witnessed miracle after miracle, as God provided.  He had more faith than I ever will.  Sometimes God wants us to trust Him, without a back-up plan.  In other words, let go of the boat and walk on the water.  The blessings are great, but developing that kind of faith can be extremely painful.  It may send you through deep lonely valleys from which you do not think you will ever emerge.  Remember this when you are there - God is holding onto you, and He won't let go.

Now neither the discipline nor the work of faith is judgment on the part of God.  He is simply working His perfect work in our lives.  It is when we are willfully disobedient that we incur God's discipline.  And no surprise, because God is your Father.  It should be completely in line with your concept of God.  However if you are not a Christ-follower, and don't know about having a personal relationship with Jesus, please understand that there will be a judgment coming.  It will not be pretty, and it will not be something that will pass.  No, dear reader, it will be eternal damnation.  Read Rev. 20:11-15 which is the account of a future Great White Throne Judgment.  There is very good news - you can avoid all this.  Repent of your sins against a holy God, and accept the substitute He provided to suffer in your place.  Jesus was and still is the Lamb of God, who died in your place and took your penalty.  Ask God to save you today.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Heart of God

God's Word, the Bible contains so much of value.  It is a book to be read for wisdom.  We find in it a moral compass.  The answer to the question, where do we come from? is answered, and we find out why we are in this mess and that God has a plan to save us from a terrible end.  God's Son is introduced to us in this book, as well as His teachings, penned by the apostles.  In the Old Testament, we learn the history of the nation of Israel, from its first patriarch, Abraham to the millions populating the Promised Land.  The rise to power and subsequent defeat and captivity is chronicled, as well as their promised return to the Land.  In this Book God also teaches us about His heart.

For those of us who haven't read much of the Bible, there are some parts of it that may seem bewildering.  After reading through Genesis and the first half of Exodus, you can get bogged down with all the rules and sacrificial rites that take up much of the next couple books.  Then when you start reading I and II Chronicles, the genealogies seem never-ending.  And when we get to that Saharan desert, the Prophets, we wonder what is God trying to say?

Well, I am not here to tell you why God wrote what He wrote.  He is the author and if He wrote it, then He must have had a very good reason to do so.  It is His Word to us, much more important than anything anyone else wrote.  I would caution those who are new followers of Christ, seekers, and anyone else who hasn't read the Bible that much, that you need to take it easy.  Don't dive into the Old Testament right away.  First read the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  Fall in love with the radical rabbi, Jesus.  Then read His teachings in the epistles.  After you have read the New Testament through three or four times you should be ready to undertake a reading of the Old Testament.  Please don't think I am saying one part of the Bible is more important.  It is all God's Word.  But it makes more sense if you read the N.T. first. 

I just finished reading the book of Jeremiah.  He was known as the Weeping Prophet.  He warned the citizens of Jerusalem that the Babylonians would overcome them and take them into captivity if they did not repent of their sin.  They did not repent, and Jerusalem was taken and burned and the people were taken into captivity. 

The last chapters of Jeremiah are dedicated to his prophecies against different nations.  In Jeremiah 48 he tells about God's judgment against Moab.  The Moabites were related to the Jews, since they were descended from Lot, Abraham's nephew.  They worshipped the demon-god Chemosh.  Through this god they were encouraged to do very wicked deeds, including offering their children to Chemosh.  This resulted in the death of children - they were burnt to death.  Because of their wickedness God pronounced judgment upon them.  After their defeat by the Babylonians, their land was destroyed and laid desolate.  What is interesting about this is what God says in verse 31, 'Therefore I shall wail for Moab, even for all Moab shall I cry out.' and verse 36, 'Therefore My heart wails for Moab like flutes.'  This so aptly expresses the heart of God.

Though God was justly punishing Moab for centuries of wickedness, He did not relish what He was doing.  He was doing what His justice required, but He did not deny Himself to vent His sorrow for the Moabites.  When I read that God wailed, it doesn't give me the idea that He cried a little.  No, wailing is a loud heat-rending anguished sobbing of deep grief.  Each of these Moabites was a special creation of God. He loved them, and though it didn't change His judgment, He was truly sorrowful that they would suffer punishment.  God wants us to know His heart.  He truly loves those He created in His image.

And now that we know God's heart, those of us who are Christ-followers should emulate Him.  Not that we should think that we ought to punish the wicked, but we should love them.  We are all created in God's image.  He has taken a special interest in each of us, breathing into each one a soul that will forever.  Though there are billions of people presently occupying this planet, God takes an interest in each one of us, and we should love those we can.  As we love the unloved, they will see God through us.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

What Is Righteous?

I have seen the word 'righteous' used recently without a real concept as to what it really means.  I don't believe there is a verse in the Bible that defines it, but there are numerous verses that mention the word and it is used either as a noun or an adjective (which means it can refer to a person or it describes).  Righteousness has to do with the Law of God and our responsibility to that law.

God is supremely righteous and has always been so.  We humans have not always been righteous.  The first righteous act that we can ever do is to exercise a change in our hearts toward God.  This involves a renunciation of selfishness.  When one comes to saving faith, he does not do so for selfish reasons.  By looking at the character and claims of a righteous God the sinner renounces his self-seeking spirit and comes into harmony with God.  Now this is not something that we can do on our own.  We can only come to this righteousness through the illumination of the Holy Spirit. 

The change in our heart from selfishness to righteousness involves faith or trust in God, that He will keep His promise to forgive us of our sin by the death and resurrection of the Son of God.  It also involves repentance of our sins - that is rejecting our selfishness and coming into harmony with God.  Faith and repentance are not separate acts but at salvation occur simultaneously.

It must be noted that outward conformity to the Law of God does not constitute righteousness.  When doing all the good things that we believe should please God, outwardly conforming to His will, without the Holy Spirit working in our soul - we are being self-righteous.  True righteousness does not consist of good acts, but of a changed heart.  The righteous acts that we do are the result of the changed heart.

So the question is raised, can we still be righteous if we backslide into sin?  If we look at the life of Lot, Abraham's nephew, I think we can find the answer.  In Gen. 18:24 in a conversation Abraham has with God, He pleads that God will not destroy the city of Sodom if there are fifty 'righteous' there.  Lot lived in that wicked city.  God allows Abraham to dicker down to ten, promising He will not destroy Sodom if ten righteous souls are found there.  God, in His mercy , sent a couple of angels to save Lot and his family from the destruction.  So was Lot righteous?  We see in II Peter 2:7 that Peter mentions that God 'rescued righteous Lot.'

But we should realize that although God is extremely merciful, the life of Lot is not the example God would have us pattern our lives after.  Lot was a sorry Christian, but he was found righteous by God, not because of his actions, but because earlier in his life, he had a change of heart.  That made the difference.  God does not want us to follow Lot's example.  His biography is placed in the Bible to show that he made some very wrong choices, and ended his life miserably (see Gen. 19:30-38 if you doubt me).

God has invested much in us.  First, He gave His best, the Son died for our sins in order that we might be redeemed and become righteous.  God has also given His Holy Spirit to dwell in us, so that we can live righteous lives.  Remember righteous acts come from a righteous heart in conformity with God's will.  Being righteous is not conforming with a long list of 'do nots'; it is allowing the Spirit to live and work in us.

When we think of all the Lord God has done to bring us to Himself and all He has offered to help us live righteously and victoriously, what can keep us from allowing Jesus to reign as King in our lives?