Yahweh: Merciful & Gracious!

-Living With Shame & Guilt!

Bettina Goering is the great-niece of Hermann Goering, one of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi leaders, who founded the Gestapo Secret Police & helped organize the holocaust. In a newspaper interview, from May 2016, she revealed how she & her brother were voluntarily sterilized.  “I had my tubes tied at the age of 30,” she said, “because I feared I would create another monster.” Monika Hertwig lives with the haunting memories of her own father, who was the commandant of an Auschwitz prison sub-camp. He was hanged, in 1946, for the murder of 10’s of thousands of people, at least 500 of them by his own hands.  “He liked to shoot women with babies in their arms from the balcony of his house,” she recollects, “to see if one bullet could kill two.” And, then she asks out loud, “How much of the murderer is in me? These are the things that torment me.”

-The Shadow Of Family Sin!

I find it haunting how the relatives, of Nazi war criminals, try and deal with the shame & the guilt they feel. What a tragedy that they continue to live in the shadow of the sins of family members! Could that be, in part, what Exodus 20:5 is referring to when it says, “You shall not bow down to idols or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.” Could the guilt & shame, their offspring feel, be, in part, the punishment that they endure?

-Yahweh! God Of Compassion!

There’s a similar passage, in Exodus 34, that follows Israel’s breaking of the covenant, with God, when they made an idol, of a golden calf; and, worshipped it! “The Lord came down in a cloud, stood with him (Moses) there, and proclaimed His name Yahweh.  Then the Lord passed in front of him and proclaimed: Yahweh—Yahweh is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in faithful love and truth,  maintaining faithful love to a thousand generations, forgiving wrongdoing, rebellion, and sin. But He will not leave the guilty unpunished, bringing the consequences of the fathers’ wrongdoing on the children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generation. Moses immediately bowed down to the ground and worshiped” Exodus 34:5-8.  There’s perhaps no greater example, of God’s grace & compassion, then that passage! Israel broke the covenant with God! They didn’t believe God at the Red Sea! They complained against God & Moses in the wilderness! When would enough be enough? I wanna tell you that you all ought to be glad that I’m not God! I’m equally glad you aren’t; because, none of us have God’s love, grace & mercy for sinners!

-The Way To God!

Sin devastated man’s relationship with God! So, God established the sacrificial system for Israel, His covenant people, as a way for them to worship Him & restore fellowship with Him! It provided for repentance and forgiveness! Hebrews reflects back on the Old Testament sacrificial system:  “According to the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” Hebrews 9:33. No sacrifice! No forgiveness, God says! If you study each of the 5 sacrificial offerings, in the book of Leviticus, you’ll see how they foreshadow the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus’ life on the cross! Galatians 3:24 says, “The law, then, was our guardian until Christ, so that we could be justified by faith.”  The old KJV says, “The law was our SCHOOLMASTER…” that hands us off to Jesus Christ, God’s ultimate sin sacrifice!

 

We’re Gifted For His Glory!

-But, How Do We Bring Him Glory?

I find that the subject of “God’s Glory” tends to provoke more questions than it does answers. How do WE bring glory to God?  And, WHY does God seek glory? Why is it OK for God to bring glory to Himself; but, it’s condemned, as pride, if we seek personal glory? The wrong answers to those questions could prove deadly! The life & death of a King, named Herod Agrippa, provides a shocking illustration for us. One day, as he was dressed in his royal robes & seated on his throne, he began to speak; and,  “The assembled people began to shout,  ‘It’s the voice of a god and not of a man!’ At once an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give the glory to God, and he became infected with worms and died.” Herod Agrippa died, it says, “…because he DID NOT GIVE GOD the GLORY…” He did not REDIRECT the praise to GOD & it cost him his life!

-Why God Hates Pride!

God HATES pride because it’s man’s attempt to steal glory from HIM! Pride credits SELF for our accomplishments & DISCREDITS God who actually gave us everything we have, including our gifts & talents! Perhaps, like me, you were required to read Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in school; or, at least parts of it! One story included a vain rooster, named Chanticleer, who prided himself on all his accomplishments. He was most proud of the fact that his crowing caused the sun to rise each morning—every morning he crowed; and, every morning the sun rose making him quite proud! One morning, however, Chanticleer overslept; and, when he awoke, he was shocked to find that the sun was already up & it happened without any help from him!

-What Are You Crowing About?

When he realized that he could no longer take credit for the rising of the sun, he declared that, “IF by my CROWING I cannot bring in the dawn, then by my CROWING I can celebrate it’s coming.” Which begs the question—“What accomplishments, in your life, have you been CROWING about?” The moral to Chanticleer’s story is that his pride-filled “crowing” wasn’t accomplishing what he thought it was. He had deceived himself! But, there’s a 2nd moral to the story—when faced with the truth, he humbled himself & celebrated the sunrise though he had nothing to do with it!

-We Take Too Much Credit!

There’s much we can learn from Chanticleer’s story, isn’t there? We’re tempted to take way too much credit or glory for our own accomplishments, aren’t we? But, it’s God who created us! It’s God who’s given us our intellect, our talents, and, our gifts! It’s God who gives us life & the ability to make decisions! It’s God who regenerates us & raises us up from our spiritual death & gives us life in Christ. We can share in the process! But, we’d better not crow about it like we’ve done the work! God brings glory to Himself for our spiritual growth—or, sanctification—because He’s the One who does it! “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose” Philippians 2:12. God does the work in us! He enables us! Give Him the Glory for it!

 

What Do You Love More Than God?

-Are There Competing Loves?

When Jesus told the rich young ruler to, “Go, sell your belongings and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven…” he confronted him with the one thing in his life that was competing for a relationship with God—his wealth! The text continues, “…but, when the young man heard that command, he went away grieving, because he had many possessions” Mark 10:17-27.  Let’s be clear—Jesus didn’t tell everyone to sell all their possessions and give it to the poor. Only to those, who made their possessions an idol, does He tell to get rid of it!

-Do You Want To Be Rich?

And, it’s not just about HAVING riches! The Apostle Paul says, “…those who WANT to BE RICH fall into temptations, a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge people into ruin and destruction” 1 Timothy 6:9.  It’s not having riches, necessarily, that are the temptation and trap. It’s the WANTING to BE RICH! I’ve known people who were dirt poor and fell into this trap! It was the “lust” they had to BE RICH that ruled their life! It was the idol they bowed down to—WANTING to BE RICH! Those who love money, whether they have it or not, are easily deceived by it!

-The Root Of All Kinds Of Evil!

Paul continued his warning to Timothy, “…the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains” 1 Timothy 6:10. In other words, it’s that covetous love for money that can give rise to all kinds of other deadly sins. When the “love of money” is your life’s ambition, you’ll sell out everything to get it—even your relationship with God! You’ll do whatever it takes to gain more money; and, to gain more stuff! But, you’ll never be content!

-Godliness With Contentment!

Paul told Timothy that it was “…godliness with contentment that is great gain”; and, “…if we have food and clothing we should be content with these” 1 Timothy 6:6,8.  Our greatest “return on investment” comes from a life that finds contentment in God alone! If we have God! If we know Him! If He is our treasure, than food and clothing is all we really need in this life! Paul tells Timothy that it’s possible to be content with those simple necessities of life because we have all that we really need in God! Do you believe that? Do you live that way? Are you content?

-Free From The Love For Money!

God inspired the writer of Hebrews to record these words: “Keep your life free from the love of money. Be content with what you have. For He has said, ‘I will never fail you nor forsake you.’ Hence we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid; what can man do to me?’” Hebrews 13:5,6.  We can be FREE from the love of money! We can be content with what we have because God will never forsake us! He’ll never fail me! The stock market will fail me; but, God never will! So, how do you spend your money? Jesus said, “…where your heart is, there your treasure will be…” If you treasure stuff, that’s where your heart will follow! If you treasure God’s work, that’s where your heart will follow!

 

Daniel: Debunking The American Dream!

-Even If He Doesn’t, We Won’t Bow!

(NOTE: This Continues A Series Of Posts On Daniel’s Life)

I love the response of Daniel’s 3 friends—Hananiah, Mishael & Azariah—when King Nebuchadnezzar demanded that they bow down & worship his gold statue; or, face death in the fiery furnace: “If the God we serve exists, then HE CAN rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and HE CAN rescue us from the power of you, the King. But EVEN IF HE DOES NOT rescue us, we want you as King to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up” (Daniel 3:17-18).  They trusted God  to deliver them either by miracle or by death! They trusted God even if it was part of His Sovereign will NOT to deliver them by a miracle! Their trust in God was not just tied to delivery from the furnace—“EVEN IF He does NOT,” they said, “We won’t bow to your false gods.”

-Will You Trust God With Whatever?

By application, we have to be careful that our trust in God is not limited to delivery by miracle! Sadly, the “gospel” being preached in the majority of our American churches is all about “ME”—it’s “MAN-centered”, not “GOD-centered”—“If God doesn’t deliver me from the ‘furnace’ of my bad circumstances, than He’s not to be trusted!” That’s where false teaching begins—with MAN’S WAY! God’s Gospel always begins with GOD! And, it contrasts the holiness of God with unholy mankind! God is always righteous & we’re not! We’re born, into this world, under His judgment and wrath—broken, depraved, in need of mercy & grace that is only available to us through Jesus’ atonement, for our sin, on the cross!

-The False Gospel Of The American Dream!

The so-called “American Dream” is a perversion of God’s true Gospel! It promotes an entitlement mentality of a bigger & better “YOU”—your “right” to own a home; your “right” to a high-paying job; your “right” to affordable health care; your “right” to be delivered from the “furnace”! The false gospel of the “American Dream” says Jesus came to make us bigger & better—that’s NOT the Gospel of Jesus Christ! He didn’t come to make you a better YOU! He came to put you on a CROSS & die to SELF!

-God Is The Treasure We Seek!

To His disciples, Jesus said: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25). We don’t just need a little “makeover.” We need to DIE! Our “SELF” needs to be crucified & born again in Christ! That’s the true Gospel! This story wasn’t about the delivery of Daniel’s friends from the furnace! This story is about GOD & His eternal purposes—and, Daniel’s 3 friends were submitted to that whether it meant delivery by miracle or by death! That’s their testimony—having relationship with God was of far greater value to them than life itself! By their willingness to entrust their lives to God’s plan & purpose—rather than their own—they made God the treasure to desire more than anything else!

 

 

God Is Great! God Is Good!

-God Is Also Very Personal!

I still remember our prayer, before meals, growing up—“God is great! God is good! Let us thank Him for our food! Amen!” Nothing wrong with those words! They acknowledge God! But, they’re repetitious words that just aren’t very “personal.” And, God is personal! The Psalmist wrote these words:  “One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard:  that you, O God, are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving. Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done” Psalm 62:11-12.

-God Reveals Himself Through Scripture!

God uses the Scriptures to reveal Himself to us; and, Jesus—God’s “Word” incarnate—revealed, to us, what God looked like in the flesh. He loves us! He’s actively involved in our justification, our sanctification; and, ultimately, our glorification! We are “His workmanship”—He continues to image us into the likeness of His Son. So, what is the biggest hindrance to His work in us? We are! We get in the way of our own spiritual growth.

-Get Out Of The Way & Let God!

But, God is great; and, God is good! He is strong enough to change us when we quit being controlling! The Psalmist said He is “strong”—in fact, He is “omnipotent”; or, ALL POWERFUL! You can’t manipulate Him! So, why do you try? Why would you want to? He is a benevolent God! All of His intentions, toward us, are kind & good! He is also strong enough to change us when we quit fearing man! One major reason, for our sinful behavior, is our craving for man’s approval! We fear the rejection of some person; but, “The fear of man lays a snare. Whoever trusts in the LORD, however, is safe” Prov 29:25.  When you live for the approval & acceptance of others you succumb to a form of “idolatry.” You’ve placed created beings on the throne of your life instead of your Creator! God is great; and, God is good! And, He loves us enough to change us when we quit looking for love in all the wrong places! It’s the goodness of God, Scripture says, that leads us to repentance. He calls us to find, in Him, the only thing that truly satisfies! Whatever the stuff of this world offers you, God offers you more! He isn’t just better than that stuff; He’s the BEST!

-Quit Trying To Prove Yourself!

That’s the heart of the Gospel message—because God is love, He will change us when we quit trying to prove we can do it ourselves! Salvation is not about what we do for God; rather, it’s about what God has already done for us! Like the Father, in the story of the Prodigal Son, God always welcomes us! He will rescue us from ourselves when we confess we’ve messed it all up! If you’ve had the tendency, like I have, to think God’s going to rub your nose in your sin for a little while before He forgives you, you’re mistaken! That’s not God! The Psalmist said: “…you, O LORD, are LOVING…” He comes running when we confess to Him! He embraces us & changes us when we stop trying to prove, to Him, our worthiness!

 

When Good Things Become Bad Things!

-Is There Passion For God & Man?

I appreciate believers that are “free thinkers”; who, think outside the box; who, challenge the way things have always been done! Not with a spirit of rebellion; but, brothers & sisters, in Christ, that are just passionate for God; and, passionate for the souls of men! And, they’re always questioning whether there’s a better way to do God’s work more successfully—men & women given to prayer; who, are begging God for wisdom to do His work His way! Followers, of Jesus, that are not trapped by the traditions of men; even, traditions of the church that can be elevated to a place of idolatry & prominence above the Word of God, if not viewed carefully!

-It’s Time To Look In The Mirror, Church!

It’s time to look at ourselves through the mirror of God’s Word, Church! It’s time to ask ourselves the tough questions; to, investigate whether we’ve gotten off course; if, we’ve settled for something less than the best of God’s plans for us! Because all the good things we do can become bad things when our motive isn’t pure and holy!  The Apostle Paul called out the Church of Corinth for using their gifts, for ministry, only when they could be seen prominently!  The praise of men can be intoxicating! Jesus noted that many religious leaders, of His day, prayed when they could be heard in public; and, fasted only to be seen of men; and, gave money if honored for it! We all have to guard against false motives when doing our ministry! Are there certain things that are “beneath us” because no one would see us?

-The Church’s Sole Purpose For Existence!

The Apostle John, in 1 John 3:16-18, says that our ministry is properly focused when it’s motivated by a love for Christ; and, a love for others! Jesus’ ministry was others-focused—“love” for the Father; and, “love” for a humanity crushed by sin! Good things also become bad things, for the Church, when they are given priority over Jesus’ mandate to “…make disciples…” That is our sole purpose for existence! That has to be the grid through which we make all our decisions, Church! If that’s not how we do ministry, the “tyranny of good things” will rule instead! We can do a lot of “good things” disobediently!

-Are We Living Like A Pharisee?

It’s always been man’s way, since “the Fall”, to form our own rules; and, ask God to bless them! Like the Pharisees, in Jesus’ day, we wanna play god! We’ve organized our churches as if God exists to meet our needs & cater to our comforts! Our discussions often revolve around what we want rather than what He wills! It’s time to repent; and, come home to the Father, Church! It’s time to admit how prone we are to exalt our work over God’s will; and, our dreams over God’s desires; and, our plans over God’s priorities! God’s blessing only comes to His Church when we live to make Him known among the nations!