What A Fool Says About God!

-The “Angry Theist”!

Do you know what a fool says about God? A fool says that God doesn’t exist! That’s the claim of the Old Testament book of Proverbs:  “The fool says in his heart, ‘God does not exist” (Proverbs 14:1). He’s a fool because he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know! And, most often, in my experience, I’ve found that the person who claims to be an atheist is just an “angry theist.” In his heart he knows there’s a God; but, he’s mad at Him over something that happened in his life; and, he blames God for it. So, he refuses to yield to God’s Sovereignty.

-Authentic Wisdom!

Authentic wisdom grows as we learn to fear God! So, the fool, who doesn’t believe God exists, can never become a truly wise person! “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; but, fools despise wisdom and discipline” (Proverbs 1:7). Let’s talk about the fear of the Lord; because, unfortunately, I’ve found that it confuses some people. Keep in mind our word “fear” is translated from the original Hebrew language that the Old Testament was written in. And, sometimes, in translation work, there just isn’t an adequate word in one language to properly express the meaning in another. That’s the case, here, with the word “fear.” This is not the kind of fear we might have of a snake; or, going to the dentist or doctor; or, of some extreme danger. This “fear” is more of awe or reverence of great respect!

The Fear Of God!

If you play a little basketball, to “fear” LeBron James is to have such awe or respect for who he is & for his incredible abilities that you couldn’t bring yourself to stand beside him on a basketball court.  To “fear” God means you’re awed that He has such power that He could speak the world into existence! To “fear” Him is to honor Him with such respect that you want to know Him! You want to know what He’s said in His word so you can be in proper standing & relationship with Him! When you truly come to understand what it means to fear Him, you’ll no longer fear anything or anyone else! He’s that awesome! The more you humble yourself before Him, the more you’ll desire to learn from Him!  And, in that way, you’ll grow in wisdom according to the book of Proverbs! The authentic wisdom, of God, will expose you, however, if you’re a fool! If you’re an unbeliever! If you deny His existence! Because, remember, that, “…FOOLS despise the wisdom & discipline…” of the Lord, Solomon says (1:7).

2 Kinds Of Wisdom!

There are only 2 kinds of wisdom! There is God’s wisdom; as recorded in the words of Scripture! And, there is the “wisdom” of sinful man which is always contrary to God’s wisdom. If God’s wisdom says, “don’t cheat, steal, lie or sleep with someone you’re not married to”; the world’s “wisdom” says, “Go ahead and cheat, steal & lie… just don’t get caught.” Oh, and, “sleep with anyone you want to! It’s okay as long as you love them.” The absence of God in the so-called “wisdom” of the world is ultimately its fatal flaw! The world’s “wisdom” is always a moving target! It changes with the times & societal more’s. But, the wisdom of God is immutable; like, He is! It never changes because He never changes! He will always be what He’s always been! Wisdom is not just a “way of life”; it’s the way “to life”— to life everlasting with God! In His wisdom; and, His love for us, He speaks His gospel of peace to us:  “Quit your rebellion,” He says, “confess your sin to Me! Quit fighting & waging war against Me! I offer you peace through the blood of Jesus & His work on the cross for you! Don’t be a FOOL any longer! Come to Me! I give you love, mercy & grace!

Finding Your Way Back To God!

-The Bible’s Longest Chapter!

The longest chapter in the entire Bible is Psalm 119. It has 176 verses; by far, the longest chapter in all of Scripture. The last verse arrested my attention when I read it! Just look at v.176. The writer admits how vulnerable he is to wandering away from God; and, he makes, what to us, may seem like an unusual request; and, then concludes the Psalm with a significant statement. He says, “I wander like a lost sheep; seek Your servant, for I do not forget Your commands.

-A Buzz Without A Shock!

Recently, I read a story by an individual who trains Doberman Pinschers. They’re a highly intelligent & independent breed of dog. And, they love to run when he takes them out to the forest! Especially, when they discover deer! And, because it’s difficult to control them when that happens, he uses an electronic shock collar to train them for their safety. The transmitter has 2 buttons—one that sends out a very quiet “buzz” sound; and, the other that sends a very mild shock! He trains them by administering 3 “buzzes” followed by one mild shock! He never shocks them without buzzing them first! The method, to the training, is that the dogs will eventually learn to respond to the “buzz” without the need for a shock.

-God’s Quiet Little Buzz!

I think that in more ways than we care to admit, that we resemble his dogs! We tend to run wild & to chase after things & wander away from God. So, God sends out a quiet “buzz”— He’s warning us about the dangers of living sinful, selfish lives! But, when His warnings fail to get our attention, He has to shock us! We experience the painful consequences of our decision to rebel against all the safeguards and the protections that God has revealed to us in His Word! As we grow, in spiritual wisdom, we’ll learn to respond to God’s “buzz” without the need for a shock!

-We’re A Lot Like The Prodigal Son!

These next couple of posts are about finding your way back to God! We tend to be a lot like the prodigal son, who was shocked to his senses! He realized what an awesome, loving Father he had wandered away from! He returned to Him in confession & humility & found that the Father’s love, mercy & grace was all he needed! We find our way back to God; and, experience spiritual growth only as we remove all the masks of hypocrisy & become transparent before God! The word “only”— in that last statement— is perhaps the most important in that sentence.  You will experience genuine spiritual growth only as you remove the mask of hypocrisy & become transparent with God and with others!

-Stop Pretending!

There can be no spiritual growth in your life so long as you hide your sin & wear a mask, pretending to be someone you’re not! The writer, of this Psalm, confessed; and, he put it in writing for the world to see:  “I wander like a lost sheep; seek Your servant, for I do not forget Your commands.” So, how do you make your way back to God from your wanderings? First, regularly confess that you tend to wander from God. That is the writer’s true confession as he concludes the longest chapter in Scripture. “I wander like a lost sheep,” he says. Can you identify with that confession? Can you admit that to another person? “I wander like a lost sheep!” He’s confessing his brokenness, isn’t he? “I’m not going to lie to you,” he’s saying, “I tend to wander like a lost sheep.” Can you say it with me— ”That’s what I resemble! A lost sheep!

You Can Be Honest With God!

-Throwing Rocks!

In the movie, Forrest Gump, there is an especially agonizing scene where Forrest’s lifelong friend, Jenny, visits the old house she grew up in & it brings back a flood of bitter childhood memories of her abusive, neglectful father; and, Forrest watches as she throws rock after rock, in a fit of rage, at the house that held so many painful memories for her. When she finally quits & collapses into tears, Forrest tries to comfort her.  “Sometimes,” he says, “there just aren’t enough rocks.” But, the truth is that no amount of rock-throwing can ever repair the damage that’s been done!

-Why The Anger At God?

And, if we think that it’s God’s job to protect us and shield us from pain, we’ll ultimately lash out in anger at Him! But,  that’s just now how life works, is it? If your anger is directed at God, it’s misguided! Life, on planet Earth, was forever altered in the Garden of Eden by the sin all of us— in Adam— committed against God! So, it’s because of our transgressions and our depravity that the world is such a difficult place to live! But, God, in His love & benevolence toward us, extends grace & mercy to everyone who admits their sin & their brokenness and comes to Him for forgiveness!

-Pain With A Purpose!

And, that’s God’s purpose for all the pain & suffering that we endure in this life! He intends to show the unbelieving world His grace & His forgiveness despite the curse we all deserve! It’s NOT His purpose to protect us & shield us from all the unfortunate things that happen to us! But, if we can understand that this life is all about displaying grace, we can begin to grasp the importance of our being exposed to pain! It’s amid life’s hurts that we can join God in displaying His love & forgiveness when we get hurt!

-Why Lord?

The book of Psalms, in the Old Testament, were often put to music & sang in Israel’s worship. Music is emotional; and, the book of Psalms is no exception! The Psalms are just filled with the ups & downs of life. You’ll find great songs of praise that we often include as readings during our worship services! But, you’ll also find songs that are filled with anxiety & depression when the author asks God aloud what He’s up to! “Why LORD?” they ask! I’ve personally found the Psalms to be a salve; like a triple antibiotic, when I’ve been cut and wounded in life! We make a great mistake when we limit the Scriptures to the cognitive and see only something to be learned like doctrine & theology! God included a book, like the Psalms, to reach us at the emotional level.

-Skewed Emotions!

Does that surprise you that God would be concerned with your emotions? It shouldn’t! He is a God with emotions; and, He’s created us in His image! He is neither surprised nor put off by our emotions! But, like every other part of our life that’s been negatively affected by our sin, our emotions can be skewed as well! So, God will use the Psalms in our lives to reel us in! To center us back into His reality! God created us with emotions; and, He invites us to pour out our hearts to Him knowing He will respond! Find reassurance in that— God will never leave you nor forsake you! He provides grace to help us; whether, our pain has been caused by someone else or it’s self-inflicted. You really can be honest with God about everything! Even the deepest, darkest secrets that you’re reluctant to share with someone else you can share with God! He already knows how you feel; so, just be honest with Him! Be transparent with Him! He will hear you!

The Redeeming Value Of Punishment!

-Free Speech!

I read recently about an interesting ruling, by a judge in Missouri, regarding the practice of flashing your headlights to warn oncoming traffic that there was a speed trap ahead; something, that’s considered illegal in many states! But, a federal court, in Missouri, has ruled that penalizing drivers for the headlight flash violates their 1st Amendment right to Free Speech! In his ruling, the Missouri Judge said that the flashing of headlights was essentially a good thing, “…sending a message to bring one’s driving in conformity with the law—whether it be by slowing down, turning on one’s own headlamps at dusk or in the rain, or proceeding with caution.” I share that with you, for it’s illustrative value, as I considered a Bible text, from 2 Chronicles, that I read last week!

-A Bleak Time In History!

To say that it was a bleak time, in Israel’s history, would be an understatement! Following the time of King David’s reign & the early part of King Solomon’s reign, the nation had endured a civil war that split Israel into 2 separate kingdoms— the Northern half, known as “Israel”; and the Southern half, known as “Judah.” We’ve already discussed, in some recent posts, how the lengthy list of kings moving forward had been mostly one bad king after another! So, by the time we get to the end of 2 Chronicles, the Northern half, of Israel, had already faced the judgment of God, having been taken captive, into exile, by Assyria! And, the Southern kingdom of Judah, despite a temporary revival under good King Josiah, had returned to their idol worship & their evil kings! They, too, find themselves on the verge of being captured & exiled to Babylon.

-Misunderstanding God’s Judgment!

I find, in my conversations with many people, that there is a great deal of misunderstanding about the judgment of God! Often, they accuse Him of being harsh & insensitive; which, interestingly, kind of makes them God’s judge, doesn’t it? And, if they haven’t read the Word of God from cover to cover, they’re actually judging God falsely, without all the evidence. I know that in many conversations with people, who’ve read through the Bible for the first time, they have a new perspective on the way that God works with people! When you begin reading in Genesis you see that God gave Adam & Eve every opportunity to do the right thing & He warned them what would happen if they disobeyed! The soul that sins would die! But, even AFTER they disobeyed & brought God’s curse upon the earth, God still showed love, mercy & grace; and, provided covering for their sin!

-He Is A Good God!

Read a little further, in the Scriptures; and, you see that God heard the cries of the Jewish people as they were beaten, enslaved & terribly mistreated by the Egyptians. He sent them Moses to lead them out of Egypt & He gave them a new land… because He is a GOOD GOD! But, again He warned them that He would judge them by uprooting them & sending them into exile in the same way that He dispossessed the wicked nations, of the land, that lived there before them, if they disobeyed Him.  The continuing message, of Scripture, is that God uses everything in life— even the times when He spanks us— to accomplish His ultimate purpose in our lives! And, His ultimate purpose for everyone is redemption! He purposes to redeem the world He created from sin; and, to transform everyone, who repents, into the likeness of Jesus! It’s because God loves us that He punishes our sin to bring us to brokenness; so, that He can redeem us!

Lessons Learned The Hard Way!

-Last Post Until September 16! Vacation Time!-

 

-Experience, The Great Teacher!

Some lessons in life are learned the hard way. For example, putting a can of soda in the freezer, to get it cold, may sound like a smart idea! It’s NOT! Also, if you think it’s expensive to hire a professional, wait until you hire an amateur! Cheaper isn’t always better, is it? Some lessons are hard and painful to learn! I’ve watched kids, at the zoo, learn one of life’s lessons the hard way— don’t mess with the geese! I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve seen a kid chasing after a goose; only, a little later seeing him run the other way with the goose in hot pursuit! I love what someone said about learning lessons the hard way: “Experience is a great teacher; and, a fool will learn no other way!”

-Gaining Wisdom!

Don’t be that guy! I big part of the wisdom gained, from reading Scripture, is learning from the hard lessons others learned the hard way! I don’t want to sound arrogant or be overly critical of Israel’s constant failures because I’ve been equally as guilty of falling into sinful patterns in my own life. But, don’t you just wonder sometimes if they’re ever going to learn some of the lessons God puts in front of them? Over and over they fail to listen to God’s Word & the results are never good!

-Don’t Be Foolish!

I want to challenge you, in this post, to learn God’s lessons well! Don’t be foolish & hard-hearted & stiff-necked like Israel often was! Be committed to reading God’s Word! To hearing God speak! And, determine to trust whatever God says! With your whole heart! A devotion to obeying God’s word will keep you from sin; but, sin will keep you from obeying God’s word! You can have no better life than the one spent in obedience to God! Don’t be the fool that finds out the hard way! God is good! He is gracious! He is merciful! He promises to forgive every sin when you trust Jesus’ work on the cross to atone for your sin!

-You Reap What You Sow!

But, you will reap what you sow! That is a principle in God’s word! He will forgive the sin of the drunkard who weaponizes his car & crosses lanes, killing someone driving in the other lane! But, God doesn’t give him back the arm that he also lost in the crash! Though God offers grace to endure the terrible consequences of our sin, He doesn’t always remove the consequences! I’ve found it deeply disturbing to read the account, in Joshua chapters 7 & 8, of Achan’s sin.  God had commanded Israel to set apart, for destruction,  all the plunder from a military victory over Jericho!

-What If He Had Repented?

But Achan disobeyed; and, he had done so secretly! I’ve often wondered what might have happened if he had quickly acknowledged his sin? What if he would have come running to Joshua with the stuff he had taken; and, confessed his sin & asked God for forgiveness? In the epistle of 1 John, it’s recorded, “If we say, ‘We have no sin,’ we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1:8-9). I can only imagine that the story, for Achan & his family, would have had a happier ending if he had only confessed his sin & repented quickly! But, he did not confess until he was caught! Until he was found out! And, his sin resulted in the death of himself, his family, and 36 men in Israel’s next battle! God’s judgment for unconfessed, hidden sin was harsh! God, help us to learn well this lesson; and, not to learn the hard way!

 

Is God Really Good?

-Doubting His Wisdom & Plan!

The Old Testament book of Numbers provides a picture of how God disciplines His own children when they fail to trust Him! When they doubt Him & His word! It pictures a people who’ve been freed from the bondage and slavery of Egypt; but, haven’t reached Canaan land yet! That is a lesson we need to learn from the book of Numbers— like Israel if you had the faith to follow God out of the bondage of your slavery to sin; but, you’re still whining & complaining it’s because you’re doubting His wisdom & plan for you! You’re not resting in God’s Spirit!

-Rest In His Sovereignty!

Canaan land is a picture of the Spirit-filled life that God intends for you to enjoy! To rest in His Sovereign control & to quit complaining when things, in life, don’t work out the way you planned them to go! Beginning with chapter 11, it says, “Now the people began complaining openly before the Lord about hardship” (v.1).  Now let’s just pause and consider that for a little while! We might understand, humanly speaking, a little bit of their hardship! Every day packing up their tents & belongings; and, heading out to the next campsite! Every day hunting for food and water! And, they were traveling in a blazing hot desert! We might understand their hardship to a degree! I mean, they were on a perpetual camping trip! But, let’s put this in perspective!

-It Had Only Been 3 Days!

Flip back a chapter to Numbers 10, v.33, “They set out from the mountain of the Lord on a three-day journey with the ark of the Lord’s covenant traveling ahead of them for those three days to seek a resting place for them.” How long had it been? 3 DAYS! Say, what? It had ONLY been 3 DAYS! And, here they were complaining! I’ve found that it doesn’t take very much time or very much trouble for some people to begin grumbling! But, let’s see God’s response! Back to chapter 11, the end of v.1, “…When the Lord heard, His anger burned, and fire from the Lord blazed among them and consumed the outskirts of the camp.” God was angry with their whining & complaining because it revealed their failure to trust Him! We need to take a personal application from this incident! When we complain & grumble God is angry because it reveals that we have doubts about His character! It reveals that we doubt His love, His mercy & His grace! We’re ultimately expressing doubt that He’s really a GOOD God! Have you ever considered that? It’s true! We doubt the wisdom, of His plan for our life, when we complain!

-Where Complaints Come From!

So, let me warn you! When you murmur & complain it reveals something about you & your faith in God! Like Israel, it means you’re doubting God’s character & His benevolence toward you! When we doubt, we begin to complain! Read the rest of Numbers! Many of the Israelites spoke as though they thought God was out to get them! He was bringing them out of Egypt to kill them in the desert, they said! When we doubt God’s goodness, it offends His Name & His reputation! And, our doubt doesn’t generally end with our ingratitude! Doubt & a lack of trust, in God, will fuel a spirit of rebellion in us! When we doubt God, we open ourselves up to a spirit of rebellion! There’s a progression to Israel’s sin! Their doubt turned them into complainers; and, rebellion against leadership followed closely behind!

 

Stop Your Whining!

-Complaining Spreads Like Cancer!

If you’ve ever been part of a team, you know how deadly whining & complaining can be to team morale. Complaining spreads like cancer in an athletic locker room & it creates a losing culture! Whining has the power to kill an entire company! It’s devastating! Personally, I do everything I can to avoid too much contact with whiners & complainers because I don’t want to catch what they’ve got!

-You Can Catch A Bad Attitude!

I remember playing sports with guys who complained about practice or whined about the coach, “This stinks, man! Playing basketball is the dumbest decision I ever made.” In my mind, I’m thinking, “Adios amigo! I need to get away from you! Because, If I keep listening to you, you might persuade me to start agreeing with you; and, I’ll end up with a sucky attitude just like you.” The Old Testament book of Numbers reveals how a complaining attitude dispersed throughout the Israelite camp like a disease. Too many people listened to the whiners & just listening weakened their ability to resist; and, they slowly became whiners also! And, God became angry with them. And, for good reason!

-Blind To God’s Goodness!

He had delivered them from their slavery and bondage to Egypt! He had agreed to dwell with them & lead them on their journey! He protected them when Pharaoh pursued them with his army! He stopped up the Red Sea so they could cross over safely! He fed them manna & they complained about that! In a desert, with no water, He provided water for them from a rock! Their complaints had blinded them to God’s generous love for them. Complaining poisons the heart with a spirit of ingratitude & it acts like a plague! We read how it spread among the Israelites & that should be a lesson to us because it can happen in a local church community too!

-God Knows Best!

We tend to complain whenever someone— usually in a position of leadership— makes a decision or sets a policy that we don’t like or we disagree with! And, we think we know better! Like Israel, we tend to think our way is the right way! Listen! God wants us to believe that HE KNOWS what He’s talking about! That HE KNOWS what’s best for us! Always! What God tells us is always true! It’s always for our good! And, He wants us to trust Him, regardless of what our friends & others around us are whining about! This is a big problem for us! Our greatest struggle in life is to trust God instead of our own reasoning! That struggle started in the Garden of Eden with Adam & Eve’s failure to follow God’s instruction! Things haven’t improved since, either!

-A Renewing Of The Mind!

As followers of Christ, our only hope, for overcoming this way of thinking, is a transformation by God’s indwelling Spirit! “Therefore brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God” Romans 12:1-2.  Listen, if you tend to be a whiner or a complainer; or, think your way is always best, the book of Proverbs contains a verse you need to memorize: “There is a way which SEEMS right to a man, and its end is the way of death” Prov 14:12. If your way is contrary to the teaching, in God’s Word, it will always end badly for you! If you’re one of God’s children, He will spank you for it!

 

Holy People!

-God Is Determined!

Every book, of the Bible, is all about God’s determination to call out a people, for Himself, who will confess their sin & submit to His plan for their life. That’s the thread of the Gospel that runs through the entire Word of God. That’s the call, of God, for Israel; and, that’s His call for your life also! To Israel, God said:  “You are to be holy to Me because I, Yahweh, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be Mine” Lev. 20:26.  I think, of that, as the key verse in the book of Leviticus. God is determined to assemble a people, with whom to dwell, for all eternity! A people that He sets apart; that He sanctifies; that He separates to Himself— that’s what it means to be holy!

-Set Apart For God!

God was determined, with Israel under the Old Covenant; and, with the church under the New Covenant, to set apart a people for Himself from all nations! God has always had a love for the nations! For every ethnic group! One reason that any kind of racism or favoritism, for one’s own people group, is so reprehensible is because of God’s plan to have every ethnic group represented in heaven. God desire’s to dwell among all earth’s people groups for all eternity!

-To Bring Glory To Himself!

I don’t know that I’ll ever understand why God would desire to dwell with us sinful, undeserving people; other, then to highlight & bring glory to Himself for His faithful love, mercy & grace toward us! That, though He condemns our sin, He makes a provision for fellowship with Him through the atoning sacrifice, of Jesus, on the cross.  And, the moment any Israelite; or, anyone else will confess that they’re a sinner— that they’ve broken God’s law— and, they humble themselves by bowing, in worship, before Him & giving up their lives to Him, God will save them because He desires to dwell with us! It’s His desire to add you to His family!

-The Purpose Of The Tabernacle!

That’s the point, of the Old Testament tabernacle. The tabernacle became the visible place, of God’s dwelling, among His people, even as they wandered through the wilderness on their way to the promised land.  “And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them,” God said (Exodus 25:8).  The tabernacle & the temple—that King Solomon would build in the future—was for the purpose of giving Israel a visible sign that God was real & that He dwelt among them. And, just as God was determined to set Israel apart, He’s determined to set us apart also.  We are called to be God’s kingdom of priests.

-A Royal Priesthood!

God’s Spirit inspired the Apostle Peter to write:  “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” 1 Peter 2:9. That’s the New Testament church! God doesn’t intend that we would live our lives in pursuit of selfish interests! He saved us to make us “priests” who minister to the world! If you’re saved, you belong to Him! You need to align your life with His plans for you:  “Don’t you know that your body is a sanctuary (the WORD is TENT or TABERNACLE) of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body” 1 Cor 6:19,20. As God’s tabernacle, we are the visible sign of God’s presence to the nations!

 

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!

 

When Church Culture Meets Needs!

-Haunted By A Scripture!

I grew up in a church culture that did relatively nothing to meet “physical” needs! It was argued that if you gave people money that they’d just spend it on booze & cigarettes & drugs. So, don’t give them anything, we were told! We had no food pantry to provide for the hungry in our city! We had no benevolent funds to assist with other needs! And, yet we thought we were being faithful to God’s Word.  But, there’s a scripture, in James, that always haunted me as I read it:  “Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows” James 1:27.  What do you do with that?

-Playing The Legalist!

How can we just dismiss that? Or, play the “legalist” and limit the spirit of the text to caring for orphans or widows exclusively. At the same time, we cannot just be preoccupied with physical needs and omit the sharing of the Gospel! That’s the problem with many socially-minded churches! If we limit our care, for them, to physical needs & never share the Gospel, with them, all we’ve accomplished is to keep them alive longer, only to prolong their ultimate meeting with God @ the judgment, whereupon their unbelief will be exposed! It’s not “good deeds” or the “Gospel.” It’s not an EITHER-OR! It’s a BOTH-AND decision we must make!

-What Is Pure Religion?

To James, pure religion is not the RESULT of good deeds; but, RESULTS in good deed! We don’t take care of the orphan, the widow & the poor in order to ATTAIN pure religion! Rather, when our religion is the pure Gospel, of Jesus Christ, we become Jesus “in the flesh” when we meet the needs of the orphan, the widow & the poor! “Not by works of righteousness that we have done; but, by His mercy He saves us” Titus 3:5.  Salvation is “…not of works, so no one can boast…” Ephesians 2:9.  But, when we humble ourselves & trust Christ’s atonement work, on the cross, He changes us inside & the Holy Spirit gives us the heart of Jesus! As we are sanctified & grow, in our faith, we’ll want to meet the physical & spiritual needs of the down-trodden, of our world, just like Jesus did! This ought to be a core ministry value for the church!

-A Change That Includes Service!

Look again at that verse in James; but, this time let’s back it up one verse & see how it flows, in context, from one verse to the next:  “If anyone thinks he is religious without controlling his tongue, then his religion is useless and he deceives himself. Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world” James 1:26,27. Notice how James lumps together 3 very practical evidence of pure religion; or, 3 areas of obedience that evidence genuine saving faith— 1) Self-control in your speech; 2) A Ministry of Compassion to the needy; and, 3) Practical holiness. See that? Inspired by the Holy Spirit, James places ministry to the needy & cleaning up a potty mouth on an equal plane as living a holy life! More on that next week!