Sunday, July 31, 2011

You Go First, Daddy

The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground. (Josh 3:17)

The crossing of the Jordan was an amazing miracle. It put everyone on notice, both Israelites and Canaanites, that God is sovereign and he was giving the land of Canaan to his people Israel. The ark went before them and stood in the middle while everyone crossed over. It symbolized God’s presence and his power. The people could take comfort as they crossed that they would be safe because, metaphorically, God went first to show them it was safe. It reminds me of those times as a child when our parents would also calm our fears by going first. If Daddy can do it I can do it. It also reminds me how Jesus was willing to show us the way. He endured every temptation and suffered every pain so that I can take comfort and courage from his example. I think of King David saying, “You hem me in – behind and before.” (Ps 139:5) Only God can be in two places at once. He goes before me to show me the way and comes behind me to watch my back. No one can snatch me out of his hand. (Jn 10:28). I am secure in his presence and encouraged by his example. Thank you, Lord, for showing us the way.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

It's All About God

I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun. (Eccl 2:10-11)

In this passage Solomon recounts all his pleasures, possessions and accomplishments. If anybody ever had it made by the world’s standards it was Solomon. He was brilliant; he was king; he was wealthy beyond anyone’s wildest imagination. If any of us ever wondered whether a little more money, power or fame would make us happy – well, Solomon got there ahead of us and he has come back to report that the answer is “No!” If you ever thought you would be happier if you were smarter or better educated, the answer is also “No!” As Solomon tells the story of his life in the first two chapters of Ecclesiastes I am struck by how often he says “meaningless” and how seldom he mentions God. Despite his great wisdom, Solomon still had to learn the most important lesson of life the hard way: without God, nothing else matters. He tried everything, and by process of elimination he finally realized that it's all about God. Lord, remind me of that when I get caught up in life’s trials and temptations. You have given me a purpose – to love you and serve you, to share the gospel and advance your Kingdom here on earth. I don’t want to look back on my life and find that it was meaningless. Use me to your glory. Amen.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Seriousness of Sin

They are godless men, who change the grace of God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ, our only Sovereign and Lord. (Jude 4)

When I’m reading the Bible it’s pretty easy to slip right past a verse like this – condemning an ancient heresy that is so obviously wrong we would never expect to find it in our churches. Jude condemns those who take the grace of God as license to sin, and thus deny the Lordship of Christ. Paul was accused of a similar heresy (Rom 3:7-8 and 6:1-2) when he preached about grace. I have read Romans and I understand that we obey God out of love and willing surrender even when we are no longer under condemnation. verse please!

Not so fast. Am I ever guilty of treating my sin too lightly? Do I ever forget how repugnant it is to God and what it cost him to atone for it? Yes. In the Old Testament it sometimes seems like God was destroying sinners right and left. Why would he do that? He is showing us the seriousness of sin. Jude went on to make the same point in the next verse: “Though you already know this, I want to remind you that the Lord delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe.” (v5) Even for some seemingly minor infractions the law required a sacrifice to remind the people of the seriousness of sin.

Now I am not under the law but under grace. (Rom 6:14) I do not need to bring a sacrifice but I do need to remember the seriousness of my sin. When I sin, I must remember the cross. The Lord Jesus Christ paid an inestimably high price to buy my salvation. Lord, forgive me for the many times I take my sin lightly. I dismiss it with a quick, casual prayer of repentance, and then I do the same thing again a few hours later. I don’t ever want to take grace as a license to sin. Convict me, and remind me of the gravity of my sin. Remind me of the cross, where you bore my sin in agony and desolation. Remind me of the cross, where you purchased my freedom. Amen.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Lining up with God's Plan

God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? (Num 23:19)

Balak, king of Moab, called the pagan prophet Balaam to curse Israel. Amazingly, the Spirit of God came on Balaam and he prophesied not curses for Israel but blessings. So what did Balak do? Again he commanded Balaam to curse Israel and again, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, Balaam blessed Israel. He also rebuked Balak with the words of this verse. Balak should have heeded the rebuke, but a third time he commanded Balaam and once more Balaam uttered a blessing, more powerful than the two before.

Balak thought he would be rewarded for his persistence and his many sacrifices, but he missed one basic point. If what we are asking contradicts God’s plan or his Word, no amount of pleading is going to change God’s mind. As a pagan, Balak thought he could manipulate the gods by bribes and flattery, but the one true God is not like that. In him there is no shadow of turning. (James 1:17) God says, “My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.” (Is 46:10) He is our Sovereign Lord, and it is our job to be conformed to his will, not the other way around. Lord, help me to see when my desires are out of alignment with your perfect will. I will pray with Jesus, “Yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Lk 22:42) I trust your plan for my life, born of your perfect knowledge, wisdom and goodness. Amen.