Skip to content

And Then What?

(Proverbs 27:1 – “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.”)

question-mark-1648570_1920

 We are all familiar with the expression “life comes at you fast,” meaning the circumstances in our lives can change quickly.  While this is true of life, our greater concern should be that death comes at us fast.  Circumstances will change throughout our lives and sometimes they can change fast, but life goes on and we eventually adjust ourselves to the change.  Death, however, leaves no place for change.  It is fast and it is permanent.  In the face of impending death, even those who live long lives are known to say, “Life seemed to go by way too fast.”  Time is always taking things from us in this life.  All we possess is only possessed by us for a time.  Time eventually leaves us with only the memories of times gone by, until it finally leaves us with no more time at all.  Everyone knows death is inevitable, and yet we sometimes live our lives almost as if it were not.  In James 4:13 we are cautioned about boasting in tomorrow.  James says, “Now listen, you who say, “Tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.”  Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.  What is your life?  You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”  We all assume we will have more time and that tomorrow will be there for us, but tomorrow sometimes proves us wrong.  And then what?

We can become so caught up in chasing after the things that we believe will fulfill our lives, that we don’t stop to ask ourselves “And then what?”  We are going to die one day, and then what?  It could be sooner than we think or it could be later, but we are going to want to know the answer to that question in advance of that day, because death comes at you fast.  Being prepared for death should be the number one priority of our life.  I think that was what Jesus was trying to tell us when he said, “What profit a man, if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?  In asking this, Jesus was saying, “So what if you gain fortune, or fame, or success, or whatever it is you are chasing in life; and then what?”  What will it profit you if you gain all theses things and lose your own soul?   II Corinthians 5:9 gives us the answer to the question “and then what?”  And then, “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body whether good or bad.”  That is the “and then what” that follows death.  Jesus warns, “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more.  But I will show you whom you should fear:  Fear him who, after killing of the body, has the power to throw you into hell.  Yes, I tell you, fear him.”  But to all those who believe in his name, he promises, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes in him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”  We are all going to cross over to one side or the other one day.  The biggest concern of our lives should be which side we are going to cross over to.  Eternity is a never-ending existence that we will spend in one place or the other.   You don’t want to wait too late to ask “And then what?”

In writing this, I feel in myself the same urgency as the apostle Paul when he wrote, “Since we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men.”  If it seems that I am tying to persuade you by putting a little fear into your hearts, I won’t deny it; I am.  After reading Jesus’s words, I think maybe he was too:  “Fear  him who, after killing of the body, has the power to throw you into hell.  Yes, I tell you, fear him.”  In this age of “God is love and that is all,” we don’t like to think of God in this way, but Jesus made it very clear that we need to.  The gospel of the grace of God to us in Jesus is indeed good news, but it is very bad news for those who choose to reject or just put off receiving the mercy of his grace.  God’s word tells us, “Today is the day of salvation” because we aren’t promised tomorrow.   There is a reason for the urgency of heart that I am feeling today.   A couple of days ago, I received an early morning phone call from my daughter, crying and distraught after having witnessed the tragic death of a young man she knew, who was confined to a wheelchair and suffered from cerebral palsy.   The suddenness of death became a harsh reality right before her eyes that morning as this precious soul was hit by a dump truck, while simply trying to cross the street.  Death indeed comes at us fast, and is obviously no respecter of persons.  The first concern of my heart upon hearing of this young man’s death was, “Lord, I hope he had received your grace.”  I am so thankful to have found out that he had.  I later found out that he was a Christian and that his life was dedicated to servanthood.   One of his friends wrote a beautiful tribute to this young man that I think worthy of repeating.  His friend said they knew that he was up there running with God in a new, amazing body that wasn’t restrained by two wheels, and that they could picture that smiling face “running with the One he knew was worth chasing.”  Those are words of wisdom to all of us.  Whatever you are pursuing in life, make sure you are chasing the One who is worth chasing.  There is not a doubt in my mind that this young man knew the answer to the question, “And then what?”  Death may have come at him fast, but it didn’t come at him unprepared.  In the busyness of our lives, as we are running to and fro chasing the things of life that can only be possessed for a time, let’s slow down a minute and be sure we are running after the One who is worth chasing.  Let’s make sure we know the answer to “And then what?”

AND THEN WHAT?

Life is never finished
There is always something new
Just when you think you’re finished
There’s one more thing to do
We hustle and we bustle
Trying to make our dreams come true
Hoping to find contentment
In the things that we pursue
We say we’re going to stop
When we get this last thing done
But life is never finished
And that time never comes
Because life is never finished
Just when you think you’re through
Another something comes along
You’re sure you need to do
But then one day it happens
And you run out of time
With so much left to do
You leave it all behind
Because life is never finished
This much I know is true
Life is never finished
Until it finishes with you
And then you will remember
That which you forgot
And wish you had taken the time 
to ask . . . .
And then what?

(Hebrews 3:15 – Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation.)

 

 

 

 

Shake It Up

“There is none that stirreth himself up to take hold of thee.” (Isaiah 64:7)

zugspitze-1539307_1920

I love snow globes!  A snow globe can evoke such a sense of wonder in us that the minute the snow stops falling, we shake it once more just to see it all over again.   The only problem with the snow globe is that it’s somewhat unremarkable unless it’s shaken up.   Snow globes need to be shaken if they’re going to serve the purpose they were created to serve.  So do we.  Children seem to get the most pleasure out of snow globes because they haven’t yet lost the ability to feel and express child-like wonder toward a thing.  Perhaps that’s why Jesus said, “From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise.”  We tend to lose the child-like wonder of God over time.  The snow of God’s glory settles in us and we lose the awe of the Lord that we once had.  Time has a way of taking the luster off things.  Given that the word luster means, “brightness,” “radiance,” “splendor,” and “shining by reflected light,” that can aptly apply to Christ as well.  We are vessels that are meant to reflect the radiance and splendor of the light of Christ shining in us.  If we lose the luster of Christ in us, we lose the ability to reflect the brightness of his light to others.  Once the snow has settled in a snow globe, if you don’t shake it up, it loses its ability to evoke wonder in people.  Such is the snow globe of our lives when we cease to stir up the gift of God in us.  A snow globe in which the snow doesn’t fall serves no purpose.  Neither do we when our life doesn’t show forth the glory of God in us.

The prophet Isaiah laments, “There is none that stirreth himself up to take hold of thee.”  God has filled us with the glory of Himself in the life of his Son.  We dare not let him settle to the bottom of our lives by failing to stir ourselves up to take hold of him.  In II Timothy 1:6, Paul reminds Timothy to “stir up the gift of God” that is in him.  I think that is a good reminder to us all.   The true gift of God in us is the life of his Son.  It is an indescribable gift!  We are not meant to merely contain the gift, but to display it to the world we live in.  Jason Henderson (Not I, But Christ), writes, “Humans naturally live whatever life is most real to them.”  The question is, “What life do we know as our own?”  “What life is most real to us?”  There are only two choices; the life of Adam or the life of Christ.  To the degree that we yield determines the nature that will dominate our lives.”   If we are not careful, getting caught up in the distractions of life can cause us to become complacent in our hearts toward the glory of God in us.  We can let it settle down within our hearts like snow in the bottom of a snow globe, just waiting to be stirred up.  We can crowd our lives so full of the cares of the world that we crowd God right out of them.  Jesus warned, “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”  Love of the world can steal our love for God right out from under us, or right out from in us, as the case may be.  Day by day, as we become caught up in the cares of life, we can crowd God out of our lives and out of our hearts before we even realize it.  We need to be mindful that whatever we place above Christ in our hearts and lives, displaces Christ in our hearts and lives.

We live in a wicked world and because of our adamic nature we can easily become desensitized to the sin that is a part of it.  We can forget that “friendship with the world is enmity with God.”  The word desensitized means “to lessen in sensitivity.”  Jesus, in Matthew 24:12 warns, “Because of the increase of wickedness the love of many will grow cold.”  Jesus was speaking of his followers’ love for God when he said this.  Cold is often used as a desensitizing agent.  The word cold means, “seasonal (comes and goes), lacking warmth; indifferent.”  All these descriptions indicate a lessening in sensitivity; a coldness of heart.  It’s a good word to measure ourselves by as we go about the busyness of life.  Another good word to measure ourselves by is “lukewarm.”  Jesus, in Revelation 3:15 warns, “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot:  I would thou were cold or hot.  So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.”  We can all relate to that.  We all know the bad taste a lukewarm cup of coffee leaves in the mouth.   Some like their coffee hot and some like their coffee cold, but no one likes their coffee lukewarm.  There is an old story told about a man who sat on a fence that divided God’s kingdom from Satan’s kingdom.  One day God asked him to make up his mind which side of the fence he wanted to be on.  The man, thinking himself to be clever, said,  “I choose to remain on the fence.  That way I don’t have to choose a side.”   To which Satan replied, “You are wrong my friend.  The fence is mine.”  The fence is the choice.  Not to choose is to choose.  We are either all in or we are all out.  Jesus said, “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters abroad.”

I Timothy 5:20 instructs, “Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.”  We tend to be more concerned today about offending others in speaking the truth, than we are with speaking the truth.  A. W. Tozer writes, “When pleasing men means displeasing God it is an unqualified evil and should have no place in the Christian’s heart.  To be right with God has often meant to be in trouble with men.”  If you’re not in a little trouble in this world we live in today, you’re probably not speaking the truth.   The great Apostle Paul himself said, “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God?  Or am I trying to please men?  If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.”  Jason Henderson somewhat jokingly makes the observation that sometimes we attempt to qualify things so much that we rob them of their God-given offense.   This is funny but so true!  This happens when we compromise the integrity of God’s word in order to appeal to everyone and offend no one.  This happens when we become lukewarm in our hearts toward the things of God and try to straddle the fence between the world and the kingdom of God.   This happens when we let our hearts grow cold and become desensitized to the wickedness in the world we live in.  This happens when we fail to shake ourselves up and allow the snow of God’s glory to fall within the snow globe of our lives.  Like the snow globe without the snow falling in it, our lives are somewhat unremarkable.  We need to shake up the Gift that is in us, and watch his glory fall!

ASTRIDE THE FENCE

There is a long and sturdy fence that many sit astride
Hoping to put off until tomorrow the choosing of one side
Thinking the middle of the fence the safest place to be
They straddle there upon the fence most uncomfortably
Caught between the day and night content to linger there
One foot in and one foot out attempting both to share
But soon the day will come that puts an end to their plight
And will forever separate the darkness from the light
And when that time shall come they sadly will discover
That not to choose the one was to choose the other
And they will hear the devil say, as he laughs with glee
“In choosing the fence you made your choice”
“For the fence belongs to me”

(Joshua 24:15 – But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose you this day
whom you will serve.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

The God of Me

“Thou thoughtest,” saith the Lord, “that I was altogether such an one as thyself.  But I will rebuke you and accuse you to your face.”  (Psalm 50:21)

goat-1148038_1920

There are roughly forty-five words in the dictionary that are derived from the word self, indicating that we are a very self-aware people.  The word self is often put before a word to describe the character of a person.  A person can be self-centered, self-conscious, self-absorbed, self-confident, self anything.  But the one word most wouldn’t believe to be a description of themselves, is self-idolizing.  When we think of a person who idolizes themselves, we usually think of someone who “thinks much higher of themselves than they ought” and worships the ground they, themselves, walk on.  Making an idol of self actually runs much deeper than that.  A. W. Tozer (The Knowledge of the Holy) observes, “Idolatry is when a man assumes that God is other than He is, and substitutes for the true God one made after his own likeness.  This god will always conform to the image of the one who created it, according to the moral state of the mind from which it emerges.”  In essence, idolatry is creating an image of God to serve the desires, wants or needs of self, and then bowing down to the image of the god we have created to serve us.  Our own thoughts and opinions of what God is like, what he feels and thinks, create an idol within us of our own making that distorts the true image of God, causing us to worship the false idol of self.  “Thou thoughtest,” saith the Lord, “that I was altogether such an one as thyself.”

From the beginning of time man has preferred to worship a god of his own imagination, rather than to worship the image of the one true God.  The first mention of the word imagination can be found in Genesis 6:5 and reads, “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”  Man elevated his thoughts above God’s thoughts and the consequence was “evil imaginations continually” in the heart of man.  When speaking of idols, God said, “They have mouths, but they cannot speak, eyes, but they cannot see, ears, but they cannot hear, and those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.”  Jesus, in similar fashion, when describing those who were not receptive to truth, said, “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.  You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.”  That kind of sounds like God’s description of an idol to me, only this idol is not made of wood, but of flesh and blood.  This idol is the idol of self.  Worshipping the idol of self will make a person unable to clearly perceive the truth.  Jason Henderson (Not I, But Christ), writes, “You are an expression of whatever view of truth is working in your soul.”  This is so true.  God said of idols, “Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.”   Those who make an idol in the image of themselves will become like the idol they make.  They will be an expression of whatever view of truth is working in their soul, and all those who trust in them, will be like them.  The answer as to why those worshipping the idol of self will “hear and not understand” and “see but not perceive” lies in God’s words to Isaiah – “A deluded heart misleads them.”  What a man conceives God to be like in his heart, creates the image of the god he worships.

Our concept of God must be based upon the true nature of God, and not upon our own lowly opinions influenced by what we desire him to be.  Tozer writes, “Worship is pure or base as the worshipper entertains high or low thoughts of God.”  Our worship of God becomes base when we reduce God to being on the same level as ourselves.  Paul wrote, “When they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.”  They knew God’s nature, but rather than glorify him as he was, they became vain in their imaginations of him.  They imagined him to be other than he was.  They imagined him to be such an one as themselves.  Our imaginations of God come from our own foolish and darkened hearts.  In Isaiah 44 God reminds us – “Remember these things, O Jacob, for you are my servant, O Israel.  I have made you, you are my servant.”  It is he who has made us, not we who have made him.  We must be conformed to his image, rather than he being conformed to ours.  To cast God into the mold of an image of our own making, is to forge a god of self and worship at its feet.   Tozer cautions, “To believe that God is different than what he actually is, is heresy of the most insidious and deadly kind.”

To worship the idol of self, is to imagine things about God out of our own needs and wants, and then act as if they were true.   Entertaining wrong ideas about God is both idolatrous and dangerous.   It is dangerous because when the true image of God is distorted in the heart of man, the moral standards of man decline along with it.  We have but to look around our world today to see the evidence of that truth.  There is only one way to be sure we are not forging an idol of self.  Jesus said,”No man knows the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.”  We must come to know God as the Son reveals him, through the Spirit, and not as our imagination wants him to be, led by our flesh.  And here is where the dilemma lies, and idols rise; the light of truth cannot penetrate the heart of a person who chooses to continue walking in darkness.  Jesus said, “If any man will to do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God.”  We can know whether or not something is of God by reading the word of God.  The word of God is the truth of God, but before we can know the truth of the doctrine, before we can see it with our eyes, hear it with our ears, perceive it with our hearts, we must first will to do his will concerning it.

Every idol that man casts has self at its very core.  As Tozer observes, “An inward principle of self lies at the source of human conduct, turning everything men do into evil.  Self is a usurper who sits on a stolen throne.”  The throne of man’s heart belongs to God, but self always seeks to displace his rightful reign there.   The Apostle Paul charges that we, “cast down imaginations and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.”  A “high thing” is an idol.  The idol of self exalts the imagination of man above the true knowledge of God.  The only way to cast down the idol of self-imagination is to bring every thought, every opinion that comes from within ourselves, captive to the obedience of Christ.  The word of God reveals the nature of God.  Having and accepting thoughts or opinions about God that are contrary to God’s word, form the makings of an idol in our heart.  An idol of self has many manifestations, but its essence is one – “a moral being, created to worship before the throne of God, sits on the throne of his own self-hood and from that elevated position declares, I AM.”  (Tozer).  In the words of the Apostle John, “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.”

THE GOD OF ME

I once had an idol that I carried everywhere
I even took him with me upon my knees in prayer
We would bow down together there on bended knee
As I lifted up my prayers to the God of Me
I knew my god would accept me and I could stay the same
Even if  it meant that sin in me could remain
I knew he would forgive me and that he would forget
Each and every sin I would willfully commit
I knew in many ways that he was much like myself
And that he was said to be a god of infinite wealth
So I knew he wanted to bless me with great prosperity
And that made it okay for me to keep more than I need
I knew he would understand because he knew my heart
If I followed the ways of the world and did not come apart
For he knew that though I wanted to be pleasing in his sight
Sometimes I preferred the darkness rather than the light
I knew that his desire was his image in me to see
And that he be everything my heart could ever conceive
So in order that he be all that I imagined him to be
I transformed his image that it might look more like me
I knew it wasn’t God’s true image but I put that one on a shelf
Because I very much preferred this god I forged of self
So I became an idol with eyes that could not see
Ears that could not hear, and a heart that could not perceive
I became an idol and worshipped the god of Me

 

 

 

No Lie Is Of The Truth

We shall not adjust our Bible to the age; but before we have done with it, by God’s grace, we shall adjust the age to the Bible.”  Charles Spurgeon

truth-3641636_1920

Have you ever caught yourself saying, “I might have lied about that just a little bit?”  We’ve all said it and we’ve all done it.  The implication is that most of what we said was the truth, but a small portion of it was not.  Unfortunately, that small portion tarnished the whole truth of what we said, because it is impossible for a lie to be a part of the truth.  I recently watched a teaching series in which a well-known pastor attempted to do just that.  He spoke just enough of the truth to keep you interested, with just a little bit of untruth skillfully mixed in.  The central concern of the message was that due to the changing culture of our day, young people are leaving the faith, “opting out for a different world-view” and looking for a “different narrative through which to make sense of the world.”  He believes many to be leaving the church because they no longer believe in the inerrancy of the Old Testament scriptures anymore, their life experiences are irreconcilable with their faith, and they are tired of getting faith based answers to fact based questions.  In order to bring them back into the fold this pastor feels that we must “rethink our approach” in reaching them.  His approach being that maybe, just possibly, we might concede just a little bit, for the benefit of the greater good, that everything in the Old Testament scriptures might not be completely true and accurate.  Just to be clear on his stance, I directly quote, “Christianity does not rise and fall upon the integrity or the verifiability of the entire Bible.”  He asserts that “the issue has never been “is the Bible true?” and believes the central issue to be “was Jesus who he said he was?”  The half truth is that people don’t need to believe in the whole word of God, specifically the Old Testament, in order to believe in Jesus.  The assertion being it is okay to question the accuracy of the of the Old Testament scriptures, but you can’t deny the eye-witness facts as presented in the New Testament gospels.  One major problem with his assertion, is that even Jesus’s own teaching is centered on the historical events of Scripture and he himself declares that “the Scriptures cannot be broken.” (John 10:35).  If Old Testament scripture is not reliable and can be broken, then neither can Jesus’s own words be reliable.   Jesus’s prayer to his Father when he was about to leave this world was, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.”  He didn’t say most of your word is truth.  I might not be able to explain or prove everything in the Bible, but if Jesus said “your word is truth,” I’ll take him at his word.

I get where this pastor is coming from, I just don’t like where he’s going.  For the record, I think his motives were good but his method is flawed.  I also found it a bit ironic that at the same time this pastor suggests we concede that the Bible might not be accurate about a few things, once challenged on his compromise of the inerrancy of God’s word, he insists that he, himself, believes wholeheartedly that the Bible is the inspired and infallible word of God.  I’m sorry but you just can’t have it both ways.   As James 1:8 says, “A double minded man is unstable in all he does.”  I agree, we need to try our best to bring those who have walked away from their faith back again, but I don’t think the church needs to coddle, compromise and accommodate the wants and needs of the natural man in order to do so.  What people really need is less “puffed-up-with knowledge,” man-focused sermons and more preaching of the word, because solving all the complicated issues in the culture of our day rests entirely upon the preaching of the entirety of this one.  My momma would say to this pastor, “If it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it” and the preaching of the gospel ain’t broke!  Paul, in II Timothy 3:1-4 makes it very simple for ministers as to how to preach the word, even in this day and time.  He charges Timothy, “Preach the word; be instant in season and out of season; reprove, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine.”  In other words, just preach the whole word of God and be consistent in doing so.  Paul goes on to say, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine.”  That time has arrived, hence the departing of so many from the faith.  It is the conclusion of this verse, however, that should be of most concern to us in relation to this pastor’s message.  “But after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears, and they shall turn away their ears from the  truth, and shall be turned to fables (falsehoods).”  Hope you caught the “turn away their ears from the truth” part.  The NIV Nelson Study Bible commentary observes, “A preacher or teacher who gives God’s true message will never contradict, dismiss, explain away, or do away with anything that is found in God’s word.”  That’s sound advice.

The Apostle Paul warns that there will be people who will seek out pastors willing to support their beliefs and agendas and that there will be a great number of teachers willing to accommodate them and steer them away from “sound doctrine.”  People who have “itching ears” decide for themselves what is right or wrong and seek out others to scratch their itch, so-to-speak, and support their beliefs.  Itching ears is a figure of speech that refers to what people desire, want, or feel themselves to need.  Having itching ears is to desire messages that please rather than preach, and offer accommodation in place of transformation.  Messages that tickle ears might fill a lot of churches but won’t save any souls.  St. Augustine of Hippo wisely said of these people, “If you believe in the gospel what you want to believe, and reject what you don’t want to believe, it is not the gospel you believe in, but yourself.”  I John 2:21 tells us, “No lie is of the truth.”  This is how we recognize truth from error.  You can’t mix a little bit of a lie in with the truth.  Whatever approach someone uses in reaching others, it should never compromise the truth of what God’s entire word says, in order to tickle the ears of what people want to hear.  Paul said in II Corinthians 4:2, “We do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God.  On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.”  If a pastor, or anyone else for that matter, distorts the word of God by not setting forth the truth plainly, you can be pretty sure they are scratching itching ears, even if they think they are doing it for the greater good.

When considering those who question the inerrancy of God’s word and “opt out for a different world-view,”  I was reminded of the exchange between God and Job recorded in the Old Testament scriptures.  After listening to all the back and forth between Job and his friends speculating on why God allowed Job’s sickness, God decided to have his say.  He begins with saying, “Brace yourself like a man; I will question you and you shall answer me.  Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?”  That certainly puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?  God then reprimands Job’s friends saying, “Who is this who darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?”  In other words, Job’s friends spoke a lot of words, but they didn’t know what they were talking about.   They spoke out of the resources of their own knowledge and reasoning and not God’s.  Perhaps rather than looking for a different world-view, maybe people just need to look at things from God’s point of view.  Job 38-39 gives a sobering account of God’s point of view toward man’s questioning of Him, and serves as a reminder that it is we who answer to him, not he who answers to us.  I highly recommend reading it to all those who would compromise or question the inerrancy of God’s word.  After enumerating in detail all the wonders that exist in the world by the creation of his own hand, God ends with asking, “Would you condemn me to justify yourself?  I believe this to be the central issue and the question of the day for those who would leave the faith.   Would you condemn God to justify what you want?  Would you condemn God to justify your needs?  Would you blame and judge God to be at fault, to justify yourself as innocent?  All those who would do so very much need to know this God of the Old Testament, because he remains the same in both his love and his wrath.   In Romans 11:22 Paul warns, “Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God:  on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness:  otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.”

While we, with all our different approaches, try to bring people back to the faith, perhaps we might first try the old approach the writers of the God-inspired New Testament used.  Just warn them!  There are several warnings to choose from.  Hebrews 3:12-14 gives us a good one:  “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God.  For we are made partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end.”  We need to heed the “if” in that warning.  Though the world may have changed somewhat, the core problem with it has remained the same and remains the true reason why people walk away from God.  People still desire to “do what is right in their own eyes.”  People still want to be arbiters of their own morality.  Looking for a different “narrative” or way to present the Bible by which to make sense of the world we live in won’t change that, especially if “different” means compromising the truth of the original narrative.  Opting out for a “different world-view” will only serve to put you back in a sinking ship, because the world’s view of  things is never going to be God’s view.  I guess my “approach” to those who would choose to walk away from their faith is a little different from the pastor I have referenced.  I think maybe we just need to remind people of what they are drawing back to.  Hebrews 10:38 tells us, “But we are not of those who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.”  It seems to me the simple question to be asking those who would draw back is:  “Which of these two categories do you want to be in; the saving of the soul category or the perdition one? ”  (Perdition/Definition: “The loss of the soul, same as hell.”)

NO LIE IS OF THE TRUTH

When I was a child, I lied every now and then
I told the truth in part but would mix a little lie in
I didn’t see the harm telling a little lie would do
After all everybody else tells a little lie or two
But when my mom would catch me she would always say,
“You will have to lie tomorrow for the lie you tell today”
Because once a lie is spoken it never goes away
It buries itself within the heart and in the heart it stays
And truth spoken in part can never the truth remain
Because the truth and a lie can never be the same
And truth will always offer this undeniable absolute
That the fact of the matter is “No lie is of the truth.”

(Psalm 34:13 – Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies.”)

 

The Mirror Don’t Lie

II Corinthians 3:18 – But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.)

woman-3092412_1920

All of us are familiar with the expression, “The mirror don’t lie!”  I recently made the mistake of going to a different hairdresser and upon looking in the mirror experienced that expression firsthand.  It was not a good cut and the mirror didn’t lie!  After the cut, I kept going back to the mirror, hoping it might somehow magically reflect a different image, but the mirror continued to reflect otherwise.  Day after day I continued to work on the image I saw in the mirror as best I could until lo and behold, one day when looking into that mirror, I noticed my hair had begun to grow a little.  O happy day!  From day-to-day, however, the mirror still reflected the remains of a bad cut.  Some days it didn’t look so bad, but some days it didn’t look so good either!  I finally realized there was nothing I could do about it but just thank God that he causes hair to grow, and to accept the fact that it’s going to go through some unattractive stages while doing so.  God’s word tells us that we, as in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image of Christ, and that it is the Lord who causes us to grow into that image.  Some days we aren’t going to look so bad, but some days we aren’t going to look so good either.  Like me with my hair, we got a bad cut in life thanks to Adam and our image has reflected it ever since.  We, too, are going to go through some unattractive stages while God, in his grace, causes us to grow out of that image.  The important thing is not to give up.  Keep looking in that mirror and keep working on that hair, until it reflects the image you desire to see.  And don’t worry, we have the best “hairdresser” in the world.  He is a master stylist!  As my hairstylist so graciously said to me when I told her what I’d done, God says to us also, “I’ll get ya fixed up!”

God created man to reflect the inner image of himself.  Genesis 1:17 tells us, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”  God created man and woman with a specific identity unto themselves and a distinct personality unto themselves, but one with him in the inner image of himself.  God has always intended for the inner identity of man to reflect his image.  A mirror reflects the likeness of a person.  The reflection in the mirror is not that person themselves, it is merely a reflection of the image of that person.  Jason Henderson (Not I, But Christ) explains, “We don’t become Christ, but we become vessels of his nature, character and life.”  Interestingly enough, the definition of mirror is:  “Surface capable of reflecting light.”  We, as a mirror, were created to be capable of reflecting the light of God within.  Scripture tells us that “God is light and in Him is no darkness.”  When Adam chose to disobey God, the light of God’s presence in man went out, and the mirror of man’s heart was no longer capable of reflecting God.  A mirror must have light to reflect an image.  In speaking of those who did not see with eyes of the Spirit, Jesus said, “If the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness.”  Because man no longer possessed the light of God, his understanding became darkened.  He could only see by the darkness of his own blind soul.  Scripture says of the natural man, “They grope in darkness with no light.”  This is the light that those who have not been born of the Spirit still see by today.  Jesus said of them, “Can a blind man lead a blind man?  Will they not both fall into a pit?”  We must be careful who we are following today.  Many are not being led of the Spirit, but by the darkness of their own blind soul.  In contrast, Jesus said if you see with eyes of the Spirit, “your whole body will be full of light.”  When a man is born of the Spirit, it’s like turning a light on in a dark room.  The whole room is filled with light.

“Man came into the nature of Adam through birth, and the cross offered the way out through death.”  (Henderson).  In Adam, we got a bad cut.  The only way for man to once again reflect the image of God was for man to die and be born again into the nature and identity of a new man, one that was capable of reflecting God’s image; one full of light.  Jesus was that man.  Scripture tells us, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” and “in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.”  The “exact representation” of God resided in Jesus as a man.  When we are born again, we are “made alive with him” and become “partakers of the divine nature.”  In Christ our identity changes from one born of Adam (flesh) to one born of Spirit (Jesus.). Isaiah 64:8 acknowledges, “We are the clay, you are the potter, we are all the work of your hand.”  God’s word begins with “In the beginning God created.”  Try as he might, man cannot recreate what God has created.  Ecclesiastes 6:10 tells us, “Whatever a man is, God has made him to be, and a man cannot contend with He who made him.”  Nicodemus wisely pointed out, “Surely a man cannot enter into his mother’s womb to be born again!”  Nicodemus was right, a man cannot change his God-given identity in the natural man.  Jesus told Nicodemus, “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to Spirit.  You must be born again.”  Only in Christ can a man be born again into a new identity.  John 1:11 tells us, “to all who believe in his name, he gives the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”  The only way for a person to be a new creation is through Christ.  “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come!”

The definition of the word identity is:  “Exact or essential sameness.  The condition of being the same as a person or thing.  The condition or fact of being a specific thing.”  The identity of a thing requires exact or essential sameness to that thing.  In Christ, we have been given the exact or essential sameness of Christ’s nature, and it is “as Christ is put on and Adam is put off, that we become living manifestations of Jesus indwelling life and nature in us.”  (Henderson).  It is only as we submit to the new nature of Christ and resist the old nature of Adam, that we once again become mirrors that reflect the inner image of God.  If you don’t want to walk in darkness, you have to turn on the light.  The only way to embrace the new man is to forsake the old one.  To reflect the identity of one, you must forsake the other.  As Jason Henderson points out, “Christ did not die so that Adam could continue living.”   And as T. Austin Sparks so rightly says, “It is shameful and wrong to use the cloak of God’s grace as an excuse for continuing in the nature Christ came to destroy.”  God gave Adam the right to choose to submit his will to him and Adam chose to follow his own will instead.  In contrast, Jesus said, “I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.”  In Jesus, God provided the man who would do what Adam would not do; the man who would, “do only what my Father tells me to do.”  That is the nature Jesus came to restore in man.  Those who would “choose to do what is right in their own eyes” are still giving place to the nature of Adam.

The identity of a thing requires exact or essential sameness to that thing.  Essential sameness means a person or thing must possess that which is essential to being that person or thing.  Everything God created was created to be and to do a specific thing and given that which was essential to fulfilling their created purpose.  Male and female were created to “be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.”  That is still their created purpose today.  God also created man to reflect his image, and that is still their created purpose today as well.  Being born of the Spirit is essential to fulfilling God’s original purpose for man.  Only in Christ can the Adamic man die and a new spiritual man be born in order to fulfill that purpose.  In Christ every race, every gender and every class of people share in the same identity and are given the exact and essential sameness of Christ through the Spirit.  Colossians 3:11 tells us, “In this new creation all distinctions vanish – but Christ is all in all – everything and everywhere, to all men, without distinction of person.”  (Amplified Bible).

I realize there are many people in the world today who feel themselves to be of an identity they were not born with.  I cannot in all honesty understand or explain that, nor do I stand in judgment of those who struggle with it.  God’s word tells us, “We all stumble in many ways.”  We all struggle with the old sin nature of Adam and it often makes us stumble in many ways.  I think Paul, in Romans 9:21 perhaps gives the best advice concerning the issue of a person’s identity in asking, “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, “Why did you make me like this?”  In other words, Paul was reinforcing the wisdom of Solomon in Ecclesiastes 6:10 that, “a man cannot contend with He who made him.”  I admit I don’t have answers for all of the complicated issues in this life.  In the end, I think it all goes back to that one bad cut that we all need to grow out of, and I do know a little bit about bad cuts!  I know that everyone’s hair grows at a different pace, and it is God who causes it to grow.  Scripture tells us Christ’s body, “grows as God causes it to grow” also.  It reminds me of an old song I used to sing in church when I was a little girl.  “He’s still working on me, to make me what I ought to be.  It took him just a week to make the moon and the stars, the sun and the Earth and Jupiter and Mars.  How loving and patient He must be, ’cause He’s still working on me.”  All those who are in Christ are still growing and God’s still working on that bad cut.  He promises in his word that he will, “finish the good work that he has begun in you.”  In Zechariah 4:6-7 we have a picture of God’s faithfulness to finish the work he has begun in us in Christ.  Zerubbabel was given the responsibility of rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem.  God told him the temple would be built, “not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty.”  The word of the Lord came to Zerubbabel saying, “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; his hands will also complete it.”  Jesus is God’s Zerubbabel and we are the temple of God.  He has laid the foundation of God’s grace in us and he, by his Spirit, will complete it.

Oswald Chambers writes, “God wants to bring us into union with Himself, but until we are willing to give up our right to ourselves He cannot.”   Jesus said, “The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”  Giving up our right to ourselves, giving up our identity, is the only way to enter into the new identity that God offers us in Jesus.  It seems to me that in a world where so many people are trying to find themselves and their true identity, we’re missing the point.  What a person identifies as isn’t nearly as important as Who he identifies with.  Only God’s grace offers you an end to who you were born into being and a chance to have a new identity; a “new do” if you will.  Only God can give you a new cut and help you grow out of that bad one.  At the end of life’s long day, whatever your identity might be in the natural man, the only identity acceptable to God, is the  life of his son.  As Jason Henderson so wisely observes, “Both condemnation and salvation are determined by the man in whom we are found.  The work of the cross declared only one man alive to God and all others “dead in trespasses and sins.”  All that matters now is which man are you in?”  And if you want to be sure, take a good look in that mirror, ’cause the mirror don’t lie!

THE MIRROR DON’T LIE
One day I went to the hairdresser to get myself a new do
The hairdresser said, “I know just the cut that will really look good on you!”
And so with scissors in hand she began snipping at my hair
And I began to realize it was getting rather short back there!
But before I could say a word the damage had been done
And the image in the mirror was not an attractive one
Every time I looked in the mirror the image was the same
And every time I walked away I hung my head in shame
Then one day I noticed that my hair was beginning to grow
Although as progress goes it was growing very slow
And so I asked the Lord if he would bless the hair upon my head
And to my surprise, this is what he said,
“The problem is not your hair my child, your hair looks just fine
The problem is you are looking at your image, instead of looking for mine
And it doesn’t matter about the cut because I can cause your hair to grow
But it is my image child that you are meant to show
So stop fretting about your hair, your hair will be just fine
Just keep working to make sure that your image is looking more like mine
Till one day when you look in the mirror and take a long hard stare
The reflection that you see will be my own reflection there
And I can find no fault in the image that I see
’cause the mirror don’t lie about what’s looking back at me.”

(I Corin. 13:12 – Now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.”)

 

Thou Mayest

Genesis 3:12 – The man said, “The woman you put here with me – she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”apple-3685939_1920

“In the beginning” …. there was blame.  When God asked Adam about his sin Adam blamed God.   It is so easy to excuse our choices by blaming someone else for our making of them, but God knows the truth and he holds each one of us responsible for our own choices in life.  All too often grown children try to place blame for the consequences of their choices on their parents, but Proverbs 5:1 cautions, “A man’s ways are in full view of the Lord and He examines all his paths.”  The paths we take in life for wrong or right, good or evil, are ours to choose and the Lord examines them in full view of our own hearts.  Circumstances in life may dictate what we have and what we are exposed to in life, but how we respond to the circumstances in our lives is ours alone to choose.  A man’s good name is of his own making.

Proverbs 9:12 says, “If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you; if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer.”  A mocker is one who scorns instruction.  A grown child who scorns the instruction of their parent, often wants to blame the parent for the consequences of their own willful disobedience, but God’s word says, “He who scorns instruction will pay for it.” (Prov. 13:13).  We can place blame on our parents for our choices, if that makes us feel better about ourselves, but in the end we are the ones who will pay for them.  Adam tried to blame God for his own scorning of instruction, but God placed the blame squarely on Adam alone.  It wasn’t the woman who caused Adam to sin by offering him the fruit, and it wasn’t God that caused Adam to sin by giving him the woman.  Adam caused Adam to sin.  Blame always looks for excuses for one’s own behavior.  Children still tend to point their fingers at their parents, just as Adam did, and say, “It is your fault my life turned out this way.”  God didn’t buy Adam’s excuses or allow him to point his finger at Him for his choice, and parents shouldn’t allow their children to either.  Blame does not excuse behavior.  Romans 14:12 cautions, “So then, each of us will give account of himself to God.”  When we stand before God it won’t be our parents’ choices that we must give account of, it will be our own.  Each of us will “give account of himself” because God has placed the knowledge of right and wrong within each one of us.  In Romans 1:19, the Apostle Paul tells us, “that which is known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them …. so that they are without excuse.”    The NIV  Commentary of the Life Application Study Bible says, “Everyone has an inner sense of what God requires, but they choose not to live up to it.  If people suppress God’s truth in order to live their own way, they have no excuse.  They know truth, and they will have to endure the consequences of it.”  Children might get away with causing their parents to feel guilty for their choices in life,  but that will not cut it with God.

The character of a person is determined by that person.  Cain and Abel were brothers, both brought up by the same parents, exposed to the same circumstances in life, and free to make their own choices.   Cain chose to murder his own brother out of the jealousy of his own heart.   Scripture says, “So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.”  Blame creates anger, anger creates hate and hate destroys.  The John Steinbeck novel, East of Eden, tells the story of two brothers, much like Cain and Abel, who seemed to be of different hearts growing up.  One brother believed himself to have inherited an evil nature from his mother and blamed his wrong choices in life on her.  Having become a grown man, and heavy with guilt and remorse for choices he had made throughout his life, he desperately desired forgiveness from his father for his past sins.  Upon his deathbed, with the last word he was able to speak, the father said to the son, “Timshel!”  The Hebrew word “timshel” means “Thou mayest.”  It gives a choice.  It is what God said to Cain before Cain killed his brother.  “Then the Lord said to Cain “Why are you angry?  Why is your face downcast?  If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?  But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but thou mayest rule over it.” (Genesis 4:6). God was telling Cain that he could choose his reaction to his circumstances.  He could rule over the jealousy and anger of his circumstances or he could give in to it.  In speaking the word “timshel,” the father was telling his son that the only thing in life that could define him was his own choices.  The word “timshel” gives one the right to be a man, separate from every other man; to be one’s own person, defined by one’s own actions and not the actions of another.  The word “carries a man’s greatness if he wants to take advantage of it.”  The circumstances of one’s life do not dictate one’s character or the outcome of one’s life; his individual choices do.

1 Corinthians 13:11 says, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.  When I became a man I put childish ways behind me.”  A grown person who still blames their parents for their lot in life, has not yet become a mature man or woman in life.  They have not put away childish blame and taken ownership of their own choices.  I can’t help but wonder how God must have felt when Adam pointed his finger at Him and blamed Him for his own choice.  For all the parents out there who have a child that blames them for their choices in life, you can find comfort in knowing that God can relate.  Parents are human and they are going to make mistakes, all humans do, but that does not make them responsible for their grown children’s choices.   Perhaps we all should concentrate more on being blameless ourselves than blaming others, because when it comes down to our own choices in life, “timshel – Thou mayest,” applies to all of us.  Each of us have the choice to be a man separate unto himself, defined by his own choices in life and each of us will one day “give an account of himself before God.”  As much as we would like for it to be so, none of us can blame another for our own choices in life, or the consequences they bring.  Just ask Adam!

BLAME

Don’t point your finger at your parents, blaming them for your own mistakes
For you and you alone choose the course in life you take
It is often all too easy to cast on our parents the blame
But it is you and you alone who create your own good name
Parents make mistakes, one day you as a parent will too
So show your parents the same grace you hope will be shown to you
For we are all just humans to which flaws of nature belong
And blaming someone else’s flaws does not excuse your own
But if you have a parent who has done the very best they can
To help you make your way in life as you have tried to stand
Be grateful that they did and in their efforts see their love
And for the mercy of their prayers, you should thank the Lord above
But if you had a parent who wasn’t there for you
Love them anyhow because God would want you to
And though you may not agree with every word your parents say
Try not to speak harsh words that will never go away
For though your parents will forgive you, because that’s what parents do
The words you speak in anger will one day return to you
And like a heavy stone on your conscience they will bear
Never to be forgotten or washed away by tears
And one day you will wish that you could turn back time
And speak those words of love that you failed to find
Stop pointing your finger at your parents, accusing them of failing you
When every choice that you made was made by only you
Stand on your own two feet and own your own mistakes
Because your parents didn’t choose the path in life you chose to take
Parents are not perfect in all they say and do
And one day when you are a parent you will know this to be true
And hope you never find your child pointing their finger at you

(Proverbs 20:11 – Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right.)

Clanging Cymbals

(I Corinthians 13:4 – If I speak in tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.)child-1439468_1920

Of all the musical instruments that exist, I think cymbals are perhaps the most offensive to the ear.  Considering the above-referenced scripture, I think the Apostle Paul might agree with me.  I don’t think anyone much likes a clanging cymbal.  When it comes to speaking the truth of God’s word without God’s love, we can often come across as clanging cymbals in the ears of others.  Jason R. Henderson says, “God’s word without God’s light can be a very dangerous thing.”  He’s right about that, but I believe God’s word without God’s love can be as well.  Speaking God’s word without God’s love creates the danger of turning people away from Him rather than to Him.  No matter what good we do, no matter what truth we speak, if we “have not love, it profits us nothing.”  In 1 Peter 1:22, we are encouraged to, “love one another deeply, from the heart.”  Every truth and every instruction in God’s word must be spoken in love, otherwise we are nothing more than a clanging cymbal that will only cause others to cover their ears and turn away.

Proverbs 17:5 cautions, “He that is glad at calamities shall not go unpunished.”   I grew up with five siblings.  As you can imagine, one or the other of us was always getting into some type of trouble and the ones who were not, were always quick to warn the ones who were.   I remember catching one of my siblings smoking one day and saying, “Boy are you going to be in big trouble when mom finds out!”  Then, in almost anxious anticipation of the punishment to come, I couldn’t wait until mom found out.  I guess you could say I was “glad at the calamities” that were about to befall them.  I loved my siblings but I took pleasure in warning them of the consequences of their actions, without having any genuine concern for the consequences of their actions.  Those of you who grew up with siblings can probably relate.  I think sometimes we can have the same heart toward warning our brothers and sisters in Christ of wrong behavior.  We often find more pleasure in warning them of their actions than we do grieving the outcome of their actions.  More often than not, like a clanging cymbal, my warnings to my siblings profited nothing but to cause them to turn their ears away from me.  Rebuke without love will always yield the same results, because rebuke without love often comes across a lot like judgment, and judgment only serves to turn people away.  Nobody likes to be at the end of a pointing finger!

We tend to want to root out evil in others while ignoring it in ourselves.  Jesus warned us of this, saying, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”  If love is not at the heart of our efforts to remove the speck from our brother’s eye, our efforts will be in vain.  Until we see that a lack of love is a plank in our own eye, we won’t be able to help anyone with the speck we see in theirs, even if what we say is truth.  We need to remember that when we fail to love in speaking the truth, we are breaking the greatest law of all.  Jesus said, “A new command I give to you:  Love one another.”  (John 13:34).

In Psalm 40:10, the psalmist cries out, “I do not conceal your love and truth.” Love and truth go together.  We are not to conceal God’s love when speaking the truth of God’s word, but at the same time we are not to conceal God’s truth while walking in love.  1 John 4:18 tells us, “There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”  The knowledge of God’s love is not made perfect in us through fear.  That is why “the one who fears is not made perfect in love.”  If we only warn people of sin out of the fear of God, without telling them of the love of God, then all we have succeeded in doing is creating fear having to do with punishment; kind of like I did with my sibling.  When I warned my sibling that they were going to be in big trouble for their misbehavior, I spoke the truth but I didn’t speak it in love.  Joyce Meyers tells the story of she and an evangelist friend meeting a young sales girl while out shopping one day.  The girl asked what brought them to town and they explained that they were Christians and were in town for a conference.  The girl excitedly replied, “Oh, I’m a spiritual person too!”  During the ongoing conversation, the girl proceeded to use some “colorful” language but laughed it off saying, “I think even God curses sometimes!”  To which Joyce indignantly corrected, “No, God does not curse!”  Her friend, however, gently affirmed, “No, God does not curse, but he still loves those who do.”  Truth and love worked together in perfect harmony that day.

I love going to live music venues, but nothing is more aggravating to me at a live music venue than not being able to hear the words to a song because the music is too loud.  I don’t know about others, but when the music is too loud, I usually end up with my fingers in my ears, just waiting for it to be over.  I appreciate the skill of talented musicians, but their skill is lost on me when they are so loud that they drown out the words of the song.  It takes very skilled musicians to expertly adjust the volume of their instruments so as not to drown out the vocals.  A good musician knows that the instruments are supposed to compliment the vocals, not drown them out.  When people are able to hear the words of the song, it makes the instruments much more pleasant to hear.  Just like truth and love, the one compliments the other; both working together to achieve the desired outcome.  Like a musician, we might be very skilled at the instrument of God’s word, but our skill will only cause people to put their fingers in their ears if we drown out the voice of God’s love.  No one ever turns their ears away from the melody of love.  It is always a sweet, sweet sound in the ears.  To quote the words of Sir Paul McCartney, “You’d think that people would have had enough of silly love songs.  I look around me and I see it isn’t so, oh no.”  Silly Love Songs was written by Paul and Linda McCartney as a rebuttal to music critics, as well as former Beatle friend John Lennon, accusing Paul of predominantly writing “silly love songs” and “sentimental slush.”  It was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America for sales of over one million copies, so I guess Paul proved his point.  People never grow tired of love songs, oh no, but they do grow tired of clanging cymbals.

CLANGING CYMBALS

What right have I to judge he who does not stand
If I be not willing to offer him my hand
What right have I to judge he who in blindness gropes
If I not lead his way and guide him to his hopes
What right have I to judge another in his walk
If I’ve nought to offer him but sanctimonious talk
What right have I to judge if I’ve not shown I care
And born my brother’s burden upon my knees in prayer
What right have I to speak empty words that only judge
and like a clanging cymbal drown out the voice of love
What right have I to judge, indeed have I none
For to stand or fall is given but to one

(Romans 14:4 – Who art thou that judges another man’s servant?  To his own master he standeth or falleth.  Yeah, he shall be holden up; for God is able to make him stand.).

 

Devouring Ourselves

Proverbs 19:11 – It is to a man’s glory to overlook an offense.

roar-3528376_1920Let me just apologize up front for any toes I might step on with this blog.  I will try to tread lightly, but sometimes the truth can weigh heavy.  I don’t think anyone who listens to the news can help but notice how divided we are becoming as a nation today.  Every morning when we turn our televisions on, it seems some new offense has occurred and some new turmoil has developed.  It’s the world we live in, and I get that.  And I know the world is going to behave like the world.  My concern is that Christians seem to have become so caught up in the affairs of the world today, that they are exhibiting the same behavior as the world exhibits toward them.   We seem to have forgotten that we are not citizens of this world anymore and that “our citizenship is in heaven and we await a Savior from there.”  (Philippians 3:20).  God’s word says we are to be “ambassadors” for Christ here.   An ambassador is an official representative on behalf of one country to another.  We might live in “the greatest country in the world” but we are citizens of and represent an even greater one; one not of this world.  Our only cause in this world, as ambassadors for Christ, is the cause of Christ and we need to be careful of involving ourselves in anything that doesn’t have that cause at heart.

11 Timothy 2:4 cautions, “No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs – he wants to please his commanding officer.”  We are here to be soldiers for the cause of Christ alone, not the “civilian affairs” of this world, and everything we do in pursuing that cause must be done in such a way as to please our commanding officer.  We are not here to defend some self-righteous cause of our own.  In fact, when it comes to defending ourselves against personal offenses done against us, we are instructed in God’s word not to.  Proverbs 19:11 encourages, “It is to a man’s glory to overlook an offense.”  We are from a kingdom that says, “love keeps no record of wrongs.”  I am not saying that those who break the law should not be subject to the law, but I am saying that we are not to dredge up any and every offense ever done to us and seek recompense for it, just so we can be a part of some “movement” someone has created.  We need not fear that evil men will get away with evil; they do not.  “For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay.”  (Hebrews 10:30).  We aren’t to seek out vengeance for ourselves, but are to leave it to the one who judges justly.  Jesus did no less.  God sees all, he knows all, and he judges all.  That includes us, by the way, and God’s word cautions, “Judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.  Mercy triumphs over judgment!”  (James 2:12).  We must carefully consider just how much a pound of flesh is worth to us, while keeping in mind that we might owe a pound or two ourselves.

As Christians, we must remember that we are from a kingdom whose ways are not the same as those of the world we live in.  I fear we desperately need a refresher course on those ways today.  The kingdom we are from forgives men their trespasses, knowing there is a higher judge who has forgiven their own and who warns, “If you forgive those who trespass against you, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, your Father will not forgive your trespasses.”  The definition of trespass, by the way, is “offense.”  The kingdom we are from turns the other cheek when someone spites them, knowing the one they serve turned his for them.  The kingdom we are from tells us we must “not resist an evil person” and “if someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”  And, “if someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.  Give to the one who asks you and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”  We are from a kingdom that says, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” and reminds us, “if you love those who love you, what reward will you get?”  We are from a kingdom that says, “it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God” and “if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.”  We are from a kingdom that does not keep count of forgiveness.  The rabbis in Jesus day taught that people should forgive those who offend them – but only three times.  In Matthew 19:21, Peter, trying to be especially generous, asked Jesus if seven was enough times to forgive someone and Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven,” meaning that we shouldn’t even keep track of how many times we forgive someone.   God’s word reminds us, “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.  When they hurled insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats.  Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.”  We are from a very different kingdom, with a very different set of rules from the one in which we now reside, and the one who set forth the ways of his kingdom fully expects those who are citizens of it to follow them.

God’s word in James 4:1 cuts to the heart of what causes much of the division in the world today:  “What causes fights and quarrels among you?  Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?  You want something but don’t get it.  You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want.  You quarrel and fight.  You do not have, because you do not ask God.  When you ask, you do not receive because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”  We are more prone to take our grievances into our own hands rather than to put them into God’s.  And when we do pray, we pray with the wrong motives at heart.  We pray for ourselves, for what we want, with our desires and our good at heart, not God’s or our fellow man’s.  The motives of our hearts are usually inward toward self, rather than outward toward others.  We wastefully “spend” our prayers on what will please us, not God.  God’s word instructs, “A servant of the Lord must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.  Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth.”  (11 Timothy 1:24-26).  Brothers and sisters in Christ bite and devour one another over racial, cultural, gender and political differences almost on a daily basis today.  I have watched as in righteous indignation, demands are made for retribution toward those who innocently spoke words with no deliberate intent of harm or malice at heart.   While it is true that we should be sensitive in the words we speak, we should also refrain from being overly-sensitive to the words others speak, and not try to make something out of nothing.  Song of  Songs cautions, “The little foxes spoil the nest.”  It is often the “little foxes” that cause the biggest problems and we have a lot of  little foxes of offense stirring things up today.  I have watched women grow hostile toward men in response to a “movement” and I have watched men grow hostile toward some women who, in all honesty, are a bit hypocritical in their inclusion of themselves in that movement.  I have watched race turn against race in response to unforgiveness and “keeping record of wrongs.”  I have watched brother turn against brother in response to a political opinion or agenda.  I have watched lives be “devoured” and ruined, all due to a spirit of offense and unforgiveness.  As James wrote, “My brothers, these things ought not be so.”  Galatians 5:15 warns, “But if you bite and devour one another, be careful lest you be consumed by one another.”  The word consume means “to destroy.”  I’d say that just about sums up what we are witnessing all around us today.  Lives are being destroyed.  We tell ourselves we are doing these things to bring awareness and sensitivity into this world, but in truth, the spirit of offense we are witnessing today has only resulted in an overly-sensitive, easily-offended society who live in constant hostility toward one another.  Those who are Christians in this world have forgotten that, “there is neither Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all in all.”  We are not a race, a gender, a class, or a political party.  We, as Christians, are all members of Christ’s body, so in a sense, when we bite and devour one another, we are only harming ourselves.  This scripture reminded me of an old Spanky and the Gang television episode I once saw.  In the show, Spanky and his “gang” had gotten into trouble about some mischief they had gotten themselves into and a man said to them, “If you were my kids, I would punish you good.”  To which Spanky’s sidekick, Buckwheat, replied, “If we was your kids, we’d punish ourselves!”  I can’t help but see a bit of an analogy here.  The devil is roaming about looking for someone to devour while we are just devouring ourselves.

As a nation, we have forgotten that “united we stand and divided we fall.”  Or as Jesus put it, “a house divided against itself cannot stand.”  Our nation is standing on shaky ground today and you can almost feel the shifting beneath your feet.  We are either contributing to the shaking or the steadying of it.  Kind of reminds me of when an earthquake first begins to happen.  It starts with a little shaking, then cracks begin to form, and then the ground opens up and consumes everything into itself.  Another definition of the word consume is “absorb.”  Words are like sponges.  They either absorb people into their hate or they absorb them into their love.   A spirit of offense gives birth to hatred and hatred absorbs others into itself.  Just like the cracks of an earthquake, hatred opens up its mouth and consumes everything into itself.  James 3:9 laments, “With the tongue, we praise the Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness.”  We have become so obsessed with defending our political opinions and personal causes today, that we are willing to bite and devour our very own brothers and sisters in Christ to do so.  But make no mistake, if this is about winning, nobody wins here but the enemy.  James 3:2 cautions, “For we all often stumble and fall and offend in many things.  If any one does not offend in speech – never says the wrong thing – he is a fully developed character and a perfect man.”   If we are honest with ourselves, I don’t think any of us have yet reached that “fully developed character” or measure up to being that “perfect man.”  In this day of heated arguments, proud opinions, and personal causes, we would be wise to remember the words of James 1:19, “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”  Slow to speak and slow to become offended in anger.  If we could only master those two things, what a change we might see in the world around us.  Before we get so caught up in the things we see going on in the world today and find ourselves being more quick to speak than we are to listen, and more quick to be offended than we are to forgive, maybe we need to take a step back and ask ourselves:  “What kingdom am I from and whose rules am I following?  “Is it the devil who is roaming about seeking whom he may devour, or am I doing his job for him?”  “Are we, like Spanky’s old friend Buckwheat, saying to the one who seeks to devour us, “No need to devour us, we’ll just devour ourselves!”

SWALLOWED UP

I awoke one morning and turned on my T.V
To a world filled with turmoil as far as the eye could see
People were arguing passionately over this or that dispute
Some people spoke unwisely and were promptly given the boot!
While others in hypocrisy simply bit their tongues and shook their heads
Pretending they had never spoken words they should not have said
Forgiveness wasn’t offered and no place for compassion was found
And healing words of mercy fell deaf upon the ground
There was so much effort going on to avoid stepping on toes
That no one dared to speak the truth lest they cut off their own nose!
So heavy was the hatred that fell upon the land
That I began to feel a rumble upon the ground which I did stand
The earth began to tremble and the ground began to shake
And then I saw a crack begin to form like a long and slithering snake
It spread from home to home growing wider along its way
And seemed to feed upon the strength of all the people’s rage
I tried my best to steady the ground beneath my own feet
And noticed the cracks began to close with the words that I would speak
I wanted to warn others of the danger we were creating
And that we must stop the quarreling that was causing this great shaking
But no one seemed to listen and no one seemed to care
And no one seemed to feel the need to bow their heads in prayer
For no one seemed to be able to tear their eyes and ears away
From the turmoil upon the T.V they fed upon each day
And then one day it happened right before my eyes
The earth opened up and swallowed all the hatred inside
There was no more quarreling and there was no more offense
And there was no more demanding of rightful recompense
There was no more hate and there was no more strife
And all the things of death were swallowed up by life
There was only peace as far as my eyes could see
When I finally got up and turned off my T.V
And when I opened up God’s word and let it speak to me
All across the land, love was all that I could see.

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, long-suffering.”  (Colossians 3:9-12)

WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT?

What’s love got to do, got to do with it?  What’s love but a second-hand emotion?”  Written by Terry Britten and Graham Lyle and recorded by Tina Turner

The song, “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” touches on a very valid truth in asking “What’s love but a second-hand emotion?”  There’s a lot of love going on today that is masquerading as God’s love, but is actually nothing more than a love born of our own emotions.  In his book “Not I, But Christ,” Jason R. Henderson observes, “Because our love is usually based upon what we want to be true about something, our desires create our belief, our belief creates our own idea of love.  If we don’t like something, we find a belief to go along with what we do like.”   We want God’s love to serve our own emotionally-influenced flawed love.  “Rather than allowing the nature of God to define our understanding of love, we take our own idea of what love is and allow it to define God’s love.” (Henderson). We then proclaim that this love of our own making, sets the end to whatever the desires of our flesh might be.  The same could be said concerning man’s belief of love today as Paul in Romans 10:2 said concerning man’s belief of righteousness:  They have a zeal for love, but not according to knowledge.  For they being ignorant of God’s love, and seeking to establish their own love, have not submitted to the love of God.

Just as the Jewish people, whom Paul was referring to, were seeking to establish their own righteousness, many are seeking to establish their own idea of love today as well.  And just as their hearts might have been very sincere in their efforts to establish their own righteousness, we too can be very sincere in our desire to love; but we can also be sincerely wrong.  Paul encouraged the Galatians that “it is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good.”  (Gal. 4:18).  It is fine to be zealous in love, but we must make sure  our love is toward that which is good.  If God’s word says something isn’t good, it isn’t good.  The Corinthian believers were proud of themselves for their tolerance of someone who was involved in wrongdoing in the church, but instead of praising them for walking in love, Paul chastened them for their failure to address the wrongdoing.   In challenging some of our preconceived ideas about God’s love and grace, Jason R. Henderson asks the question, “How wrong are we willing to be?”   I think that is a very relevant question to ask ourselves today, but that question can only be answered by first asking ourselves, “How right do we really desire to be?”

In his book “Epic Battles of the Last Days” Rick Joyner wisely assesses the underlying mistake that is often made between man’s love and God’s love.  He writes, “God’s love is not to be confused with unsanctified mercy, which gives approval of things which God disapproves.”  As much as we might like to think we are walking in God’s love, approval of things which God disapproves is really nothing more than our own unsanctified mercy, producing a second-hand emotion love.  We can trace the origin of this error all the way back to the Garden of Eden.  Author David Platt (Counter Culture: Following Christ in an Anti-Christian Age) observes, “The temptation in the Garden was to rebel against God’s authority and in the process make humans the arbiters of morality.  In other words, for the man and woman to eat from this tree was to reject God as the one who determines good and evil and to assume the responsibility for themselves.”  This rejection of God as the one who determines good and evil and assuming the responsibility for ourselves continues still today.  John Bevere (Good or God) writes, “Adam and Eve chose to evaluate what was good and acceptable apart from God’s counsel.  They made an assessment from a different set of standards; their own.”  In II Corinthians 9:10, Paul unapologetically confronted believers who were living by the standards of this world, saying, “I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of the world.”  God’s word still sets the standard of what is good and acceptable, not the standards of the world, not the culture of our day, and not the approval of man.

Oswald Chambers points out the underlying problem with unsanctified mercy in the guise of love.  He writes, “Whenever we substitute God’s perfect desire for others, for our own emotional sympathy for them, the vital connection with God in intercession for them becomes flawed.”  The desire of God’s grace to us in Jesus is not just pardon for our sins, but that the life of his son be formed in us.  As Jason R. Henderson affirms, “We are accepted in Jesus alone, because it is Jesus alone that God accepts,” but at the same time, “Christ did not die so that Adam could continue living in us.”   If the old nature of Adam that still seeks to rule in us, is not put to death by us, the new nature of Christ cannot be formed in us.  Galatians 5:13 explains, “You my brothers, were called to be free.  But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature.”  I believe author Francis Chan (Crazy Love) cuts to the core of the truth in the hearts of many today.  He writes, “Some don’t really want to be saved from their sin; they only want to be saved from the penalty of their sin.”  Unfortunately although some may desire for that to be possible, it is not.   Jason R. Henderson explains: “Just like natural light and darkness, Adam and Christ can never mix together.  The presence of the one dispels the other, and in every way knowing the one costs the life of the other.”

Romans 8:8-12 of God’s word explains the problem with wanting to hold on to the sinful nature: “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires …. the sinful mind is hostile to God.  It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.  Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.  Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation, but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it.”  One of the definitions of obligation is:  “Indebted for a favor.”  God’s word tells us in I Corin. 6:19,  “You are not your own; you were bought at a price.  Therefore honor God with your body.”  Unfortunately, in many churches today, the unsanctified mercy of man, that gives approval of things which God disapproves, is standing in opposition to the obligation believers have to the favor of God’s grace.  But those doing so may one day find themselves saying as Peter said, “Who was I to think that I could oppose God?”

God did not intend for his grace to be a means by which we might make exception for the nature of Adam to continue ruling over us and living in us.  God, in his love, by his grace,  made it possible for the righteousness of Christ to be accounted to us and then filled us with the Holy Spirit of truth, in order that the nature of Christ might be formed in us.  This is love and this is the goal of God’s grace.  To desire anything less for ourselves or for others, is not.  So, to answer Tina’s question, “What’s love got to do with it?”  The unsanctified mercy of man’s second-hand emotion love that gives approval of things which God disapproves;  absolutely nothing.  The power of his love transforming hearts, minds and souls into his image, everything!  A. W. Tozer wisely cautions, “The man who is going the wrong way will never be set right by the affable religionist who falls into step behind him and goes the same way.”  We might want to keep that in mind when giving approval of things which God disapproves.  The saying, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” may be more true than we realize.

Ezekiel 3:2 – “Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and does evil, and I put a stumbling block before him, he will die.  Since you did not warn him, he will die for his sin.  The righteous things he did will not be remembered, and I will hold you accountable for his blood.  But if you do warn the righteous man not to sin and he does not sin, he will surely live because he took warning, and you will have saved yourself.”

Proverbs 27:5 – “Open rebuke is better than love, carefully concealed.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

NEVERTHELESS

5325a3ba2bde57809e9277a9e9840be7--jesus-cristo-a-tree

When an act of faith becomes one with the will of God it brings forth the glory of God.”  (Tim Bagwell)

A precious friend of mine recently received a “bad report” concerning a life-threatening diagnosis.  My first response was sadness, disappointment, discouragement and quite honestly, a feeling of hopelessness.  A faithless word that means, “to lose the expectation of a thing.”  But then God reminded me of another word; one that was much more worthy of his glory.  Nevertheless!  A faith-filled word that means, “In spite of that.”  Granted, hopeless is a big word.  It is a word that makes you feel like a grasshopper under the foot of a giant.  But “nevertheless” is a bigger word.  Nevertheless is a God word.  It is a word that takes everything into consideration and still hopes and believes in spite of whatever the everything might be.  Peter used it, Elijah used it, Joshua used it, and Jesus used it; just to name a few.  Each one of them used it in the same context of facing the impossible of a situation, and in the face of it saying: “Nevertheless!”  Scripture is filled with people who, against all odds, dared to hope and believe in the nevertheless of God, and in doing so experienced the glory of God.

Some people look at giants through the eyes of fear and see themselves as grasshoppers.  Others look at giants through the eyes of faith and see the giants as the ones who are the grasshoppers.  The only difference between these two types of people is one word:  Nevertheless!  Scripture records that before Elijah went to be with the Lord, he asked Elisha what he could do for him before he was taken from him, and Elisha replied, “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit.”  Elijah said to him, “You have asked a difficult thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours – otherwise not.”  And by refusing to take his eyes off Elijah, Elisha received a double portion of the anointing of God.  Jesus, in similar fashion said to us, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing.  He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to my Father.”  Peter had toiled all day in his own efforts to catch fish and caught nothing, but at Jesus’ command to “let down your nets on the other side,” said, “Nevertheless, at your word Lord” and experienced the overflowing provision of God.  The Israelite people saw themselves as grasshoppers before the giants who lived in the land that God had promised to give them, saying, “It is a land that devours those living in it” and “we were as grasshoppers in our own sight.”  But Joshua and Caleb saw the giants as the ones who were the grasshoppers and said, “Nevertheless do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up” and they experienced the deliverance of God’s hand.  I am reminded of Paul’s words in Corinthians 15:54 – “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”  Death has been swallowed up by God’s grace. It no longer has the power to devour us.  The devourer has been devoured.  Jesus, wanting to show the “all things are possible” of God, waited to go to his friend Lazarus, not just to the point of improbability, but to the point of impossibility.  He said to the disciples, “Our friend Lazarus is dead.  Nevertheless, let us go unto him” and the disciples experienced the resurrecting glory of God.  Afterward, Jesus said to his disciples, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”  He still tells us the same today.  Scripture says he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe.”  For their sake, that they might believe, he waited until after Lazarus died to reveal his glory.  God is not controlled by time.  Time never says to him, “It’s too late, there’s not much time left, time is growing short, time’s up.”  Time is God’s servant and he uses it to serve his purpose.  Time exists in him and unfolds in life to serve him.

Every “nevertheless” spoken in God’s word resulted in seeing “the glory of God” and his will being done.  I think it no coincidence that Elisha’s nevertheless evidenced the anointing of God given to us in Jesus.  Joshua’s nevertheless evidenced the deliverance of God given to us in Jesus.  Peter’s nevertheless evidenced the provision of God given to us in Jesus. And Jesus’ nevertheless evidenced that “escape from death” belonged to him and was in him.  Each nevertheless spoken in faith, showed the willingness of God’s heart toward us in Jesus.  The word “nevertheless” isn’t a retreating word in the face of improbability or impossibility.  Those who spoke it by faith saw past the probabilities of what was seen and “in spite of that” dared to believe in the possibilities of what was not. God’s word is full of instruction to us and encouragement of us in what to do in the face of the impossible things we will encounter in this life.  What God wants us to do, what God tells us to do concerning them, really comes down to two words:  “Ask and believe.”  Jesus promises us in his word, “You may ask me for anything in my name,” and then  assures us, “All things are possible to those who can believe.”  I wonder though, would he  say to us today what he did to his disciples, “How foolish you are, and slow of heart to believe.”

Mark 2:1-2 records the story of a paralytic whose need moved a group of his friends to action and they brought him to Jesus.  Scripture says, “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”  He did this to show that the same God who had the power and the compassion to forgive our sins, also had the power and the compassion to heal our bodies.  He is both, “the Lord who forgives all our sins and heals all our diseases.”  I can’t help but consider that the paralytic might never have heard those words spoken by Jesus, and would never have received forgiveness or healing, had his friends not cared enough about him to press through every obstacle that stood in the way of their bringing him to Jesus.  They saw the crowd of people standing in their way and instead of turning back and saying, “It’s impossible,” said, “Nevertheless, we’re pressing through.”  They pressed on until they were able to “break through” to Jesus, literally breaking through the roof to lower him down to Jesus.  That’s the kind of friend I want to be and I think we all want to have.  I don’t want to use the excuse that it might not be God’s will to keep me from stepping out in faith and believing God’s word, while at the same time submitting all that I ask to his sovereign will.   I want friends who, at the risk of being ridiculed,  humiliated, laughed at and scorned, consider my life to be worth the cost and say, “nevertheless.”  People are going to ridicule those who have faith in God to do the impossible.  Jesus experienced the ridicule of men who did not believe in the impossible of God when he went in to heal Jairus’ daughter.  Scripture records that men came to Jairus and said, “Your daughter is dead, why bother the teacher anymore?”  But Jesus, “ignoring what they said,” told the synagogue ruler, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”  Those who dare to believe in the nevertheless of God must be willing to ignore what other people say.    When they came to the home of Jairus, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly and he asked them, “Why all this commotion and wailing?  The child is not dead but asleep” but “they laughed at him.”  And then, Jesus did what seems to be an unusual thing to me, given that all the miracles he performed were done in front of large groups of people, he “put them all out” except for the mother and father and the disciples who were with him.  I believe Jesus put them all out because of their unbelief.  The Scriptures record that when Jesus went to his own hometown they did not receive him and because of their unbelief he “could not do many miracles there except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them” and, “he was amazed at their lack of faith.”  Unbelief can hinder the miracles of God being performed.  Sometimes we might have to put people away from us that are negative and unable to believe in the nevertheless of God.

The greatest kindness we can show a friend is to press through all obstacles that are keeping them from coming into contact with Jesus in their time of need.  We must press through our own obstacles of discouragement, doubt, fear, hesitancy, complacency, pride, hopelessness, and especially what might be the biggest obstacle of all; our questioning of if a thing is God’s will.  We can’t let our questioning of if a thing is God’s will keep us from believing in his willingness.  God will make his sovereign will known when he is ready, but we must continue to press through anything that stands between our friend and Jesus until he does.  Given the choice, and we are, I would rather do something in faith, than do nothing at all in doubt.  Mary told the men at the wedding feast, “Whatever he tells you to do, do it.”  If she was standing right in front of us today, I have a feeling she would tell us the same thing.  We can rest assured that whatever he tells us in his word is truth and if he tells us to do it, we should do it!   So, instead of questioning whether or not a thing might be God’s sovereign will, I am going to just leave his sovereign will to him and continue doing what his word tells me to do, until he makes that call.  I am going to replace the word “hopeless” with the word “nevertheless.”  I like that word much better.  I think God does, too.  Nevertheless, on my friend’s behalf, I am going to keep on asking, hoping and believing on behalf of my friend.  That is my part, that is what he tells me I am to do, the rest is all up to him.  He has given us the privilege to ask in his name, but we must remember that His word is given us in conjunction with his will.  Coincidentally, there are two contrasting references to grasshoppers in Scripture.  In Numbers 13:33, the Israelites see themselves as grasshoppers when compared to the giants in the land, but Isaiah 40:22 declares, “He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers” when compared to him.  I think I’m going to go with the last one.

All throughout the Gospels, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth.”  It’s as if he was saying to us, “If I say it, you can count on it.”  These are Jesus’s very own words.  Because the One who spoke them is Truth, they can be nothing but truth.  Jude 20 instructs, “Build yourselves up in your most holy faith.”  In light of that I offer the following scriptures, keeping in mind that we don’t control or manipulate God’s word to serve our will, we merely hope, believe, and submit in it to serve his.

Matthew 18:19 – “Again I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.  For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”

John 14:12 – “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing.  He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.  And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.  You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”

Matthew 17:20 – “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move.  Nothing will be impossible for you.”

John 16:13 – “In that day you will no longer ask me anything.  I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.  Until now you have not asked for anything in my name.  Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.  In that day you will ask in my name.  I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf.  No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.”

I John 5:13 – “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.  This is the confidence that we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything (according to his will,) he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him.”

NEVERTHELESS
The hour is late Lord, the time is short
. . . . Nevertheless
The need is great Lord, the hope is small
. . . . Nevertheless
The outcome is grim Lord, the chances slim
. . . . Nevertheless
The odds are against Lord and not in favor
. . . . Nevertheless
The bad report Lord will not waiver
. . . . Nevertheless
I am frightened Lord of all these giants in the land
. . . . Nevertheless
On your word Lord, I will stand
For no hour is too late, no need too great
No time too short, no hope too small
No outcome too grim, no chance too slim
No bad report that will not waiver
No odds can stand against Your favor
No hour says to you “too late”
No giant before you stands too great
For giants are only grasshoppers
Sent to prove the test
Of the faithfulness of Nevertheless
And the greatest Nevertheless of all
Be that before which death doth fall

(May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in you”. )

 

 

 

 

%d bloggers like this: