Archives For God

Jacob loved Rachel.

Not Leah.

Though tricked in to marrying Rachel’s older sister, his feelings never changed toward this woman whose eyes were weak. She was rejected by her husband for her beautiful, younger sister.

But she desired nothing more than to be desired. Leah passionately wanted her husband to look at her with the same gleam as he always did with Rachel. To be tied to a man that had never wanted her, she lived married to him, and yet alone.

So when God opened her womb, and not her sister’s, she believed this would change his feelings toward her. The greatest pride for a woman were children and she was able to give this to Jacob.

Reuben…

then Simeon…

then Levi.file000456350909

Each bore names as an eternal testimony to her inward grief and longing to be loved.

And Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben, for she said, “Because the Lord has looked upon my affliction; for now my husband will love me. She conceived again and bore a son, and said, “Because the LORD has heard that I am hated, he has given me this son also. And she called his name Simeon. ~Genesis 29:32-33

When Levi was born she was confident that with these three children, Jacob would be attached to her, thus she named the third Levi, meaning “attached”.

But sadly, it was never meant to be. Jacob only had eyes for the younger, and the older died having never been loved by her husband.

Levi’s descendants would be chosen by God to be the nation’s priests. They would have no inheritance but God and live solely to intercede on the behalf of their brothers. This tribe would live to offer sacrifices, pray, and seek redemption for their people.

In fulfillment of his name, Levi lived to “attach” Israel to God. But their labor would be in vain.

For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. ~Romans 3:20

Ancient Israel depended on the Law of Moses to attach them to God, to make them right before their Creator. Our contemporary society does the same thing. Baptism, service, kindness, church attendance and more are highly depended on to grant us passage into Paradise.

But just as Levi failed, so does our vain attempts to please the Holy.

But Jesus…

Jesus is our Great High Priest, not after the order of Levi, but Melchizedek, the King of Righteousness. Jesus’ priesthood reigns forever and will continually intercede for us until our day of redemption. His sacrifice that he offered is once and for all valid and will erase all sins from those who enter in by faith.

But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. ~Hebrews 10:12-14

Leah labored in vain. Levi labored in vain. Jesus labored once and for all with eternal victory and success. If we labor so to attach ourselves to our husband, Jesus Christ, we too will fail. The only way to enter in to a relationship with our God is to attach ourselves to Jesus’ satisfying work by believing in His Name.

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

A read-through of Psalm 37 would quickly show us the err in which we apply verse 4. I’ve heard countless times Christians quote this verse to boast in God for how he’s blessed them with a job, health, marriage, etc. Thus the hearer assumes that if one “delights” in God, then all of their dreams come true. As if somehow entering church is equivalent to skipping through the crowded streets of Disneyland.

I’m fully aware that these are well intended Christians who mean no harm to their family in Christ nor to the Word of God. My intention is simply to understand the text. May we see it for how it’s written, apply it accordingly, and walk, not into Disneyland, but into the glorious riches found only in our Living God, Jesus Christ.

David in Psalm 37 is comparing the righteous and the wicked. Evildoers are succeeding while the righteous are starving. The Psalmist reassured the original hearers that God loves and cares for his people, and each will be rewarded in due time. But as for the evildoer, he will “fade like the grass” and their “swords shall enter their own hearts.”

But in the midst of this beautifully written and divinely inspired song, we have a promise. “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

We easily read “delight” and assume it means “to be happy or joyful.” Thus that rendering leads us to read this psalm like this: “Find happiness in God, enjoy serving him and going to church, be grateful for salvation, etc.”

The Hebrew word anog, translated ‘delight,’ literally means “to be soft or pliable.”

The connotation of this word does involve joy and happiness but in its root meaning reminds me of Isaiah 64:8,

But now, O Lord, you are our Father, we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand.

This idea of giving ourselves to the Lord and allowing him to mold us fits the flow of the Psalm. The next verse, thinking of ‘delight’ in this way, is paralleled to 37:4.

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.

There is a running theme in this Psalm that the righteous submits to the plan, wisdom, and working of God. The child of God doesn’t fight his sovereignty, but willfully and joyfully allows his Father to make decisions and shape his character.

And thus we receive the desires of our hearts. If we are completely subjected to the authority and use of our Lord, what desires will we have? David answers this very question.

He will bring forth your righteousness as the light and your justice as the noonday. (verse 6)

But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace. (verse 11)

The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord. (verse 39)

These are only a few but I encourage you to read it for yourself and mark all the blessings that God gives to those who delight in him. David didn’t just write this, he lived this. He knew that the best place to be was in the creative, loving hands of his God. And that his greatest desire wasn’t kingdoms, wealth, relationships, or pleasure, but God himself.

This is why I believe that King David was declared as a man after God’s own heart. Because he wanted what God wanted. He desired solely his Lord and all that he is; righteousness, peace, salvation, joy, and justice.

Jesus would preach this very thing to his disciples after they asked him how to pray. Christ makes an astounding statement to them.

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him. (Luke 11:13)

To give ourselves completely to God’s direction and use is the ONLY way to receive these good gifts. It’s not simply being happy that I’m a Christian. It’s not simply being willing to serve in church. It’s not found in only telling people how good it is to be saved. It’s the heart cry of the song:

Take me, mold me, use me, fill me
I give my life to the Potter’s hand
Call me, guide me, lead me, walk beside me
I give my life to the Potter’s hand*

May our heart’s desire lead us into the Potter’s caring hands, and allow him to shape us into all he created us to be. May we not sell our lives short for temporary pleasures that are here today, gone tomorrow, and weigh us down in shame and guilt. But may we hold on to his promise:

Mark the blameless and behold the upright,
for there is a future for the man of peace. (Psalm 37:37)

*Potter’s Hand- Darlene Zschech/Hillsong Australia

ultrasound

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. 
Psalm 139:13-14

A beautiful psalm quoted by many. Memorized by clergy and laypeople alike. A delightful passage to show that we are special people because God created us. We are wonderful!

But I couldn’t understand what it meant to be fearfully made. What does that mean? As it turns out, not exactly what I thought.

This Psalm praises the Lord for His vast knowledge and power. It begins by admitting that God knows us completely and was the sole agent of our existence. God’s creative power is elaborated on by showing that He created us in the womb and that our frames (skeletons) were not hidden from Him.

God’s powerful miracle of creation is detailed in Genesis 1. Every day he elaborates on his workmanship, beginning with light, then land, seas, stars, plants, etc. He reviews his works every day and proclaims that it is good. We know that every good and perfect gift is from above (James 1:17) and he showed that with an intricate masterpiece called the heavens and the earth.

But God wasn’t finished. The best was yet to come. Day six, God determined to make mankind, a creation after his own image. He made them male and female and blessed them. It wasn’t until after Adam and Eve were created did he say that his creation was VERY good.

This is what Psalm 139:14 is referencing.

If you were to look up the Hebrew word for made, you’d see that there is no reference. It was added by the English translators as is the word and that separated fearfully and wonderfully.

So taking those words out, we are left with, I am fearfully wonderfully.

The word fearfully can easily be translated to “ones being fearful.” Literally, ones that bring fear or awe.

So now we have ones being fearful, wonderfully.

The Hebrew word for wonderfully in this verse is “palah” literally meaning ‘to be distinguished, or set apart.’ These verses use the same Hebrew word.

But on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where my people dwell…” Exodus 8:22a (italics mine)

But not a dog shall growl against any of the people of Israel, either man or beast, that you may know that the LORD makes a distinction between Israel an Egypt. Exodus 11:7 (italics mine)

The second use of the word wonderful in Psalm 139:14 is the Hebrew word “pala.” This is only slightly different in spelling but means, ‘extraordinary.” This is clearly different than the meaning of ‘wonderfully’ that was previously used.

Here is the exact transliteration of the Hebrew text:

I shall acclaim you on that ones being fearful I am distinguished ones being marvelous deeds of you and soul of me one-knowing exceedingly. (www.scripture4all.org)

Here’s how it could read:

I praise You, for out of all the things that bring awe, I am distinguished. Extraordinary are Your works; I can’t deny them.

The psalmist praises the Lord for all his wonderful works that he can’t deny. But among all of these things that bring fear or awe to us, we as humans are distinguished or set apart. The vastness of the heavens and the complexity of the smallest of cells leaves us breathless, but we as God’s image-bearers are set apart from them. He created us for a greater purpose. Every person was born with a spirit so to relate personally to their Creator who is spirit (John 4:24).

We are special. But we should never use this verse to glorify mankind.

God chose Israel, not based on anything they were or did, but simply because he chose them. (Deuteronomy 7:6-11) Similarly, God created us differently than everything else. He gave us his breath of life, chose us, redeemed us, and called us his own, not because of anything good we have done, but because he chose to. This Psalm isn’t glorifying people, it’s glorifying an all-powerful God who loves us and created us for a specific purpose.

Because he knitted us together, and set us apart from all other created things, in humility we should pray as the Psalmist concluded:

Search me O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way of everlasting.

Every Christmas, millions gather on Christmas Eve to remember the birth of Christ. They relax to the serene image of a child in straw, a gorgeous star lighting up the stable, and the harmonious choir of angels proclaiming the come Messiah. We rest in their message that Jesus has come to bring peace on Earth. We revel in the thought of the Prince of Peace removing the hatred and war, bringing end to violence, and initiating world peace.

But what if we are wrong? What if that isn’t why He came?

Here is the message of the angels as they sang before the fear-stricken shepherds:

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased.”

Matthew clearly states the reason for Jesus’ first coming. Chapter 9 states that Christ came to call sinners to repentance and then in chapter 18 says, “For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.” Luke records Jesus reading from the prophet Isaiah as the prophecy’s fulfillment. He states it is He that has come to preach the gospel to the poor, heal the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives, give sight to the blind, and set at liberty those who are oppressed.

Wars. Murder. Oppression. These were only the symptoms of the true problem. It wasn’t that men were not at peace with one another. It was that men were not at peace with God Himself. Sin from the very beginning created a war far more intense than bombs, tanks, and guns. This was Creator vs. creation. God vs. man. Spirit of the Living One vs. the fallen spirits of mankind. And without reconciliation in this relationship, peace between man would not be possible. The sin in each human being striving for self-preservation and exaltation, would ultimately destroy all that God created as good.

So God came down. Emmanuel. With his eyes fixed on the cross, He became sin so we could know peace. A relationship with God that was once impossible, now open for all who’d believe in Him for the forgiveness of sins.

Jesus stated very clearly a reason that He did NOT come in Matthew 10:

Do not think that I have come to bring peace on Earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father,and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.

We are commanded to be at peace with all people if at all possible. But if the gospel is being readily preached in your life, the Spirit working through you as His servant, and you living in complete obedience, you will NOT be at peace with all people. Because of some people’s hatred towards Jesus Christ, they also hate those who follow Him.

Some will see our good works and come to know the Christ we serve as well. Then they too will experience the peace of no longer being at war with God.

But too often we don’t talk about God because we don’t want to hurt a relationship. We don’t want to sever family ties by being outspoken about our faith. But Jesus continued in Matthew 10 with this:

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

So, yes, we have peace. Jesus came and brought to us a spiritual peace unknown to us before. But what if Jesus is calling you and me to preach His truth even at risk of causing rifts in relationships?

Do we love Him more?

Vicky BeechingJoining Ray Boltz and Jennifer Knapp, Vicky Beeching is the latest Christian music artist that has come out as gay. Her story starts in childhood, 12-years-old and fighting feelings for other girls. Confused and ashamed, she reached out to the church for help. Her testimony involves confessing to a Catholic priest and even an “exorcism” where a group of tongue-speaking radicals demanded that Satan leave her.

These futile attempts made no difference for the obvious reason that they had no power. That priest simply recited a memorized prayer and bid her adieu. These others rambled but didn’t pray in Christ’s name or for His will.

The heartbreaking part of her story is the moment she’s face down sobbing before the Lord to take her life or take away her attraction for girls because she couldn’t handle it any longer. But God didn’t. So she believes God made her that way and loves her. Now a leading advocate for same-sex marriage in the church, her testimony has inspired others to be comfortable in their sexual orientation as well.

My question is, “Why didn’t God remove her attraction for the same gender?”

Simply put, it wasn’t the right request.

She prayed that God would remove this attraction as if it was a tumor or a headache. Although as a believer we have power over sin and its temptations, they are not removed. It is a constant battle for purity with the world and our flesh combating us from every angle.

I’ve read numerous testimonies of people who struggled with homosexuality but realized its sinfulness when they believed in Christ. Although they are God’s child and striving for purity, those old feelings still surface at times. God never removed the attraction, but have given them the ability to withstand the temptations.

Alan Chambers, for example, said this, “As far as my life goes, I am married,” he said. “I am happily married. There’s not been one day in the course of our nearly 16 years of being married that I’ve been tempted to be unfaithful to my wife. I would say I have an orientation towards her. I do have same-sex attractions. But to say I have same-sex attractions would be the same as saying I was a married man with opposite-sex attractions.” *

Sixteen years! Even after sixteen years of a heterosexual marriage, those old sins are still haunting him, teasing him, tempting him to fall again.

A man addicted to porn will still feel the pull to those websites after coming to Christ. An alcoholic will still be beckoned by the bottle after giving his life to Jesus. A formerly promiscuous woman will still struggle with her identity even after becoming a child of God.

But, as a Christian, we’ve been given the Spirit of God to overcome these temptations.

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV)

Our past isn’t obliterated at the moment of salvation, it simply loses its control and power. The presence of sinful temptations is not evidence of God’s stamp of approval but that we are still wrapped in flesh that opposes the truth of God. Even the Apostle Paul struggled in his flesh. He writes this in Romans 7.

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

The problem inflates when Christians equate the presence of evil desires as God’s will because they were not removed when they were newly created in Christ Jesus. Yes, God loves Vicky Beeching. Yes, Christians ought also to love her. But no, God did not create her this way or approve of her homosexual lifestyle.

We need to beware of twisting Scripture based on feelings or experience. Truth is truth no matter what. Just because we are convinced that our worldview, mindset, or orientation is natural or born to us, doesn’t make it Biblical.

As believers in Christ, we are commanded to work out our salvation. This requires running away from temptation, praying for purity and sanctification, and trusting that God’s laws are for our benefit. I can’t relate to the homosexual struggle. I’ve never experience same-sex attractions. But other sins torment me and mercilessly disrupt my Christian life. In our love and devotion to Christ, we must flee these desires and cling to the holiness given to us by God.

 

*http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/04/alan-chambers-exodus-international-_n_3696750.html

tie

Imagine receiving an invitation to have a personal conversation with the President of the United States. No matter your partisanship, this would be a great honor. Time would be spent preparing. What am I going to say? How am I going to behave? What am I going to wear?

Now imagine, you’ve received a personal invitation to have a conversation with Almighty God. How would that preparation differ? Would it require more thought or less?

We forget so often as the kids yell from the backseat and the car creeps 15 miles an hour over the speed limit just to make it to church on time, that God has called and invited us there. Church is not about seeing friends and “catching up” although that is enjoyable. It is first and foremost to meet with and have a conversation with God.

What am I going to wear?

A few years ago, churches began pulling in many people with their “Come as you are” mottoes. Suits and ties were out, t-shirts and holey (not holy) jeans were in. Dresses were replaced by sweatshirts and yoga pants. Pastors stood behind the pulpit on Sunday morning declaring the word of God dressed in Saturday afternoon attire. All so “others” would feel more comfortable and not as intimidated to attend.

Jesus certainly did say, “Come as you are.” But he was speaking to the weak and the burdened. Come with your anxiety, your doubts, and your guilt. Come to me with your concerns and worries, and I will trade them for rest and ease. This verse does not refer to clothing.

Now I believe every church should be ready and open for anybody to walk in the doors. From the lady in her finest gown to the beggar man in smelly rags. Our arms should be open and they should see and feel the love of Christ overflowing through his people. They should be allowed the best seats (which in most churches is the back pew). God rejoices when a sinner comes as they are, and his church embraces them and points them to the cross.

The problem started when the church members began dressing the same way. They came as they were, interpreting this to mean as casually as possible. And this is where I have a problem. But before you count me off as a legalistic, here me out.

From the beginning, God has always required our best. Cain’s sacrifice was not acceptable to the Lord because he didn’t give what God had commanded. Malachi condemned the Jews for their giving by saying, “When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the Lord of hosts.” Today we are to offer ourselves as a living sacrifices offering to the Lord a sacrifice of praise.

So what is our best? Do we find ourselves “thrown together” Sunday morning, mouthing words of songs between sips of coffee as we check for a message on our phone? Do we choose what is comfortable over what is appropriate?

We wear nice clothes at funerals out of respect for the dead. We dress up for weddings in respect for the couple. We even wear our best to parties at times out of respect for the host. And yet, as we struggle to dress up for church, what is that saying about our respect for God. What we wear says a lot about our attitude, regard, and courtesy for the circumstances, place, and people involved.

Most of us worship weekly. And after a while it becomes mundane, ordinary, and customary.

But it doesn’t have to! Meeting with God is an honor, not a right. It’s a privilege, not a duty.

But we must prepare every week to meet him. And that includes our clothes. Everybody’s “best” is different but the outward can be a sign of the inward heart. I don’t mind if people show up to church in casual attire. But when somebody becomes a member, actively involved, and maturing as a Christian, so should their wardrobe.

The President would frown upon a man in cut-offs and a tank top walking into his oval office. God requires his worshippers to love him with all of their heart, mind, and soul. And I truly believe that when we regain that awesome wonder for his glory and majesty, we wouldn’t dare walk into his presence in anything less than our best.

What is the will of God for my life?

It’s a common question in Christian circles. Ephesians 5:17 tells us that we are foolish if we don’t know what His will is. I wrestled with it for a long time in high school and Bible school. I’ve heard many ask and many preach about it. When we ask this question we are wondering where we will be in a year, ten years, twenty years. But let me tell you that the Bible says much about the will of God, but it doesn’t refer to the future. Read these passages very carefully.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2 NASB)

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For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; (1 Thessalonians 4:3 NASB)

For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. (1 Peter 2:15)

Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit; (1 Thessalonians 5:16-19 NASB)

Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men. (Ephesians 6:5-7 NASB)

God’s will is not for tomorrow. It’s also not a mystery. He has made it clear that his will is for none to perish and those who are saved to become holier day by day. If we are disobedient in what God has us to do today, then he has no reason to reveal tomorrow.

I truly believe obedience today keeps us in his will for the rest of our years. His Spirit will guide step by step as long as we are walking in holiness, obedience, and faith. If you are struggling with what you are to do, stop and focus on the here and now. Stop worrying about tomorrow, for today has enough worries of its own.

Be sanctified, church! Be holy, believers! TODAY!

And tomorrow will happen as God wills.

Good People?

August 31, 2013 — Leave a comment

Why do bad things happen to good people?

The age old question that just won’t go away. As long as there are tragedies, calamities, disasters, and broken hearts, there will be people asking. Many Christian scholars, pastors, and teachers have answered with Scripture and profound philosophical responses.

But before we answer, we need to realize that the question is flawed. Usually when somebody asks this, they have somebody in mind. One who loved their family and friends, was a good citizen, and attempted to help others. But how do we truly know that somebody is good?

A young man approached Jesus and called to him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus doesn’t begin by answering the question but addressing the term ‘good.’

And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.”

Remember, when God created man, he formed him from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. Up to that point, all that he had created was good. But after man entered the scene, God declared it all to be very good.

God intended us to be blameless, enjoying an intimate relationship with him. But man thought he knew best and disobeyed God’s one command. That one decision corrupted not only mankind, but the world around him. Harmony became violence. War replaced peace. God no longer walked and talked with his beloved creation. Their sin separated them from him.

According to God’s Word, we are not good. There is no good in us. What used to be blameless is now evil. And the whole world groans under the consequences of our selfishness.

And yet, when a person believes in Jesus, his death, and resurrection, God Himself recreates him. We are changed, made anew. God indwells us and works through us. We still have our flesh which is prone to sin, but we have the ability to do good because the One who is good is working in us.

Still, troubles come to those who love God. Recently my wife and I lost our baby. She wasn’t too far along, not even showing yet. But it still hurt. If my hope wasn’t secure in Christ, I could easily shake my fist at the sky and ask, “Why?”

But I’m reminded of all the times that I betrayed my God. The times I broke his heart and chose my will over his. And I realize that I deserve much worse than anything happening to me. Death is my fault. Pain and suffering are a result of my sin. Our sin.

Trials happen no matter what. But God chooses to not remain silent during those times. He lavishes grace upon us and gives us the promise that he will work it out for good if we trust him. He overcame the world so we can as well through him. And I’ve come to the conclusion that “Why does bad things happen to good people?” is an inapplicable question.

The better question is “Why does God choose to do good things for bad people?”

And when I ask myself that question the only response is to bow my head…

and worship.