God Grieves

Ezekiel 33:10–11

[10] “And you, son of man, say to the house of Israel, Thus have you said: ‘Surely our transgressions and our sins are upon us, and we rot away because of them. How then can we live?’ [11] Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?

Man thinks “you get what you deserve,” but God grieves over the deserved suffering of sinners.

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Ask

James 1:5

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

Sometimes my son “accidentally” breaks apart the tracks to his train set.  I’ll be working at the kitchen table and I’ll hear his voice, “Dad…Dad…help!” He asks for help because he assumes two things.  First, he assumes I’ll be able to help him (repairing toy train tracks is within my abilities). Second, he assumes I’ll be willing to help him.  I suppose I could walk over and flip his train table upside-down but my son trusts that I want to help, not hurt.

Many times in life, we do not know what to do.  This is an opportunity to ask the God who is both able and willing (eager even!) to help.

Examine Yourself

1 Corinthians 11:18–22, 27-28

[18] For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, [19] for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. [20] When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. [21] For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. [22] What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not…

[27] Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.  [28] Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.

In v. 27, Paul warns the church in Corinth of coming to the sacrament of communion in an unworthy manner.  Each person is to examine themselves.  Paul is not inviting them to think about how many times they read the Bible that week or whether they are feeling particularly religious.  He is saying, “Look inside, are you despising your brother or sister?”

When we approach God, we must beware coming as the Pharisee in Jesus’s parable, saying, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all I have.”

Before we approach the Lord’s Table, we would be wise to

  1. Pause and consider who we are quick to judge, have disdain for, or dismiss.
  2. Repent.
  3. Pray blessing over that person.

Love is Not Soft

The Thing Is
Tony Payne

We tend to think of love as a sentiment; something warm and soft and kind; or romantic and emotional. When we put the words ‘truth’ and ‘love’ together in a sentence, for example—as in ‘tell the truth but do it in love’—we usually mean ‘speak gently and kindly; don’t be too strong or direct; take it easy’. But this is not the essence of Christian ‘love’. It may be loving to speak gently and kindly to someone, but in other circumstances love may require us to speak more forcefully and firmly. It would depend on what the other person really needed at that point—a gentle reminder or a stern talking to. There are times in life when we need each of these. Love is not an emotional atmosphere or a sentiment. The death of Jesus shows us this. His death was not sweet, soft or romantic. It was an act of shocking brutality to which he walked with tears of blood. But it was the supreme and defining act of love. “By this we know love,” says John, “that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (1 John 3:16). John is echoing the words of Jesus himself at this point: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no-one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:12-13). Love is a determination to lay down our lives for our friends; to seek the benefit of others, even to our own cost. It is an orientation towards the other; a turning outward of our vision, away from what we want and crave and desire towards the person standing in front of us, and to what would help them grow and flourish.

Human Love Has Limits

We can love hardworking or good people.  We can love the underprivileged or victims of oppression.  People earn our love through achievement or suffering.  But we cannot love people who are completely undeserving.  We can’t love proud people, or greedy rich people, or people who have maliciously hurt us.  Human love has very real limits.  God is the only person who does not make us earn His love.

When Was Jesus Most Angry?

When was Jesus most angry?  

  1. before his morning coffee
  2. when Peter made a “yo mama” joke
  3. at the end of Lost
  4. when he cleansed the temple

Mark 11:15–17

[15] And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. [16] And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. [17] And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”

Jesus actually whipped people!  He flipped tables in a place more sacred than the Vatican or the Sistine Chapel.  And He did not use His library voice, but shouted, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”

Here, Jesus quotes from Isaiah 56:7.  In its context, the verse reads as follows:

Isaiah 56:3, 6-7

3 Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD say, “The LORD will surely separate me from his people”…

6 “And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be his servants… these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”

Isaiah 56 is about the foreigner who is afraid that they will be separated from God’s people.  The prophet reassures foreigners (non Israelites) who love the Lord that they will be brought near.  The main emphasis is not on money or even prayer, but on God’s love for all nations and all peoples.

Jesus was angry because the Israelites had set up shops in the outer courts of the temple that were supposed to be reserved for the Gentiles to worship.  God’s people had considered their own worship and their own profits more important than the world having access to God. God is most upset when we ignore His heart for the nations and push them away because we are too worried about ourselves.

My One Aim in Life and Death

A Brief and Untechnical Statement of the Reformed Faith
Benjamin B. Warfield

I believe that my one aim in life and death should be to glorify God and enjoy him forever; and that God teaches me how to glorify him in his holy Word, that is, the Bible, which he had given by the infallible inspiration of this Holy Spirit in order that I may certainly know what I am to believe concerning him and what duty he requires of me. 

I believe that God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal and incomparable in all that he is; one God but three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, my Creator, my Redeemer, and my Sanctifier; in whose power and wisdom, righteousness, goodness and truth I may safely put my trust. 

I believe that the heavens and the earth, and all that is in them, are the work of God hands; and that all that he has made he directs and governs in all their actions; so that they fulfill the end for which they were created, and I who trust in him shall not be put to shame but may rest securely in the protection of his almighty love. 

I believe that God created man after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness and holiness, and entered into a covenant of life with him upon the sole condition of the obedience that was his due; so that it was by willfully sinning against God that man fell into the sin and misery in which I have been born. 

I believe, that, being fallen in Adam, my first father, I am by nature a child of wrath, under the condemnation of God and corrupted in body and soul, prone to evil and liable to eternal death; from which dreadful state I cannot be delivered save through the unmerited grace of God my Savior. 

I believe that God has not left the world to perish in its sin, but out of the great love wherewith he has loved it, has from all eternity graciously chosen unto himself a multitude which no man can number, to deliver them out of their sin and misery, and of them to build up again in the world his kingdom of righteousness; in which kingdom I may be assured I have my part, if I hold fast to Christ the Lord. 

“Life” Over “Choice”

3.12.2007

I’ve heard and read a lot of arguments for and against abortion.

It appears that the issue boils down to whether an unborn baby’s right to live or a woman’s right to choose is more important. In my opinion, the Bible seems pretty clear that “life” is more important than “choice.” The implications of this statement are pretty crazy though.

When people say that a woman’s right to choose is important, this means she should be able to choose how her future plays out. An unwanted/unplanned pregnancy has serious social and economic implications. The social stigma of being a young, unwed mother is not a light thing, nor is the idea of supporting and nurturing a human life. Having a child at an early age will likely prevent someone from getting a college degree or pursuing whatever career they dream of because they must provide for their child. Then there’s always the knowledge that the child of an unprepared mother or a child sent through the system of foster homes and adoption will have a very difficult life.

Christians may say that many women are choosing convenience or their love of themselves (which includes their comfort, futures, and lifestyles) over the life of another. To a large extent I believe that is true. But make no mistake, we ask these women to do a very, very difficult thing. In order to care for this life, we essentially ask people to give up their own. And we have no right to ask this of them if we are not willing to sacrifice our own futures and comfort for the lives of others.

Christians often have a very clear stance on the issue of abortion. But the implications of our argument (“life” over “choice”) extend far beyond this one issue. We’re simply inconsistent when we ignore how the value of life ought to shape our daily choices. Even though we may not have had to deal with the issue of abortion personally, we would be foolish to believe we don’t struggle with the dilemma of “life” versus “choice”.

By the way we use our money, time, and energy we proclaim to the world whether we value “life” or “choice.” We value the choice to have financial stability, social status, and comfortable and convenient lives. Due to our exaggerated sense of entitlement, we believe our right to such privileges outweighs the value of one, ten, hundreds of lives in the third world.

To be “pro-life,” we don’t have to change the way we live at all. Maybe we’ll get a new bumper sticker for our car (though some do live out their convictions by adopting or supporting the cause). But to value “life” over “choice,” everything we do comes into question. What we do with the resources God has given us (money, education, talent) becomes a very serious thing because as we waste, others die.

Are we willing to give up our expensive toys, our financial stability, or perhaps even the hours we would otherwise spend on ourselves for the sake of life? Will we be outraged for the unborn and dismiss the millions who have been born and are suffering?

So often “outreach” and “social justice” are simply minor side issues we dabble in now and again to relieve our guilty consciences. Among university students, it has become trendy to be socially and politically aware. Yet our knowledge is rarely used for anything other than yelling at people who don’t know as many depressing statistics as we do. We speak so loud and accomplish so little.

The heart of the issue is this. We love very little. We simply don’t love enough to make a difference.  Now we can’t force ourselves to love, but we can acknowledge our tragic lack and ask God to give us new hearts. We can refuse to be self-satisfied, thinking ourselves noble, compassionate people for the one hour a week we “sacrifice.”

I don’t intend to guilt or discourage people. Good works fueled by anything other than love are not only hypocritical but ineffective. And being depressed at our humanness is entirely unnecessary because God’s strength is made perfect in weakness. He chose us because we are weak so that we would rely upon Him and identify with the downtrodden all over the world. We rejoice in our weakness because everything depends on the One who cares deeply about social justice and is strong enough to bring forth the kingdom.

But in order to be used, we have to acknowledge the true state of this world, our hearts, and the church. My hope is that you and I will wake up to what’s outside of our bubble. The world is dying and we cling to “choice.” May we finally admit that we are selfish to the core, so we can call upon our amazing God to change the world and change us so that we might be used for the flourishing of human life.

The need, as always, is great and our lack, as always, is great. Our God, as always, is greater.

Blessed to Be a Blessing

2 Samuel 5:1-5

[1] Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said, “Behold, we are your bone and flesh. [2] In times past, when Saul was king over us, it was you who led out and brought in Israel. And the LORD said to you, ‘You shall be shepherd of my people Israel, and you shall be prince over Israel.’” [3] So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron, and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the LORD, and they anointed David king over Israel. [4] David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. [5] At Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years.

As a sophomore in college, I was already eager to graduate.  This was partially because I was eager to work and make money and partially because I thought I would then be done with school forever (God is funny in His providence).  In my naiveté, I imagined graduation would be the time when I finally “made it” and I could reap the benefits of my labor.  It was all very self-centered.

In our passage this morning, David is finally experiencing the fulfillment of God’s promises to him.  David is to be king and prince over Israel.  The time of running for his life and living in caves is (presumably) over!  Now David can enjoy a life of power, prestige, and wealth.  But is that all?

See, David is not only called to be prince but he is also called to be shepherd.  Jesus tells us in John 10:11 that “the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”  David’s blessings are not meant to benefit him alone, but they are given for the sake of the sheep.  David ascends to the throne, he enjoys a lengthy and prosperous reign, and he is favored by God, not for the sake of his own legacy but that he might be a greater blessing to the people of Israel.

Not only does success equip David for his shepherding ministry, but also hardship.  The many years of wandering and waiting gave David a compassionate heart.  He was a man who knew what a shepherd was meant to be – one who would give rest, lead, and comfort the sheep (Psalm 23).

So often we see success and hardship only in regards to how it benefits us.  The noblest way we interpret our circumstances is how they are maturing us or drawing us nearer to God.  Of course, we were made to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, but it rarely occurs to us that God may be shaping and reshaping us that we might be more effective at loving and caring for others.