Tuesday, January 29, 2008

How Far Will We Take It?

Good morning my friends,

Sometimes we get so accustomed to reading the Bible that we stop seeing the strangeness of a different time and a different culture. Could you imagine anyone marrying two sisters today? How about two sisters who also happen to be his cousins? In all of this mess, an uncle deceiving his nephew, a nephew deceiving his uncle, sisters fighting over a husband, babies being born all over the place, there is something worthy of note. Our God is responsible for life.

There is one principle that is dear to us as believers and it is this; life is from the hand of God:

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139:13-16)

We adhere to the belief that God has planned our life and our birth. We didn’t just happen to be born. He knew the circumstances of our birth. He selected the egg and the sperm. There was purpose because we have purpose. For me this one statement is the scariest and most comforting statement in the Word of God:

O LORD, you have searched me
and you know me. (Psalm 139:1)

You know me Lord. You know me. To be known by God is an incredible thing. He knows me because he ordained that I would be born. He gave me life, existence and in that existence he gave me purpose. It is my choice to embrace or reject that purpose.

As we see these sisters fighting over their husband we see that God was in charge of the womb. He opened it and he closed it. He had purpose in this. This leads to a lot of questions. If he has opened the womb do we have the right to close it? If he has closed it do we have the right to open it? These are not easy questions to consider if you are in the midst of a struggle with infertility. Science is learning to overcome these obstacles but just because we can does that mean we should? Some of you may not know and others know all too well that my wife and I were told we would never have children. For six years we explored every avenue. I know what it is to live with a wife who is desperate for the experience of being pregnant, of giving birth. It took a great act of submission and a resolve to accept God’s will before the hand of God was moved. In case you do not know us, we now have nine children.

There are some very hard questions we need to ask about this principle of God giving life. Do we believe what the Word puts forward that God has ordained and planned every life of every human being born on this planet? If that is the case do we have a right to try to control his will? Do we have a right to prevent pregnancy? Do we have a right to end pregnancy? There are many places to find the statistics on how many unborn children are killed each year but no place to give us statistics on how many pregnancies were prevented. It may sound strange to you but if God is in control of life doesn’t it amount to the same thing? Or does it? How far are we willing to take this principle?

The world is filled with information, misinformation, lies, and things to manipulate our thinking in this very important area of life. According to some statistics the world is overpopulated and unable to sustain this kind of growth. Some people believe the earth has just the right amount of resources to take us to the day of Jesus’ return. We know it is a lie that we are running out of oil. Our shortages are man made; not enough refineries and such. There is more than enough fresh water, we are simply being unwise with it and are polluting it. We have great ways to produce clean energy but not the will power to spend the money to develop it. Our problems come down to selfishness.

The strange thing is that my wife and I have people who call us selfish for having so many children. What some people call selfish we call submission to God’s will. We never set out to have such a large family but as we matured God showed us more things and so we have come to accept this principle of God being responsible for life. I guess it comes down to who we want to believe; the current thought of our society and culture or the Word of God. Some avoid even thinking about this because they have other plans for their life and do not want to wrestle with a large family and career. Just because we give back the control to God does not mean that we will all end up with large families. Remember, he is in charge of the womb. He will open it and close it. It is not a mere act of nature.

Young girls enjoy planning out their family. They like deciding how many children to have, their names and what their children will grow up to do. Not too often do we hear them say that they will have the family that God has planned for them. We recognize the supremacy of God’s will when it comes to seeing each other, “See you tomorrow, God willing.” But when it comes to most areas of our lives we want to maintain control. It is certainly something to think about.

Monday, January 28, 2008

It Is Required Each and Every Day

Good morning my friends,

Grace is when we receive something we do not deserve. An example would be when a student fails to hand in an assignment on time. That student should receive the full consequences of their failure to do what was expected of them. That is what is fair and just. Grace is when the teacher gives the student an extra day to hand in the assignment. The student should fail but the teacher has shown grace to the student. It is amazing how every day of our life depends on the grace of our God.

What is truly amazing is how much grace is required for God to remain faithful to his promises. Consider this morning’s reading, Genesis 27, 28. God had promised Abraham that he would make him into a great nation and give him an already occupied area of the word. God chose Abraham by grace because the only remarkable thing about Abraham was that he trusted God. He was not a man of great character, fame or even wealth. Yet, it was because he believed God that God declared Abraham righteous. Abraham was a liar and he lied to preserve his life, even at the risk of the loss of his wife.

Abraham passed this same character on to Isaac, yet God’s promise also passed to Isaac because Isaac also trusted God. But Isaac’s family had to have been one of the worst examples in the Word of God. Isaac was a terrible example of a father and was a deceiver himself. Rebekah was a manipulator and worked with her son Jacob to deceive her husband. Jacob took after his mom and was a terrible manipulator, liar, and cheat. Eseau had so many issues it is hard to know where to start. Perhaps this is the first example of a fully dysfunctional family, overlooking the very first family. Yet, God’s promise still stood.

It is a great act of grace that saw God reach out to Jacob as Jacob ran away to preserve his life from his brothers revenge:

"I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you." (Genesis 28:13-15)

Amazingly God’s promise is passed on to Jacob. Do you notice that God makes no demands on Jacob? Jacob does not deserve this promise. He certainly has not earned it, yet he has received it. It provoked this response in him:

"If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father's house, then the LORD will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God's house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth." (Genesis 28:20-22)

It is funny how God made no conditions for his promise yet Jacob made his response conditional upon God blessing him. Jacob will go on to deceive and to be deceived. He will raise a brood of boys who themselves will become deceivers, liars, murderers and will even turn on their dad in the incident of Joseph. Yet, God’s blessing and promise will rest on all of them because he made a decision and a promise to Abraham. It required a great deal of grace.

We often think of God’s grace in our life being something that concerns only our salvation, yet we are not much better than this dysfunctional family. Do we really deserve to be called righteous? Consider your actions in a normal day. How often do you lie in a day? How often do you embellish stories to make yourself look good? How often do you become angry? How strong is your self-righteousness? I doubt it is very strong. Yet, we still possess the promise of salvation because of the grace that is shown to us daily by our incredible God. No one can say how much we will be accountable when we do not even realize what we were doing. So often we do the wrong thing without it even registering with us. The one thing we do know is that when the Spirit brings conviction due to our actions we are being called to repentance, and we dare not ignore the voice of God.

Today, let’s not take God’s grace for granted. Let us praise him all the more loudly because of it.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Suffering With Him

Good morning my friends,

As we continue our discourse on Job I come with a different perspective then when we first began. Having just come off my sick bed from a terrible stomach flu and having at one point asked God to call the mountains down upon me, I feel I have gained a new respect for this man who suffered much. Not only did he have to put up with the constant pain and the thought of his loss, he also had to endure this constant debate. All I wanted to do for the last two days was find a cave and crawl in. Yet here is Job putting up with:

"Dominion and awe belong to God;
he establishes order in the heights of heaven.
Can his forces be numbered?

Upon whom does his light not rise?
How then can a man be righteous before God?

How can one born of woman be pure?
If even the moon is not bright

and the stars are not pure in his eyes,
how much less man, who is but a maggot—

a son of man, who is only a worm!" (Job 25:2-6)

Seems reasonable enough. We all admit it, don’t we? Compared to God’s holiness we could never hope to be righteous. But that would also be underestimating our God. Just because it is impossible to be righteous does not mean that we are not righteous. Job’s perspective of God is so much different than his “friends”:

Death is naked before God;
Destruction lies uncovered.
He spreads out the northern skies over empty space;

he suspends the earth over nothing.
He wraps up the waters in his clouds,

yet the clouds do not burst under their weight.
He covers the face of the full moon,

spreading his clouds over it.
He marks out the horizon on the face of the waters

for a boundary between light and darkness.
The pillars of the heavens quake,

aghast at his rebuke.
By his power he churned up the sea;

by his wisdom he cut Rahab to pieces.
By his breath the skies became fair;

his hand pierced the gliding serpent.
And these are but the outer fringe of his works;

how faint the whisper we hear of him!
Who then can understand the thunder of his power?" (Job 26:6-14)

Who indeed? The power of our God is so great that he can declare what is unrighteous to be righteous and it is so. This is exactly what he did for Abraham who had many character flaws yet pleased God with his faith. It is what he did for Job who pleased God because of his love for God. It is what he has done for us when we place our faith in the promises of Jesus Christ. In this moment of trust God declares us to be his righteous children.

Should we feel then that we have a license to do whatever we want? Not at all, because the heart of a true child of God is so filled with love for God that the only desire we have is to please our God. Listen to Job again:

As surely as God lives, who has denied me justice,
the Almighty, who has made me taste bitterness of soul,
as long as I have life within me,

the breath of God in my nostrils,
my lips will not speak wickedness,

and my tongue will utter no deceit.
I will never admit you are in the right;

till I die, I will not deny my integrity.
I will maintain my righteousness and never let go of it;

my conscience will not reproach me as long as I live. (Job 27:2-6)

In his exuberance perhaps Job overstated his determination. Our integrity only gets us so far. We are not perfect and will continue to prove that God’s act of declaring us righteous is indeed an act of grace. However, you can understand the heart of what Job is saying. Even though he felt that he did not deserve what he was getting, he would rather suffer and trust God than to be healthy without God:

For what hope has the godless when he is cut off,
when God takes away his life?
Does God listen to his cry

when distress comes upon him?
Will he find delight in the Almighty?

Will he call upon God at all times? (Job 27:8-10)

No matter how difficult our journey gets we cannot afford to “Curse God and die”. Jesus Christ is our living hope. It is by his power that we are able to maintain grace under pressure and show faith that will take us through a thousand furnaces. Without him we have nothing. With him we have everything we need.

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. (2 Peter 1:3)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Thursday, January 10, 2008