Thursday, February 25, 2010

Who would want a God who is forgetful?

The story is told of a rural Minnesota couple in their early sixties enjoying each other’s company one fine winter's evening. They were discussing something they had just seen on television which suggested writing things down so that you would remember them better. Then the wife said, “I’d really like some ice cream.” The husband said, “I’ll get you some ice cream.” The wife said, “You better write it down so you don’t forget.” The husband said he would remember. She then asked for strawberries on the ice cream and suggested he should write that down but he insisted that he would remember. The wife then announced that she would like some whipped cream on top and that he really should write that down. Again, he assured her that he would remember. After about 20 minutes in the kitchen, the husband returned with a plate of fried eggs and bacon for his wife. She looked at him and said, “Where’s the toast?”

Ah, forgetfulness and growing old seem to go hand in hand. Forgetfulness is a trait we humans dread. We want to be alert, in control, on top of everything even if it is just ice cream and strawberries.

Both Jeremiah 31:34 and Hebrews 8:12 say: "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." I love what scriptures say. It’s good news but then I must admit, I have a big problem getting my insignificant human brain wrapped around such a magnificent thought. How can the God who names each one of the stars, forget our sin? Psalms 147:4 "He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name."

How can the God who numbers the hairs on our head “remember our sins no more?” I don’t believe this struggle is a lack of faith, but a struggle with the complexity, magnificence and goodness of our God and Savior.

It seems to me that God just can’t forget my sin and remember the names of all the stars and number of hairs on my head. He must be storing them some place in an old bag to pull it out and beat me over the head when I screw up.

The devil loves to harass and discourage us with memories of our past sin, even the sins forgiven through the blood of Christ and remembered no more. It’s the devil’s lie.

We are blessed to have a God who knows the name of all the stars, knows the number of hairs on my head and knows exactly where each sparrow falls. This same God remembers all this and more and yet forgets all my sins forever. Ah, this is good news for this sin-laden but forgiven country boy. I praise God that He remembers and forgets. I don’t understand it but I sure am blessed. This is good news; very good news for all of us who believe.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Worshipping the god of things as they are

The story in scripture of David verses Goliath is found in 1 Samuel 17. It is a gripping story, one that clearly is a biblical favorite. It is one of the first stories we teach our children. In some ways we consider it a “kids” story, simple, straightforward. Study of it reveals a deep and abiding story that has much to teach us young and old.

David was still very young, not a man, when he came to fight Goliath. In the Moffat Translation, 1 Samuel 17:42 says “He (being Goliath) despised him (David) for his youth.” David, a young shepard, untrained as a soldier, should not fight or even dare challenge a trained barbarian such as Goliath. Something different was in the air.

As we get older in age, something different or change, is harder to accept. As a culture, change is harder to accept since we have lived in a time of unchallenged ease. Change makes us older ones fearful of the unknown, doubtful of any benefit, if any. Yes, we too like to worship at the altar of “the god of things as they are.”

The Israelites and their King Saul were huddled on a mountainside staging for a battle with the Philistines. The situation was complicated by the daily taunts of a nine foot nine inch giant called Goliath. Send someone to fight me; whoever loses will become the subjects of the other side. Not a pleasant situation. In 1 Samuel 17:11 it says, “On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.” Yes, they were afraid of the dire situation. The Israelites were waiting for the inevitable defeat.

Young David comes with just a sling and 5 stones; no armor, no spear, no sword. He realizes that the Israelite army’s only response will be a tame, spineless submission to the playground bully. David gets fired up and says, “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” Clovis Chappel said, “We like these brave and burning words, all of us. David refused to worship ‘the god of things as they are.’ We rejoice that he will not allow bullying wrongs to go unchallenged today just because they went unchallenged yesterday!!"

Youth throughout the centuries have blazed the trail to right all wrongs. We battle-scared veterans sit on the sidelines in arrogant smugness thinking we know better, and in some ways we do, but sometimes we have left no room for the Living God of Israel to do His mighty work. Yes, we sit and grouse while a world goes to hell—many of them our own flesh and blood. We are lukewarm and passionless and we like it that way. This should not be a matter of young or old but a matter of the condition of our hearts.

Where is our passion for Christ as we sit on the sideline smugly saying something new won’t work? Are we so bored with life we won’t even consider the enthusiasm of the young? “It won’t work” we say. Our churches languish in the same old rut. How many people have come to know the Lord in our church in the last year? What, as a church, have you been praying for? Or have you prayed at all?

Let’s look forward; let’s not worship at the altar of ‘the god of things as they are’. Let’s leave room for the working of “THE Living God.” What have we in the church left unchallenged as we worship at the altar of “the god of things as they are”?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

I’m Sick of Winter or Grumbling at God’s Providence

“Boy, this is some kind of winter, huh? Cold, snow, windy, more snow, more wind.” I bet you’ve heard or said these words in one way or another this winter.

John Dinsmore Johnston was a missionary who visited our church years ago. He has had an interesting life; a native of Ireland, he ended up a prisoner of war of the Japanese for four years during World War II. He wrote a book entitled “The God-planned Life: Memoirs and Letters”. John told us of his father, a humble Irish farmer with a strong faith. Whenever any of his children would grumble about the weather, his dad would chastise them with these words spoken in a strong Irish accent, “Who is this who riles at God’s providence?”

Do we have any right to grumble at God’s design for this winter in Minnesota? We do not. God is in control of all of nature. God is not a wimp. He stands up and proclaims His power. He doesn’t hide out behind His providential power or distance Himself from His actions. Isaiah 45:7 says, “I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things.” All of us amateur mini-god’s better take note.

In the Book of Nahum, Chapter 1 starting in verse 3a it says this…"The LORD is slow to anger and great in power; the LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished. His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of his feet.” He then follows with one of the most concise lists of what He has done or is capable of doing.
1. His way is in the whirlwind (v.3)
2. His way is in the storm (v.3)
3. Clouds and dust are His feet (v.4)
4. He dries up seas (v.4)
5. He makes rivers run dry (v.4)
6. He makes cities wither (v.4)
7. He makes blossoms fade (v.4)
8. He makes mountains quake (v.5)
9. He makes hills melt away (v.5)
10. He makes the earth tremble (v.5)
11. He makes all who live in the world tremble (v.5)
12. He shatters rocks (v.6)

And then He says this is verse 7a, “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him.”

Before we complain or grumble, we need to think about why He does this. Job 37:13 says: “He brings the clouds to punish men, or to water his earth and show his love.” Ah, we must be careful in drawing conclusions as God displays almighty power whether it be love or His punishment. In either case, our response should be the same. We should be found on our face repenting in dust and ashes. Repent for what, you say? For questioning His sovereign hand and for grumbling about it, forgive us Lord. "Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: "See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him." These men are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage." (Jude 14-16)

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Are you Changed?

The disciples of Jesus were flawed men like us. They were called of God, used by Him, yet like us, sinners on this side of Heaven.

The disciples seemed to be enamored with greatness. Time has not changed much; today we too are enamored with greatness. We covet the symbols of power, wealth and greatness. They, in and of themselves, cause no problem unless the pursuit of the symbols of greatness move into first place in our life dethroning God from His rightful place.

The disciples asked Jesus, "Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?" Jesus calls a little child among them and Jesus said in Matthew 18:2-4: "He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."

Children are usually trusting of their fathers, have no agenda, are willing to learn and don't have a chip on their shoulder. Most of the world doesn't trust anyone; most have an agenda (what's in it for me attitude). Many of us feel we have arrived (we don't need to learn anything new) and most of us have or have had a major league chip on our shoulder. In reality, left to ourselves, we think we are pretty hot stuff; God is not impressed with us.

Jesus say, "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, will never enter the kingdom of heaven." His words, not mine. Don't get angry with me.

Are you changed by your relationship with Christ? How has he changed your life? Are you transformed? Are you still walking around in the same body but the chip on your shoulder is gone? Now is your agenda the Lord's? Are you willing to learn from the humble carpenter of Nazareth? If you are, you have been transformed. If not, you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven.

On that day, many will say "Lord, Lord". Jesus will reply, "I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers" (Matthew 7:23).

Many of us are Christian by culture and we have not been changed. Have you been changed? Have you been humbled? If not, what are you waiting for? Come to Jesus and live!