Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Can God Handle It?

“Why do the nations rage? Why do the people waste their time with futile plans? The kings of the earth prepare for battle; the rulers plot together against the LORD and against his anointed one. ‘Let us break their chains,’ they cry, ‘and free ourselves from this slavery.’ But the one who rules in heaven laughs. The Lord scoffs at them. Then in anger he rebukes them, terrifying them with his fierce fury” (Psalms 2:1-5).

I need to read these verses periodically. In a world that seems to be spinning out of control, I tend to forget that God still runs the universe. It seems that there is always some nation plotting the destruction of some other nation. Another terrorist attack is a very real possibility. Every day brings further drift from the godly underpinnings that are vital to the success and well-being of any civilized society. God is openly mocked and His followers are caricatured as ignorant peddlers of medieval superstitions.

When faced with such a world, I often feel the need to defend God. So I begin rage against the “rage-ers.” I make battle plans against the “battle-ers.” I form plots against the “plot-ers.” After all, if I don’t do something, this country will fall completely in the gutter.

But then I read verses like Psalm 2:1-5 and I am forced to re-think my way of dealing with the world I live in. I must answer some important questions. Does God need me to defend him? No. He laughs at those who think they can overthrow Him. Can He run the universe without my help? Yes. He did it before I was around and He will do it after I am gone. Has God called me to change the government? Not unless it involves helping to change the hearts of those involved in government.

Instead of developing ulcers, perhaps I should turn the world over to God and concentrate on being who God has called me to be in spite of the world around me.

God loves you!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Could God Be Here?

Jacob was on his way to Paddan-aram to see his relatives and, hopefully, find a wife. Recent events at home had been disruptive to say the least. His mother had convinced him to deceive his father and steal his twin brother’s blessing. Now, Esau was threatening to kill him because of it. The more distance he put between himself and his murderous brother, the better.

The sun was setting as Jacob stopped to make camp for the night. Not long after leaning his head against a stone pillow and closing his eyes, he drifted off to sleep. But this night would not prove to be very restful. Strange dreams filled his mind. He saw an enormous ladder stretching from earth all the way up to heaven. Angels of God were going up and down the ladder, with God Himself standing at the top. As the dream unfolds, the Lord extends the same covenantal promises to Jacob that He had offered to Abraham and Isaac.

Jacob awoke with a start. While he may not have understood the full significance of what had just happened, there was no doubt in his mind as to Who had just communicated with him. He blurts out: “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!” (Genesis 28:16). It appears that Jacob certainly never expected to encounter the God of heaven at a lonely campsite in the wilderness.

God has a knack of showing up in the most unexpected places. He could show up in a fiery furnace. Just ask Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. You might find Him in prison. Just talk with Joseph, Paul, or Silas. He could be in the midst of terrible pain and struggle. Ask Job. He was with Jeremiah in a cistern. He was with Elijah in a cave. He was with Stephen in a barrage of stones. He was with Jesus on a cross and in a tomb.

Be on the lookout! Keep your eyes wide open! You never know where you might encounter God.

God loves you!

Family Feuds

“Any kingdom divided by civil war is doomed. A town or family splintered by feuding will fall apart” (Matthew 12:25).

Jesus had just healed a demon-possessed man, allowing him to once again see and speak. The crowd who viewed the miracle was amazed at such power and began to discuss among themselves the possibility that Jesus was their long-awaited Messiah. The Pharisees, of course, were adamantly opposed to such a suggestion. They viewed Jesus as an impostor and a threat to their influence among the people. To stem the tide of increasing support for him, they actually accuse him of being in league with Satan himself. “No wonder he can cast out demons. He gets his power from Satan, the prince of demons” (Matthew 12:24). Jesus responds with the words that began this article. His point is that it would be self-defeating for Satan to empower someone who is working against him. Even the devil is smarter than that!

The principle Jesus states is universally true. Any group that is characterized by infighting and discord is doomed to failure. It is true of nations. A country that has resorted to shooting at each other will ultimately destroy itself. It is true in athletics. A sports team can have superior athletes, facilities, and funding, but if the same team doesn’t work together, it can be defeated by a “weaker” opponent that is united in purpose. It is true in business. If the board of directors are fighting among themselves or if management and employees view themselves as adversaries, a company will never reach its potential.

What is true for nations, sports teams, and businesses is also true for congregations of God’s people. Any group of Christians that cannot work together for the common good will eventually wither or self-destruct. A divided church is a doomed church. Family feuds may provide a good game show format, but they will never be the basis of effective ministry for God.

God loves you!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Have You Asked God?

“So the Israelites examined their food, but they did not consult the Lord” (Joshua 9:14).

God had been very clear about how Israel was to deal with the pagan influences they would encounter when they entered the Promised Land (Exodus 23:32-33; 34:12-16; Numbers 33:52-56; Deuteronomy 7:1-6, 16-18, 25-26; 20:16-17). With God’s help and guidance, the Israelites experienced a convincing victory at Jericho. After some costly lessons, the same results were achieved at Ai. As one would expect, news about the conquering Israelite forces traveled fast among the Canaanites. Most began to combine their armies in hopes of surviving. One group, the Gibeonites, decided to employ a more devious defense. They sent emissaries to Joshua who were cleverly disguised as travelers from a distant land and asked to make a peace treaty with Israel. God’s people were initially skeptical, but the Gibeonites played their ruse to the hilt. The Israelites examined all the evidence at their disposal and fell for the trick. One critical step was left out of their deliberations – they forgot to include God as a part of the process!

We all make decisions every day. How shall I spend my money? Whom shall I marry? Which job should I take? Where should I live? How should I raise my children? On and on the list goes. And we live in a time when we have a seemingly unlimited amount of information available to help us make our decisions. At the click of a mouse, we can instantly have more than we care to read on any subject at hand. A trip to the library can provide an armload of books written by well-credentialed experts. The airwaves are full of gurus that claim to have all the knowledge that you will ever need to succeed.

In the face of such an informational onslaught, it is easy to overlook the one Source that is more important that any other. Like the Israelites, we can also fail to “consult the Lord.” And any decision made without God’s input is just asking for trouble.

God loves you!