Monday, May 31, 2010

Who Is In Charge?

“So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy” (Romans 9:16).

Many of Paul’s fellow Hebrews struggled to accept the fact that God would welcome Gentiles into His kingdom on the same basis as Jews. The gospel of salvation which Paul preached challenged their prejudicial sensibilities. Early and often in the book of Romans, Paul assaulted the fortress of Jewish exclusiveness (cf. 1:16; 3:9,22,29). By the time we reach chapter 9, some could stand no more! How could “their” God do such a thing? Apparently, some even began to charge God with failure (9:6) and injustice (9:14).

According to Paul, the answer to such foolishness is found in the sovereignty of God. The accomplishment of God’s purposes doesn’t depend on the will or actions of man. The Author of the plan for the inclusion of the Gentiles didn’t ask the Jews for their opinion on the matter. It really didn’t matter what they thought, did, or felt about it. That some were upset with what God was doing didn’t cause Him to alter His plans or purposes. The clay is in no position to question the Potter (9:20).

Even today, some of God’s people still struggle with His sovereignty. While we would say that God is in charge, too many of us still act and speak as if it depended on us! I need to remember that God will accomplish His purposes with or without me. Does God desire my participation? Surely. Can God use me to implement His will if He chooses? Of course. But I am not so valuable that the work of God would grind to a halt if my plans, programs, or changes are ignored. While I am important to God, I am not indispensable. The success of God’s mission doesn’t hinge on my own success or failure.

Thankfully, God didn’t put me in charge of His world or His church. There is only one God and it is not me!

God loves you!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Sowing and Reaping

The northern kingdom of Israel had rejected God as their Savior and Protector. In spite of all that God had done for them, they chose to trust in earthly alliances instead of heavenly ones. For some reason, ties to Syria were more valued than ties to God. So Isaiah the prophet was given the unenviable task of bringing a message of judgment against his own countrymen. The devastation would be comparable to what happened to the pagan nations when Israel first entered the land of promise. Only now, the judgment of God would be poured out on His own people. How could such a thing happen? Listen in as Isaiah reveals the answer:

“Why? Because you have turned from the God who can save you. You have forgotten the Rock who can hide you. So you may plant the finest grapevines and import the most expensive seedlings. They may sprout on the day you set them out; yes, they may blossom on the very morning you plant them, but you will never pick any grapes from them. Your only harvest will be a load of grief and unrelieved pain” (Isaiah 17:10-11).

Israel was experiencing the bitter fruit of what is called the “Law of the Harvest.” Simply stated, it affirms that you will reap what you sow. Paul referred to it in Galatians 6:7-8: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” Israel had sown the seeds of the flesh and the time had come to pay the price for it.

No one is exempt from the “Law of the Harvest.” I must carefully consider the seeds that I plant in life. Will the crop that matures from the choices I am making bring me joy or sorrow? Lord, as I plant, help me to also to think about the harvest.

God loves you!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Don't Be Afraid

“As Pharaoh approached, the people of Israel looked up and panicked when they saw the Egyptians overtaking them. They cried out to the Lord, and they said to Moses, “Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness? Weren’t there enough graves for us in Egypt? We said, ‘Leave us alone! Let us be slaves to the Egyptians. It’s better to be a slave in Egypt than a corpse in the wilderness!’” (Exodus 14:10-12).

Can you imagine the terror that the Israelites experienced as they realized that Pharaoh and his army were bearing down upon them and there was no way of escape? They knew first-hand how cruel Pharaoh could be and now he was really angry! Such fear in a seemingly hopeless situation clouded their thinking. They began to rationalize that it would have been better to remain as a slave than to trust God.

You could find yourself in a similar situation in life. You are hemmed in by a threat with no discernible way out. It might be a devastating disease or illness. It could be a severe financial setback. Regardless of the circumstances, you find yourself with your back against the wall and out of options. You stepped out in faith and, now, disaster has overtaken you. The temptation will be to believe that you were better off without God.

Notice how Moses responds to the fearful and desperate Israelites. “But Moses told the people, ‘Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.’” (Exodus 14:13-14).

Sooner or later, the time will come for all of us when we must choose between surrendering to fear or surrendering to God. May God prepare us for such a time. When my back is against the wall, I pray that I have the courage to stay calm, stand still, and watch God rescue me.

God loves you!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Spiritual DNA

“I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you” (2 Timothy 1:5; NLT).

Mothers are hard-wired by God to develop a close, personal bond with their children. Childbirth is a transformational experience. Motherhood can turn a timid young woman into a fierce warrior whenever anyone or anything threatens to harm her child. While Dad is handy to have around, Mom is truly indispensable. She bandages hearts as well as knees. She builds character as well as sandcastles. She dries tears as well as clothes. She feeds souls as well as stomachs. She, perhaps more than any other, understands the meaning of sacrifice. She continually gives of her time, her energy, and her resources -- even if her own reserves are depleted -- because she wants the best for her children. Do you know a mom like that?

Lois and Eunice must have been those kind of mothers. Timothy was blessed to grow up in their loving care. Out of all they had shared with him over the years, one special gift stands out. They planted seeds of faith in his young heart and then nurtured that faith as it grew. While Timothy shared physical DNA with these women, it was the spiritual DNA that ran through this family that impressed Paul. It is possible that Timothy physically looked like his mother and grandmother. But it was the spiritual resemblance that caught the apostle’s eye.

Moms (and grandmoms), let me encourage you to remember that the greatest gift you can share with your own children is your faith. Other gifts can be good and important, but this is pre-eminent. May others look at your children’s faith and say, “You know, you look just like your mother (or grandmother)!” There is no better time to start than now. Begin today to leave a legacy of faith in the generations that follow after you.

God loves you!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Draft Day

The annual extravaganza called “The NFL Draft” is history for another year. Each year all 32 teams in the National Football League line up for the opportunity to select athletes from the current crop of eligible college football players. The selection process cycles through seven rounds before it is complete. Of course, excitement is highest during the first round, when the most gifted athletes are chosen. Teams spend months prior to the draft preparing for that first-round choice. No team wants to make a mistake with so much on the line. The fortunate few who do end up as first-round picks become instant millionaires.

The excitement begins to wane as you move into the later rounds. The marquee names are usually all gone by now. By the time you reach the seventh round, no one but the team executives and die-hard fans are paying much attention. Eventually, you come to “Mr. Irrelevant.” Who is that, you ask? “Mr. Irrelevant” is the last player taken in the draft. The title comes from the fact that a player taken this low in the draft is not expected to make much of a difference for his prospective team. He may not even make the roster. For the record, the 2010 “Mr. Irrelevant” is Tim Toone, a receiver from Weber State University in Ogden, Utah.

The Bible uses “draft language” to describe God’s interest in us. “But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:13). The difference between the NFL draft and the choosing of God is that it is the “draft order” itself that is irrelevant! The last one drafted is just as important to God as the first one drafted. “...He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world...” (Ephesians 1:4). God has no “Mr. (or Mrs.) Irrelevant” on His team! Thank you, God, for choosing me!

God loves you!