Monday, September 24, 2012

How Big Is Your God?

I am so thankful that I serve a God who can defend Himself.  When someone speaks evil of my God, I don’t have to personally resort to the destruction of the blasphemer’s life or property.  God doesn’t need me to have His back.  My God is perfectly capable of standing up for Himself and dealing with offenders if that is what is needed.  Only an impotent God would need me to fight His battles
I’m reminded of the time when God called upon Gideon to deliver Israel from foreign oppression (Judges 6).  He is reluctant to accept the role, but he finally accepts.  The first matter of business for Gideon was to destroy an altar to a false god that belonged to his father, Joash.  He knew there would be repercussions for such an act against the false religion of his own people but he forged ahead anyway, carrying out the deed under the cover of darkness.
The next morning, the destroyed altar was discovered.  Immediately, passions were fanned into flame and Gideon was found to be the culprit.  The angry mob confronts Joash and demands the death of Gideon.  To his credit, Joash stands up to the blood-thirsty defenders of Baal and challenges the “manhood” of their god: “But Joash said to all who stood against him, ‘Will you contend for Baal, or will you deliver him?  Whoever will plead for him shall be put to death by morning.  If he is a god, let him contend for himself, because someone has torn down his altar’” (Judges 6:31).
Does it bother me when someone takes God’s name in vain?  Sure.  Should I share my displeasure with those who blaspheme God and mock His ways?  Yes.  Should I stand up for my beliefs?  Of course.  But beyond that, my God can handle His own detractors.  Rather than exacting my own revenge, I’ll let God dispense whatever wrath is needed (Romans 12:19).  It’s only impotent gods who need human defenders.  My God is big enough to contend for Himself!

God loves you!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Time Is Filled With Swift Transition

“One evening, a grandson was talking to his grandfather about current events.  The grandson asked his grandfather what he thought about the shooting at schools, the computer age, and just things in general.  The grandfather replied, ‘Well, let me think a minute.  I was born before television, ball-point pens, penicillin, Pizza Hut, polio shots, McDonalds, frozen foods, instant coffee, Xerox, pantyhose, contact lenses, air conditioners, Frisbees, dishwashers, credit cards, clothes dryers, laser beams, and space travel.’  He continued, ‘When I was a boy, ice cream cones and sodas were a nickel.  A nickel would buy enough stamps to mail a letter and two postcards.  You could buy a new Chevy coupe for $600.00 and gas was 11 cents a gallon.’  You probably think this grandfather is a very old man.  If so, you are in for a shock.  This man would be only 69 years old” (House to House, Heart to Heart, vol. 17, no. 4).
Time has a way of marching on regardless of whether we are paying attention or not.  And it progresses faster than most of us are willing to admit.  When James, the brother of the Lord, was counseling his readers regarding the importance of including the will of the Lord in their plans for tomorrow, he reminds them that their lives “...are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:14).  As King David rejoiced over the generosity of those who donated for the construction of the temple, he praised God as the ultimate source of the bounty (1 Chronicles 29:10-16).  As part of his thankfulness to God, he admits that he and his people are merely “...sojourners before You, and tenants, as all our fathers were; our days on earth are like a shadow...” (vs. 15).
In light of such a reality, Paul’s admonition in Ephesians is vital.  “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but wise, making the most of your time...” (5:15-16).  Are we using our limited time wisely?
God loves you!

Radical Surgery

“And if your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire...And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than having your two feet, to be cast into hell...And if your eye causes you to stumble, cast it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes, to be cast into hell, where THEIR WORM DOES NOT DIE, AND THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED” (Mark 9:43–48 NASB).
I like the illustration Timothy Keller uses to explain what Jesus is saying.  “Sinful behavior (the reference to hand and foot) and sinful desires (the reference to the eye) are like a fire that has broken out in your living room.  Let’s say a cushion on your couch has ignited.  You cannot just sit there and say, “Well, the whole house isn’t burning -- it’s just a cushion.”  If you don’t do something immediately and decisively about the cushion, the whole house will be engulfed.  Fire is never satisfied.  It can’t be allowed to smolder; it can’t be confined to a corner.  It will overtake you eventually.  Sin is the same way: It never stays in its place.  It always leads to separation from God, which results in intense suffering, first in this life and then in the next.  The Bible calls that hell.  That’s why Jesus uses the dramatic image of amputation.  There can be no compromises.  We must do anything we can to avoid it...” (Timothy Keller, “King’s Cross, pp. 75-76).
Those who play with fire will eventually get burned (Proverbs 6:27).  Those who dabble with sinful desires and behaviors will eventually pay a far greater price than intended.  What seems harmless in the beginning soon becomes a monster.  That is why radical surgery is needed.  Put out the fire before it can spread.
God loves you!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Gripe, Gripe, Gripe

Quit griping about your church; if it was perfect, you couldn’t belong.”  I don’t know the source of this quote.  It came to me as part of a list of catchy one-liners without any attribution.  Perhaps they are all from that great philosopher and author named “Anonymous.”  But regardless of the source, the sentiment it expresses is so very true.
It’s so easy to complain about our own congregation, isn’t it?  “The church isn’t doing enough.”  “The people are too friendly.”  “The people are not friendly enough.”  “The youth group is too small.”  “The youth group is too large.”  “The church needs to have more ministry opportunities.”  “The church is running me ragged with too many programs.”  “We are spending too much.”  “We are not spending enough.”  “I’m leaving if they ________.”  “I’m leaving if they don’t ________.”  “The church isn’t meeting my needs.”  On and on the list goes.
I hate to burst our rose-colored bubble, but there are no perfect congregations.  The church down the road might seem to be perfect, but that’s just because we are on the outside looking in.  The imperfections only become evident when we rub shoulders and egos with those who are part of the group and they rub shoulders and egos with us.  As long as a congregation is made up of imperfect people, it will function imperfectly.  And even if there was a perfect church, the moment I joined, it would become imperfect.
Instead of searching for the perfect church that doesn’t exist or complaining about the imperfections our current group, let me suggest that we all work together at improvement.  It’s easy to point out problems.  It’s much more work to become part of the solution to the problems.  Am I saying that a congregation shouldn’t be criticized?  No.  Every group has room for improvement.  But I am saying that if we are going to complain, we should also be willing to pitch in and contribute to a solution.
Thank God for imperfect churches.  They are the only places where I can fit in.  

God loves you!