Category: DEVOTION

WHAT GOD WANTS

Watching the news; observing people and the affairs of humanity; looking in the mirror and thinking of what I’ve done with my own life, I had to ask my God why He would care at all about the human race…

“What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8:4).

Those of us who are Bible believers know that we’re not worthy of God’s love: He gives it because He wants to. He did, after all, send His son to die for us while we were in our fallen state. But why? What could he, an infinite, omnipotent, incredible, beautiful God possibly want that we have or that we are?

I have to say that the answer, humanly speaking, is beyond me. If I were God I would probably just give up on the world and start all over. But as I thought the matter over this morning, for the umpteenth time, what came to mind quite apart from some relevant scriptural statements, were the few souls I’ve known in my life who were genuinely wonderful people-people who were consistently different to everyone else in a good way.

I realized that these people all had certain things in common. They were humble, warm, selfless, kind, loving and thoughtful, and lived a life of service. While no human “deserves” God’s love, humans were designed and made in His image. And perhaps in those divine qualities which a few somehow manage to exhibit there’s a glimpse of that image of God, and a strong indicator of what God through his son Jesus Christ seeks to foster in us, and to fill his heaven with for all eternity.

Worship doesn’t just consist of singing or raising hands, it’s more to do with how we live our lives:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:1-2).

Yes, we’re saved by faith in the son of God, because of God’s mercy and grace. But it’s when we consciously live out our faith in truth and genuine love and praise, that we please our Creator, and become the kind of people He wants in his kingdom. How many of us are studying the will of our Father in our lives? Jesus said:

Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks (John 4:23 NIV).

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TROUBLE

“Man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward”, observed Solomon. Sometimes, perhaps often, we all feel the same way about life…

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More recently, Bob Dylan wrote in his song “Trouble”

Trouble in the water, trouble in the air
Go all the way to the other side of the world, you’ll find trouble there.

I’ve written a lot on the subject of trouble and suffering in the past, but not enough on its ultimate source. The story of Job in the Bible is very sobering, but enlightening to anyone with open eyes and an open heart. Job suffered severely, and made the mistake of putting his suffering down to the conviction that God was picking on him:

“Will you never look away from me, or let me alone even for an instant?” (Job 7:19).

However, the testimony of the book of Job is that God was not “picking” on him-it was Satan. The devil was pouring out his hatred on Job. It’s true that God was allowing Satan to do that, and the question of “why” is examined in my posts on suffering*. The point here is that Job was blaming God, when it wasn’t God at all.

Moving into the New Testament, we find Paul, a man persecuted to death, and even now hated by many in and out of the Church, squarely blaming the one who Job didn’t even seem to be aware of:

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).

Paul counseled his followers to “Put on the full armor of God” in order to be able to combat the attacks of the evil ones (verse 11).

On a daily basis, our troubles come at us from the selfishness of other people, from the lies of bad and godless philosophy, from the consequences of the Fall, and from our own mistakes. When we drop our toast butter-side down on the floor it most likely isn’t because Satan himself arranged it. But ultimately our enemy is that enemy of God. Be aware of the fact, without being obsessed, and put on the armor, described in more detail in Paul’s letter.

* https://nickyfisher.com/2018/07/15/why-doesnt-god-stop-bad-things-from-happening/

THE PERFECT WORLD

The political scene with its surrounding discourse, debate and accompanying scheming, charades, and false characterizations and representations provide a perfect arena for human nature to hone and to extrude one of its prime characteristics-one of the things it’s best at: blaming someone else…

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Life, for almost all of us, is tough, and then we die. As if life and death itself isn’t enough to deal with, we live in opposition to our Creator and we ignore his instructions for a good life and a happy world, and then when things go wrong as they would if we attempted to construct a table with a chainsaw, we look for someone else to blame and accuse.

We forget that we’re all prone to the same troubles, and we’re all limited in our abilities and knowledge. There is no perfect world; there is no utopia just waiting to be discovered by somebody who has all the right ideas and the right phrases and the best looks, and even if there were, there are plenty of others ready and willing to throw a wrench in the works, who have a different idea of how that perfect world should be achieved, and who don’t want to listen to your ideas.

We all tend to want to blame someone else for our problems and our failures. It was our dad’s fault, our mother’s fault, our boyfriend’s fault, our wife’s fault, our politicians’ fault, our ancestors’ faults. They weren’t generous enough, they didn’t try hard enough, they didn’t think of us enough, they didn’t make the right decisions, they weren’t educated enough, they weren’t good-looking enough, they didn’t…overlook our faults enough. We don’t consider that they themselves were struggling to get through life as best they could. But for them our world would be just as it should be -right?

Oh, but then, if the world were perfect, there would be nobody left to blame…but ourselves.

WHAT IS THE GOSPEL OF JESUS?

What is the gospel of Jesus Christ? Is it socialism? Is it just one of many ways to God? Is it an invention of white American men? I’ve posted this message before…and I’ll post it again…

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The Greek word translated “gospel” in the New Testament means “good news”, and in the context of the Bible the gospel is the “good news” about Jesus Christ. But what exactly was and is that good news, and what does it mean for us?

In answer to the second question first, read what Jesus said:

I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life (John 5:24).

The Bible speaks of a love-gift from God. That gift is forgiveness of all our sin, and eternal life. The gift-if we accept it for ourselves and change our ways-takes us from being subjects of God’s wrath into eternal life, even though for now we are in mortal bodies.

Contrary to the common view on the street, as promoted by Hollywood, the education establishment and by certain authors, the gospel, the scriptures and the essential Christian doctrines were not all invented or altered hundreds of years after the time of Christ’s life on earth.

Lee Stroebel, with an MA in Law from Yale University, and a former award-winning investigative journalist for the Chicago Tribune, in his book “The Case for Christ”(note 1) interviewed a number of believing scholars such as Cambridge educated Sir Norman Anderson. Anderson was a Professor at Harvard, and lectured at Princeton. He was also the Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of London. Anderson said that Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, which contains a clear definition of the gospel as outlined below, can be confidently dated to around 55 AD.

Dr. Gary R Habermas, a New Testament historian, received his Ph D from Michigan State University and his DD from Emmanuel College, Oxford. In his book “The Historical Jesus”, Habermas discusses the creed quoted below as found in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, and writes that the gospel existed in the form below even before Paul’s letter:

That this confession is an early Christian, pre-Pauline creed is recognized by virtually all critical scholars across a wide theological spectrum”(2).

THE GOSPEL

Here, then, is Paul’s first-century definition of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which he had given his life to, despite all opposition and threats, having once been a persecutor of Christians:

Now brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time….Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also…(1 Corinthians 15: 1 – 8).

So the gospel of Jesus Christ is this:

1 Christ died for our sins, as prophesied in Old Testament Scriptures. We can be forgiven for all our sin because of Christ’s death on the cross;

2 He was buried;

3 He was raised from the dead on the third day;

4 He appeared alive to his disciples after his resurrection.

The gospel is here spelled out for you. Accept it, believe it, pray it, confess it, and live it.

NOTES

1 Lee Strobel “The Case For Christ” Pg 230. Pub. By Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49130. © 1998 by Lee Strobel.

2 Gary R Habermas “The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ” (College Press Publishing Company, Joplin, Missouri, © 1996 Gary Habermas) p 153.

GETTING A GRIP

One of the hazards to faith, peace and confidence can be the impression that God’s justice is not apparent in the world around us. Those who have no thought for God and who hate truth and justice sometimes seem to be doing very well for themselves, while the rest of us, those who love God and his ways, are not getting a fair shake on life…

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If we start to think God isn’t doing his job, or that he treats us unfairly, or that others are getting a much better deal in life even though they despise what is good, we can easily and quickly sink into bitterness and faithlessness. However, if we really know our God and our Scriptures-the ones on which our faith and hope are built-we should also know the truth of the situation.

David was one who similarly felt, for a time, that the darkness in humanity was triumphing over the righteous. Psalm 73 is an incredible view of David’s fear and bitterness that his enemies and those that hated the ways of God were running the world and getting their way:

From their callous hearts comes iniquity;
    their evil imaginations have no limits.
They scoff, and speak with malice;
    with arrogance they threaten oppression.
Their mouths lay claim to heaven,
    and their tongues take possession of the earth (Psalm 73:7-9).

David confessed to us and to God that observing the prosperity of the wicked had almost destroyed his faith, because it seemed like they, and not God, were in control of things:

But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
    I had nearly lost my foothold.
 For I envied the arrogant
    when I saw the prosperity of the wicked (verses 2 and 3)

This is a lie which any one of us can fall for if we aren’t on our guard, and if we aren’t seeking our God and his word. In the country I am originally from you might be said to be “losing your grip” if you don’t have your mind or certain aspects of your life under control. David almost lost his grip, and I’ve almost lost mine. If you’re honest, you’ll probably admit that you too have almost lost yours:

Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure...(verse 13)

But lets’s settle the matter in our hearts, just as David did. Let’s get a grip by recognizing that all things… all things… are ultimately under the control of our God, who is both perfectly patient and perfectly just:

When I tried to understand all this it troubled me deeply,

till I entered the sanctuary of God, then I understood their final destiny.

Surely you place them on slippery ground:you cast them down to ruin (verse 16-17).

David’s conclusion was that God is just and faithful:

Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.

You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.

Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart,

and my portion forever (verse 23-25).