Clarifying Closing Words

27 Sep

When you are having your devotions, it is tempting to neglect the Latter Prophets. After all, there is a great deal in Isaiah to Malachi that seems quite confusing to us living all these years later.

But, as I am sure is true with neglecting any portion of our Bibles, our failure to read and understand the message of these books is going to have an impact in our ability to understand the message of the whole Bible. It is even going to make it more difficult to really appreciate what is going on with Jesus in the gospels.

It’s not usually all that helpful to just quote random verses without context or much explanation, but I thought I could give you a taste of the hope and encouragement you can find in these prophets by sharing the final verses in each book.

The first of the major prophets of course is Isaiah. And even though his book is ultimately about God’s great salvation, it ends with a devastating word of judgment.

Isaiah 66:24: “And they shall go out and look at the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.”

And yet of course, even this word of judgment gives hope because Isaiah is telling us there will be no more sin in the new heavens and the new earth. Judgment will be completed.

Jeremiah’s ending is a little less graphic, but perhaps a bit more obscure. He tells us how Jehoiachin was living while he was in Babylon.

Jeremiah 52:33,34: “So Jehoiachin put off his prison garments. And every day of his life he dined regularly at the king’s table, and for his allowance, a regular allowance was given him by the king according to his daily need, until the day of his death, as long as he lived.”

This of course doesn’t seem very exciting to most of us, at first, until we realize that Jehoaichin represented the Davidic line, and the Davidic line represents our hope for the coming Messiah, and what we are seeing is that even in the middle of this judgment, God has not lost sight of the promise He made to David, and that the King, is coming.

If you have read Ezekiel, you know it begins with a stunning and confusing and beautiful description of the glorious presence of God. In the first chapter, the glory of God is on the move. The final chapter ends with the best of all possible news, telling us of a day coming in the future, when this glorious presence of God will come to stay, filling Jerusalem and eventually the whole universe with the beauty of His holiness.

Ezekiel 48:35: “The circumference of the city shall be 18,000 cubits. And the name of the city from that time on shall be, ‘The Lord is There.'”

Hosea is a book about God’s love for His people. As we read Hosea, we are given an illustration of how much God loves His people from Hosea’s own life, as he marries an adulterous woman, and keeps on pursuing her even as she keeps on rejecting him. After this heart wrenching display of love, it’s appropriate I think, that Hosea ends with an exhortation to work at understanding it.

Hosea 14:9: “Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them; for the ways of the Lord are right, but the upright walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them.”

Though Joel is about God’s judgment, it ends with a glimpse of God’s great future Kingdom plan.

Joel 3:20,21: “But Judah shall be inhabited forever and Jerusalem to all generations. I will avenge their blood, blood I have not avenged, for the Lord dwells in Zion.”

Amos amens.

Amos 9:15: “‘I will plant them on their land, and they shall never again be uprooted out of the land that I have given them,’ says the Lord your God.”

And Obadiah reminds us that it’s not just that Israel will have the land and their enemies will be punished.There’s a day coming when God’s sovereign rule will be perfectly visible for all to see.

Obadiah 21: “Saviors shall go up to Mount Zion to rule Mount Esau, and the kingdom shall be the Lord’s.”

All this talk of God judging His enemies might cause some to wonder about His compassion, but Jonah will not allow us to think like that. We see in the book of Jonah that God is much more compassionate than we could ever be, as he cares for the pagan city of Nineveh, even as Jonah wishes He would bring them judgment.

Jonah 4:11: “And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 sons who don’t know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”

The key thing to remember is, God will keep His promises.

Micah 7:20: “You will show faithfulness to Jacob and steadfast love to Abraham, as you have sworn to our fathers from the days of old.”

All of them. Even the promises of judgment. Though God reached out to the Assyrians and felt compassion for them, they ultimately persisted in their evil ways, and were bringing pain and destruction to many people all around them. And though, God is slow to anger, He does have anger for those who rebel against Him and abuse others, and He will punish, the way He did the Assyrians.

Nahum 3:18,19: “Your shepherds are asleep, O king of Assyria, your nobles slumber. Your people are scattered on the mountains with none to gather them. There is no easing your hurt; your wound is grievous. All who hear news about you clap their hands over you. For upon whom has not come your unceasing evil?”

Obviously, as God saves and judges and goes about accomplishing His plan, there are many things that confuse us. His wisdom is just so high above ours. But we can’t allow those things that confuse us to cause us to turn from God, instead, they should cause us to run to God, and if we run to God, He will strengthen us, the way He did Habakkuk.

Habakkuk 3:19: “God, the Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.”

The big ultimate goal in all this judgment is more than just relief for a few years for us, but peace on earth, and we are going to see God accomplish that as He rescues Israel, and establishes Jesus as King over every nation.

Zephaniah 3:20: “‘At that time I will bring you in, at that time when I gather you together; for I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes,’ says the Lord.”

Haggai’s ending is a little more difficult for me to understand, personally. I need to think about it some more. But obviously Haggai is also talking about this great day in the future when God establishes Jesus as king and destroys His enemies, and He seems to be giving us a picture of this man, Zerubabbel, who was a descendant of David, and a representation of God’s great promise, as being like a ring that the divine Messiah would wear on the day God accomplishes this great salvation.

Haggai 2:23: “On that day, declares the Lord of hosts, I will take you O Zerubbabel my servant the son of Shealtiel, declares the Lord, and make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you, declares the Lord of hosts.”

However exactly this promise to Zerubbabel is meant to be understood, it’s clear there is a day coming in the future, when God will keep all His promises to Israel, and restore Jerusalem, and make it not just a great city, but a city that is characterized from top to bottom by holiness. In other words, it’s not just another city, this city is going to be like a temple, where God’s presence dwells.

Zechariah 14:20,21: “And on that day there shall be inscribed on the bells of the horses, ‘Holy to the Lord.’ And the pots in the house of the Lord shall be as bowls before the altar. And every pot in Jerusalem and Judah shall be holy to the Lord of hosts, so that all who sacrifice may come and take of them and boil the meat of the sacrifice in them. And there shall no longer be a trader in the house of the Lord of hosts on that day.”

And how will we know that day is coming? What sign will God give us? Malachi explains.

Malachi 4:5,6: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter desolation.”

 

 

 

 

A Few Grains of Wheat

16 Sep

“It seems to me that there is a higher joy in looking at a body of believers than that which arises from merely regarding them as saved. Not but what there is a great joy in salvation, a joy worthy to stir the angelic harps. Think of the Saviour’s agony in the ransom of every one of His redeemed, think of the work of the Holy Spirit in every renewed heart, think of the love of the Father as resting upon every one of the regenerate: I could not, if I took up my parable for a month, set forth all the mass of joy that is to be seen in a multitude of believers if we only look at what God has done for them, and promised to them, and will fulfil in them. But there is yet a wider field of thought, and my mind has been traversing it all this day,—the thought of the capacities of service contained in a numerous band of believers, the possibilities of blessing others which lie within the bosoms of regenerate persons. We must not think so much of what we already are as to forget what the Lord may accomplish by us for others. Here are the coals of fire, but who shall describe the conflagration which they may cause? We ought to regard the Christian Church, not as a luxurious hostelry where Christian gentlemen may each one dwell at his ease in his own inn, but as a barracks in which soldiers are gathered together to be drilled and trained for war. We should regard the Christian Church, not as an association for mutual admiration and comfort, but as an army with banners, marching to the fray, to achieve victories for Christ, to storm the strongholds of the foe, and to add province after province to the Redeemer’s kingdom. We may view converted persons gathered into church-membership as so much wheat in the granary. God be thanked that it is there, and that so far the harvest has rewarded the sower; but far more soul-inspiring is the view when we regard those believers as each one likely to be made a living centre for the extension of the kingdom of Jesus, for then we see them sowing the fertile valleys of our land, and promising ere long to bring forth some thirty, some forty, some fifty, and some a hundredfold. The capacities of life are enormous, one becomes a thousand in a marvellously brief space. Within a short time, a few grains of wheat would suffice to seed the whole world, and a few true saints might suffice for the conversion of all nations. Only take that which comes of one ear, store it well, sow it all, again store it next year, and then sow it all again, and the multiplication almost exceeds the power of computation. Oh, that every Christian were thus year by year the Lord’s seed corn! If all the wheat in the world had perished except a single grain, it would not take many years to replenish all the earth, and sow her fields and plains; but in a far shorter time, in the power of the Holy Spirit, one Paul or one Peter would have evangelised all lands. View yourselves as grains of wheat predestinated to seed the world. That man lives grandly who is as earnest as if the very existence of Christianity depended upon himself, and is determined that to all men within his reach shall be made known the unsearchable riches of Christ.” Charles Spurgeon

Grace is Scary

12 Sep

 

What do you think is the most fear producing thing God has ever done?

In other words, if you want to motivate yourself to fear God, what would you say is the one thing you should think about that is most likely to do that?

I am not sure I have the final answer to that, but I appreciate Jonathan Edwards suggestion, that one of the things that should produce the most fear of God in us, is the ways in which He has shown us His grace and mercy.

He writes,

“The Greatest work of mercy that Ever was the work of Redemption. If we look at the sufferings of Christ, we Indeed tast nothing but the sweetness of it. But Christ tasted the Bitter. The work of Redemption is altogether a work of love & Grace towards us but it was a work of strict Justice & terror with Respect to our mediatour who stood for us.

God never appeared a more terrible (i.e. awesome) being, never so much manifested the awfullness of his majesty & Justice as he did in strictly Requiring of his only son a person of Infinite dignity the debt he owed to Justice as our surety and in fully executing that direfull Punishment & vengeance upon him that was due unto us for sin.

There is no work that God ever wrought towards the Children of men that has so Great a tendency to make beholders . . .so Deeply sensible of the awfullness & dreadfullness of Gods majesty and how dreadful a thing it is to offend him. (than Christ’s work on the cross.)

This work that is Eminently a work of Grace above all others is also above all others a work… (that should produce fear and awe in those who consider it.)”

Why You Can Count on God’s Goodness

7 Sep

If there is anything we as believers can be sure about, it is the fact that God is good and He is looking out for our good and that’s not going to change.

Unfortunately, sometimes that feels very difficult for us to believe.

How can we be certain that God’s not out to get us and that His desire is our good?

After looking at God’s character, James gives proof of God’s goodness to us as Christians in James 1:18.

He writes,

“In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.”

It is as if he is saying, ‘I’ve told you that you can trust God because of who He is. But you need more? You want me to get specific? God is good, and He gives good gifts. You want proof? Let’s think now a little more carefully about your salvation, about exactly what God has done.’

And you can see James zones in on one particular aspect.

How God brought us forth.

Which, is a fine translation, I suppose, but the actual word, he uses is literally, regeneration. As someone has explained, he’s “using language that ordinarily applies to physical birth (being brought forth out of our mother’s wombs, and into the world) and applies it to spiritual birth.”

He’s basically saying God has given birth to us.

And He had to do that, because we weren’t born spiritually alive.

It’s important we reflect on this, even if we know it, because there are just times where we think God’s not doing much in life, things seem slow, and we start to wonder about His goodness, but really, seriously look back.

Because you were born dead.

As soon as you came into this world, and looked at the One who made you, you started running from him as fast as you could.

I mean, you can take all the words to describe a pitiful condition, and that’s how it was for us.

Before God saved us.

Blind.

Ignorant.

Imprisoned.

Deaf.

Hard hearted.

We loved what was bad for us and we hated what was good for us. We had absolutely no sense of what was important. We got excited about the things that were trivial and were bored by the things that were important.

We had no spiritual understanding.

And the only way that any of that ever changes, is if God Himself steps in and performs a miracle in us, giving us spiritual life.

That’s thing.

And if you are a believer.

He did.

That’s James point, He brought us forth.

God gave you a heart that sees and understands and loves the things that matter most, he’s given you insight into the kind of knowledge that is out of the reach of unbelievers, He’s given you a taste and delight for that which is most sweet.

If you are a believer, something has happened to you, the most important thing has happened to you, and you need to remember it.

God has given you birth.

And it’s completely Him who did this.

James says that it’s because of the “exercise of His will” that “He brought you forth…”

Which sounds kind of confusing, maybe.

But the exercise of his will is just one word in the Greek and it refers to desire. It’s not like a whim or a passing fancy. It’s a deliberate thought out desire. That’s why our versions read in the exercise of His will. The translators are trying to get across this idea that you are born again because of a deliberate and purposeful desire of God.

You are saved because He wanted you for Himself.

That’s it.

End of story.

You are not born again because you were seeking it.

You weren’t.

And you are not born again because you planned it.

You didn’t.

This is all God. Start to finish.

He brought you forth in the exercise of his will, James explains ‘by the word of truth.’

The phrase word of truth is used in the New Testament as a way of describing the gospel message.  God uses the gospel to save people and to give them new life. Which once again just points back to God’s mercy and God’s goodness.

As one writer explains,

“When miserable man, whom He had no need of, who did Him no good, nor could be of any advantage to Him, had made himself miserable by his rebellion against God, God took such pity on him that He sent His only Son to undergo his torment for him, that he might be delivered and set free.

And now He offers freely, to bestow upon these rebels, complete and perfect happiness to all eternity upon this, His Son’s account. There never was such an instance of goodness, mercy, pity, and compassion since the world began: all the mercy and goodness amongst creatures fall infinitely short of it: this is goodness that never was, never will, never can be paralleled by any other being.”

I mean guys, we rebelled against God.

He created this perfect world, and we disobeyed and ruined things. And we didn’t run back to God at that point and say how can I be right with you? We ran away from God. But God pursued us.

We were totally lost, totally confused about who God was.

All of our great ideas about God just led us away from Him. Paul says in Acts 17 we were groping about for God, and we know from Scripture, that left to ourselves, we would not find Him. So God revealed Himself to us in a person – Jesus Christ – and in a message – the word of truth. This word of truth reveals God’s great grace and His plan for saving men – Jesus Christ.

And so as we look at our new birth – we are just overwhelmed with the goodness of God – because it’s all Him.

He brought us forth.

In the exercise of His will.

By the word of truth.

“…so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.”

Which is God’s ultimate purpose in our salvation. By giving you new life God’s has made you a kind of first fruits among his creation. This is a figurative expression drawn from the Old Testament. Where God commanded the Israelites to offer up to him a first fruits of their harvest, every year, to set apart the best of their crop for Him. Because while obviously all of their harvest belonged to God, this part of the harvest was especially devoted to him.

That’s us.

When God says that He has given us new life among all His creation He is saying that He has saved us that we might belong especially to Him.

And there’s no privilege, greater than this.

There’s no greater good.

And really, obviously, if this has happened to you, there’s no one anywhere on the planet who has experienced more kindness and proofs of God’s love than you have.

That’s the point.

It’s tempting for us to have hard thoughts about God.

It can even feel somewhat holy to think He is angry with us and if not angry, to feel that He only puts up with us and barely at that. I know there are times where I feel like God must look at me with a feeling of deep disappointment. Because of what we know about ourselves and what we know about people, we might think of God as someone who doesn’t have time for people like us, someone whom we bother by coming into His presence.

After all He has does have things to take care of, like the whole world. And He already enjoys sweet fellowship in the Trinity. It is not like he is hurting for friends. And He already has glorious beings who worship Him

I mean, it sort of sounds reasonable to think, who are we to bother God?

Only, that kind of thinking for us as believers is a flat out lie, from the pit of hell, that we must resist with our all might.

John Owen puts it like this, “Now there is not anything more grievous to the Lord, nor subservient to the design of Satan upon the soul, than such thoughts of these.”

Check that, not anything more grievous. Wow. In light of all the bad things we can do, it is really something to say that the thing that grieves the Lord most is not believing that He loves us. Not only is it grievous though, John Owen says it is Satanic.

Thinking like this is part of Satan’s great design.

He goes on, “Satan claps his hands…when he can take up the soul with such thoughts of God: he hath enough – all that he doth desire.”

What a picture. Satan clapping his hands with delight. Looking around at all the other demons and saying, this is awesome, I have what I want! And what is it that he wants? That we as believers look to God as angry and disappointed with us instead of loving and good.

These kinds of thoughts grieve God and make Satan happy.

Therefore, there’s hardly anything more important you and I can do today than assure ourselves of God’s goodness, to remind ourselves of the Father’s love for us through Jesus Christ. Remind yourself, preach to yourself, that God is good and that never changes, that His love for you is constant, deep, and unchanging.

Because you know, in the middle of all the uncertainties of life, in spite of who you know God to be and what God has done, you are still tempted to doubt it.

In fact, sometimes it feels like it is the hardest thing in the world for us to really trust that God is for us, that God is good and wants our good, in the every day realities of life. And while obviously you might not be saying it out loud, when life gets difficult, it’s so easy to start wondering whether God does love us.

And what we are saying is that is super spiritually dangerous.

Because, it’s when you start doubting God’s goodness, that you are tempted to start looking for peace and happiness and good somewhere outside of Him.

And you are not going to find it.

If you really want good, and I know you want that, because we are all looking for good.

But if you really want contentment and peace and happiness, it is not going to come first from getting something more, something you don’t have right now, like God’s up in heaven and he’s just not giving you that one thing you need to be satisfied because he’s being tough.

Real good, lasting good, peace contentment, it is not found first in getting something you don’t have right now as much as it is found in giving yourself, your desires, your ambitions, your hopes to God, and trusting completely in His blessing. Instead of thinking you’ll get the life you always wanted by getting something outside of you that you don’t have right now, you will find find peace when you start trusting all that you do have and all that you do want to God.

And you can.

Because He’s good.

He’s proven, He’s more for you than you are.

If you really want peace and satisfaction, instead of wasting too much time worrying about how you can get more, work hard at resting in God’s loving concern for you and trusting that He will provide for you exactly what is best.

That’s so important.

Because if you don’t, and you go outside of God, and you get what you think you want, you won’t end up enjoying it. If it’s good it is going to be from God, and if it is not from God, then it isn’t good.

“Without God’s blessing,” John Calvin once said, “we shall obtain nothing but what turns to our misfortune. Therefore, suppose we believe that every means towards a prosperous and desirable outcome rests upon the blessing of God alone, and that, when this is absent, all sorts of misery and calamity dog us.”

One thing you can always count on…

30 Aug

It’s very tempting for us to start wondering about what God’s like when life is not going the way we want.

It is especially tempting to doubt whether or not He really is good.

It’s so easy for us to allow our circumstances to start shaping what we think about God instead of allowing what we know about God to shape what we think about your circumstances.

And it’s that issue in particular that James is addressing in James 1, verse 16.

When you are being tempted to sin, “Don’t be deceived my beloved brethren about the character of God.”

Specifically, don’t start doubting that God’s good.

As a Christians there’s hardly anything more important to be sure about than the fact that God’s seeking your best.

While I know that most of us would never say, ‘God is not really good’ I also know that deep in many of our hearts, especially when things are not going exactly the way we would like, we easily start wondering, if He really is good, or at least, if He really is being good to us.

We are not going say out loud God’s not good.

We think it. And we live like it.

That’s what we are doing every time we complain or step outside of His revealed Word and as we look at verses 16ff we see James is very concerned that we don’t fall for that lie and I think it’s because he knows that”once you doubt the goodness of God, you feel justified in rejecting His will and making your own decisions about right and wrong.”

In other words, once you start questioning God’s goodness you feel like you might as well go out and do what you want to do. And this is why it is so important be sure about God’s goodness and love for you even in the middle of the uncertainties of life.

And because that’s so fundamental, I want us to take some time in the next two posts to look at the way James seeks to convince us it’s true.

His approach is fairly simple:

He reminds us of what God is like.

He says,

“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…”

And, he repeats himself for emphasis.

Every good thing given and every perfect gift comes from God. This means if you’ve got something truly good and perfect in your life, it’s from God.

If it is good it’s from God.

If it’s from God it’s good.

If something is good, if it is noble, if it is beautiful, if it is of value, it is from above. If something is perfect, if it is complete, if it is mature, it is a divine gift. There’s nothing you have that is good except from God and there’s nothing but good that comes from God, whom James calls here, the Father of lights.

Apparently, that is a Hebrew way of describing God as the Creator of the heavens.

It’s like, if you look up at the stars, the heavens, the sun, the lights above; God is the creator of all those things. And obviously as you think about light, you think about purity and holiness.

God is the creator of all that is good and all that is holy.

As we look at the good gifts in our life, we need to remember that they have come down from God, who is the Creator of the heavens.

The phrase ‘coming down’ is in the present tense which means James is picturing these perfect gifts as continually coming down on us.

It’s like, God is just pouring out good gifts on us. It’s like, we are being drenched with goodness.

And yet it’s hard to see that or feel that sometimes because we are all basically professionals at seeing what we don’t like and ignoring all the good stuff we have to enjoy.

We’ve been doing this since childhood.

I often sit down with my children at the end of the day and I will ask them about their day, and when they were younger I would say, what are you thankful for, and sometimes it would be difficult for them to answer.

And I would be like you guys remember, we went here, we did this, oh yeah.

Or you guys realize, like how amazing God’s been.

And yet, it never really was that way, when something happened that they didn’t like.

I mean, you know that right away with a child. We are awesome at seeing what we don’t like, and not appreciating all the amazing stuff in our lives.

We can be in the Garden of Eden and be discontent.

And so certainly there are going to be things that you are disappointed with, and it’s going to be easy to become so focused on those things, you have got this plan for your life, these things you want, and you get so focused on what’s not quite the way you like, that you miss out on how good God’s been to you.

First, with obviously all the common grace he’s shown you, I am talking about stuff like rain, jobs, food, sun, it’s easy to take all that for granted, I mean, we could go on and on, but the thing is, James here is not even talking so much about things like that as he is about God’s special grace.

And that’s it.

I mean, think about the spiritual blessings in your life.

You are seriously swimming in an ocean of grace, and when you are struggling and wondering whether you can trust God, that He is seeking your good, you need to develop the habit of slowing down and thinking a little more carefully about what He’s really like.

Because He is unendingly higher than any one else in this universe in goodness.

There’s no comparison.

Man’s goodness versus God’s.

We might hear a story of how someone famous did something for someone else, was good to them, or showed them mercy, but when it comes to goodness and mercy, our God, is infinitely exalted above anyone else.

He finds happiness in His creatures doing well.

He as Jonathan Edwards has said, “delights in making of them exceeding happy and blessed, if they will but accept of the happiness which he offers.”

If you want proof of that, look around, everyone you see, is living on the overflow of God’s kindness.

“He” and this is Edwards again, “maintains the whole creation of his mere goodness: every good thing that is enjoyed is part of his bounty.” And for us as believers, there’s not just His common grace, that’s not where see His goodness most.

Because, it’s the spiritual blessing we enjoy.

I mean, guys, He’s given you Jesus.

The one in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge – he’s yours: the one who is the brightness of God’s glory and the express image of his person – he’s yours: the good Shepherd: my prophet, priest and king: the one who has no restrictions, and no boundaries save his own determination and purpose – he is given to you!

And there’s a lot we can’t understand about that, I mean, we have been given a gift beyond our ability to conceive, and sometimes it is especially hard for us to understand why God would have given us something so extreme, and while there are a number of answers to that, I guess, one is just that fact that we serve a giving God.

That’s James point.

It’s just God’s nature to give.

We serve an unbelievably generous God.

Jonathan Edwards once put it like this, “God never begrutches his people anything they desire.”

In other words, God wants your best more than you do.

He’s not up in heaven thinking about how to make your life difficult just for the sake of making it difficult, if you look back to verse 5, you see he is the giving God who gives liberally and without reproach, and here in 17 we see that everything he gives is good and perfect and actually back in verse 13, James has told us that he never tempts us to do evil, which means really at the end of the day, no matter which way we look at it, in the middle of life’s uncertainties, one thing we can know for sure, is that God is good and everything He is doing in your life is for your good.

He is more interested in your long term good than even you are.

And the thing is, that’s true whether or not in a specific moment, He seems good to you.

Which means, really whenever you are being tempted and that temptation maybe looks enticing because you think it seems like it might be better to disobey God than it is to obey Him in that moment, you can know, flat out, that’s impossible. Because there’s no good outside of God, and nothing comes from God except that which is good for you as a Christian.

And you know, I really feel an urgency about this.

Because obviously as a Christians you are going to be making decisions that are radically different than the world around you, and sometimes those decisions will seem difficult, and you can start to feel bad for yourself, but in the middle of all that, it’s important to remember that as Christians, it’s not like, we are closing our eyes to reality and blindly endure trials refusing to give in to our desires for absolutely no reason.

I am going to be tough.

I am going to do the right thing.

Instead it’s that we are refusing to listen to our evil desires and choosing to trust God because we are convinced of certain truths about Him.

And the first big one is that He’s good. He’s the source of all that is good.

Which is obvious but it doesn’t always feel obvious, that’s the thing, and that’s why I guess James has to say, “Don’t be deceived my beloved brethren” because the only way you are going to keep from giving in to your desires when life gets difficult is by developing certain convictions about the character of God.

Especially when life is uncertain.

Because I don’t know but I feel like sometimes when life is uncertain, there are points where we sort of get into a little bit of a panic, and we are like, oh no, everything is going the wrong way, but it’s like, what if God were good, and what if He were seeking your good, because He is.

And you can count on that, because God just doesn’t change.

James writes,

This is the second half.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”  

Once again, James is painting us a picture.

He calls God the Father of lights, which leads us to begin to thinking about the sun and the stars and although the sun and the stars are awesome, beautiful, with the sun and stars, there are variations and there are shadows.

Sometimes it is light out and sometimes it is dark.

But James wants us to know God’s so much better than that.

He’s contrasting God with creation.

Where the heavens change, God does not.

There are no variations with God. There are no shadows. There’s not even a hint of darkness in his purity and his goodness.

And this is so important for you to remember, because if you are going to make decisions that make sense and that are good for you, you have to make those decisions on the basis of what is true, and obviously sometimes that can seem difficult because life is hard to figure out, and you are like what’s really happening here, but one thing that is always true, and that you don’t have to worry about, and that you can always bank on, and that every decision you ever make should be based on, is the character of God.

He’s good, He’s looking out for your good, and that’s not going to change.

Ever.

The Most Important Relationship in your Relationships

18 Aug

Our relationships with other people are about so much more than our relationships with other people.

The way we relate to other people reflects our attitude towards God. He is the ultimate reference point for all our relationships.

Not our comfort.

Not even the way the other person is acting.

God.

What does He want?

How can I please Him?

If you make another person’s attitude and actions your reference point for how you are going to respond and relate to them, you are going to have a very difficult time moving forward. Because people change. Some days they are going to do the right thing, other days they are not, which means, if they are your reference point, the way you respond to them is going to be constantly going up and down.

But with God.

He doesn’t.

Change.

Whats more, when you only focus on the other person, if that is the only person you are looking at, there are going to be times when you just can’t see doing the right thing because they might be actually evil. If it is only them and you in the relationship, there’s not much hope because they might just not be a good person.

That’s why the Bible doesn’t encourage you love other simply because they deserve it.

For example in 1 Peter, Peter is talking to servants about how they should respond to their masters, and he talks in the second chapter about servants whose masters are morally bankrupt.

If you are only thinking about the other person, then you are going to find many different reasons to give up and to stop doing the right thing. But when Peter counsels servants with unreasonable masters, he won’t let them just think about the other person. Instead, they have to see that their response to that person is connected to their attitude towards God.

He writes,

“For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.”

It is almost like you have to learn to see Jesus smiling standing behind the person who is screaming in your face.

I had a friend who came under attack and he was describing how painful it was. He just wanted to attack back. He actually was invited to a sit down across the table kind of conference with the people who were attacking him and they were just unleashing on him. How awful! I asked him how was he able to continue to respond with grace and kindness in the middle of that.

He said that he just imagined tape recording the conversation and sitting down afterwards with Jesus and listening, and so he made it his primary goal to speak in a way that would make Jesus happy.

That’s what I am talking about.

If we are going to respond lovingly to others we must focus our attention on Christ even more than we do on how the other person is treating us. Obviously, when we are in difficult relationships, it is tempting to think our response is mostly about the other person, which is why we are getting angry, but our response, is actually first and foremost about our faith.

Do we trust God enough to love people who are hard to love?

Works, every time!

14 Aug

If you want to ruin anything put yourself at the center of it.