Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Not Fair. Not Equal.

There is no symmetry in the Kingdom of Heaven. Instead, God’s Kingdom is completely lopsided. God has done it all. He pursued, loved, forgave, blessed and promised a lavish inheritance. We can never meet God half-way, and we should stop trying.~ Ed Welch

If you want to read the entire blog post about God's lopsided kingdom, go here:

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Windy Words

O LORD, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.
(Psalm 139:1-6 ESV)

The beginning of Psalm 139 is as mind-blowing as it is humbling.  God is Omniscient - He knows EVERYTHING about me.

  • my actions
  • my habits
  • my thoughts
  • my days
  • my plans
  • my words
  • my rest
He hems me in, behind and before, and lays His hand on me.  This knowledge is too wonderful for me.  To know that God knows everything about me is humbling, to say the least.  Nobody else really knows me.  Nobody else really knows you, either.

Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
(Psalm 139:7 ESV)

God is Omnipresent - He is everywhere.  There is no place that I can hide from God.  There is no place you can hide from God, either.

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
(Psalm 139:14 ESV)
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
(Psalm 139:17 ESV)

God is Omnipotent - He created everything.  He intricately formed each of us in our mother's womb; He made the stars and the sand and the snail and the slug.  His thoughts are unfathomable.  I can't begin to understand Him.  You can't begin to understand Him, either.  

David acknowledges how wonderful God is, and how precious God's thoughts are to him.  As he contemplates God's omniscience, His omnipresence, and His omnipotence, he looks around and sees those who do not care.  They are wicked men of blood, who speak against God with malicious intent, and take his name in vain.  David hates them.  He loathes them.  He wants God to slay them.

Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God! O men of blood, depart from me! They speak against you with malicious intent; your enemies take your name in vain! Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies.(Psalm 139:19-22 ESV)

Don't we all do that?  We look around us and see injustice and horror and hatred and pain.  And we get angry.

There is much to be sad about in this world.  We read of a widow bereaved of her husband and left with two small children to care for, and we grieve for her, and pray for her, and wonder why.  We see pictures of devastation and loss in tornadoes, hurricanes, and tsunamis, and we are saddened, and we pray, and long for a better day.  

But these things, sad though they are, are not what really gets us riled.  

It's stories like these that make us angry:

  • Horrific tales of cruelty in Kosovo
  • Torture in Rwanda (young girls given the choice of which hand they want to lose first)
  • Tales of persecution in Romanian prison camps
  • Anecdotes about rude, rebellious teens and their bad behaviour in public places
  • Fraud that decimates people's life savings
The list goes on.  We cry out to God, Oh, that you would slay the wicked.  We solve the world's problems, sitting on the deck with a glass of wine and plenty of opinions.  We think we know the answers, and we think we have the solutions.  We cheer when the Bin Ladens of the world are taken out, or when the Bernie Madoffs are sent to jail.  

We know nothing.

David had an inkling after he cried out to God to slay the wicked.

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!
(Psalm 139:23-24 ESV)
He'd just finished crying out to God to slay the wicked.  He thought he hated what God hated.  He thought he understood.

Then he realized, he knew nothing.

Should a wise man answer with windy knowledge, and fill his belly with the east wind?  (Job 15:2  ESV)

Who are we to decide the fate of another?  It is God's decision.

Who are we to think we're better than another?  We are just as deserving of hell.

God is the One Who is Omnipotent, Omniscient and Omnipresent.  We are not.  God may intend to spare those wicked men we rail against.  We have no idea.

If you go back up and click on the link to the video of people who survived the Romanian prison camps, you'll be humbled.  You'll realize that men and women who were tortured and raped and humiliated can find the grace to say, "I'd rather be the tortured than the torturer."
I'd rather walk with God than pursue Christians.  

I'd rather have a stable family life than be in a gutter with track marks on my arm.

I'd rather suffer financial woes than be dancing on a world-wide stage, half naked, and not knowing it.

There but for the grace of God.

Therefore, we need to keep our mouths shut, and stop the windy words.  We need to walk humbly and thankfully with God, marvelling every day that He is a God of Compassion and Mercy who treads our iniquities underfoot.

He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
(Micah 6:8 ESV)

God's Steadfast Love and Compassion
Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity
and passing over transgression
for the remnant of his inheritance?
He does not retain his anger forever,
because he delights in steadfast love.
He will again have compassion on us;
he will tread our iniquities underfoot.
You will cast all our sins
into the depths of the sea.
(Micah 7:18-19 ESV)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Never acceptable to God.

Christ must increase, but I must decrease.”—John 3.30
There is nothing in us or done by us, at any stage of our earthly development, because of which we are acceptable to God. We must always be accepted for Christ's sake, or we cannot be accepted at all. This is not true of us only when we believe; it is just as true after we have believed. It will continue to be true as long as we live. Our need of Christ does not cease with our believing, nor does the nature of our relationship to him, or to God through him, ever alter, no matter what our attainments in Christian graces, or our achievements in behavior may be. It is always on his blood & righteousness alone that we can rest.—B.B. Warfield

The sinful nature still present within every believer tends toward a legalistic spirit as much as it tends toward sin. The sinful nature despises the righteousness that comes by faith in Jesus Christ as much as it despises the ethical righteousness that comes from obeying God's law. If we are going to serve in the newness of the Spirit, we must resist the legalistic spirit of trying to live by the law” as vigorously and persistently as we do temptations to sin.”—Jerry Bridges

Never acceptable apart from Jesus, that is.  We rest in Him.

Sunday, May 1, 2011


Saul really wasn't a nice guy.  Oh, he was educated by the best of teachers, and could trace his roots to the most prominent of families. In his own words, he had reason for confidence in himself:

 though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.
(Philippians 3:4-6 ESV)
But his confidence was misplaced.  His zealousness was evil.  He persecuted the followers of Christ, breathing threats and murder against men and women belonging to the Way.

But Jesus stopped him in his tracks.

Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”
(Acts 9:3-4 ESV)

Saul couldn't believe what was happening to him, I'd imagine.  He had no idea Who was speaking to him, holding him accountable for his murderous actions.  I think he must have been trembling in his boots.

"Who are you, Lord?"  The question must have come falteringly.  Saul really didn't know.  Then came the answer that would hit him like a blow to the stomach:

"I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting."
Notice this.  Saul was persecuting the disciples of Christ, men and women who belonged to the Lord.  When Saul heard the question, "Why are you persecuting me?" his mind must have been racing, thinking back to the different people he had hunted down, arrested, and brought in chains to the religious leaders in Jerusalem.  Which of them had such power?  Was it Stephen?  No, he had died.   Could it be...?

So he questioned, "Who are you, Lord?"

I am Jesus.
Wait, Saul must have thought, his mind wildly racing.  Isn't Jesus the man who was crucified a few weeks ago?  It's his followers that I am chasing down.

I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.

There is an inseparable union between Christ and His followers.  Those who revile and maim and torture and imprison Christians are doing it to Jesus Christ.  Make no mistake.  They will answer to Him.

 You can read the rest of the account of the conversion of Saul here.  Go to Philippians 3 to read what happened to him internally.

His life changed.  Dramatically.  God converted him from a murderous persecutor of Christians to a preacher of Christ.  He was chosen by God to carry His name before Gentiles, before kings, and before the children of Israel.  He was chosen to suffer much, to strive hard, to work diligently for the sake of Jesus Christ and His people.

It's funny though... the people in Jerusalem didn't welcome him with open arms.  Even though he spent a good deal of time in Damascus, preaching boldly and learning from the Holy Spirit, by the time he got to Jerusalem about three years later, he was regarded with suspicion.

...they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple.

Barnabas had to stick up for him and vouch for him. In time, the rest of the Christians could see that Saul had changed and that his conversion was genuine.

Go to Philippians 3 and read how Saul was changed.  This is how we know that someone's faith is genuine.

  • their gains are counted as loss
  • they know Christ intimately, sharing life with Him
  • they are in Christ (counting His righteousness as their own; not relying on themselves)
  • they share in His sufferings
  • they obey His will
Genuine Faith in Christ is the confident, continuous confession of total dependence on Jesus.  It is the confident, continuous confession that the only One we trust in is Jesus.  It is the confident, continuous confession that our only hope is in Him - that His righteousness has been imputed to us, and that some day we will attain the prize that is unattainable on earth - the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Confident - Jesus is Who He says He is.  He is the truth.  He is always faithful.
Continuous - Every day I must put on the Armour of God and stand firm.
Confession - Acknowledgement of the helplessness of my estate, and the Sufficiency of Christ.

“If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. Yet distance makes no difference. He is praying for me. 
(Robert Murray M’Cheyne p. 179)

Saul's faith was genuine.  His confidence changed from confidence in his own flesh to confidence in Christ.  His faith was continuous - daily, he prayed; daily, he obeyed.  His faith was repentant, as he acknowledged that without Christ, he was nothing.  

Is there someone in your life who has made a profession of faith?  You may be reluctant to welcome him because of his former evil ways.  Pray for him, and watch to see if he has a confident, continuous confession of total dependence on Jesus.

Is there someone in your life who talks the talk, but doesn't walk the walk?  Pray for him, that God will meet him on his "Damascus Road" and open his eyes to the truth of Jesus.

Go here to read "The Sinner's Opinion of Himself", which ties in beautifully to this post.