Is Your God Too Small???

When I was in seminary I had a professor who told us about the time that he entered the school-wide tennis tournament several years earlier. The first year that he played in the tournament he finished in 19th place out of 21 entrants. He told us that he was by no means a great tennis player but he was no slouch. Still, he was certainly not happy with his result.

The next year, in training for the event, he took on a different practice strategy. He practiced as he usually did, but he also employed a new visualization technique. In the months leading up to the tournament for 5 minutes every day, he sat in a chair and held a tennis ball in his right hand and stared at the ball. He didn’t take his eyes off of the ball for a solid five minutes. He studied it. He turned the ball around in his hands. He focused ALL of his time and attention on it for 5 minutes.

Every. Single. Day.

When tournament time came around, his results were markedly different from the previous year. He finished in 3rd place overall with the about the same number of entrants as the year before. To what did he attribute his success? Staring at the tennis ball.

During the tournament he said that every time the ball was hit to him he said that it looked to be about the size of a beachball coming across the net at him. All of that focused attention had made the tennis ball appear much bigger than it was and he easily made it to the semifinals. (He lost in that round).

His point was this—the more you focus your attention on something, the bigger it gets in relation to everything else.

This is kind of how our faith in God can be. I say “kind of” because God is no tennis ball. He is not miniscule in comparison to everything else. He is the GREATEST Being alive. By Him all things were created. Isaiah 40:12—ff describes God’s vastness in poetic language:

12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand
and marked off the heavens with a span,
enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure
and weighed the mountains in scales
and the hills in a balance?
15 Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket,
and are accounted as the dust on the scales;
behold, he takes up the coastlands like fine dust.
17 All the nations are as nothing before him,
they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness.

A “span” is the distance between the tip of your thumb and the tip of your pinky. This is poetic language. It is using “anthropomorphic” (ascribing human attributes to God) language to describe the Creator of the ends of the earth. It is saying, in essence, that as vast as the universe is to us, to God the heavens are about the distance of a span—ridiculously insignificant. In short, God is bigger than we could ever imagine.

We can live all of our days without even seeing or thinking about His influence in our lives or in the world. We can tend to “feel” like either there is no God or if there is He certainly is not orchestrating all of history according to His design.

Yet, the Scriptures paint an entirely different picture of God. Look at Genesis 15:12-16, for example:

As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him. Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” Genesis 15:12-16

As Abram (later, Abraham) fell asleep a great darkness came upon him. God had surely given him a promise about Abram being the father of many nations, and Abram asked God how he would know that this would take place. God instructed Abram to prepare a sacrifice, and after he did as he was told & put the animals on the altar, birds of prey came down upon the pieces. Then he fell into the deep sleep & great darkness fell upon him. Abram was obedient to do what God asked him to do, but his obedience was met by an attempt to mar the work (the birds). Abram had to drive this threat away, and then the darkness fell before God did anything to assure Abram of His promise.

In the midst of the “dreadful & great darkness” God spoke to Abram. And the thing that He said revealed God’s ABSOLUTE, exhaustive foreknowledge of future events that would take place about 430 years later. He stated: “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years.” God foretold the Exodus account of Moses from Egypt. God told Abram, in essence, “you want to know who I am and what I am going to do? Just know this, there will come a day when your descendants will be driven from the land, and they will be held captive for 400 years. However, afterward I am going to bring them out again in victory and deliver them back into the Promised Land.”

And the rest is history.

God did what He said He would do. He kept His promise. (Read the book of Exodus).

God is greater than we can imagine. The Bible clearly states that He has unfettered, exhaustive foreknowledge of ALL future events. He knows how everything is going to play out in history, and He, in fact, is orchestrating all events according to the counsel of His own will. Nothing slips through His fingers.

In 70 A.D. the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed and Israel was conquered by the Romans and ceased to be a nation. For the next 1800+ years multiple world powers sought to control this land, but each eventually failed. God states in the Bible in multiple places that God has an inviolable covenant with this land. It does not matter what history has shown, God Himself has stated that He will ALWAYS be faithful to Israel. And He has been.

In his book The Last Times or Thoughts on Momentous Themes (published in 1856), author Joseph Sciss stated the following:

“That [Israel should be restored as a nation] seems like an impossibility. 1856, indeed. Some have no patience at all with such a theory or sneeringly ask, “what can be the object of such a restoration? What end is it to answer? What purpose can it serve? [Yet] it is enough to reply that our business is with the word of God and that if God has announced it is his purpose so to restore the Jewish nation, he certainly has adequate reasons to justify his purpose. The only question is whether God has said that he will restore the Jewish nation. For if he has said so, no reasonings of our can invalidate his promise or throw uncertainty onto his word.”

(In other words, I know it doesn’t make any sense, but the Word says it is going to happen and there I make my stand.)

Enter May 14, 1948—the date that Israel once again became an independent nation.

More than anything else in your life, you owe it to yourself to stare at this God. You owe it to yourself to be consumed with gazing upon His majesty, His authority, His sovereignty. It will transform everything in your life. He WILL become (over time) bigger & bigger than all of your current struggles and addictions, and if YOU WILL TRUST HIM, He will blow through your life in untold power, bringing His joy with Him.

Stare at Him though His Word, and watch Him grow in His influence in your life. You will not be sorry.

Father’s Day Meditation

For thus says the One who is high and lifted up,

who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:

“I dwell in the high and holy place,

and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit,

to revive the spirit of the lowly,

and to revive the heart of the contrite.

Isaiah 57:15

 

Lord, the fact that when this was written & even today makes no difference at all.  You currently inhabit ETERNITY.  You stand outside time.  You are not “becoming” in the sense that you’re not trying to figure “all of this out” like we are.  You know.  You “will be who you will be” and yet you never change.  You are self-existent.  If you were hungry, you would not tell us.  Lord, this is a comfort.  Yet, we can “know” this truth & in our moments we don’t “know” it.  I am forever grateful for the fact that you are not ashamed to be called MY God.

 I am grateful for the long, dark night in which I discovered this Bible verse in my dorm room in seminary. You work w/ those who are faltering & guilty.  You provide refreshment when we “need” it, but you are never late.  Thank you God, that you have revived my heart & my spirit even when I was in the throes of sin.  You have been my champion in my life—never leaving nor forsaking.

God, you are inexhaustible LIGHT.  You ARE high & lifted up, but God, you condescend to the lowly.  Thank you.  I bless you for that.  You have not treated me as my sins deserve.  Lord, let me live & be a messenger to this kind of God—who is wealthy & wise beyond all comprehension, but You are welcoming & even running towards those who are AFRAID to lift their heads because of a crippling sense of their rebellion (Luke 18:9-14).

Thank you Father.   

Here’s What Following Jesus Looks Like…

This week, Alicia & I will be at the Moody Bible Institute Pastor’s Conference in Chicago, and I want to tell you the testimony of how this all occurred.

 A lady that works with Alicia’s mother was driving to work one day listening to Moody Radio in Chicago when she heard that Moody was giving away two tickets to the conference.  This lady knew that Alicia & I are in ministry and so she prayed, “Lord, I would love to win these tickets so that Bo & Alicia could go to the conference.” She won them!

 Alicia & I agreed to go, but we talked about where we would stay.  There were a couple of options available to us that we were debating, but then someone told Alicia they might have one other option.  That person did some checking, and the place where we are staying is at a couple’s home, LITERALLY right across the street from the conference!

 We knew that we were going to have to eat out for the week-which in downtown Chicago can get very expensive.  Yet, we thought, God has provided this much, surely He will help us make up the difference later.  Still, I prayed that God would provide for us.  This invitation to the conference came out of nowhere, and the housing was provided so I had been praying for the past couple of weeks that God would also provide for our meals.

On Sunday, Alicia had visited with her best friend Carrie, and as she was leaving Carrie slipped an envelope in her hand and said, “take this, but I must tell you the story.”  On Saturday, Carrie’s husband Vince was working outside and suddenly came into the house and said, “I have this overwhelming burden that we are supposed to give Alicia some money.”  Carrie thought it would pass, but on Sunday morning Vince said to her, “don’t forget to give Alicia that check when she gets here.”  The amount that they gave was more than enough for our meals for the week!!

The old saying is true, “Where He GUIDES, He PROVIDES.”  You cannot out-give God.  He is the sovereign God of this world.  He cares and will provide for EACH of His children who walk in obedience to Him.

Trust Him!!!!

Psalm 146

The LORD an Abundant Helper.

1Praise the LORD!
Praise the
LORD, O my soul!

2I will praise the LORD while I live;
I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.

3Do not trust in princes,
In mortal man, in whom there is no salvation.

4His spirit departs, he returns to the earth;
In that very day his thoughts perish.

5How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
Whose hope is in the L
ORD his God,

6Who made heaven and earth,
The sea and all that is in them;
Who keeps faith forever;

7Who executes justice for the oppressed;
Who gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets the prisoners free.

8The LORD opens the eyes of the blind;
The LORD raises up those who are bowed down;
The LORD loves the righteous;

9The LORD protects the strangers;
He supports the fatherless and the widow,
But He thwarts the way of the wicked.

10The LORD will reign forever,
Your God, O Zion, to all generations.
Praise the LORD!

Of Elephants, Blind Men, & the Sovereign…

Once upon a time, there lived six blind men in a village. One day the villagers told them, “Hey, there is an elephant in the village today.”

They had no idea what an elephant is. They decided, “Even though we would not be able to see it, let us go and feel it anyway.” All of them went where the elephant was. Everyone of them touched the elephant.

“Hey, the elephant is a pillar,” said the first man who touched his leg.

“Oh, no! it is like a rope,” said the second man who touched the tail.

“Oh, no! it is like a thick branch of a tree,” said the third man who touched the trunk of the elephant.

“It is like a big hand fan” said the fourth man who touched the ear of the elephant.

“It is like a huge wall,” said the fifth man who touched the belly of the elephant.

“It is like a solid pipe,” Said the sixth man who touched the tusk of the elephant.

They began to argue about the elephant and everyone of them insisted that he was right. It looked like they were getting agitated. A wise man was passing by and he saw this. He stopped and asked them, “What is the matter?” They said, “We cannot agree to what the elephant is like.” Each one of them told what he thought the elephant was like. The wise man calmly explained to them, “All of you are right. The reason every one of you is telling it differently because each one of you touched the different part of the elephant. So, actually the elephant has all those features what you all said.”

“Oh!” everyone said. There was no more fight. They felt happy that they were all right.

The moral of the story is that there may be some truth to what someone says. Sometimes we can see that truth and sometimes not because they may have different perspective which we may not agree too. So, rather than arguing like the blind men, we should say, “Maybe you have your reasons.” This way we don’t get in arguments. In Jainism, it is explained that truth can be stated in seven different ways. So, you can see how broad our religion is. It teaches us to be tolerant towards others for their viewpoints. This allows us to live in harmony with the people of different thinking.

_______________

This is a feel-good story, written to communicate that EVERYONE is right and no one is wrong; we’re all just “different” and have our own perspectives on how we view “Truth.”

However, there is an even larger elephant in the room (or in this case, in the story) that the author does not take into account.  THE AUTHOR FAILS TO TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THAT ONE PERSON TRULY KNOWS EXACTLY WHAT AN ENTIRE ELEPHANT LOOKS LIKE.

British theologian Lesslie Newbigin puts it this way:

In the famous story of the blind men and the elephant… the real point of the story is constantly overlooked.  The story is told from the point of view of the wise man, who is not blind but can see that the blind men are unable to grasp the full reality of the elephant and are only able to get hold of part of it.  The story is constantly told in order to neutralize the affirmations of the great religions, to suggest that they learn humility and recognize that none of them can have more than one aspect of the truth.  But, of course, the real point of the story is exactly the opposite.  If the wise man were also blind, there would be no story.  What this means then is that there is an appearance of humility and a protestation that the truth is much greater than anyone of us can grasp.  But if this is used to invalidate all claims to discern the truth, it is in fact an arrogant claim with the kind of knowledge which is superior that you have just said, no religion has.

As Tim Keller further clarifies:

To say, ‘Nobody can make universal truth claims.’  That is a universal truth claim.  ‘Nobody can see the whole truth.’  You couldn’t know that unless you think you see the whole truth.  And, therefore, you’re doing the very thing you say religious people shouldn’t do.

The point is this: Jesus Christ (in essence) said, “I CAN SEE THE ENTIRE ELEPHANT; I KNOW THE TRUTH.”  Actually, He said, “I AM the Way, the TRUTH, and the Life—NO ONE COMES TO THE FATHER EXCEPT THROUGH ME” (John 14:6)

Is this arrogance for Jesus to say this???  No, because Jesus always spoke the truth (it eventually got Him killed).  If Jesus thought being a “good person” were sufficient for someone to be saved, He would have told the rich young ruler—“you know—you’re right.  You are a pretty good person.  You get MOST of the 10 commandments right; you’ve got nothing to worry about concerning your salvation.”

Yet, “Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”  Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (Mark 10:21-22).  The rich young ruler was trying to show Jesus how “good” he was & therefore he “deserved” heaven, but Jesus fingered the man’s “true god”—his money.  Jesus was not about to let the man leave thinking, “whatever you believe, as long as you are sincere, then it is okay with God.”

The first commandment is: “You shall have no other gods before me.”  The man “went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”  He wasn’t willing to die to himself, take up his cross & follow Jesus.  He thought he could “have his cake & eat it, too,” but Jesus wants to be KING and LORD of our lives—not just a casual buddy who winks at the false gods in our lives.

C.S. Lewis put it this way in Mere Christianity:

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

Jesus did not die & rise from the dead so that we would remain the same people as before He came into our lives.  He came to RADICALLY make us different people—ONCE DEAD PEOPLE WHO ARE LIVING RESURRECTED LIVES IN THE POWER THAT HE SUPPLIES.

As much as we may want to embrace the TRUTH of the Blind Men & the Elephant story, we cannot do so without abandoning reason.  There is ONE truth, and Jesus says unequivocally that HE IS IT!

Friday

My wife told me to have nothing to do with this man.  She called this Jesus “a righteous Man” and said that earlier today that she “suffered much because of Him in a dream.”

I should have listened.

On the surface He didn’t look like much.  He was brought to me (Pilate) by the Jewish leaders, and they were furious!  I knew that there had to be more to this man because of their outrage.  They called Him a blasphemer, saying that He claimed to be the Son of God and “the King of the Jews.”

So I asked Him point blank, “Are You the King of the Jews?”  He just looked at the ground & said, “You have said so.”

Immediately the chief priests began hurling accusations at this Jesus, and I really asked Him to speak up for Himself because some of their accusations contradicted one another, so I said, “Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?”

They appeared to me to be jealous of Him, and I was trying to help Him out, but He wouldn’t say a word…

We political leaders are in a unique fraternity.  I didn’t get to be governor of this region b/c I was meek.  No, we politicians wheel & deal our way to the top.  We know people in authority and sometimes ride on their coat tails so that we could eventually rise to levels of prominence ourselves.  That’s just the way this world works…

Yet, here is this Man who really seemed innocent to me, that they had the audacity to refer to as a King, and rather than try to plead my favor, He stood there: “As a sheep before its shearers are silent, so He would not open His mouth.”

I was astonished at His level of self-control.

____________________________________

Finally, I entered into my headquarters alone & I called this Jesus to myself.  I asked Him again:

“Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” Then I said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”

“What is truth?”

I had to do something.  The crowds were raging outside, and though I didn’t find anything wrong with this Man, I knew that I could not have an uprising on my hand. The crowds and the Jewish leaders were starting to get out of hand…

I had Jesus flogged.

I stood and watched as the guards stripped Him of his clothing and tied His arms above His head.  They whipped him about the back, chest, stomach, head, & legs until He was literally unrecognizable.  He lost a lot of blood, but aside from His shrieks of agony, He remained silent.  (I have watched many people curse and scream at their tormentors, but not this Man)…

I had hoped that this would satisfy the crowds.  I was actually astonished that He didn’t die in the flogging, but here he stood, trembling/an unrecognizable mass of humanity—and STILL they wanted Him dead.

I couldn’t handle it; I was afraid of what was happening.  I took this Jesus back to my headquarters again & said:

“Where are you from?” But Jesus gave me no answer. So I said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?”

I will never forget what happened next.  Jesus looked me squarely in the eye and with supreme conviction said, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above…”

Who Is This Man???

_________

I had no choice. The Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.”  I was NOT prepared to lose my job or my life for Him.

I think I now was beginning to understand what my wife was talking about when she said, “have nothing to do with this righteous man.”

What could I do?  What would YOU have done if you were in my place????

I washed my hands of this whole thing & sent Him to die…

Even still, I sent my personal guard to follow the procession.  I had to know exactly what happened.

He told me that the crowds were vicious—spitting on Him, shouting all sorts of obscenities at Him, ripping out His beard.  Jesus fell from the weight of His cross and they kicked at him like He was a dog.

…And Jesus remained silent…

On the Cross, the guards drove spikes into His hands and feet and for the first time since this whole ordeal started, on the Cross Jesus began to speak.

He prayed to God, begging Him to forgive those who were killing Him.

One of the criminals who was crucified with him was obviously moved by the love of Jesus, and asked Him to save Him—AND JESUS AGREED…

After a period of time, Jesus screamed out, “My God, My God—why have you forsaken me?”

That to me is the ultimate picture of faith—still crying out to one who He can’t find.  Still believing when there is no evidence for belief.

About the sixth hour my guard told me that Jesus cried out–“It Is Finished!”  And He was gone.  He died.

And it was over—just like that.

Surely, my wife was right.  I should have had nothing to do with Him.  He truly was a righteous man.

My guard that I sent to bring me word is a broken man.  All he can say is “truly this Man was the Son of God…”  I have no idea what I am going to do with him…

I can’t sleep; I too am suffering on account of the King of the Jews.  I am troubled over what I have done to Jesus the Messiah.

Are you?

The Idiocy of Intelligence

“My way of fleeing from God was to get stupid.”

Such were the words of Dr. J. Budziszewski (PhD, Yale University)–professor of political and ethical philosophy at the University of Texas.  Dr. Budziszewski was once an avowed atheist who thought the concept of God to be irrational.  He continues:

When some people flee from God they rob and kill. When others flee from God they do a lot of drugs and have a lot of sex. When I fled from God I didn’t do any of those things; my way of fleeing was to get stupid. Though it always comes as a surprise to intellectuals, there are some forms of stupidity that one must be highly intelligent and educated to commit. God keeps them in his arsenal to pull down mulish pride, and I discovered them all. That is how I ended up doing a doctoral dissertation to prove that we make up the difference between good and evil and that we aren’t responsible for what we do. I remember now that I even taught these things to students; now that’s sin.

It was also agony. You cannot imagine what a person has to do to himself–well, if you are like I was, maybe you can–what a person has to do to himself to go on believing such nonsense. St. Paul said that the knowledge of God’s law is “written on our hearts, our consciences also bearing witness.” I resisted the temptation to believe in good with as much energy as some saints resist the temptation to neglect good… Visualize a man opening up the access panels of his mind and pulling out all the components that have God’s image stamped on them. The problem is that they all have God’s image stamped on them, so the man can never stop. No matter how much he pulls out, there’s still more to pull. I was that man. Because I pulled out more and more, there was less and less that I could think about. But because there was less and less that I could think about, I thought I was becoming more and more focused. Because I believed things that filled me with dread, I thought I was smarter and braver than the people who didn’t believe them. I thought I saw an emptiness at the heart of the universe that was hidden from their foolish eyes.

Of course I was the fool.

You can read the rest of Dr. Budziszewski’s testimony here.

The bastions of liberal elitism Harvard & Yale universities did not begin with liberal views on religion and the Bible.  Attorney David Gibbs of the Christian Law Association states: “Many of America’s prominent Ivy League schools have drastically changed since their founding and not for the better.  Yale University expelled students who persistently denied the Bible as being God’s Holy Word.  The motto adopted at Harvard in 1690 was “Truth for Christ and the Church.”  “Harvard’s Rules & Precepts books from 1646 states that every student ought to earnestly consider well the main end of his life and studies is to earnestly know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life.”  In fact, Jonathan Edwards, Puritan pastor and author of the sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” was also the president of Princeton University at one time.

Yet, Scripture clearly teaches that people by their very natures reject or suppress the Truth. Jesus Christ, quoting the prophet Isaiah, said:

 “Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:

‘You will indeed hear but never understand,
and you will indeed see but never perceive.
For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed,
lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them.’”

Matthew 13:14-15

Jesus would also say concerning the knowledge of God: “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.Matthew 11:25-26

 He even told His disciples, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3

The “wise and learned” do not think they need God.  In fact, they often feel that they are too intelligent to believe in Him or to trust in the Bible.  Yet, little children are needy.  They realize they need the help of someone greater than themselves to help them survive in life.  They are in as sense “too dumb” to do life on their own.  They need help.  Yet, Dr. George Guthrie states that you might have a person with an IQ of 70 who would have more wisdom than a person with a PhD who violates God’s principles (Read the Bible for Life, p.125).  The “unintelligent” might actually possess greater wisdom for living than those who profess to have great intellect.

The truth is that EVERYONE needs God.  The Bible says that He is no respecter of persons, meaning that He will accept anyone from any walk of life who will be willing to humble themselves and seek Him by faith.  The Bible’s instruction for the J. Budziszewski’s and for the simplest child is the same:

 “…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, ‘Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’” Romans 10:9-13

The question remains: “Are YOU too smart to believe?”

Just Enough

Suffering ushers in a unique strain of insanity—even for the Christian.  We “people of the Book” may “profess ” to know what we believe and why we believe it, but let hardship enter the picture and the pieces of our lives are suddenly broken in the air above us.  What’s more, we often are not sure how they are going to land or even if they will fit back together.

Job was well acquainted with suffering.  He lost his family, his property, and his health.  And it appears as if the Holy Spirit breathed out the Book of Job in such a way as to reveal the insanity that suffering generates.  Job begins well in his suffering—“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21).

Yet, it is not long before Job’s life becomes a house of mirrors.  One minute he trusts God: “though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him” (Job 13:15) and in another moment he proclaims:

“Oh that I might have my request, and that God would fulfill my hope, that it would please God to crush me, that he would let loose his hand and cut me off! This would be my comfort; I would even exult in pain unsparing, for I have not denied the words of the Holy One. What is my strength, that I should wait? And what is my end, that I should be patient? Is my strength the strength of stones, or is my flesh bronze? Have I any help in me, when resource is driven from me?” Job 6:8-13

One minute trust.  The next minute chaos.

Compound this with Job’s three hair-brained friends who seek to “comfort” Job with their ivory tower rhetoric.  They assess that surely Job must have some hidden sin in his life because God does not punish the righteous.  Towards the end of the book God proclaims that all of Job’s friends are wrong in their spiritual diagnosis of Job (see Job 42:7).

It is not until God speaks up to Job that Job is finally able to rest in God’s sovereignty over his life.  Like a house of mirrors, he doesn’t know whether he is skinny or fat—resting in God or pacing the floor over God’s silence.  And the Book continually goes in circles like this, I think, because suffering goes in circles like this.  Sometimes God is closer than our next breath, and sometimes it feels like He is three galaxies over.

My prayer is that God will help us to see the minutia of blessings in the middle of this insanity of our suffering.broomtree01

The broom tree is a shrub that is found in the deserts of the Middle East.   Temperatures can reach as high as 125 degrees Fahrenheit (and higher) in these desert lands.  The desert is a biblical metaphor for suffering because in the desert there is no water, very little vegetation, and rocky terrain.  Consequently, there is little to no relief from the intense heat.

But there is some.

The broom tree (pictured above) grows out of the rocks in the desert and can sometimes be relatively large.  The shade it produces does not totally darken the ground, but it is sufficient to drop the temperature several degrees from the surrounding climate.  This shrub, though seemingly insignificant given its environment, is the minutia of blessing to which I refer.  Though suffering raises the temperature of our lives, there are broom trees available to shade us if we will look for them.

A primary lesson that God is trying to teach us in the midst of suffering is to depend upon Him completely, one moment at a time.  The broom tree is evidence that God is with us on our journey through suffering in spots to give us relief and to enable us to carry on one more minute, one more hour, one more day.

Even more importantly, God uses the metaphor of shade in the Bible in regard to His people.  The Bible tells us that God is the shade at your right hand (Psalm 121:5).  He is ultimately our relief as He provides relief for us in various ways.  Yet, God’s purpose for being shade for us is so that we His people can actually be shade for others.  Look at what Isaiah 32 says about God and His people:

See, a king will reign in righteousness
and rulers will rule with justice.
Each one will be like a shelter from the wind
and a refuge from the storm,
like streams of water in the desert
and the shade of a great rock in a thirsty land.
Isaiah 32:1-2

God intends not only to save His people but also to use them to bring relief to others who are suffering.  He longs to have living broom trees all over the face of this earth that can be useful to comfort those who are hurting.  But God must first teach you of His great provision, of His never-ending faithfulness before you will ever be equipped to shade those who need it.

Therefore, he allows our suffering and just enough relief along the way to insure us of His presence and provision.  It is through time and through the recognition of God’s provision in our lives that He is not only supplying us with aid but also equipping us to help other people.

Job’s story of suffering has been and continues to be a massive help to people throughout the ages.

What might God be supplying and equipping YOU with right now?

(much of this blog entry was inspired by the DVD series Walking With God in the Desert by Ray Vander Laan)

God Can Handle Your Reality (What He Hates Is Hypocrisy)

John Wooden is probably the greatest college basketball coach to ever wear the whistle.  Wooden was the coach for UCLA from 1948-1975 and still holds the most unbeatable records in sports history.  It took him 16 years to win his first national championship but wound up winning 10 national championships in 12 years. His teams won 37 straight NCAA tournament games, four of his teams finished the season 30-0, and his teams won a record 88 consecutive games.

He shared that the secret to his success was coaching the fundamentals of the game of basketball.  He taught his players the right way to put on their socks, tie their shoes, and then eventually moved into the basics of the game.  He didn’t scout his opponent to see how they were going to play.  He was more concerned with how HIS team prepared than what the other team was going to do.  He was convinced that if his players understood and executed the fundamentals of the game of basketball it would not matter WHAT the other team was doing.  Knowing & executing the fundamentals, he believed, would bring them success on the court & in life.

By winning 10 NCAA championships in 12 years, Wooden was right about what it takes to succeed.

Prayer is one of THE fundamentals of Christian discipleship.  Jesus Himself stated “My house shall be called a house of prayer…” (Matthew 21:13).  Jesus taught His disciples how to pray and even went so far as to teach “them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1).  Prayer is not an option in the eyes of God.  It is the lifeblood of the church and the life preserver of God’s children.

In 2 Chronicles 7:14, God gives HIS people specific guidelines to insure their prayers are heard and answered.  God gives four specific prescriptions for effective prayer and they are as follows:

If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

HUMILITY: Isaiah 66:2 tells us—“this is the one to whom I will look: He who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word. Humility causes us to realize that we are not in control but that God is ultimately in control of all things.  As a result, humility causes us to realize that God wants us to receive from Him, not give to Him.  God longs to bless His children, and when we realize that He has all the heavenly resources we need, then we will humble ourselves before Him and receive His strength rather than fight against Him and try to impress Him with our strength.  Consequently, humility causes us to realize that we cannot fix other people.  It makes us realize that God can, and when we submit to His Lordship, “He is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20).

PRAYER: Prayer is partly an act of ascribing worth to God for who He is, for what He has done, and for what He promises to do in the future.  If you read the Psalms, you will see that the Psalm-writers are constantly praising God through their prayers for who He is.  A natural consequence then of prayer is to call down the resources of God for His aid in our own lives.  Prayer involves trusting in God to act rather than rushing out in our own strength to try to make things happen.  Therefore, prayer is uniquely tied to humility.

SEEK HIS FACE: Seeking God’s face is different than seeking God’s hand.  Psalm 42:1-2 states: “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.”  The Psalmist is not asking God for anything other than God Himself.  Do you long for more of God in your own life?  Do you desire to know God more intimately?  Often, we just want what God can give us, but we really don’t desire to know Him much more deeply.  Don’t desire God? Tell him.  Pray to Him & ask Him to create that desire within you. Ask Him for a hunger for God.

REPENTANCE:  This is the act of turning away from sin to the living God.  Repentance is the key that opens the lock of true faith.  Repentance is difficult because it requires humility, prayer, and seeking the face of God.  Repentance is sometimes arduous, bloody work.  Yet, we often have “besetting” sins that we keep falling back into that haunt us for years.  You may be thinking, “I can’t turn from my sin! It is riveted to my soul.  I can’t tear it away!  I can’t lay it down; I keep picking it up again.  I KEEP SINNING!!!  Therefore, God surely won’t answer my prayers.”

The apostle Paul certainly could relate to this mindset.  He stated in Romans 7:

…I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.  For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing…  For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being,  but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.  Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:15-24

Paul still struggled with his sinful nature, though he was used mightily by God and probably reached a level of personal holiness that is unmatched (apart from Christ).

A former seminary professor of mine, Dr. Eric Johnson, said this about our spiritual struggles:

“While your present struggles and sins are very important to God, He has promised that if we seek, we will find.  We cannot, however, expect to (always) find him after a week of Bible reading or at the end of a one-day fast.  God is trying to develop people who persevere in seeking him.  As we patiently seek his face, not giving up (especially when we don’t feel or seem very different), over the years, he will increasingly manifest himself to us.  It’s no different in any love relationship.  Real love takes time to develop and grow.”

Satan would have you believe that UNTIL you get everything smoothed out in your life then you shouldn’t even pray to God.  But I don’t think that is what repentance is.  Repentance is turning away from sin to the living God.  Repentance is humbly confessing your sins to God and asking for His forgiveness and healing.  1 John 1:9 states that “if we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  Forgiveness happens in a moment; actual cleansing may take a long time—just like trying to get stubborn stains out of a piece of fabric.

Therefore, repent!  Turn from your sin and confess it to God.  Don’t try to minimize it.  Don’t try to hide it.  Confess it to Him.  Admit that you are wrong.  Shed light on the fact that you fall miserably short.  Turn from your sin to God again & again & again—even if it takes 10,000 “repentances” to bring about your liberation.

God can handle reality.  What He detests is hypocrisy.

All of this is to say, don’t let 2 Chronicles 7:14 be a discouragement to you.  Rather let it be an encouragement to you to continually storm the gates of heaven for your lives, your families, and for the church in 2013.  You have NO idea how God might surprise you this coming year!!

Happy New Year!!

Bo

 

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History In the Making…

Recently, I heard the testimony of Christian man who longed to share the good news of Jesus Christ with his co-workers, but he wanted to do it in a way that was non-confrontational.  Therefore, he merely typed the following passage and passed it out to his fellow employees, asking them if they would mind reading it.  The passage was this:

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.

By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.

Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.

After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light [of life] and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

The man then asked his co-workers who had agreed to read the passage, “do you have any idea who this passage might be talking about?”  Overwhelmingly, the people responded “Jesus Christ.”  At that point the man said to his co-workers, “did you know that this passage was written about 700 years BEFORE Jesus even lived on the face of the earth?” If the people were willing to discuss the issue further, he met with them and presented the plan of salvation, but if they declined, he merely thanked them for taking the time to read the passage.

That passage was from Isaiah 53.

The Book of Isaiah is my FAVORITE book of the Bible.  I read Isaiah, and I hear my own experience in its pages, but I also read about the God who is mighty to save regardless of the circumstances.  Isaiah is referred to as “the Book of Salvation” because of the redemptive thread that runs through its 66 chapters.

There is such a prophetic tone to the book that many scholars (liberal ones, mind you) say that the book could not have possibly been written by one person.  As a result, some liberal scholars say that Isaiah was written by anywhere from two to five people.  They say that there is NO WAY that Isaiah himself could have known that Israel would be taken captive first by Assyria (in 720 B.C.) and then by Babylon in 586 B.C.  They could possibly understand the Assyrian captivity because Isaiah was alive during this time.  Yet, these scholars cannot believe that the same Isaiah could have predicted the Babylonian captivity in 586 B.C. OR that the man responsible for the liberation of Israel could be mentioned BY NAME (Cyrus, king of Persia) hundreds of years before he was born (see Isaiah 44:28 and 45:1-3).  Because these scholars have a pre-conceived commitment against the supernatural (even in the Bible), the reasoning of the PROPHET (all caps, mine) Isaiah mentioning future events and names has to be explained away as being more than one person.

Enter the Dead Sea Scrolls.

DSS

In 1947, two Bedouin boys were playing near a series of caves in Qumran, close to the Dead Sea.  One of the boys took a rock and threw it into the opening of the cave and heard what sounded like pottery breaking.  Upon further investigation, the boys found several clay pots inside the cave that contained seven scrolls.  This discovery eventually led to an archeological expedition from 1947-1956 that uncovered not just seven scrolls but 220 ancient scrolls written mostly in the Hebrew language.  Many of these scrolls were merely fragments of Old Testament books.  Yet, there was also an ancient commentary on the book of Habakkuk, portions of the Psalms, as well as some secular writings from Jewish history.

The GREATEST finding of all the scrolls was what came to be labeled “The Great Isaiah” scroll.  It was named this because it is a COMPLETE scroll from all 66 chapters of the Book of Isaiah.  It is the only complete Book of the Old Testament that has been found to date.

isaiah_scroll

What makes this even more remarkable is the fact that “pieces of the Isaiah Scroll have been carbon-14 dated at least four times, giving calibrated date ranges between 335-324 BC and 202-107 BC; there have also been numerous paleographic and scribal dating studies placing the scroll around 150-100 BC” (http://www.allaboutarchaeology.org/dead-sea-scrolls-2.htm).  Even if you accept the most conservative estimate of dating the scroll at 150 B.C., this finding really shoots some major holes into the theory that Isaiah could not have been written by one man some 700 years before Christ because even at 150 B.C. we have prophecies (fulfilled in Christ) like:

Will be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14) Was born of a virgin named Mary (Luke 1:26-31)
Will have a Galilean ministry (Isaiah 9:1,2) Ministry began in Galilee of the Gentiles (Matthew 4:13-16)
Will be an heir to the throne of David (Isaiah 9:7; 11:1, 10) Was given the throne of His father David (Luke 1:32, 33)
Will have His way prepared (Isaiah 40:3-5) Was announced by John the Baptist (John 1:19-28)
Will be spat on and struck (Isaiah 50:6) Was spat on and beaten (Matthew 26:67)
Will be exalted (Isaiah 52:13) Was highly exalted by God and the People (Philippians 2:9, 10)
Will be disfigured by suffering (Isaiah 52:14; 53:2) Was scourged by Roman soldiers who gave Him a crown of thorns (Mark 15L15-19)
Will make a blood atonement (Isaiah 53:5 Shed His blood to atone for our sins (1Peter 1:2)
Will be widely rejected (Isaiah 53:1,3) Was not accepted by many (John 12:37, 38)
Will bear our sins and sorrows (Isaiah 53:4, 5) Died because of our sins (Romans 4L25; 1Peter 2:24, 25)
Will be our substitute (Isaiah 53:6,8) Died in our place (Romans 5:6, 8; 2 Corinthians 5:21)
Will voluntarily accept our guilt and punishment for sin (Isaiah 53:7,8) Jesus took on our sins (John 1:29; Romans 6:10; 2 Corinthians 5:21)
Gentiles will seek Him (Isaiah 11:10) Gentiles came to speak to Jesus (John 12:20,21)
Will be silent before His accusers (Isaiah 53:7) Was silent before Herod and his court (Luke 23:9)
Will save us who believe in Him (Isaiah 53:12) Provided salvation for all who believe (John 3:16; Acts 16:31)
Will die with transgressors (Isaiah 53:12) Was numbered with the transgressors (Mark 15:27, 28; Luke 22:37)
Will heal the brokenhearted (Isaiah 61:1,2) Healed the brokenhearted (Luke 4:18, 19)
God’s Spirit will rest on Him (Isaiah 11:2) The Spirit of God descended on Jesus (Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; 4:1)
Will be buried in a rich man’s tomb (Isaiah 53:9 Was buried in the tomb of Joseph, a rich man from Arimathea (Matthew 27:57-60; John 19:38-42)
He will judge the earth with righteousness (Isaiah 11:4,5)

Isaiah is the second-most quoted Old Testament Book in the New Testament—second only to the Psalms.  Therefore, its importance cannot be understated.

You see, Christianity cannot merely be seen as a fairy tale.  There is history and robust archeological evidence welded to its truth claims.  You may not believe, but it cannot be said that there is no hard evidence to the truths of Christianity.

Aldous Huxley would explain his atheism this way:I had motive for not wanting the world to have a meaning; consequently assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption. The philosopher who finds no meaning in the world is not concerned exclusively with a problem in pure metaphysics, he is also concerned to prove that there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he wants to do, or why his friends should not seize political power and govern in the way that they find most advantageous to themselves. … For myself, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation, sexual and political (Aldous Huxley, Ends and Means (London: Chatto & Windus, 1946), pp. 270, 273).

We can pretend to act like the evidence is not there.  We can ridicule, belittle, and joke our way out of believing, but the simple truth is that evidence is at our fingertips.  It is truly up to us to make an “educated” choice about what we will do with that evidence.

Merry Christmas and Maranatha!!

(For more information on the Dead Sea Scrolls see http://dss.collections.imj.org.il/)

This I Believe

I believe that the Bible is God’s Word. Rather, I have placed the full weight of my existence in TRUSTING that the Bible is the very word of God.  It is not as if I have just tattooed this onto my arm because I am looking for a crutch in my life. The Bible is not to me a badge of courage.

No, I have faith that the Bible is the Word of God because its truths have seeped down beneath the surface of my skin, into the very marrow of where I live my life.  I have trusted in the promises of God.  I have clung to the living promises of the Word when I had no evidence or ANY reason to, and I have seen God’s promises literally come true in my life.

That being said, the Bible not only makes some deeply comforting promises, It also makes some terribly incendiary comments about life—comments that cause those who believe them or have the nerve to profess them to be hated.  Jesus even said, you will be hated by all because of My name” (Luke 21:17).

The Bible is the only Book that reads you while you are reading it.  Hebrews 4:12 states “The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Consequently, when people who begin to read the Bible come to places in it that begins to cut against the grain of how we are living and brings conviction of our sin, many will simply put the Bible away in a drawer.  Others will explain it away, seeking to make the Bible mean something it doesn’t mean.

Truly, the Bible can bring about a conflagration of soul.  It can produce hatred for God before it produces a love for God.  It must show us that we are sinners before we can feel the need for a Savior.  Yet, because I believe that the Bible is truly the VERY word of God, I believe that we have to be faithful to accept it for what it is and seek to understand it in its full-orbed teaching if we are to truly understand God’s plan for the world.

I believe that the Bible is progressive revelation.  By this I mean that God had a plan and a timing for dispensing His truth to the world.  The Bible was written by about 40 different authors over the course of around 1,500 years all with one central message—God came to bring salvation to fallen humanity. Deuteronomy 29:29 states:  “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”  There are things that God does not intend for us to know or understand, but the things that He has given to us are for us to understand and put into practice.

Hebrews 1:1-2 sums up the roll of the Old Testament and New Testament perfectly when it states:Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.”  In other words, in the Old Testament God spoke to people through Moses and all of the prophets (the books of the Old Testament), but in the New Testament He has spoken to us through His Son—Jesus.  He spoke to us by sending Jesus into the world to give us an EXACT picture of what God is like. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3).

And Jesus said and did some pretty radical things.

Jesus ripped the religious elite to shreds with his words, while He could be very gentle with people steeped in sin.  Jesus never justified or winked at sin, but depending upon who He was speaking, He would vary His methodology.  In meeting with the rich, young ruler (a man who’s REAL god was his wealth) Jesus, “looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, ‘One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’ But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property” (Mark 10:21-22).

See how the word of God cut this man & exposed him?  He really loved his money, and Jesus (in love) exposed the man’s idolatry and the man went away sad because he had great possessions.  Jesus wasn’t a jerk to this man, but He was honest, and his honesty was an offense to the rich man.

Yesterday, I quoted a text from Romans 1 on my Facebook page and stated:

The Bible’s explanation for why the Newtown tragedy occurred:

The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness & unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth… For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, & their foolish hearts were darkened… And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of… murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. (see Romans 1)

Immediately, this set off a fire storm among many of my friends on Facebook, and they were seeking explanation.  I’m going to try to unpack my explanation here, knowing that many will be angrier still, some may hate me or even de-friend me because of my beliefs.

Scripture teaches time & time again that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.  This is a theme running throughout the Bible so I will not give any references other than to quote Isaiah 66:1-2:

Thus says the Lord: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? All these things my hand has made, & so all these things came to be, declares the Lord.

But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.

The Bible also teaches that we harden ourselves against God’s advances, even though He has our best interests at heart:

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil” (John 3:16-19).

In our natural state, we don’t want God.  We certainly do not want God dictating how we live, and so we reject His advances.  Consequently, because we reject God, God “gives us over” to whatever it is that we most want.  As Romans 1 states, God “gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of… murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless” (Romans 1).  That IS His wrath—His “giving over,” His releasing His hand of protection off of humanity to do what their hearts are naturally inclined to want to do, which is sin. (Again, please remember that I believe this is what the Bible teaches).

The Bible teaches that the Israelites are God’s chosen people, and even they chose the sins & idolatries of the world RATHER than seeking to love & serve God.  Therefore, God “gave them over” at various times and in various ways to chasten them for their sin.  He ALLOWED them to be carried away captive in Babylon for 70 years because of their sin & rebellion.  They hardened their hearts, and he gave them up to their NATURAL desires.

My point in saying “The Bible’s explanation for why the Newtown tragedy occurred…” was simply an attempt to say the reason Friday happened is because God has taken His hand of protection off of us and when He does this all hell breaks loose.  I believe that God is calling us BACK TO HIMSELF–to belief, to repentance from our sins, to faith, and to rest. I DO NOT BELIEVE THAT THIS OCCURRED BECAUSE OF HOMOSEXUALITY, ABORTION, OR WHATEVER THE “HOT BUTTON SINS” ARE THAT A LOT OF PREACHERS LIKE TO HARP ABOUT.  I believe that, as Romans 1 states: The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness & unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.  I believe that God allows tragedy to call EVERYONE back to Himself—including Christians.

Christians are supposed to be Christ’s representative on earth, living lives to the glory of God and in such a way that unbelievers are attracted to want to know more about Jesus.  Yet, instead many profess to know the truth but secretly live devilish lives.  I believe that judgment begins with the house of God.  I believe that the reason the church in America is so weak & anemic is because God’s people are satisfied with sin rather than we are with knowing Jesus in greater measure.  We would rather live in our dens of sin than we would to live in the light of God’s joy.  As C.S. Lewis stated it:

“It would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

I believe this sums it up perfectly.  We want sin more than we want the Savior.

That being said, God refuses to let His people go, and He is refusing to let the world go completely.  He is going to do WHATEVER it takes in your life to get you to realize that He is the sovereign Lord over your life.  If he must let you be utterly consumed with anger & bitterness, He will do that.  If He must allow you to publicly embarrass yourself over the choices of your sin, He will do that.  He will allow the frustration to MOUNT in your life & in my life TIME & TIME again to show us as many times as He needs to that only in a right relationship with Him can we find peace.

The reason you feel so depressed & sick with yourself when you soak in sin in your life is b/c you are TRYING to continue to find LIFE WHERE THERE IS ONLY DEATH.  Death is depressing.  Sin makes you sick & leaves you FEELING sick with yourself, with others and sometimes causes you to wish you were DEAD.  Yet, rather than dying to our sin, we frequently will just leave hard situations, going to green pastures where our own sickness & death is there waiting upon us.  Oh, it may take a while for it to show itself, but it will come up time & time again until we DEAL with the sovereign LORD who is reigning.  And if we will not listen & relinquish the hold on our hearts, He will allow sickness, humiliation, divorce, prison, etc. to be the consequences of our lives UNTIL we will see that His kingdom is the only place where we can find peace & rest.

In conclusion, I do believe that the power of God is capable of overcoming the most hardened of hearts.  God delights in mercy (Micah 7:18).  He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 33:11).  I believe that Jesus is mighty to save, and that He can overcome ANY obstacle that stands between you and Him.

Attached is a link to a sermon that I preached years ago entitled, “From JOB to Jeffery Dahmer” that reveals the power of God to save even the most despicable of sinners.

http://emedialink.com/video/9731/From-Job-to-Jeffrey-Dahmer