Friday, April 20, 2012


Exodus 15:11
"Who among the gods is like you, O LORD ? Who is like you; majestic in holiness, awesome in glory"

Revelation 15:4
Who will not fear you, Lord, and bring glory to your name?  For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.
Luke 18:18-30
A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.”
“All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.
When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?”
Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”
Peter said to him, “We have left all we had to follow you!”
“Truly I tell you,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.”

This is a different type of blog post.  Not what you are used to from me.  I usually do not get into social issues.  But today is different.  I just got an email from about a homosexual lady who was involved in Cub Scouts as a Den Leader, and was asked to step down from her position because she was gay.  Upon my initial reading of the email, I felt a bit of sorrow for the lady, because she probably should not have been discriminated against.  However, as I thought about the email, I was moved, shaken even, and I begin to think more closely about who I am and what I believe.  As I pondered this, I begin to take issue with the email to the point I deleted it without signing the petition.  Which was surprising to me, since I don't get strong emotions about that kind of stuff.  But it did rise up in me feelings and stirrings which I am about to share with you.

The reason I have a problem with this is not that I am homophobic.  One of my oldest son's friends in school in Nashville had 2 moms like this lady, and we went to a birthday party at their house that B and I were the only non-gay parents there.  Honestly, I am really not that opinionated about Homosexuality one way or another.  A person makes a choice, and then lives with it.  Happens every day in world.  Do I define it as sin?  Yes.  But lying is sin, too.  Stealing is sin.  Selfishness is sin.  It's all disobedience, and in God's eyes, there is no distinction.  So, if I can live with liars, thieves, people filled with selfishness, people who have hardened their hearts to God, then I can live with someone who sins in this manner.  Besides, one of the two greatest commandments in the Bible is to "Love your Neighbor as yourself," and I would consider any person living my neighbor, of which she would qualify for.  So that's not my point.

My issue is simply this:  I am so convicted that we are to be holy, and that there is no alternative.  Period.  I just listed sins, which fall short of this goal.  Any deviation from holiness is falling short of the standard barer, which is Jesus Christ.  Any.  And that is just not good enough.  Being like Christ doesn't give you the right to choose what you want to obey, and what you can let go.  It just doesn't.  You either obey everything, or obey nothing.  It really is black or white. Partial obedience is not obedience at all. Doing all things right but one is not good enough, because sin is separation from Christ, and it's impossible to be like Christ when you keep being the opposite of Christ.  Being like the One who is blameless is pretty difficult when you're not.  So my problem with the email was simply "I can't condone sin, no matter how I feel about the person."  I just can't.

I need to clarify something here.  We all sin, and are sinners, so try as we might, we are going to fail. So that is not what I am talking about.  I am speaking of my sins and your sins that are held onto.  Your deliberate disobedience.  Knowing it is wrong, and continuing to do it.  Your pornography.  Your excessive spending on technology, when you don't need it.  Your gluttony.  Your homosexuality.  Your stealing.  Your refusal to give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's.  That is what I am talking about.  Deliberate disobedience.

I'm sure this stings the eyes and ears of some.  But we live in a world like Isiah 6:9-10  where God says to Isiah to tell the Israelites "Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’'   Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed."  We are just like the Israelites:  seeing and hearing, but not perceiving and understanding.  We see that we sin, we see that we are doing wrong, but we don't perceive that we need to do something about it.  Like it's ok to God that we keep separating ourselves from Him.

I posted the passage about the rich man above because it makes a point that is applicable to this post.  Christ wants all of you.  All of you.  And anything less than that, frankly, is not taking up your cross and following Christ.  I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but anything you hold onto in your life- any sin- separates you from following Christ.  This here is one example.  A man, who obviously believed in Jesus as Messiah, couldn't let go.  So Jesus makes the statement "Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God."  Which is mind blowing, because this man believed Jesus as Messiah.  But the man couldn't give his all, and that wasn't good enough to Jesus.

Because Jesus is greedy- not in a sinning way, but in a way that is honoring to the only one in the universe who is worthy of being honored.  He wants all of you.  And if you can't give all, then He wants none.  Because it's disrespectful to the Lord Most High to not give your best.  He, and He alone is worthy of this.  And if you can't give your best, it is better that you not give at all.

I realize this is different from what you here in your church on Sundays.  "Come as you are."  is a mantra that is pretty common on Sunday mornings.   And I am not talking about what you are wearing.  I am talking about the condition of your heart.  What I am talking about is the attitude of "Bring your filthy heart to church each Sunday, it's ok.  God understands.  He knows you mean well."  No, it's not ok.  He doesn't understand, and it is not ok.  The Holy One of Israel, our Reedeemer and Sustainer, our Hope deserves our best.  Period.

When people are puzzled that a loving God can send people to Hell, it's because they don't get Holiness.  Don't understand that God deserves your best.  Don't understand that there is a penalty for disobedience. People don't understand what a Christian is, because lukewarm Christians have been such bad examples, and have been ok with so much sin, that there is no example anymore of what one should look like.

There is a penalty for refusing to give your life away and follow Christ.  Why?  Because He willingly died on a Cross for you.  No one held his hands down, no one held his feet down. He willingly offered Himself for you.  And in return, He asks you to willingly do the same.  To put down all your sins, take up your cross and follow Him.  This is what a follower of Christ must do to follow Him.  And it is hard.  Many times people came to Jesus asking what to do to be his disciple.  His response was to leave everything, and follow Him.  Right then.  Not in a minute.  Not after your affairs are in order.  Right then.  And that is so hard, because it requires us leaving our own lives and bending ourselves to the will of Christ.  In everything.  So how do we do this?

To do this we have to change the condition of our hearts. We have to be healed, and it starts at our hearts.   Jeremiah 17:9 says "The heart is deceitful above all things and above cure.  Who can own it?" God can, because he knows.  He knows your heart, and He knows if you are truly following Him.  What is our solution then? We should all cry out to God as Jeremiah did in Jeremiah 10:23-24 "LORD, I know that people’s lives are not their own; it is not for them to direct their steps. Discipline me, LORD, but only in due measure— not in your anger, or you will reduce me to nothing."   Jeremiah cries out to God to discipline him for the disobedience of Israel.  We need to cry out for discipline.  Not just for us, but for all.  Ask for discipline for all.  Cry out to Jesus as King and Lord, and ask for forgiveness and redemption. Give up your sins-leave them, just like Lot had to leave Sodom.  No turning back, keep on walking focused on Jesus.

We need to give up ourselves to attain Christ, because Christ gave up himself for you.  He, and He alone is worthy of this great honor, and He has earned the right to be selective in what he accepts as devotion.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The goodness of God

Job Chapter 1:20-21
20 At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21 and said:“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.”

Job Chapter 19:20-27
 20 I am nothing but skin and bones; I have escaped only by the skin of my teeth.21 “Have pity on me, my friends, have pity, for the hand of God has struck me. 22 Why do you pursue me as God does? Will you never get enough of my flesh?23 “Oh, that my words were recorded, that they were written on a scroll, 24 that they were inscribed with an iron tool on lead, or engraved in rock forever! 25 I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. 26 And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; 27 I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another.  How my heart yearns within me!

I have never read the Book of Job before.  Never.  It's one of those books that is in that awkward category.  I think you know what I am referring to.  It's not the Gospels for sure, not a praise book like Psalms, not a wisdom book like Proverbs, not a prophetic book for sure.  Not a historic book, such as one of the first five, or the books that tell the story of Israel and their kings.  No, its kind of it's own entity.  Which leaves it in the awkward category, because it doesn't seem to have any obvious application.  Or so I thought.  So I hadn't really ever read it.  I had skimmed it some, but it seemed to be long monotonous dialogue, and my ADD brain couldn't, or more likely wouldn't, pay attention long enough to find out what was going on.

But I started reading it last week.  And I have found it to be fascinating.  And a very real and applicable book of the Bible.  If you're not aware, Job was a very pious man who was devoted to God. However, through a series of trials allowed by God, everything that could go wrong to a person had happened to him.  He lost everything.  All his possessions, all his children, even his health. Everything. 

So what you see is a broken man.  Everything stripped away, and totally broken.  His wife tells him to "curse God and die!" (2:9)  His friends accuse him of getting punished for being wicked.  So here is a man, left sitting in ashes, no family, no health, no hope.  Nothing. Just a man you would expect to wait to die.  

Yet, the most facinating thing to me was the dialogue.  The words he used, the emotions he expressed to God. I totally get Job.  I felt a similar response when Abigail died.  Not to make this a teaching moment about grief, but here is where a parent is when they lose a child.  Read the first 20 books of Job.  See how Job is so angry, so depressed, so "why me?"  and then talk to a parent that buried their child.  I can speak to those feelings just the same. Job is angry, is hurt, is broken so deep.  He yearns for death.  He embraces it.  Not in a suicidal way, but in a "this is how broken I am" way.  That is where Job is.  He is broken, hurting, saying "why me?" 
However, the most facinating thing happens.  As you can see in the 2 passages above, Job praises God.  Really praises Him- gives Him glory and honor.  A man with no hope, no future- praises God.  That is fascinating to me. 

It's so easy to say "God is good" when good stuff happens.  It really is.  You see it on facebook, or in print everywhere.  "God is good.  The cancer is in remission!  Praise Jesus!"  Always something good has to happen to say God is good.  You see it in sports, always some accomplishment followed up by a "I want to thank God", blah, blah, blah.   And that really makes me mad.  Because God is good irregardless of what happens to you. God was good the day Abigail died.  God was good on 9/11/2001.  God was good when the Israelites were taken into captivity, when the Romans came and took over rule of their land.  God was good the day Jesus was beaten and died.  God is good. Period.  No qualifications.

I find it funny that we base God on how our individual lives are going.  As if you have some control over whether or not God is good. That, to me, is completely laughable. When I speak of us having "pocket Gods" that is exactly what I am talking about.  A god that is good when good stuff happens.  A god that is good when we get the job, the girl, the child, the raise, the new car, etc...  You get the picture. 

It is just the opposite when your world is thrown upside down.  When you are sitting in the same place as Job.  Broken.  No hope, no future.  Because it's at that moment when God is best.  When your life gets tough, how willing are you to say "God is good."? Because He is.  And He and He alone is worthy of the praise and honor Job offered. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

God is... (part 2)

I hate typing. I really do. Which is funny, since that is exactly what I have to do to make this blog go. And yet, it is my kryptonite from posting more frequently. It's not really the words that are the problem. It's the typing. So unfortunately, or more likely fortunately for you, it prevents me from saying what's on my mind most of the time. My thoughts end up spoken by me on the road somewhere while I'm driving, instead of getting recorded for posterity's sake. So I say all that to say this- my part 2 post ended up in my car instead of on this blog. I really wanted to type it, I swear I did. But it just came out one morning when I was driving to work. And most of this stuff comes in waves, that I can't get back when it's gone. So, although the first version of this post was real good, it's gone. And I'm left trying to tie up a loose end. But the show must go on, and so I offer my best attempt at moving on with the blog.

Have you ever seen the movie "Grounghog's Day"? It was made in the '80's I think and had Bill Murray as the main character. Basically, the movie was about a guy who is stuck in the same day. Every day he wakes up and it's Grounghog's day. He can't die, can't age, and is stuck living the same day over and over. No matter what happens in one day, he wakes up and the same day starts over. So, he's stuck. But the kicker is he's the only one aware of it. Every one else is oblivious to this glitch in the matrix, for lack of a better phrase. Everyone he tries to explain this to thinks he's crazy. Every day he tries. He learns things only the people he tries to convince could know and tells them. Yet almost all think he is crazy- even with that kind of proof.

Have you ever thought God is in the same predicament? He works every day on us, just trying to get someone here to get a clue to who he is, and it's like we think He's crazy. That Love He shows, He freely gives, He yearns for us to acknowledge- we live oblivious to it. We wake up every day and it's Groundhog's Day and we're oblivious, and His job starts over again. We wake up every day and our Creator pursues us, and we're oblivious. God screams your name, my name, and we don't hear. We don't hear anything.  This "privilege" of living in a country that screams religion, has made us deaf.  Deaf to His cries of Love, of compassion.  Deaf to His calling of Holiness.  Deaf to his sobbing for sin. So it's no surprise we come so boldly to the Throne.  Because we are deaf to God. And so every day, it's like we all are clean slates He is working on.

God offers us a Love that is not readily described.  And the kicker is- He chases us around with it.  Like a man giving out candy.  But our problem is we are deaf.  We don't hear Him anymore.  People wonder why they have such a hard time knowing the will of God.  It's because we don't hear Him.  God's will is pretty easy to know.  Make disciples of all nations.  Follow Me.  That's it.  All the other stuff is noise.

But our problem is:  How can you respond to something you don't hear?  Why would you be receptive to something you don't acknowledge?   This inability to acknowledge God's Love is a direct result of the inability to acknowledge the Holiness of God.  That's why they are intertwined.  To see the Holiness of God, truly, is to understand the Love of God.  And vice-versa.

God loves you.  But He, and He alone, has earned the right to be praised, to be lifted up.  So, don't be so bold when you approach Him.  Humble yourself before Him.  Before you speak, listen.  Because most likely, He has already approached you, and you weren't listening.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

God is... (part 1)

Alright, pop quiz.  I say God is _____.  Fill in the blank.  Ready.  Go.

You said Love didn't you.  I bet most of you did.  I heard this question the other night in a class my family is taking.  The speaker said "if you were to poll people on the street with that phrase, what would be the response?"  Immediately, multiple people blurted out Love.  And, of course, the speaker said "correct, it would be Love."

Apparently I was different.  I immediately thought Holy.  I almost blurted it out in fact, but caught myself when the chorus of "Love" came raining down from all over.  It puzzled me at the time.  Why did I think that?  Love is obvious-  that is an obvious answer.  Think of all the John 3:16 signs we see at sporting events.  Everyone wants God to be their best buddy.  So it should have been obvious.  Yet, here I was with a different answer.  Why?

When we talk about the character of God, what strikes you the most?  The Loving nature of God, or the Holiness of God?  The first choice is obviously easier to deal with.  I mean, who doesn't want a God that loves them unconditionally?  No questions asked. No requirements.  Just love.  That is definitely the easier approach.

The Holiness of God?  Tougher.  Much tougher.  But why?

Because it is not all encompassing.  We are not holy.  It makes us stand in stark contrast from God.  It is not unconditional.  It asks questions.  It has requirements.  We cannot stand before Him, are not worthy of uttering His name, should not be so bold to call ourselves Children of God when we consider the Holiness of God.  Because instead of including us with God, it separates us from Him.

Consider what John said in Revelation 1:17, "When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as though dead..."  Or what the prophet Isaiah said in Isaiah 6, "Woe is me!  For I am lost...".   The Message version uses the phrase "I'm as good as dead!"  These men, whom I imagine you would consider men of God (I do, at least), were so struck at the contrast, they either did die or wanted to.  These were men that knew the Bible.  Probably had memorized much of it.  Lived in a world where faith in God was not only important, it was part of life.  And yet the contrast they were faced with in the presence of Holiness, made them want to die.  I guess the way I see it, they wanted to be separated.

So think about that.  They wanted to be separate.  From God.  Doesn't that seem a little backward to you?  Because it does to me.  After all, those stories are straight from the Word. From the Bible.

But that is what God's Holiness does.  It separates Him from us.  Not only that, but it makes us want to remain that way.  Because we are so fragile, His very essence can take our life, and because we are selfish with our lives, we would rather remain alive than draw close to Him that way.  My only guess is that when we see Him, everything we try to hide is unhidden.  And the shock from that reality is too much.

The High priests of Israel wore a rope tied around their waists when they entered the Temple of the Most High God.  The reason was because there was a chance they might not come out alive.  And so if that happened, they would have to be dragged out of the place, because no one else could enter to remove them.
So, for these men, entering near the Lord was literally hazardous to their health.

Yet for us it is so different, so simple.  But, how are we any different?  Why would we be better than these men who spent their entire lives living around the will of God?  What makes us think we can belittle our relationships with a Creator this awesome?  Why do we act so foolish in how we interact with Him?  We act entitled.  We feel like we have earned God the buddy.  Not God the Consuming Fire.

I'm going to leave this post unfinished.  For some reason, even though I want to tie this up with how God's Love is the balance, countering this separation between us and is the reason we can draw close to him.  Is the reason He died for us, is the reason He offers us salvation.

But I feel like I don't need to yet, more like I can't yet.  I'm not really sure why.  Look, if this convicts you, I'm sorry.  It's not me.  It's God.  I'm just a humble typist.