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.