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Archive for September, 2008

The Goodness and Severity of God

September 30, 2008 Leave a comment

It’s one thing to say you believe in God, but it’s another thing to believe Him as He really is.

Our perception of God is easily distorted by our preferences.  We want Him to be just like we are, so that’s how we often view Him to be.

And when it comes to His attributes, we like those qualities that give us comfort – like His grace, mercy, and love.  But we prefer to forget those aspects that remind us of our accountability to Him – like His holiness, justice, and truth.     We want God to be good.  But we don’t want Him to be severe.

Yet God is exactly both.  “Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God” (Rom.11:22).    To remember that God’s character is balanced in this way goes a long way toward helping us live as we should before Him.

If all we do is dwell on God’s goodness, we easily fall into presumption and take His goodness for granted.  If, on the other hand,  we are preoccupied with His severity, we see God only as a threat to us and One who offers little hope.

We need to remember both, the goodness and the severity.

Typically – as is the case in our own day – it is thoughts of God’s severity that are most readily cast off.  With this, a view of God that is lax and indulgent becomes the rule.  And there is little thought that God’s favor has any connection to how much we fear Him.

But the Bible clearly tells us that such a connection exists.  This is why it says. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Pr.9:10).

Indeed, God is good.  He is filled with grace, mercy, and love.  Not only is He good, but He does good (Ps.119:68).  He opens His hand and satisfies the desire of every living thing (Ps.145:16).  He is compassionate and slow to anger. He abounds in lovingkindness and forgives iniquity (Ex.34:6,7).

But that’s not the whole story.  He is also severe.

Despite any thoughts to the contrary, God will not clear the impenitent and stubborn (Ex.34:7).  And those who are conceited and unbelieving He will cut off (Rom.11:20).

This means that behind every display of God’s goodness toward us lies the threat of severity if He is scorned.

When this severity is felt, it should lead us back to Him.  If we do not turn back, we have no complaint if the benefits of His goodness are withdrawn from us.

As many of God’s gracious benefits – like security and abundance – appear to be slipping away from us, could it be that God is calling us to a more well-rounded view of His character?  Could it be that He is reminding us of His severity and calling us to repentance?

While belief in God is still high in our culture, we have tended to domesticate Him so that He would do our bidding.  We’ve made Him into a pussy cat, when in fact He’s a lion.

Categories: Seed for the Harvest

Time to Clean House

September 23, 2008 2 comments

When circumstances are grim, it’s not hard for some people to quickly assume that the sky is falling.  This is particularly so among those Christians who see every bit of bad news as “signs of the times” and believe that the appearance of the “four horsemen of the apocalypse” is just around the corner.

The presence of bad news and tough times does not, however, necessarily mean the end is nigh.  It may just mean that God is cleaning house.

God’s presence and principles are an inescapable part of this world.  So much so that when He is consistently denied, it’s sure to bring tough consequences.  You might say that this is God’s way of keeping men honest or cleaning house.

When mankind first got off track in the garden of Eden, God did not give up on the human race.  He set in motion a plan to redeem it.  Ever since, God has been gracious and relentless to see this plan fulfilled.  And it will be, having been secured by the death and resurrection of His Son.

Sometimes, like during the days of Noah, things appear extremely bleak.  At that time, every intent of the thoughts of man’s heart was only evil (Gen.6:5).  And God was so grieved by what things had become that He determined to blot man out with a great flood.

But even this was not the end.  It was actually a new beginning. God washed the earth of its wickedness and preserved the human race through Noah, renewing His covenant with mankind.

God remains committed to redeem humanity and show forth the wisdom of His ways.  One way He makes this apparent is by allowing us to feel the consequences when we forsake His precepts for living.  Through this, affliction can be good, because by it we may learn God’s statutes (Ps.119:71).

So, when some big banks and lending institutions fail, it should not be treated like an unexpected hurricane.  We should ask what principles have been violated and take the steps necessary to amend our ways.  Otherwise, nothing will be learned and it will only lead to greater hardship.

The same thing applies in our personal lives too.  If you are feeling the sting of hardship because you know in your heart you’ve taken a wrong turn, take responsibility and get back on track.  Look at what God is showing you, and clean house where it’s needed.

“He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion” (Pr.28:13).

I know a man who likes to say that we have many deaths and many lives.  By that he means that there are lots of times we are brought low because we have blown it.  But it’s at these times we die to our old self and old ways and are raised up to something new and better.

That makes sense, and it’s the hope God gives us in His risen Son, Jesus Christ.

Categories: Seed for the Harvest

Sowing and Reaping

September 16, 2008 Leave a comment

Last night I came across an article dealing with the most recent financial crises and the public reaction to them. The article’s author, Bob Higgs, observes that the public has displayed shock over the collapse of several prominent financial institutions, but argues that such events should not be shocking at all. “After all,” he writes, “what did people expect, that water would flow uphill forever?”

The article continues by explaining how the government has created a “Hotel of Impossible Promises.” In this hotel are promises of government benefits without any apparent cost. And if a cost is acknowledged at all, it is passed off to the distant future.

The construction of this hotel has been made possible because the public itself is greedy for gain via politics – and at the expense of taxpayers. In the end, of course, this path only impoverishes and enslaves. But sadly, nobody seems to care.

Higgs concludes, “The American people have little interest in liberty. Instead, they want the impossible: home ownership for those who cannot afford homes, credit for those who are not credit worthy, old-age pensions for those who have not saved, health care for those who make no attempt to keep themselves healthy, and college educations for those who lack the wit to finish high school. Moreover, they want it now, and they want somebody else to pay for it.”

As I read this article, I was struck by how much the Bible speaks to its concerns. It’s often claimed that the Bible is an irrelevant book. But the truth is, it’s always relevant, because it’s eternal. And this becomes painfully apparent whenever God’s eternal truths are violated.

In a time of hardship the temptation is to look to the civil government to do more and more to secure our future. This is a temptation we must avoid. The government has neither the power nor good will to assure us the blessings we desire. Only God can do that.

Instead, we must return to Him as the source of liberty and prosperity. And we must recover the principles that have long been violated, leaving us the crises we now face.

Personal responsibility, a strong work ethic, sound money, concern for future generations, and an honest look at reality are virtues that made our society thrive like no other. We are kidding ourselves if we think we can prosper without them today.

Once again political candidates are promising change. But the change we need most you hear little about. And that’s a willingness to make no more impossible promises – that is, no more promises we can’t pay for.

Of course, that’s a promise we ourselves must be willing to accept.

Ultimately, this is a matter of character, and God’s principles always show themselves to be true over time. “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap” (Gal.6:7).

Categories: Seed for the Harvest

The House of Mourning

September 9, 2008 Leave a comment

Most people don’t like going to the funeral home very much.  But interestingly, the Bible tells us it is better to go there than to a party (Ecc.7:2).

How could this be?

Because going to a funeral home reminds us that we too are going to die one day.

Going to a party is not likely to get you thinking about eternity.  Going to the funeral home will.

And once you are able to see that this end is coming for all of us, you are in a much better position to live with prudence during the days that you have.

Going to the funeral home reminds us that our days are limited, so we should make the most of them.  It urges us to number our days, so we can gain a heart of wisdom (Ps.90:12).

Accordingly, we shouldn’t presume upon the future, thinking we have all the time in the world.  Because we don’t.  We don’t know what our lives will be like tomorrow.  Each one of us is a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes (Jas.4:14).

Consequently, we’re to give our all to what we’re given today.  “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, knowing that there is no activity or planning or wisdom in the grave where you are going” (Ecc.9:10).

The most obvious application of this is that we need to take care not to fritter away the opportunities God gives us.  We need to use all of our wisdom and strength to fulfill all that God has given us to do as faithful stewards.

We should take the same approach to amending our own lives.

It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment (Heb.9:27).  We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive according to what he has done in the body (2 Cor.10:5).

Sobering thought.  But needful, because it  insists that we amend our ways – now.  And this includes both what we do in private and public.

A big area to consider along these lines is our relationship with people.

How is it that we treat all those in our lives who are made in God’s image?  Selfishly or lovingly?  Do we seek to be served by them or serve them?

A trip to the funeral home leads us also to put away petty squabbles and bitterness toward others.  One should not wait ’til their deathbed to make things right with those they love.

Most of all, a visit to the funeral home should get us thinking of the basis of our own hope.  And as we do, we should bring all of our regrets to God and seek His grace, knowing that all who trust in His Son shall be forgiven and have everlasting life.

With this, the fear of death is taken away, and we are free to live for God in the days He apportions.

Categories: Seed for the Harvest

Time for Review

September 4, 2008 Leave a comment

As I remember my school experience, I recall the first few days of class involved a lot of review.  There wasn’t much new stuff, just a review of the basics.

Review is not a bad thing.  We easily forget what we thought we had down well.  And when we do, we struggle to cope with the new material that comes our way.

As this is the case in math class, so it is with life in general. So, faithfully going back to visit foundational truths is good and necessary.

The life without a foundation is regularly tossed to and fro, whereas those who have the basics down have a sure support on which to build their lives.

Here are the most basic truths that God has revealed in His Word.  Those who believe them and live by them have a rock-solid foundation for their lives.

First, there is a God who created all things and rules over heaven and earth.  Our existence is not the result of mere chance, but we are here by the will of a loving Creator and His existence is evident through what He has made (Gen.1:1; Rom.1:20).

Second, God has given us His Word, the Bible, to reveal Himself to us so that we would know Him and trust Him with our lives.  God has not given us life and left us to ourselves, but He has given us the guidance we need for an abundant life (2 Tim.3:16).

Third, God has made us in His likeness, and calls us to rule over this world on His behalf.  Because of unbelief, going all the way back to Adam, we no longer reflect God’s image or pursue His purpose as He originally designed (Gen.1:26,27).

Fourth, God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to restore us to Himself and renew His purpose for our lives.  All who trust in Christ experience redemption, and are in a position to glorify God as they are faithful to do His will (Rom.5:1,2).

Fifth, God has entrusted His church with the message of a renewed humanity and world.  As the church is faithful to what has been entrusted to it, this renewal expands according God’s plan (Mt.28:18-20).

Sixth, God has installed Jesus Christ as the King of kings and the Lord of lords.  Christ’s authority is comprehensive, and every realm of life is to be brought under His lordship through obedience to His commands (Ps.2:6; Acts 2:34-36) .

Seventh, God’s redemption of all things will one day be complete, and the knowledge of Him will fill the earth.  In the meantime, we are to be faithful in all that He calls us to do, and in this we find our joy (Phil.2:9-11; Jn.15:10,11).

Make the review of these basics a regular part of your spiritual development.  Without them, we easily lose our way.  But when these truths are continually treasured in our hearts, they transform our lives for good.

Categories: Seed for the Harvest