Monday, November 27, 2017

The Fathers Response

The Fathers Response
November 27, 2017
Luke 15:20 ". . . But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him."

The Lord is the same yesterday, today, and forever. While we know that, the meaning gets lost in our daily lives sometimes.  The good thing about the Lord is that despite us forgetting about His perfect character, despite our flaws and daily mistakes, He is still the same and responds to us the exact same every time. Consider the prodigal son. You may not be the prodigal son, but you and I have played his role many times, even daily in the small things. We forsake the household of the Father and do what we want, when we want, and how we want, only to end up regretting it. But the response of the Father is the exact same every time; it is perfect.

Recall in the story about the prodigal, how the Father responded. When the son realized the error of his ways, and how bad it was, he simply headed back home to the household of his Father. The Father had not spoken to him, knew nothing about his poor choice of adventures, knew nothing of the status of his money or the condition of his situation. All the Father knew at that point was that his son was coming home. Upon hearing that his son was approaching, the Father rejoiced; He was so glad He would be embracing His son soon. The anticipation was thick, with being united with his son, and so He ran to meet him. Then he saw him in the far off distance. For all the Father knew, the son could have just been coming home for a visit, to brag about his adventures and wild success, but as the two came close, the Father soon saw the condition of his son. The Father, just by looking at his son while he approached, could see that His son was returning with bruises and stories of regret. It didn't matter to the Father; He ran to hug him anyway.

The bruises and the story of regret did not change the Father's love for His son. All He cared about was that His son came home. The son instantly told his Father of his regret and the Father simply continued rejoicing that His son came home. Not only did His son come home, but His son came home and wanted to stay, wanted to forsake his poor choice of adventures. The Father's response was perfect, welcoming, forgiving, and rejoicing. That response started when He saw His son in the far off distance coming home, long before the stories of regret. His character was so perfect, the Father had forgiveness in his heart even as His son approached, even before He knew how bad it was. It didn't matter; all the mattered was that His son was home.

None of this is a shock to any of us. We have read the story of the prodigal many times. We know the Father is full of forgiveness and will welcome us home; we know what His response is going to be when we decide to head back to His household. We know His response will be perfect. And how do we repay the Lord's forgiveness? By playing the part of the prodigal yet again. We may not forsake our Father for months on end, traveling the world while rolling in our filth and sin, but we certainly take day trips. You and I take brief jaunts away from the Father's house, not wandering far, but far enough to revel in our little sin for a few hours or days. We know the Father's response will be perfect, and in response to Him we end up abusing His forgiveness on a daily basis with our gossiping lips, our self serving attitude, our complaining and defiant actions, and our lack of respect for the Father. The ironic thing is that the Lord knows this about our character, the propensity to play the role of the prodigal, and yet He is still full of forgiveness and mercy, and grace. His response is still perfect. He will still run to see you, being filled with compassion and forgiveness.

How many day trips have you taken lately, away from the Father's house?

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Malachi 3:6, Luke 15, Heb 13:8

Monday, November 20, 2017

Simple Standard

Simple Standard
November 20, 2017
Ezekiel 18:24 ". . . Because of the unfaithfulness he is guilty of and because of the sins he has committed, he will die."

The Lord spoke to Ezekiel like no other. Sure, the Lord spoke to Moses, but those conversations were about the immediate, about how to deal with the Israelites. But the Lord talked to Ezekiel about the future, about how the Lord works in peoples lives, about Himself, and about the spiritual laws He set in motion. He asked Ezekiel to record it, to write it down so you can could read it and understand, truly understand the ways of the Lord. It wasn't a list of rules, more like an explanation of the way things worked. Keep in mind it predates salvation through Jesus, so the words were to Israelites who understood things in black and white, not through forgiveness and mercy and grace. Ironically, He introduced forgiveness, mercy, and grace but it seemed to create a double standard.

He explained that He does not rejoice when the wicked are punished in death, rather it is a sad scenario He wishes were different. It is not like He punishes them out of spite, rather their decisions carry a sentence He cannot commute if they are unwilling. The Lord says He rejoices when they turn from their ways. He has forgiveness, had forgiveness, even for the wretched before Jesus died on the cross. Repentance was always an option. But then He sets up what seems like a double standard. He says that believers who do amazing things, yet commit knowing sins later in life, will be punished and suffer the fate of the wicked, as if he was never a believer all along. It seems unfair. You can be good for 72 years of your life, even perform miracles on the Lord's behalf, literally serve Him to the ends of the earth, but fall into sin the last six months of your life and receive permanent punishment. 

The Lord foresaw this seemingly unfair treatment, when a sinful man can commit crimes against the Lord for the first 72 years of his life but figure it out the last six months and the Lord is willing to blot out, to redeem the man. The Israelites complained why they had to work hard to serve Him and yet the Lord wouldn't remember it all in the end, if they sinned only the last brief portions of their lives would reflect the punishment deserved for their sins against Him. It wasn't a tally of all the right or wrong, the Lord was setting up true forgiveness for everyone, if repentant, just like after Jesus died on the cross. Forgiveness was always available, even to the vilest of sinners. The Lord wasn't setting up a double standard, the Lord was setting up complete fairness. He set up that the final ways of a man, the final belief systems held in the end, those negated anything in his entire life before that point. It is not a double standard, it is a simple standard. 

The Israelites thought it was a mark system, a balance table of right and wrongs, of doing good things that outweighed the bad. It was unfair the Lord never remembered those things done right. It was actually completely fair, the same system was going to be applied no matter who you were, entrance to Heaven mattered only from the point of forgiveness onward. But the righteous man who lived like the wicked the last days of his life, because of those sins, he would suffer. The Lord actually said that man, who lived well in the beginning,yet failed in the end, had become unfaithful, like an adulterer. That man knew better, knew right from wrong and still chose wrong in the end. This ends up being more frustrating to the Lord than a sinner unaware. It speaks to living well all the days of your life, but more importantly, finishing well. It isn't how you start out, it isn't how you perform in the middle, it is about how you finish. There is no double standard, there never was. Forgiveness was and is always available; repentance has always been an option, until the very end. If you've messed up, get it right now. If you never got it right, now is the time to figure it out. But just as important, don't lose what you've already worked for, don't blow it at the finish line. You have to finish well, or the prior works won't mean anything.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Ezekiel 18, Acts 20:24, 2 Tim 4:7

Monday, November 13, 2017

Out of Loyalty

Out of Loyalty
November 13, 2017
Joshua 24:15 "But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve. . ."

Jesus told a parable about two sons. The father asked the two to go and work in the field. One agreed while the other denied him. Yet the one who denied it all changed his mind and did the work anyway. The one who agreed at the onset, shirked the responsibility and walked away. Jesus said the one who first said no, but ended up doing the work, he was the one who did the will of the father. This parable was referencing Christianity, specifically about the work involved with living it out, living and following Christ. The one who originally denied the father, realized he was in the wrong and went ahead and got to work in his Christianity. The one who agreed to start things out, yet walked away, watched as the other son got the reward. 

The son who agreed but failed to follow through, that son did not make it into the kingdom. Jesus said that son watched as prostitutes and tax collectors went ahead into Heaven. Either that son had no integrity or was tempted away, but for some reason decided he did not want to do his father's work. The Bible is very clear this guy knew specifically the father and knew the work asked of him. It wasn't like he never met his dad. He had a relationship with the father, lived in his household as a beloved son, yet quit when it was time to live for him. This son was completely out of loyalty, self absorbed, and served himself in the end. The other son, however, started out with selfish motives in play, then came to his senses, got his act together, and followed the will of the father. This man, the one who figured out how to lay down the satisfaction of the flesh, figured out honor and duty, this man ended up fulfilling the will of the father. This man did it all out of loyalty to the one who gave him life, to the one who kept him warm and well fed, to the one who gave him a family and a future. This man entered the kingdom, not because he was perfect, but because he understood what the father did for him, the depth of being called a son, and responded accordingly.

There are many days I'm like both of these sons. You are, too. Some days I am completely fresh out of loyalty and I end up serving myself. Some days, most days, I realize the error of my ways and move forward working for Him, not because it is always fun and exciting, but because I've figured out the loyalty required to overcome my self serving desires and I do what is right in serving my Father. For most Christians this is the case. We tell the Lord we'd like to serve ourselves this day, but then quickly remember all the Lord has done for us, realizing we are compelled to do the will of our dad. This isn't because we feel guilty about it, but we do it out of loyalty to our heavenly Father. There is work to be done and the Lord has asked a good deal from you. Are you fresh out of loyalty to Him or can you do the work out of your loyalty to Him? Which son do you side with, resembling the most? Be careful in your decision, only one makes it into the kingdom of heaven.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Matt 21:28-32

Monday, November 6, 2017

Costly Promised Land

Costly Promised Land
November 6, 2017
Numbers 13:28 "But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. . ."

Moses led the Children of Israel out of Egypt and they wandered desert for 40 years. They were on their way to a land called the Promised Land, but it took them 40 years to make a few days' trip. They were disobedient, stubborn, selfish, and insolent, which is why it took so long. The Lord disciplined them, then finally brought them to the entrance to the Promised Land. There was a caveat, though. Someone else was living in their Promised Land. Recall that the Promised Land got its name because it was sworn to Abraham hundreds of years earlier, a true promise. The Lord said He would give Abraham and His descendants this Promised Land, free of charge. It had been years since anyone had seen the Promised Land, only heard about it in stories. Now, they were there, at the gateway, ready to live the life God had for them.

Moses told them to go scope out the land before they just rushed in and attempted to take what was rightfully there. There was now a problem. Since they had wandered in the desert for 40 years (not to mention the time they were in slavery), a people group had not only taken root in the land, but were flourishing. No problem. They were told they would live in houses they had not built, and harvest crops they had not planted. This was foretold. Someone else had done all the work for them, the people who had taken root and were flourishing in the land. They scoped out the Promised Land and it was now going to cost them something. They were being given the land by the Lord, but it was going to cost them dearly. The Lord predicted all of this; none of it came as a shock to Him. The Children of Israel however, were still themselves. They saw the people who lived there, in their new land, and they became fearful of the cost. They had come this far and yet were willing to forego their Promised Land.

The cost of entering the Promised Land was not a battle with the inhabitants of the land, though that was inevitable. That was not an issue for the Lord; He saw that coming and knew He'd have to fight them off. That cost was already paid for. The Lord showed them time and time again how He fought their battles for them. This battle seemed bigger, though, the cost seemed higher. The cost of entering the Promised Land was trust. The Children of Israel were going to have to trust the Lord beyond all measure, that He was going to carry them through the hard times, the soon coming battles, to take possession of the Promise. It would require trust and faith in the One True God. The Promised Land was a given, but they still had to walk forward in faith.

As a child of God, there is a cost to following Him into all He has promised for you and for me. That cost is trust, trust that He will be there, trust that He will help you though the difficult times, trust that He will bring you through victoriously. You've probably missed out on a few Promised Lands because you were fearful just like the Israelites. Sometimes it feels easier to shrink back than walk forward in faith to take possession of your promise. The benefits of the Promised Land are amazing, but the trust required to get it is costly. Will you trust the Lord? Or will you forego your Promised Land?  

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Genesis 12:1-9, Numbers 13