Monday, March 26, 2018

Kindly Repent

Kindly Repent
March 26, 2018
Romans 2:4  "Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?"

It is never wise to burn a bridge. This is an old saying that needs limited explaining. In short, you might need to use that bridge someday, the one you just crossed; it would be foolish to burn it down or destroy it. And while I have limited use for politics, it is always wise to carefully consider who you turn into an enemy. An enemy is less likely to help you in time of need than a friend. These statements might seem like common sense, but you'd be surprised at how foolish humans can be sometimes. We can see the wisdom in these statements, but every one of us violates the truths behind them in life AND in our relationship with God. We all seem to take Him and His forgiveness for granted, knowing that He will forgive us yet another time, despite the fact we are seldom deserving of it.

There are many of us who know better than to go against common sense in our relationship with God. At least I do. I know better than to sin. Seldom do I sin without knowing it is a sin, but I do it anyway. You are the same way. You know when you're wrong, but you do it anyway. This is a foolish thing, as it ends up taking advantage of God's kindness. There IS forgiveness for all who ask of it, but that doesn't mean we should keep on sinning, especially if we know better. We should be truly repentant of our sins. To be repentant, it requires acknowledgment of our sin, taking responsibility for the action, and then having the intent to stop or change the action moving forward into the future. There is a problem, though, if we never intend to stop that bad habit or set that sin aside. We should be motivated to truly stop sinning and not want to continue down that same path. The motivator is the kindness of God. God's kindness should lead you and I to true repentance for our sinning, bringing us to the point of not wanting to sin any longer. Did you realize that?

Paul wrote the same thing to the church in Rome. For some reason, they weren't realizing they should be repentant because of God's kindness. They didn't get it. I don't know anyone like that today; you and I would NEVER do something like that. Surely we ALL realize how kind God is to forgive us; we repent of our ways immediately because God is so rich in forgiveness and patience. We wouldn't want to take advantage of His kindness. Sarcasm aside, we all make this same mistake the Roman Christians made. When Paul wrote this particular line in his letter to the Romans, he was being sarcastic, asking them a rhetorical question, knowing full well they were aware of God's kindness. Re-read this line with a hint of sarcasm: "Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?"

Paul resorted to sarcasm because the early Christians didn't seem to care they were taking advantage of God's forgiveness; they were being what we would call hypocrites. But a few lines later, Paul sets the sarcasm down and takes a more direct tone, telling them to get their act together. Listen to what Paul said, " 5But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. 6God "will give to each person according to what he has done."" These words were written to Christians, not the unsaved. Paul didn't write these words on his own accord, he was quoting scripture, found in Psalm 62:12 and Proverbs 24:12. The specific line is "Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?" If you read the verse in both places, they seem positive, God rewarding someone for doing good. But the scripture is meant to be interpreted both ways, rewards for doing good and alternative rewards for doing bad.

So the next time you are in the act of a sin (the thing you know you shouldn't do but do it anyway, yeah, you know that one sin I'm talking about), think about Paul's sarcasm to the Romans and the future reward you will eventually get should you continue to live with this unrepentant sin. Let God's kindness lead you to repentance now, lest you seek His wrath later.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Numbers 14:18, Ps 62:12, Ps 103:8, Pr 24:12, Romans 2:3-9, Romans 7:15, Heb 10:26

Monday, March 19, 2018

Life Changing Word

Life Changing Word
March 19, 2018
2 Kings 22:11  "When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his robes."

Josiah was a king in the Old Testament, who followed King David by many generations. He was about two generations after the prophet Isaiah, and his reign followed that of his wicked father. What set him apart from his wicked father, however, was that he was a man who wanted to follow the Lord. Josiah became king when he was just a boy, but in his eighteenth year as king (at 26 years of age), he stumbled upon a book. His servants were tending to the repair of the temple, as it had fallen to disarray during his father's tenure, and the men found the book. The priest brought the book before the royal scribe who read it aloud to Josiah. It was interesting that Josiah had a heart after the Lord but had never read the Lord's words. Nonetheless, when Josiah heard the words read aloud in the book, which was the law of the Lord, Josiah's jaw hit the floor from shock and awe.

The law of the Lord described what was expected from the Israelites, as well as the blessings and curse to follow if the law was followed. The law heavily discussed serving idols and false gods, as well as regimens for the priests of the Lord's temple. Josiah's jaw hit the floor from shock and awe, as he realized the Israelites had done everything recommended against serving the Lord. They had done everything deserving of curses and death, and had completely broken the relationship with the Lord. Basically, they had failed miserable and Josiah realized it instantly. Josiah responded so profoundly upon hearing the words, that he tore his clothes and wept. The Lord's words, as read aloud, seared his soul deeply and instantly motivated him to action. He got to work, tearing down all the high places dedicated to false gods and idols. Josiah had the priests of the false gods slaughtered and he spread their ashes over the demolished alters of pagan worship. Josiah was swift with cleaning house, not letting himself rest until he had set things straight. It was a matter of days and weeks that he accomplished destroying all the temples built to pagan gods, not months and years.

In highlighting Josiah's story, he heard the word of the Lord and responded with passion. The words of the Lord were so real and alive to Josiah that he was moved to repentance and motivated for reconciliation. He didn't simply hear the words of the Lord and shrug his shoulders; he heard the words of the Lord and slaughtered the priests of the false gods and destroyed buildings and temples and alters. 

In applying this story to you and me, how often are we so deeply moved upon hearing the words of the Lord. When we open our Bible, do the words smack us in the face and put us on our knees, or do we close the book and go on with our lives? How changed and moved are you when you hear the Lord's words? How motivated are you to action when you learn one of the Lord's precepts? Do you clean house with the swiftness and finality of Josiah or are you as emotionally lazy as the rest of the masses? We all know the Bible is the Lord's given word, and is life changing. It changed Josiah's life in a moment, does it still change yours?

Don't take my word for it; look it up: 1 Kings 13:2, 2 Kings 21-23, Ps 33:4, 2 Tim 3:16-17

Monday, March 12, 2018

Throw a Party

Throw a Party
March 12, 2018
Jonah 4:3  "Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live."

Jonah was a man of God, but his level of maturity was oftentimes lacking. He was a prophet, yes, that is for certain. But just like all the other prophets and devout followers of the Lord, past or present, he had a major flaw. He was human. Jonah developed his ability to hear from the Lord, and the Lord truly did speak to  him. And when someone heard from the Lord, and was willing to share that with others, he was considered a prophet. Jonah had developed that skill and an occasional willingness to use it, hence he was a prophet. This extremely positive attribute about Jonah, though, was housed in his flawed and sinful, human body. Jonah had a few faults, which, if you remember the story, landed him in the belly of a whale.

Jonah disobeyed the Lord and was duly punished. Jonah thought the Lord wanted to kill him for disobeying, and looked toward certain doom when the men on the ship threw him overboard. The Lord had other plans, though, and provided the whale to swallow him whole. After spending three days in the belly of the whale, and crying out to the Lord, the Lord completed Jonah's discipline and set him on dry land. Jonah followed through with what the Lord asked him to do, preaching to Nineveh and saving them all from death, then he sat outside of the city and threw a party for one. Jonah sat away from Nineveh and stared at the city, pondering all that happened, throwing himself a pity party. For some reason, he was mad that the Lord saved the inhabitants of Nineveh, after just being saved himself from the belly of the whale. Jonah was so selfish and angry about it that he wished for death. The irony of the situation. The Lord had just saved him from death after the men on the boat threw him overboard.

The Lord had compassion for Jonah though, for some reason, even in the midst of the pity party, and caused a shade tree to grow up around Jonah to give him a break, a blessing, so he could sit in comfort. Jonah was pleased for the comfort, for the Lord's generosity, but the Lord took the shade tree away the next day. Again, Jonah wished for death at the loss of the simple comfort of the shade. He sat there, again, having a pity party for himself because of the lost blessing of the shade tree. 

Jonah didn't get it. He was so selfish that he wanted the Lord to keep His kindness away from the inhabitants of Nineveh but fully wanted the benefits of the Lord's kindness for himself. Jonah's sin of his disobedience warranted being disciplined, yet Jonah felt entitled and privileged, despite committing the sin that landed him in the belly of the whale. There was no humbleness in Jonah when he got out of the whale. He acted like a spoiled child again and again. The Bible never tells us how Jonah's life resolves, if he ever matured from this pity parties and bad attitude. The Lord wanted to use Jonah, and He did, to accomplish so much good.  Despite all the good Jonah did, he was not a success story of someone to emulate. His is only the story of the Lord's forgiveness and the Lord's extreme patience both for a lost people and for a flawed human who knew better. 

And while Jonah finally preached to save the inhabitants of Nineveh, I'm not so sure he went willingly and I'm not sure he did it with a good attitude. Did Jonah's actions for Nineveh warrant the Lord's blessing for obedience? I want to think Jonah figured it out later in life, repenting of his poor attitude and pride. Thankfully the Lord was patient with him, as you and I often need the Lord's patience for our self pity, too. But just because the Lord is patient, doesn't mean we should test it to see how far He is willing to go with it. However justified it might seem at the moment, there is absolutely no valid reason to throw yourself a pity party.   

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Ps 145:8, Job 1:21, Jonah 1:11-15, Jonah 4 

Monday, March 5, 2018

Keep Your Anxiety

Keep Your Anxiety
March 5, 2018
Philippians 4:6  "Do not be anxious about anything. . ."

Do not be anxious about anything but in everything present your requests to the Lord. Those are the instructions found in the Bible. Very specifically, it says we are not to be anxious. Seldom do any of us follow those orders. We like to keep our anxiety; it makes us feel alive. It makes us feel alive in pain, but alive nonetheless. If we aren't anxious anymore then what else is there for us to do when we are helpless? We cannot control the situation, we cannot fix it, hence the need to be anxious about it; it's the least we can do. But the Bible commands just the opposite. Furthermore, it says elsewhere that we are to cast our anxieties onto Him, throw them away like casting something into the ocean. It does not say we are to throw them away from ourselves but keep them on a string so we can reel them back in.  It says we are to throw them away from us; again, this is the opposite of keeping our anxieties.

According to science, the chemicals released in our bodies when we are anxious become toxic, causing harm internally, even altering our personalities over time. Anxiety can even cause a heart attack. No good thing has ever come from being anxious about something, not one thing. Nothing has ever been resolved through anxiety, and the problems have never been fixed by keeping anxiety close to the chest. The instructions in the Bible are to throw it away, but more importantly, let Jesus carry the weight of your anxiety.  Oftentimes, it is easier to deal with anxiety if there is someone else who will shoulder the responsibility. When was the last time a seven year old cared about where the money for the next mortgage payment would be coming from? Parents usually carry the weight of the responsibility and consequently the anxiety.

When we allow Jesus to take our anxiety, we are giving Him the shared responsibility for the situation. You cannot control it, you cannot fix it, and you may have zero ability to influence any potential outcome for the situation that you are anxious about. But Jesus, He has the ability to resolve it, to work it out how He sees fit. In fact, the Bible tells us that Jesus works EVERYTHING out as He sees fit, so He is already shouldering the weight of your situation. If He is already carrying the responsibility for it, then why carry the weight of the anxiety, too? Let Jesus take the anxiety, since He is ultimately responsible for the outcome. When things go well, do you not give glory to the Lord? Absolutely, we give glory to the Lord because EVERYTHING is under His care and His control and His dominion.  So, too, the problem you are anxious about today. It is all under His control and dominion and He is working everything out for your ultimate benefit, even if the short-term results do not look like it to our human eyes.

If you do not cast your anxieties onto Him, you are failing yourself. By keeping them all to yourself, you are telling Jesus that He is not really in control, not on His throne, and not truly Lord over your life. This may seem severe, but true nonetheless. The instructions are clear; cast your anxieties onto Him and then pray. Trust He will work it out as best for you in the long run, and pray and pray and pray. If you want something to do, when you can't do anything, being anxious isn't the key, praying is the only recommended course of action. Let the Lord be Lord of your life, and that includes taking your anxiety away. Or, if you want, keep your anxiety and reaffirm that you are Lord over your own life.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Rom 8:28, Phil 4:6-7, 1 Peter 5:6-10