Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Quick Triggered

I'm ashamed to say that I have too often been part of a posse with quick triggers.  As I mature in my faith and understanding of God's Word, however, I'm beginning to pull my finger off the trigger so that I think, meditate and pray before shooting.  Lately my gun has been staying in the holster a lot more.

No, I'm not talking about gun control.  I already did that!  I'm thinking about people who belong to Jesus being so quick to judge and condemn other members of Jesus' family because they do some things differently.

And it should be no surprise that the internet has become the firing range.

What I know (from personal experience at the range) is that snap judgments against fellow believers usually stems from a sense of my own self-righteousness and that I know what's best - not just for me, but for you, too.  My exodus from Pharisaism has been a long and winding road.  And still I am tempted to believe the worst about someone without first checking my own heart and then checking to see if its even any of my business!

I do believe there is a place for Christians to judge one another.  As politically incorrect as that might sound, it's also clearly taught in Scripture.  It doesn't however give us permission to peep into one another's windows at night or to fire off volleys if we think we've spotted an indiscretion.  With the responsibility of judgment also comes the responsibility of grace.

The gun doesn't fire unless I first put my finger on the trigger.  Even then I have to squeeze it.  But before I do, I need to be sure it's my place and that my reaction is to better someone not to attack or destroy or attack just because I may disagree.

How much better to save my ammo for the enemy.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Fairness, Sovereignty and Judging God

Our church's daily Bible reading* for today really got me thinking about God's sovereignty - that He is over all and in control and nothing happens to His children that He can't use for His greater glory.  Being a "theologian" those words and that concept are not new or foreign to me.  They're part of a greater belief system that starts with God and from Him moves down to mankind.

In Psalm 66:11 the psalmist, thinking back to the Hebrews time in Egypt wrote (to God), "You captured us in your net and laid the burden of slavery on our backs."   You did that, God.  It wasn't by chance.  It wasn't because of famine or the outcome of a cruel deed by Joseph's brothers.  You removed my ancestors from their home in Canaan, saw that they went to Egypt and there became slaves.  You, God.

I wonder if while they were making bricks without straw one of the Hebrews on a hot, sunny day popped up and shouted, "God is good!", and the thousands of others mixing the clay and water for the bricks gleefully shouted back, "All the time!".  

So is He or isn't He?  And before we say, "Of course, He is", let's rerun our lives, especially the times when it may have seemed He might not be so concerned with being good to us.  Then, while walking through a particularly dark valley, did we trust in the sovereign will of an almighty God, or did we doubt?  Did we wonder if He wasn't particularly fair?  Did we compare our tribulation to others and wonder why we seemed to be punished when someone who doesn't even know Him seems to float carefree through life?

Job's wife didn't believe in God's sovereignty and His ultimate good purposes for her husband.  After he lost virtually everything he had, including possessions and children and his own health, her words of encouragement were, "Why don't you just curse God and die!"  (How's that for a "help-meet"?)  Certainly behind her words were the thoughts that if this is how God doles out life, why bother?

How then do we make sense out of life when it seems to go south, when everything within us desires to go north?  How do we respond to tragedies that happen to the best of us when the worst of us seem to go through life without a hiccup?

Yes, God is good.  Yes, He is sovereign.  He is also omniscient (knows everything) and omnipotent (nothing can stop Him).  We are neither.  Nor are we eternal.  We are finite and limited.  But God is eternal, "from everlasting to everlasting", and can see and know everything that has not yet happened in my life.  He sees the "big picture".

On the other hand, I am none of the above.  I am limited in knowledge and ability.  I may think I know what's next, but in reality I not only don't know, my viewpoint is so little picture it's not even a pixel on His screen.  So, what I see as bad or unfair in the moment; what I see as the opposite of what I would do if I was God (!) is in itself an unfair judgment of Someone whose actions are beyond my grasp.

So, do you and I dare to judge God?  When our prayers are not answered in what we believe to be for our benefit and we complain or whine, aren't we really saying, "God, I know better than You.  You got this one wrong this time?"  Ultimately the whining and complaining, the doubting and second-guessing remove us from resting in His sovereign care.

Long ago a songwriter penned these words.  I sang them as a boy in church.  "'Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus".  Not just on the bright and shiny days, but especially in the dark and gloomy.  If I don't trust in His sovereign will I will not hold His hand through the valley of the shadow of death and I will not follow His lead.

Call it "blind faith" if you will, but I disagree.  Life's not always fair.  And when it's not, it isn't because God is an ogre.  We live with the consequences of a flawed nature and a flawed creation.  He didn't mess anything up.  And when things are "messed up" He is not obliged to give us a reason or the solution.  Don't judge God.  None of us wear that robe.

Rather, because He is God and we are not He deserves our trust always.  It is in the hardest of times, as Job demonstrated, that real faith is tested and found true.  Perhaps, too, in His loving kindness He will one day reveal how from start to finish He worked it all for our good. 

*Each day to help us grow together our church has a selected Bible reading. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Love is the Greatest Thing

 I told my wife the other day that every day with her is Valentines Day. 

She wasn’t impressed!

Tomorrow is that once-a-year celebration of love.  While we might celebrate, it’s the florists, Hallmark and Whitman’s that dance all the way to the bank.  But that’s OK.  The flowers, cards and chocolates are part of what makes it special.  Unless, of course you’re springing for bling…or expected to do so!

But I’m concerned that as Bon Jovi sang our culture has not only lost sight in many ways of what love is, but has given it “a bad name”.  Watch and listen to pop-culture and L-O-V-E is really L-U-S-T.  The idea of selfless sacrifice seems lost in wanting love to fulfill personal wants. 

On and on I could go.  But I won’t.  Instead, I’ll just quote from a passage in Scripture, quite poetic, that while often read at weddings isn’t about marriage.  But it is about love, and in its simplicity defines it as the highest of virtues.  So high in fact that Jesus told us we must love our enemies – perhaps life’s greatest challenge.

My greatest take from this explanation of love from someone who knew hatred so that he could experience the heights of love is that love is far beyond being a feeling.  Paul makes it clear that love is a verb.  Regardless of feelings, love does.

From the Contemporary English Bible, 1 Corinthians 13:1-8 and 13:

What if I could speak all languages of humans and of angels?
If I did not love others, I would be nothing more than a 
noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

What if I could prophesy and understand all secrets and all knowledge?
And what if I had faith that moved mountains?
I would be nothing, unless I loved others.

What if I gave away all that I owned and let myself be burned alive? I would gain nothing, unless I loved others.

Love is kind and patient, never jealous, boastful, proud, or rude.
Love isn’t selfish or quick tempered.
It doesn’t keep a record of wrongs that others do.

Love rejoices in the truth, but not in evil.
Love is always supportive, loyal, hopeful, and trusting.
Love never fails!

For now there are faith, hope, and love.
But of these three, the greatest is love.
On this Valentines Day and every day, let’s pursue the greatest in life.