23 March 2014

A Matter of Life and Death


PATTERNS OF THOUGHT
Do you have patterns in your thoughts that just seem to build on one another? Thoughts in which every lesson you learn seems to connect back to that theme or those themes? I have several on which my life seems to build.

This morning, my pastor continued his series in Genesis, this time looking at Cain and the familiar story of the first murder. Cain's example seems the best launching place for what I'd like to analyse with you. As always, I would so love to read your comments below if you agree, disagree, or wish to add additional thoughts.


TEMPTATION TO ANGER OR JEALOUSY
Cain, in the attitude of his heart (seen or unseen by anyone but God), displeased God and his offering was rejected. Further revealing his wrong focus, Cain's anger rose. In a rare moment many of us don't experience so clearly, God spoke to him and warned him of where his anger would lead.
“Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”
After God's direct confrontation, Cain did not "rule over" his sin, but instead was gripped by it and in anger killed his brother.

In theory, Cain had the choice to repent after his brother's murder. In reality, he had made his choice to choose sin, and it was as if his conscience died after that.

"Sin crouching at your door" makes one picture a lion crouching in wait of a lamb (or other prey), does it not? Does the lamb survive when the lion springs? Rarely. The time to call for the Shepherd to attack would have been when the lion still crouched.

I think the picture parallels well with sin. As we were reminded today in the message, to be tempted with a sin is not defeat. Defeat is when you embrace or allow that temptation to spring into control. Even then, repentance surrenders what's left of your carcass to the Creator to revive. If we're tempted, however, victory is only possible in crying out in humility to the Shepherd.

How might the life of Cain been different if he would have responded to God's warning with a cry for help? "I'm so angry and jealous, God. Please free me from these feelings, so that I may please You."
How loving of God to desire to stop Cain from his own sinfulness. If Cain had only received God's love, he would have been freed to love.

TEMPTATION TO GRUMBLE OR QUIT
A good example of lives to compare and contrast appears many times in the books of Exodus and Numbers. Many people get hung up on the grumbling of the Israelites as they journey in the desert "towards" the Promised Land. I have a hard time blaming them though. I would be surprised if any of you would not have grumbled. I know I sure would.

The journey dragged, the heat and thirst were real threats, and from morning till night no one could tell you how long you would stay in one location. Add to that a limited variety of food and walking and walking and walking. Oh, you must be an angel to not think you'd want to quit and regain some sense of familiarity and comfort (even if your memory failed you so that you longed again for Egypt).

Yet it seems God didn't understand their "right" to complain. If you've read through both books, you know several times God destroyed groups of the people in anger. I propose that God did understand their frustrations. He just had other plans for how they should deal with their feelings.

If it's true, which I strongly feel, that we are DEPENDENT beings that truly cannot survive on our own, and God—even after we chose sin and "independence" instead of Him—reaches out to us again and again with His great compassion, then there is only ONE solution to whatever we feel. Moses shines as an example of the best way, the one solution, and the rest of the wandering Israelites, the way most of us choose.

In contrast to what we've already reviewed of the grumblers who displeased God, Moses complained TO God. And what was God's reaction? He gave a miraculous solution.
5Then the LORD said to Moses, “Pass before the people and take with you some of the elders of Israel; and take in your hand your staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6“Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.” ~Exodus 17
Over and over, Moses goes directly into the presence of the Lord with all his complaints, burdens, and confusion. God provided again and again.
  • Numbers 11:2 ... When the people cried to Moses, he prayed to the LORD
  • Numbers 12:13 So Moses cried out to the LORD, "Please, God, heal her!"
  • Numbers 16:22 But Moses and Aaron fell facedown and cried out, "O God, the God who gives breath to all living things, will you be angry with the entire assembly
  • Numbers 20:6 ...And Moses and Aaron leaving the multitude, went into the tabernacle of the covenant,and fell flat upon the ground, and cried to the Lord
No burdens or grumbling of our hearts is a taboo topic to bring to God. Instead, God invites us to "caste all our cares upon Him, because He cares about you" (1 Peter 5:7). 

The Psalms give us words that often make me cringe at their violent descriptions of desired vengeance asked of God to carry out. Interestingly, many of these were written by King David, the "man after God's own heart," who is one of our next examples.

TEMPTATION TO PRIDE AND PASSION
The first two kings of Israel form another good contrast. Saul and David both began as humble men, but both had defining moments where they were confronted with their sin. The choices they made in that moment, determined their legacy forever.

Saul went in obedience to attack the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15). However, he did not destroy everything, as the Lord commanded him. When confronted by Samuel, he admitted he sinned, but... 1) he feared the men, so he didn't obey, 2) he admitted it, but wanted Samuel to return with him to "worship the Lord." When Samuel refused, Saul's heart was fully uncovered. 

Samuel turned to go, but Saul grabbed his robe, which caused it to tear. Samuel told him this was a prophetic picture that his kingdom would be torn away from him.
30 Saul replied, “I have sinned. But please honor me before the elders of my people and before Israel; come back with me, so that I may worship the Lord your God.”
Saul's concern stemmed from pride. To be honoured before the leaders meant more to him than God's rejection of him as King of Israel. From this point on, his life completely unraveled until he ends his life on his sword pursued by his enemies.

David sinned, as well. The most memorable to us is his adultery with Bathsheba and arranging the death of her husband. This sounds worse than Saul's not killing the animals or the king of a nation God swore to destroy, does it not?

Nathan the prophet came and told him a fictional story of a rich man stealing a pet lamb from a poor man in order to feed his company. This aroused David's anger. Then Nathan told him, "You are the man" (2 Samuel 12). What was David's reaction?
1 Have mercy on me, O God,
because of Your unfailing love.
Because of Your great compassion,
blot out the stain of my sins. 
2 Wash me clean from my guilt.
Purify me from my sin. 
3 For I recognize my rebellion;
it haunts me day and night. 
4 Against You, and You alone, have I sinned;
I have done what is evil in Your sight.... 
5For I was born a sinner—
yes, from the moment my mother conceived me. 
6But You desire honesty from the womb,b
teaching me wisdom even there. 
7Purify me from my sins,c and I will be clean;wash me, and I will be whiter than snow....Psalm 51
Not the severity of the sin, but the honesty of the repentance saved David and not Saul.

Saul wanted to keep up appearances to be honoured among men. David considered only his offense against God and cried out for cleansing.

TEMPTATION TO FEAR OR GREED
The final example, though many more could be expounded on, are of Judas Iscariot and Peter. Both
men betrayed Jesus, the Messiah of God. One could possibly argue that this is an ultimate sin.

Judas, the Gospel writers tell us, lived for money, so I tend to believe his betrayal flowed from his greed and Peter's from fear. Both chose something else as greater than their Lord, whom they had followed for three years acknowledging to His face that He was the promised One.

Both Judas and Peter seemed to acknowledge their traitorous actions as sin. Judas takes his life in despair (Acts 1:18), but Peter repents with tears (Matthew 26:75). After Jesus' resurrection, he receives restoration by the Lord to become a leader of the Church (John 21:15-19).

CONCLUSION
These examples, to me, show the incredible mercy of God. Every inclination of our hearts is to "do it on our own," to be "independent" of God. Yet, God knows that independence, for us who are created dependent, means death. Over and over He steps in to persuade us to surrender, to reveal Himself to gain our trust, to express His love to remove our burdens.

Can you get a small glimpse then at what sin is?

Sin pushes God's hand away and says, "me first!" Sin spits on God's love and cries, "I don't trust you!" Sin turns its back on God's compassion and says, "I'll be worthy on my own."

If you have read this far, I congratulate you. The post is lengthy, but so is the promise.

This is a burden to my heart for me and for you—that we understand God's love and compassion enough to receive it and give it to others; that we throw our worries, grumblings, discouragements, and discontent to Him without glossing over them; that we turn to Him in our temptation and find the door from which to flee; that we acknowledge the horror of our sin to Him and humble ourselves, not to gain applause, but to please One who loved us so much that He died in our place.

He wants our honesty and our complete dependence on Him.

I don't understand it completely. I only know, we need to come to Him about everything, because He cares about you and He cares about me.

_________________
We all have the capacity to sin like Cain, but through Jesus we can be freed by grace. ~Dr. Richard Liverance

For further meditation, please read Romans 6:12-23.


25 January 2014

Wow! Amazing.

Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.[1]

All my life I've heard wonderful stories of people who have needs, call out to God, and He supplies in a very personal way. But I've grown up in a family and nation where, though I've never been in wealth, I've never really been in want either.

We've had terrific storms here in Michigan this winter. A couple of weeks ago, we had snow falling so fast, that four or five times of clearing the drive was barely enough. That's when it happened, but without my asking.

The first snow dumped on a Monday. Because of the storm, I worked from home, so had the leisure of clearing the first wave myself.

Then I did it.

THE NEED SUPPLIED
Some recent injuries to my back weakened it so that the shoveling threw it into spasms. For the rest of the day, I lay working on the couch and babying it. That's when I heard the first of three or four times my neighbours revved up their snow blower and cleared my other neighbour's drive and my own. I lay with a mixture of guilt and thankfulness. God had provided when I had no way to provide for myself nor had yet grasped how desperate my situation would be if this need was not met.

My back continued to cause me various levels of pain the next couple weeks. The last several of days, I've finally felt the muscles easing, though not fully surrendering.

YET AGAIN
Another six inches of snow fell and covered my drive last night. I had not seen my neighbors yet this morning, so I began praying about how to clear my drive without irritating my back.

Not long after, I heard a knock on the door. Two young teenage boys asked if they could shovel my drive. In the past, I've always said no. For one, because I actually enjoy the exercise, and, two, I don't usually carry cash.

This time, I was three dollars shy of the $15 they suggested, but they graciously accepted it and did an amazing job clearing my walk, my steps, and my driveway in a very short amount of time (and it was heavy snow). I took out some hot chocolate and some chocolate mint candies and told one of the boys that they were an answer to prayer.

They were. I feel overwhelmed at how God provided, not only the answer for clearing my drive, but had provided enough cash to pay them (I really rarely carry cash!). Before I asked, He was already providing. And, He provided for me. Not a generic need for this area, but a specific request for my home.

GOD PROVIDES SO WE CAN ENJOY HIM
It may not seem like much to you, but when you're feeling at your weakest, that's when you realise the what is always true, though we rarely live as if we believe it—We are 100% incapable of living on our own; we are 100% at the mercy of God's grace.
"The enjoyment of God is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of earthly friends, are but shadows; but God is the substance. These are but scattered beams, but God is the sun. These are but streams, but God is the ocean." ~ Jonathan Edwards
If you bring in money and luxuries through your job, God provided. If you have enough or more than enough to eat, God provided. If you have warmth when it's cold and shelter from storms, God provided. If you have health to clear your own driveway, God provided.

If you think otherwise, God may bring you to a place where it is taken away, and you'll realise then, He's the only One on whom you can call.

I wish for all of us just enough times like these to begin habitually understanding, it's all about Him. He gets the praise for every comfort, supplied need, or enjoyment. And, He gets the cries for help when we feel unable to cope. It is all about Him. It's all enjoying our journey with Him. Enjoying Him.

 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. ~1 Peter 5:6-7

WOW! He cares for me, for you! He cares about every worry and anxiety of every individual. Isn't that amazing?

Do you have any stories of how God provided for you in a way that made you say, "Wow" and made you enjoy Him more? If so, please share them in the comments below. I'd love to hear.

19 January 2014

The Least of These


"People have forgotten what life is all about. They've forgotten what it is to be alive. They need to be reminded. They need to be reminded about what they have and what they can lose. And what I feel is the joy of life, the gift of life, the freedom of life, the wonderment of life." ~Leonard Lowe, Awakenings

The Least of These
It's strange what triggers memories sometimes. Frequently, the last year or two I have thought about a handful of adults who reached out to me when I was a child.

I remember a couple who took be out for Dairy Queen once or twice (he was even ill with cancer). An Italian, grandpa-aged man who bought me some stuffed animals, which I've kept till this day (stuffed animals were my FAVOURITE gift as a kid). A man who sat on the dock with me and sang "K-K-K-Katy" to me every summer.

The unique thing to me about these is that I grew up in a good and loving home. In fact, I was the youngest of six kids and a pastor's daughter. I could easily have been looked at as "all right" with enough attention to be overlooked. But somehow the love of God came through them to me (they couldn't have known that "quality time" is one of my love languages, but God did).

I just shared with a friend of mine about one other time I remember so vividly along this memory trail.

During a family vacation one summer, I disobeyed my sister, Connie, when she was taking care of me. I was a fish, as a kid. I lived in the water from morning till night. So my parents gave me the choice of no swimming for a day or a spanking. The spanking would be quicker, but I hated them so much that I chose not to swim. So the next day I sat on shore watching everyone else. Then a couple came over and asked if they could take me out. We went to a restaurant and ordered a brownie. I'll never forget that. I think I was old enough to know I deserved my punishment and wasn't escaping it. Instead, this became a picture of grace which made my punishment bearable.

These lessons were given to me at the youngest of ages, but have stayed with me all my life. By example, these individuals showed me what taking time for "the least of these" could look like. Their attention, singling me out, made me feel significant in their eyes. It didn't boost my self-importance, I don't think, but made me wish to give this gift to others too.

As I mentioned, these acts poured God's love and grace into my heart in life-demonstrated ways. He recognised me in a crowd (of family, church, nation, world), reached out through them, and touched me in a way that I could understand.

And, it was through simple things—some time, a gift, a song.

Jesus Loves the Little Ones Like You
I visited my parents over the holidays and my mom read aloud a book to us during some free time. One of the quotes from the books that stuck with me was "Jesus sure loves the children, Dad."

Whether or not the circumstances of the book took place or not, it's true—Jesus sure loves the children.
Then Jesus called for the children and said to the disciples, "Let the children come to me. Don't stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. (Luke 18:16)
It's made me think about whether there is some teenager or child (or some adult who's often alone), who I might be able to show this love to. It can be simple, but God can use it in marvelous ways.

Do you have memories of people who impacted you for good or for bad by singling you out? Please share your story with me below in the comments.



24 December 2013

In the Beginning


Many months have passed since I last wrote. As I sit to write this Christmas Eve day, a strange angle to the Christmas story comes to mind.

Blame it on my pastor, Dr. Rich Liverance. He's been preaching a series on Genesis. This has been a literary, scientific, and theological lesson. Though my brain has flashbacks to high school science class as he elaborates on Periodic Table of Elements and shows the interaction of these elements, I can appreciate the gist of the laws set up in nature.

In the Beginning...
1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 4In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. 5The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
Genesis 1:1a states: "In the beginning God created..."

As we've studied the literary writings of Genesis and other Scripture references to God creating the world and as we've analysed scientific theories for a young earth created in six days or an old earth slowly evolving to what we have today, it has become very clear that it takes faith to believe either theory.

You either believe that the conditions of the earth today have been constant for billions of years, therefore making it possible to test the existing minerals, etc. and know that they are so old. However, if the rocks, for example, were formed in conditions that would not be known unless you were there to observe, then the testing of them would not reveal an accurate age.

If you believe in the six days of creation, you have to have faith that the way God stated things was literal. In today's climate, you are a fool for believing this, as evolution is no longer consider theory.

None of this, however, matters as much as one huge theological point.

And God saw that it was Good...

Beginning on the third day, the Bible shares God's thoughts on His creative work.
10God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.
God called the earth "good." He called all He was creating "good." The important fact is that God looked down on a perfect world, one without sin and without death; a world filled with new beauty never imagined outside His own imagination. Proudly He admitted that His masterpiece came to life as He declared it should.

Sure, He could have had it take millions or billions of years. If you believe that God loves the earth as much or more than He loves mankind, He may have wished to see its forming and postpone mankind. Or He may have wished to savour His creation, knowing what a mess we'd make of it.

There is room to believe in large amounts of time passing and the Creator setting it all in motion like a set of dominoes. There is room until you realise one major fact that makes it impossible.

To Be or Not To Be...

Death. Evolution must include death. You cannot have evolutionary progress without survival of the fittest. In order for a species to evolve from sludge in a pond all the way to humanity, death had to happen over and over and over for billions upon billions of years.

If this was true, then Adam and Eve truly are a myth. God either created mankind as sinners or there really is no sin. Death couldn't be a result of sin, since death came unimaginably many years before there was a man or a woman.

So, there either was no sin or God endorsed it through creation, and God called all that and death good as the world evolved.

If God endorses death and the way we've lived (think back on your history books or listen to the news) since time began, there is no need for a Saviour.

Definitely, don't concern yourself with Christmas! Celebrate the holidays and the jolly old Saint Nick. Focus on love and giving, because you're as good as you'll ever get. There is no hope for you outside yourself.

Unto Us is Born This Day...A Saviour, Messiah God

If, however, God endorses perfection and eternity, then how grieved He must have been for centuries as He called out to people, who He made with such care, molding us and placing us specially in a world where all our needs and wants could be met.

There, in the perfect world, we listened to one voice saying that maybe God wasn't telling us the whole truth. Maybe there was something better than God. We listened. We responded. We doubted. We acted. We sinned. We lost. We died—first to the ability to choose God and then through physical decay.

God did not sit idly by and let us destroy ourselves as we deserved to do.

  • At just the right time, He pierced through time and placed Himself in the womb of a woman. 
  • He learned our struggles with sin firsthand, yet never sinned.
  • He wept at the grief of death.

He declared Himself to be the Way, the Truth, and the Life, saying that unless we know Him, we would not know life again.

With one man—Adam—he brought sin in the world with his choice of one tree from which he could not eat. Believing Satan's words, he had faith that he'd have the best by this choice.

With one man, Yeshua, He brought righteousness into the world and life by one choice—following Him. By faith, we are asked to believe that this path, though painful, is better than life as we used to live.

God, promised Redeemer since the beginning of sin—He came to die that our sins might die. He came to rise from the dead, that we may die to our old life and live in Him.

This holiday isn't about gifts given, used, returned, forgotten.

This is an eternal Gift. This Gift begins in opening our hearts and ends in living for eternity. It begins with me and must be shared with you. It's a Gift that gives more and more the more it is embraced. It is THE GIFT that would be worth giving our physical lives for, because the life that comes from shedding our flesh will be never destroyed.

May you know this Gift this Christmas and in the New Year. May God grant us faith to live in this new Life the next 365 days.

I wish nothing more for you this Christmas than Yeshua.

27 July 2013

Safe Landing


July 6, 2013: Asiana flight 214 made a crash-landing at the San Francisco airport. Two died and many were injured. Experts are investigating the cause, but it seems clear a connection with the pilots' failing to fully switch on the navigational landing controls may be at the heart of things.

Misunderstandings
It may look like I'm straying off-topic, but this morning my thoughts fell on an often pondered dilemma—why does wrong often look or feel so good and good seem sometimes so unexciting. It isn't always so and for some it isn't quite as strong a pull as for others. But why does the enemy seem so in favour of our having fun and being happy, and God seem so often against it?

My reading for this morning included this verse, which triggered all this:
The thief [Satan] comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. ~Jesus
Instead of the pitchforked, red, torturing creature of modern depiction, the enemy is described in the Bible as beautiful, an "angel of light," one of the greatest of angelic beings, but also one like a lion crouching to devour (us) his prey. So in summary, he can appear attractive but with your and my destruction as his aim.

(Authenticity test: the enemy has taken countless lives, but never once offered his own for you.)

James in his letter to the church wrote:
16Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
Using Proper Navigation
And what does this have to do with an airline crash? 

In flight, I imagine there are many times an inexperienced pilot must feel tempted to doubt his navigational equipment. When entering storms or dark clouds, uncertainty must creep in about the direction or altitude. Should you follow your own feelings and instincts or trust the controls? It is even possible, as with flight 214, to believe you are trusting the controls only to discover in a fiery crash that you never fully switched them on.

Landing the Plane
Doing what feels good or makes us happy is like ignoring the navigational system and choosing to fly on our instincts. The cost is greater than what affects you or me. The hurt jars many who depend on us. 

James knew how deceptive feelings are when he reminded his people not to be "deceived." Real and lasting good is from our Father, who does not change with modern ideas and fades. He truly desires what is for our best (that we may have "full" life), but we must trust His navigation of our way Home even when it doesn't feel right. Trusting anything else will lead to wounds, separation, destruction and loss.

Let's daily check who is in control.


19 July 2013

Remembering A Kind Man



June 20th: I had a Skype chat with a Board Member of the ministry where I work. We were testing out the service before he spoke with the President and Chairman the next day. He told me of the horrible smoke in Singapore due to the fires in Indonesia. He mentioned he had had a doctor's appointment.  They said he had a couple leaky valves, but nothing for which they'd risk surgery.

He chatted for quite a while, and I had to remind myself to relax and just enjoy the conversation without worrying about work. He and his wife had tickets to fly here in about three weeks, but I rarely would have one-on-one time with him.

July 15th: Our friend had to have a triple by-pass surgery, instead of being here for the Board meeting the 16th. We found out only several days beforehand. But surgery went very well.

July 17th: Some complications started in his lungs, but nothing too alarming.

July 18th:
10:25 AM— From a co-worker: "He came out of High Dependency ward today, but his heart went into fibrillation at 6pm and his pulse rate was very high.  He was nauseous and was unable to eat and looked and felt unwell. He is back in the high dependency ward." 
5:40 PM— From his wife: "He collapsed three minutes ago. Docs have resuscitated heart but he may not make it." 
9:18 PM— From another friend: He's "with the Lord." "He didn't make it."
____________

And minus that one breath and one heartbeat, he is gone forever as we know him.

"I will go to him, but he will not return to me."

That's it. The ceasing of a normal physical "habit" of heart and lungs, and you no longer are as we have known you. You don't just resign from the Board. You disappear.

I'm new enough with death to be haunted by it. 

Tonight, I've pulled up his last emails to me. I've thought of the time I stayed in an apartment in South Africa with him and his wife and some ladies. I remembered how patient he was when twice I blew the fuse, darkening the apartment with my high voltage devices. 

Another friend reminded me of this past March of when he had spent a day driving us around—paid for all five of us to roam through some orchid gardens in Singapore, took us to a special Chinese restaurant for lunch, and wandered for hours through the Little India shops with us. Mr. Patience. 

I pulled up Skype tonight too. It was the last place I had seen his face, while I said I looked forward to seeing him and his wife in a short amount of time. 

Skype said he was just "offline."

I wonder. Is that all death is? You're still "out there," you're merely "offline" to the rest of the world. 

Jesus called it "sleeping" before He raised a good friend, who had been four days in a tomb. Although He used the term, eyewitnesses testified to seeing Him "weep" and noted how much "He loved him." He wept minutes before He brought him back to life. Why?

Truly, I leave it to the theologians and scholars to wrestle with the reasons. I stand with the people and note: "Could not this man who opened the eyes of the blind keep this man from dying?" 

And with Martha I say in faith, that I believe there will be a resurrection of the dead. 
25Jesus said to her, "I AM the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, 26and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?" 
We live with it. Death. 

Death has been named the "Grim Reaper." It's pictured as a figure in black waiting to steal you away in a black horse-drawn carriage. 

Innately, we understand it's an enemy. One to whom those we love and we ourselves will almost all succumb (barring Jesus appearing to call us directly to Him).

Scripture reminds us we're like "grass that the wind blows over," and we're gone. Song writers ponder our status as "dust in the wind."
Same old song, just a drop of water in an endless sea 
All we do crumbles to the ground though we refuse to see 
Dust in the wind 
All we are is dust in the wind  
~Paul Simon and Ivana Kindl  
So what's the point?

Life is short. We know that! It's short for me, and it's way too short for those I love.

Am I living the way I want to be remembered?  Not just at my memorial service, but if they should tell my story a hundred years from now? Is it all about me or is it of use in God's greater story?

I don't have a lot of time to invest.

Nor do you.


Goodbye, Mr. Hwang. I'll look forward to seeing you at Home. Soon.


19 May 2013

The Bible Idol

Recently a friend began a discussion on the concept of whether or not some Christians make the Bible an idol. After all, anything good can be made bad by worshipping it rather than the Creator, right?

Someone who loves nature can find that the desire to admire forests, mountains, rivers—rather than leading to thoughts of how wonderful the Creator must be, if the creation is so beautiful, may instead lift thoughts no higher than the exhilaration that can come from adoration. Nature then becomes an idol.

Or those who play or watch a sport may find their thoughts persistently interrupted with the need to think in that vein, to skip fellowship to be out on the field or court,  to neglect relationships and duties to scream at a television screen. Sports then becomes an idol.

Or for those with a creative bent—as the spirit explains to the ghost in a C.S. Lewis' novel—they may begin with a desire to share glimpses of heaven and end by worshipping their very method of communication or, ultimately, themselves.

"Every poet and musician and artist, but for Grace, is drawn away from love of the thing he tells, to love of the telling till, down in Deep Hell, they cannot be interested in God at all but only in what they say about Him. For it doesn't stop at being interested in paint, you know. They sink lower—becoming interested in their own personalities and then in nothing but their own reputations."~The Great Divorce

Hmmm... Does that sound familiar? Not of an artist you may know, but of a Christian? Maybe it's you; maybe it's me—"becoming interested in their own personalities and then in nothing but their own reputations." Yes. I know that disease.

It may start as love for God, but then morphs into a love of a habit, thought, (God forbid) a favourite Bible verse. Then in their "zeal without knowledge", they print signs saying who God hates, they picket military funerals for reasons that don't relate to the family or the deceased, they preach truth without love or love without Truth (is that love?). In these cases we live as devils in the name of Jesus!

But is it correct to say that the Bible can become an idol? Maybe. But more accurate, I believe, would be to say that our understanding becomes an idol.

If we choose pet verses and miss the balance of Scripture, we break the Law of God.
"For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it."

Interestingly, the above verse is in a passage in James exhorting the churches to not show favouritism. Whether we twist Scriptures to damn a fellow Christian or someone outside of the faith for not adhering to the convictions we feel, we show favouritism. We accept those who think like us and treat anyone else as enemies. This partiality is equivalent to bias towards the rich over the poor, which is specifically addressed in James. This divisiveness makes enemies of those who do not think like we do.

If someone is an enemy, what did Jesus command? Instead of hating your enemy, He said "I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous."

If someone is truly wrong, living in sin, love would have them repent and reap the mercy of God, but pride wants to condemn them without a trial. 


Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his book Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community, wrote: "To make intercession means to grant our brother the same right that we have received, namely, to stand before Christ and share in His mercy." 


And, I would argue, this is the same right (to be prayed for) should be given to the lost too, who are not yet born again; therefore, to pray for an unsaved sinner, is to acknowledge that I was once in sin and (still struggle and have) need of God's mercy, and, but for His grace, I may have become worse than they.


True love desires that the one loved live in such a way as that he or she will benefit from the grace of God. You cannot love someone and desire their temporary happiness at the cost of their eternal happiness or at the cost of the value of their life. 


To want the best for someone, may require what some call "tough love." This does not belong just to the rebellious, who choose what is recognised as bad, but may also apply to one who is lazy and seeks pleasure rather than God. It may be necessary, out of love and only from love, to share with them the way of Truth, and pray they repent rather than reap the consequences of their sins. If they don't and the harvest of consequences comes, then love would lead one to come along side them to bear the burden and find the Saviour. 


Love and Truth summarize the whole Bible. As Mart DeHaan, former President of RBC Ministries, loves to tell—all Scripture either points to Christ as the Hope of all time or, by showing sin and weakness, points to our need for a Saviour. 

We, none of us, are guiltless. We all are responsible to be one who "correctly handles the Word of Truth." To "correctly handle" Scripture, one must be in it faithfully, consistently, listening, repenting, correcting our focus from one thing back to the Saviour and from another thing back to the Saviour. 

We will be accountable for knowing Scripture and for applying Scripture rightly (as this verse specifies). To know Bible passages and quote them does not prove you are righteous for even the devil quoted verses back to Jesus. 

Our knowledge of the Bible must be lived in obedience, love, and humility. If we find ourselves isolated from others, it may well be that pride has entered causing division. And, it may not be their pride, but yours or mine. Dissension and pride of any kind are something God hates.

Therefore, for our own standing before God, we must know and rightly apply the whole of Scripture to our own lives. But, also for the sake of the Body of the Messiah, to which all born again followers of Yeshua are members (arms, legs, hands, hearts), we bear responsibility.

"An element of sickness gets into the body; perhaps nobody knows where it is from or in what member it has lodged, but the body is infected. This is the proper metaphor for the Christian community. We are members of a body, not only when we choose to be, but in our whole existence. Every member serves the whole body, either to its health or to its destruction." ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

When we stand before Yahweh, will you and I be "approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed"? Today is all we may have.


What are your thoughts?