Monday, June 03, 2019

Good and Bad Theology Mixed - Thoughts on Job 1-10

Job is a study in contrasts.  As Job and his friends try to come to grips with the awful tragedies that have fallen on Job, they make a lot of claims and statements concerning what they believe about God.  Some of these statements are spot on and full of wisdom.  And, frankly, some of them are just harmful.

For instance, consider the words of Eliphaz about God:  "He gives rain on the earth, And sends waters on the fields. He sets on high those who are lowly, And those who mourn are lifted to safety."  Or these words by Job:  "Truly I know it is so, But how can a man be righteous before God? If one wished to contend with Him, He could not answer Him one time out of a thousand. God is wise in heart and mighty in strength. Who has hardened himself against Him and prospered?"

Though these thoughts don't provide adequate answers to the cries of Job's heart, they do speak accurately about God and His plan and power.  If you think through some of these statements, they do eventually provide comfort in knowing that, no matter how things are going, God can be trusted because He is powerful and He is good.

But, on the other hand, both Job and his friends had their views of God tainted by an ancient prosperity theology.  They believed that God always rewarded the righteous with riches and health and God always punished the wicked with poverty and sickness.

Again, Eliphaz provides a perfect example of this damaging theology:  "Remember now, who ever perished being innocent? Or where were the upright ever cut off? Even as I have seen, Those who plow iniquity And sow trouble reap the same. By the blast of God they perish, And by the breath of His anger they are consumed."

The view of this ancient group of people was exactly the same as the view of the modern health and wealth teachers.  If you are going through trouble it is obviously because you have sinned and God is punishing you.  If things are going well, it is because you are righteous and God rewards the righteous.

The truth is, we don't always know why God allows us to go through suffering.  We can take some biblical principles and apply them to our situation, but, as we will see in the story of Job, God doesn't answer to us.  Sometimes, we have to just trust that He knows what is best and will bring about a greater end than we do.  We definitely shouldn't put God in a box like these prosperity teachers and blame the victim all the time.  Sometimes, we do sin and face punishment directly for our sin (see Galatians 6:7-8).  But, sometimes our suffering has nothing to do with anything we have done and has everything to do with God's secret plan of bringing about our holiness in the long-term.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

When God is silent - Esther 1-5

Some crazy stuff going on in Susa!  Drunken kings, deposed queens, virgin beauty pageants, murder plots, Jews stuck in foreign lands, plots to murder an entire race of people.  Man!  This is a mess!  Sounds like a great plot for a movie, but not something I'd want to live through.  But, this is what happens when mankind is left to their own devices.  I've often said that our history is full of wars over lines in the dirt.  That's how stupid we are some times.

And, where is God during all this?  That is the great question of this book.  All of these events are unfolding, and get even more exciting as we will see tomorrow, and God isn't even mentioned.  There is absolutely NO reference to God in this entire book.  It has cause some throughout Jewish and Christian history to question whether this book should even be in the Bible.

But, here is where our understanding of providence shines through.  We know that God is ALWAYS involved.  There is never a time that God isn't working.  Jesus even said, "My Father is working until now".  He meant that, even when you can't see it, God is at work.  The situations we read about in the book of Esther unfold that way because God is working through them to bring about a greater weight of glory.

The same is true in your life.  Sometimes it feels like God isn't there.  Like He has left the building.  Well, the book of Esther is here to tell us that God is there.  He hasn't left.  When you are at your lowest point, feeling farthest away from God, and can't see the light in the darkness, He is there!  He is active.  He is working.  He will NEVER leave you or forsake you.  Don't give up on Him because He never walks away from you!

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Recounting God's Faithfulness - Nehemiah 12-13

God is faithful.  Never forget that.  No matter what you are dealing with today, remember that God is faithful.  This is the message that comes across in Nehemiah 12-13.  These chapters begin with another list of names, this time of Priests and Levites.  These were the group of people that had been set aside by God to be the mediators of God's covenant with His people.  They were to represent the people before God and God before the people.  And though they failed in their duties throughout their history, God kept a remnant of them faithful to Him.  And, as Ezra and Nehemiah completed the reforms to Jewish society and worship that were needed after they came back from captivity in Babylon, we are given this list of names to show us that God keeps His covenant even when we don't.

The proper response to this is worship...worship which brings about a change in heart and life.  This is exactly what happened in these two chapters.  They have a huge worship service when they complete building the wall around Jerusalem and then they set about finishing up some of the societal reforms - confession of sin and promises to live righteously.

This should feel very familiar to us.  This is like the cycle of the week that God has designed for us.  In some sense, the Christian Sabbath (Sunday) is there for us to be recharged and commissioned to go out the rest of the week and live holy lives.  But in a very real sense, it is also designed by God to be a rest, a shelter of safety, a time when we lay our burdens down and feel and see the grace of God in action.  This is what drives us to worship as we gather.  We are reminded of the faithfulness of our God even though we are often unfaithful.  We are told, over and over, about the grace of our God as displayed in the cross.  We are driven to our knees in confession of sin and told of God's forgiveness.  And we worship Him because of all of this.  All of this is why it is so important that we gather together as the church.  It is because we desperately need it.  And God graciously provides it.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

The Faithfulness of God and our Response of Obedience (Nehemiah 10-11)

God is faithful.  Over and over, we read in the Scriptures that God keeps His promises.  That God will never fail.  Though others might leave us high and dry, God never will.  This is part of God's character that we should cling to.  It is one of the things that makes Him worthy of our trust and our dedication.

If you read Nehemiah 10 and 11 with us today, you probably skimmed a lot.  There are a lot of names.  And these Old Testament people sure came up with some strange names!  They are hard to pronounce, even for those who read pretty well.  And there is list after list of them.  Chapter 10 begins with a bunch of names who signed this covenant.  And chapter 11 is almost completely a list of names and the people who re-settled in Jerusalem and the surrounding villages.  Why all the names?  Why should we care?

Well, one of the major promises of God given in the Old Testament was that after He had judged Israel for their sins by deporting them to hostile nations, they would repent and He would bring a remnant back into the land.  It is first found in Deuteronomy 30 and later restated by the prophets.  The generation at the time of Nehemiah clung to this promise.  They WERE that remnant!  And, so they listed their names and the names of their fathers and grandfathers in order to do two things: 1) trace their genealogy in order to verify their place among the people of Israel, and 2) to show the faithfulness of God from generation to generation.

In response to God's faithfulness to them, they pledged (together!) to be faithful to Him.  They signed a covenant as one people.  Verse 29 says they, "join with their brothers, their nobles".  They formed a community and agreed to commit to one another and to their Lord.  They had specific things they agreed to be responsible to one another for.  They agreed to live a specific way and to hold each other accountable.

This is very much like what a church does today.  In our church, we have a church covenant.  We don't talk about it near enough, but anyone who has become a member of our church has agreed to the stipulations of this covenant.  The purpose is for us to commit before God to build one another up in our faith and to live like Christians.  We hold each other accountable (at least we are supposed to).

So, in thinking through this passage this morning, consider the faithfulness of God.  He is STILL faithful.  And consider your commitment to our church, not just the institution, but the people.  For further consideration, our church covenant can be found at

Monday, May 27, 2019

Attention to the Word - Thoughts on Nehemiah 8-9

OK, so I have wanted to do something like this for a while.  I want to invest some time bringing you the Word on a daily basis because it is God's Word that changes us.  Many of you have joined us as we have been reading through the Bible over the last 5 months (on a plan through YouVersion), which is great.  And there is a place in that reading plan to include comments, but it's kind of small.  And, you know me.  I'm wordy!  So, I hope to put some thoughts down daily here in the blog as they come to me.  Hopefully, God will use this, in conjunction with your reading to make an eternal impact.

As I read this passage this morning, I was struck by the devotion that these Jews had to the Word of God.  Ezra brought the Law to everyone who could understand it.  He read it from early in the morning until about midday.  They were all listening and paying attention to what he was reading.

Not only did he read it for hours, but they also spent time teaching it.  And they stood the entire time!!!  Can you imagine the love they must have had for God's Word to dedicate an entire day standing outside to listen to it?  Of course, they had been separated from the Law for 70 years as they were captives in Babylon.  So, this meant something to them.

I wonder sometimes if we take God's Word seriously.  Maybe we get so used to having 15 Bibles in our house and on our phones and hearing sermon after sermon after sermon that we (dare I say it) get bored with it.  But, God's Word is POWERFUL!  It changes us from the inside out.  It reveals to us the God of all the universe and what He has done to bring us to Him.

Now, I don't preach all day, although some of you might think I do.  But, my hope is that we would have a similar response to God's Word that these people had.  They respected God's Word.  They listened to God's Word.  It drove them to worship for the entire next week.  And it caused them in chapter 9 to recognize and confess their sins and to repent (change).  My prayer for all of us as we engage God's Word is that we would respond in a similar way for the sake of His kingdom.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Meditate (on the Word) Day and Night

In last Sunday's sermon, I gave three points of application regarding how we should interact with God's Word.  One was that we should read through it.  I recommend reading large portions of Scripture, the entire Bible in a year if you can do it.  This gives you a good overview of the big picture of the events and overall teaching of God's Word.

I also said that you should memorize the Scripture.  The Psalmist says that he hides God's Word in his heart in order to avoid sin.  With all the great tools that we have at this point in human history (the Bible on our phones!) we still need to memorize it so that we can be thinking about it and make use of it when we need it.

The second point of application that I gave was to meditate on it.  This is taken directly from the wording of Psalm 1:2 - "In his law he meditates day and night."  To meditate means to mutter something to yourself.  In essence, you are talking to yourself as you contemplate the meaning and application of Scripture.  I want to give you and example of how you can mine a text for diamonds that you can examine for a few minutes each day for a couple days without driving yourself crazy!

Take our "Verse of the Week" that we published in our bulletin and on our website this week:  Deuteronomy 7:9 - Therefore know that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments.

In looking at this verse, the first thing you should notice is the word "Therefore".  At this point, you should look at the immediate context of the verse to see what the "therefore" is there for.  How does it fit into the larger passage of Deuteronomy 7?  Then you might notice the word "know" is next.  Of course, you should want to find out WHAT you are supposed to know, which comes from the next few phrases.  But you should also ask yourself HOW you would come to know these things.  Think about your spiritual blindness and the work of the Holy Spirit that needs to take place as you read the Word in order to know the things God wants you to know hear.  As you think through these things, you could thank God that because of the cross of Christ, God opens the eyes of the blind and softens the hardened hearts that we have in order to know Him.

You could spend as long as you like thinking about these things and we haven't even gotten through the first phrase!  We haven't even considered WHAT we are to know yet.  This verse says we are to know two things - our God is really God and He is faithful (sounds like Hebrews 11:6).  You could spend a few days contemplating what it means to be God and thanking God that we don't serve a false idol, but the one true God.  As well, you could then consider how God has proven himself faithful throughout human history and in your life, which should then bring you to a crescendo of praise.

Please understand that I am not suggesting you spend 10 hours every day doing this.  I am saying that you take what time you have and fill it with God's Word.  If that's 5 minutes, take 5 minutes.  If it's an hour, spend it knowing and rejoicing in God through His Word.  Take it with you as you are driving to work, as you eat your lunch, as you lie down at night to go to sleep.  This is what the Psalmist means.

There is nothing in this world that will benefit you as much as allowing God's Word to permeate your thoughts and change you into the image of Christ.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Thoughts from Matthew 21:1-11 - Your King is Coming to You

"Your King is coming to you!"  This was the announcement from the prophet Zechariah roughly 580 years before the time of Christ.  But, Jesus didn't come like most people wanted Him to.  They wanted a military leader who would establish an earthly kingdom.  Jesus came as a humble servant to sacrifice Himself to redeem a people for God.

In Matthew 21, Jesus nears Jerusalem as He embarks on His final week of life during His first advent.  He is moving towards the cross with determined steps and everything is unfolding just as He and His Father had planned before anything, including time itself, ever came into being.  For His triumphal entry, his coronation, Jesus does not choose a might army and great horses.  He chooses two disciples, a donkey and her colt.

Verse 4 tells us that He did this on purpose in order to fulfill the prophecy made by Zechariah 580 years earlier.  Think about this.  Jesus made sure that He came into town at exactly this time and sent two disciples to exactly the right spot where he had the exact animals that were promised waiting just for Him.

This is how God works!  We don't know which disciples Jesus sent, but they played an important role in bringing these animals to the Master.  And, no one may ever know your name, but, if you are a child of God, you play an important role in the development of His kingdom.  He is sovereign and directs absolutely everything.  And, in that direction, He also allows us to participate in His plan!

Think about this for a minute.  We, who have lived in rebellion to God for our entire existence, are not only forgiven of our sin and adopted into His family, but we are also His chosen vessels to build His kingdom.  No matter what abilities you think you do or do not have, if God is able to use two unnamed disciples and a donkey, He is able to use you!  God does not make mistakes.  When He saved you and left you here on earth, He also equipped you to be able to love Him and love others.  What God wants from you is not some exceptional show of talent.  What God wants from you is faithfulness to pursue Him with all your heart and to serve others as He has served you.

You may feel that you don't have what it takes.  But the donkey and her colt are in this story to tell you that you don't need much.  Just be willing to be used by God for His purposes and He will do the rest.