God’s Character

See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.

Deuteronomy 32:39 (ESV)

I yearn that we’d all have an ever increasing understanding of God’s true character as one who both blesses and curses. It’s so painfully obvious to so many unbelievers that God’s hand is active in things we label as bad/evil, yet believers often are void of the ability to offer any explanation, preferring instead to ignore such things and go on talking only of His blessing.

I’m SO grateful for God’s grace and love, but let us never take lightly His sovereignty. He answers to no one and nothing, least of all us and our “understanding”.

Don’t be caught seeking His blessing… seek HIM. Ask for understanding and don’t ignore the “hard parts” of the Bible. It’s a gift to help us know more of He that is otherwise unknowable.

God help us when we try and fit You into our plans and thoughts. Let us be quicker to seek your face and character. Help us get an accurate picture of your character and heart rather than a comfortable one.

Advertisements

Taking Our Cross

For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?

Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have begun to reign—and that without us! How I wish that you really had begun to reign so that we also might reign with you! For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings. We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment.

I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you as my dear children.

1 Corinthians 4:7-14 (ESV)

It seems to me that in America Christians serve largely in order to gain for themselves. We shop for the church that makes us feel good, and care little to seek out real opportunity to offer ourselves as servants.

We say “serve God and he will bless you,” and claim that the Bible promises it to be true. Indeed it does, but our idea of blessing and God’s differ greatly. God “blessed” almost all of his disciples, and here Paul talks about the apostles, with the death of martyrs. Even Jesus himself was not blessed in the way that we’ve come to define it.

Not to say that God hasn’t blessed us materially. He certainly has! I do believe that quite often God does bless us in the ways that we’ve come to expect, but the problem is that we feel entitled to it. We should be infinitely grateful for these blessings, but remember that these things are not promised to us.

The ultimate prize and blessing that has been promised to us is eternal life. The life we are called to, however, is not one of materialism but of service. We are called to take up our cross and pour out our lives as Christ did.

To revel in your blessings as though you have them because of your own righteousness is wicked. It is also insensitive – what about the millions that suffer daily around the world for Christ? Are they simply not as righteous or faithful as you?

I once heard someone say that if your gospel is not universal, and cannot be preached to EVERYONE, then it is not gospel. I could never go to China and look someone who is suffering in the eye and tell them that they just don’t have enough faith.

We serve a good and loving God, who promises us that he works all things together for the good of those who are called according to his purpose, but that doesn’t mean we won’t suffer. It DOES mean that we can trust him to bring us through, and to be glorified in our suffering, and that in the end it will be more than worth it.

Disneyland

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?

Romans 8:18-24 (ESV)

Paul labels his present sufferings as nothing, but let’s keep in mind that compared to Paul’s, OUR sufferings are nothing. Paul suffered greatly for the gospel.

So what was his secret? How could he consider his sufferings as nothing?

When I tell my kids to clean their rooms, they moan of their “sufferings.” If I were to tell them they would be rewarded with a trip to Disneyland for a job well done, however, I have no doubt they would have their rooms sparkling in no time, and they’d be whistling while they worked (figuratively – they’re too young to whistle).

The difference is motivation. Having a goal.

I’ve come to believe that we spend entirely too little time thinking about Heaven. I’m convinced that if we could somehow wrap our mortal minds about the reality of Heaven, both as it exists now and in our eternal futures, it would radically change the way we live for Christ. The trouble is we as humans are terribly focused on this moment, and are very bad at broadening our gaze to include tomorrow, let alone eternity.

There is a book called Heaven by Randy Alcorn that I would highly recommend. We’ve been reading the kid’s version of the book with my children. It’s been an eye opener for our whole family as it forces you to not just give a quick thought toward Heaven, but forces you to really ponder on it.

I get truly excited when I think about what awaits us. To the degree that I’m able to keep my focus there, I have greater and greater capacity for living my life as Christ has called me to. Live as Paul said: “keeping your eye on the prize.”

In other words, give more than a quick thought about your eternal reward. Think on it every day. Build your anticipation on what awaits you. It’s going to be worth it. You possibly can’t get your hopes high enough!

Never Give Up

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

James 1:2-4 (ESV)

We often cite the Bible’s instruction to “consider it pure joy” when we face trials, but I believe there’s something important being said immediately afterward that is easy to miss. We could read this passage and take from it that our trials mature us.

But we’d be wrong.

Our trials DO NOT produce maturity. They produce perseverance, and our perseverance results in maturity. I would submit even that our trials don’t produce perseverance as much as they provide us the opportunity to persevere. Perseverance is the key.

But it’s also optional. Too often in our trials we look for the shortcut out instead of steadily walking through it in the way God leads us. That’s when we repeat the trial, because He intended that as an opportunity for growth and we robbed ourselves. So, because He loves us, He gives us another shot at maturity.

When a young man’s temptations with a girl try him, persevering in righteousness will mature him to be a good husband. Giving in will take him too quickly to places he’s not yet mature enough to handle. Excessive drinking is a shortcut for many to deal with trials, and it’s fruit is obvious. We can choose to lean on a credit card to quickly get us out of financial trouble instead of stewarding our money the way God instructs. We can lose our patience in a frustrating situation and yell or even become violent, because humility and the preferring of others takes too long.

Such choices only delay and often multiply our trials without yielding ANY maturity. It’s pretty obvious that our trials don’t produce maturity, but they DO give us opportunity to persevere in righteousness. So…

Never give up! Never give in! The trial will soon pass… and then give way to the next one. To think we can coast through life skipping over our hardships is a self deception. Part of life is constant training. Why?

“…so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything.”