Life in Neutral

One of the great spiritual deceptions is that there is a neutral position or state in which the disciple of Christ can idle.  When back-sliding Israel became idolatrous, they swung from worshiping God to bowing to idols.  Many in the Church today, think this example no longer applies; apostates do not erect a statue to Baal or Molech, yet think that ‘time away from the Lord’ is not an evil; however, Jesus’ teaching is crystal and warns that a person cannot serve two masters: ‘Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money…’ (Matthew 6:24) The word translated ‘money’ is a Greek transliteration from the Aramaic, μαμωνᾶς mamonas, and it means any ‘treasure’ in which we place trust; therefore, the nature of the idol is not the issue; idolatry is turning away from God.  We either serve God or we oppose Him; rebellion knows no middle way – as described in another of Jesus’ teaching: ‘Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.  For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.’ (ibid 7:13-14) Again, this is starkly binary.  Thus, the disciple is either ignorant of Scripture or self-deluded if he believes that he may please himself with impunity.  There is no activity or lack thereof, that is spiritually neutral.  We cannot think that there is ‘down-time’ in God’s economy.  We either...

Why?

Psalms 77:19 Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known. One of the first questions a young child learns to ask is “Why?”  They ask it repeatedly and relentlessly, eager to learn about the world around them.  Even as adults, it is the question we all want to know.  About everything.  Always.  Why did this happen?  Why did you say that?  Why am I being taxed like this? And on and on and on until we die.  But even then, we ask it – why am I dying now?  And we reserve special questions for when we’re actually dead.  “When I get to see God, I’m going to ask him why….” While meditating on the nature of curiosity the other day I was struck with how dangerous a question it is.  As a young child, we ask it primarily to explore and learn about the world around us.  As we grow older however, the motivation for the question changes.  We begin to ask it to understand and manipulate the motivations of others “…but mom, why can’t I have a cookie?”.  Eventually we no longer ask it seeking understanding of God’s universe at all, but rather control.  Understanding something is the first step to controlling it, and the question “why? is the key to understanding.  How is this dangerous?  Chiefly for two reasons:  it assumes we are equal with God in understanding His infinite ways and demonstrates a subtle attempt to control His providence. Job spends chapter after chapter establishing his innocence but also seeking to understand why tribulation...

Seeking Praise and Glory

Glory:  “Doxa” means honor, praise; an opinion, estimation, representation, ie “due acknowledgement of the exhibition of His attributes, character and ways to and through His believers.” Also, a “genuine and accurate confession of sins, bringing glory to His name” (found in Joshua 7:19). John 5:44  “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?” Romans 2:7  “…to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life…” Observation: This is not a condemnation of desiring glory, affirmation, approval and credit—this is natural–all men do it.   The bible actually affirms seeking glory—but only from God, not from men.  The scripture teaches the hope of receiving glory from God, on His terms, is a legitimate biblical motive. 1Corinthians 4:7 “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” Receiving glory is fraudulently accepting credit for what is not mine to accept. How can one take credit away from God, when we add nothing? Glory from men is not reliable, misleading and ultimately destructive to me and the testimony of Him. We simply cannot receive or believe it. Romans 4:20  “Yet, with respect to the promise of God, he (Abraham) did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God.” Giving glory is the opposite of receiving glory. It is giving credit where it is due. 1Peter 4:11  “Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is...

Searched By God

Before I get started, I have a confession.  Over the years, as a result of the work I was doing, I spent a lot of time on airplanes. On occasion, I failed to fully adhere to TSA guidelines for carry-on items (the confession part) and went ahead and packed that big tube of toothpaste or the massive thing of hair gel (don’t judge). In looking back on those times, I remember thinking that maybe I can get away with it and not have to throw these recently purchased items in the trash.  I knew the screening systems were sound, but there might be a chance they would miss finding the rule-breaking items in my bag.  There were several times it worked.  I was able to get the items to their destination and avoid the inconvenience of having to make new purchases.  I saved money, and I saved time.  Victory! In reflecting on my TSA smuggling efforts, I was convicted that I often view my sin in the same way. I like to think I can hide it from God by rationalizing that no one else is hurt, or it’s small enough not to matter.  After all, isn’t God merciful and forgiving?  Won’t God overlook mistakes?  One of the most under-emphasized attributes of God in the church today is His wrath.  The culture of the church continues to veer further and further away from the God described in the Bible.  In Hebrews 10:26 says, “For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation...

The Tongue-Tied Evangelist

In his first pastoral letter to the church he established in Corinth, Paul moves to tackle divisions that have occurred over who baptised whom, and says this: For Christ did not send me to baptise, but to preach the gospel – not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. (1 Corinthians 1:17) Devoid of wisdom and eloquence, does this sound like Paul? However, we must believe the self-assessment of his own oratory for he makes this statement: When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.  For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.  I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling.  My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.  (ibid 2:1-5) Paul the apostle to the Gentiles, arguably the greatest evangelist of the early church, was diminished by God to proclaim in weakness; moreover, the man who could dismiss as ‘light and momentary troubles’ (2 Corinthians 4:17) eight severe beatings, a stoning and being thrice ship-wrecked, shook with fear and trembling.  Such is God’s will on the matter; foremost He will be glorified; the comfort of the evangelist is subordinate. Also, we should note, the message was simple, ‘Jesus Christ and him crucified’.  Paul did not bring the complex doctrine – and there is good reason for this, as Peter comments: … our dear...
Wisdom Books Part 5 of 5

Wisdom Books Part 5 of 5

The Books of Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon comprise the Hebrew wisdom literature and form a unit. As such, they offer deep insights into the biblically legitimate ways to understand both life and the Author of life. This series will examine each book in successive order. SONG OF SOLOMON Song of Solomon is easily the most controversial book in the wisdom literature or perhaps in all of the Bible. If these books are a commentary on life, as I have suggested, then surely the message of this book is that life is about love. This accords well with the rest of Scripture. Paul writes to Timothy, “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5). But the love in Solomon’s Song is a very passionate love. And God built people for passion. Is Solomon teaching us that we must be passionate about God? If then, I have more passion for someone or something other than Christ, is that not idolatry? And if I am an idolater, what can I do but first declare myself the chief sinner, and then beg His forgiveness and plead that He would teach me to love Him with all my being. It is no compliment to God that I or any of His creatures should be so deficient in loving Him, such that we by nature expend our passions more on the creation than the Creator. But this highlights another feature of the love in Solomon’s Song – its exclusivity. Song of Solomon and Job have in...