Monday, July 30, 2012

Going Deeper for the week of July 29, 2012

What is the only debt that ought to always remain outstanding?  (And no it is not the US national deficit).

(Read Romans 13:1-14)

This is a rich passage.  It deals with our responsibilities to the governing authorities that have been instituted by God, as well as our responsibilities (debts) to others.  And finally it offers the reason why these things are so important.

So we have a responsibility to submit to our governing authorities.  Do you have a hard time with that?
If so, let us remember that in submitting to the governing authorities we are submitting to God who placed them over us.

Sometimes the governing authorities are not that nice, and they do not always stand for what we believe.  However, God did not tell us to submit to them because they are worthy of submission.  Rather God told us to submit because those in authority over us have been placed there by God and His authority.

And that is what we see in the book of Daniel.  Right away in the first verses of the first chapter, we see God placing Nebuchadnezzar in authority over His own people.  And we see Daniel and his friends submitting themselves to the king's authority as long as the king does not ask them to betray the LORD.

So no matter how difficult it may be, we are called to submit to authority (even paying taxes, revenue, respect, and honor - see Romans 13:7).  Yet our responsibility to the governing authorities is only the beginning.

Our responsibility to others is to "love one another".  This is the debt that ought to always remain outstanding (for all you trivia buffs like me).  The debt to love is something we always owe to everyone.  And Paul adds it is the summary of the law.

But why?  Why should we submit to authority and continue to love one another?  Paul gives us the answer in verse 11.

"And do this understanding the present time." 

The present time is the time of salvation that is nearer now than when we first believed.  The time is growing short.  This world is not our home, and soon Jesus will return and make all things new.  Jesus is the true King of kings, and He will assert His authority over all things on that great day!

But for now, we are called to submit, to love, to clothe ourselves with Jesus, and in everything to trust God.  He will fulfill His promise, and He will renew all things and we will see Him "face to face".
Oh glorious day!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Going Deeper for the week of July 22, 2012

Last week's tragedy in Colorado leaves us with questions.  How could this happen?  Where was God?  etc.

Anytime evil is perpetrated these questions come up.  Do I have complete answers?  No.  None of us will fully understand the problem of evil in light of the sovereignty of God.  However, I do want to reflect on a scriptural truth that can hopefully offer some comfort, or at the very least frame the discussion.  Again, I will offer my thoughts and invite you to offer yours.

Yesterday, the sermon text was Psalm 146.  In verses 7-9 we see a description of the things God does because He remains faithful forever (see verse 6).  In verse 9, the psalmist says, "The LORD watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but He frustrates the ways of the wicked."

Those words might be hard for us to read following such an awful tragedy, however, they also ring true and bring unspeakable comfort and hope in the face of this menacing evil.

Did God frustrate the complete diabolical plan of this young man?  Obviously not.  There are 12 people  dead and several others wounded to show that He did not.  Nevertheless, there are also other details coming out that demonstrate the hand of God "frustrating the ways of the wicked" in the midst of the chaos of that night.

First, there was the young man who turned his head just a split second before a bullet entered his neck narrowly missing vital nerves which would have left him paralyzed.

Second, there is the man who was shot in the neck, but the bullet barely missed his carotid artery allowing his life to be spared.

Third, there is the lady in the apartment underneath the suspect's own apartment, which had been wired to explode as soon as anyone entered the door.  Hearing the loud music she went up and knocked on the door asking him to please turn down the music.  In her frustration she discovered the door unlocked.  She was about to burst in, but at the last second "something" told her not to go in.

These are just a few evidences of the LORD frustrating the ways of the wicked.  The young man who perpetrated these heinous acts had even bigger plans for the pain he wanted to inflict, however some of those plans were frustrated.  There is no telling how many more people would have been killed if his apartment bombs had been detonated, or his bullets had found their awful mark.  

All in all this is an awful tragedy.  I do not in any way want to minimize it, nor do I want to say this was part of God's plan.  Evil is never part of God's plan.  However, I do want to affirm that these few incidences of the ways of the wicked being frustrated cannot simply be chocked up to coincidence or fate or chance.  These incidences of frustration are the work of an almighty God who was at work that horrible night frustrating the ways of the wicked.

I invite your thoughts on this as well.  What do you think?  Where was God?  How do we deal with the  reality of evil in light of God's full sovereignty?  Let's discuss.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Going Deeper for the week of July 1, 2012

According to the Bible, judgment is not our job.  There is a judge and He (Jesus) will judge the world with grace and truth.  But if judgment is not our job, then what is?

In James 5 we learn that we are called to patience (to wait on God) and to prayer (seek God - praise Him, thank Him, confess to Him, and ask Him for good things).  In prayer we are called to offer "requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving" for everyone so that all men will come to know "the truth that there is one God and one mediator between God and men the man Christ Jesus ..." (see I Timothy 2:1-6)

This is our testimony (there is one God and one mediator between God and men ...) and it is our calling to pray that more people will come to know the truth, even as we wait for Jesus to return!

In light of this, let us consider Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 2:1-16.

(Read I Corinthians 2:1-16)

Paul says he "resolved to know nothing ... except Jesus Christ and him crucified."  (2:2)  This was the content of his message and it was mediated by the Holy Spirit. (2:13)  So what about us?  What is our message, and how do we trust it is mediated?

I am learning that one of the hardest things for us to give up is control.  We like to control everything: conversations, outcomes, people, and in our worst moments (if we are honest) we even like to control God.  We are not comfortable with God operating outside of the boundaries we have set for Him (and we tend to justify the boundaries by saying they are boundaries God Himself has set).  But if we think about it that is not the case.  God is free.  He is unbounded, and He operates in ways we don't always expect.  So are we willing to let go of our need for control?  Are we willing to know nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified?  Are we willing to rest in that testimony and let the Spirit do the work?

These are questions with which we as the church must wrestle if we are to embrace a "missional" identity in the world in which we live.  So what do you think?  Do you agree or disagree?  Why?
I invite you to share your thoughts.  Let's discuss as we seek to go deeper into God's word together.