Monday, November 24, 2014

Knowing and Doing Better 11/24/2014

"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus," Titus 2:11-13

My mom used to say all of the time, "Son, when you know better, do better." At the time,the only thing I could take from that was that I had done something wrong. This was one of her gentler ways of letting me know that her expectations of me were higher than my performance. It was only with age and experience that I came to realize the import and the impact of what she was saying.

Beloved, God has a similar message for us today. There is not one who calls upon the name of Christ that does not know life before him and all that it entailed. The apostle Peter wrote, "For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries," 1 Pet 4:3. In other words, we have been there, done that, and some of us have bought the t-shirt. Now that we are children of God, we are called to a higher standard. We are called to this because we have become educated about who God is, what He provides and what He expects. There was so little benefit to the lives we were living previously. Now our path is set, our destination is sure and the benefit is out of this world.

Now that we know better, let us diligently pursue doing better and being better.



Monday, November 17, 2014

(Don't) Leave Us Alone 11/17/2014 (rp)

"Is this not the word that we spoke to you in Egypt, saying, ' Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians'? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness." Exodus 14:12

After 430 years of crying out to God for relief from the brutality and imprisonment of slavery, in His own time and in His own way through His chosen agency, God responded by freeing His people from Pharaoh's grip. As it would happen, Pharaoh experienced a bit of a change of mind and famously came after them. It was in the midst of this perceived threat (and I say perceived because God was with them) that the Hebrews apparently changed their minds and decided that slavery was not so bad after all.

Human nature can be both amazingly wonderful and tragically flawed. We have the strength, intelligence and fortitude to go from building the pyramids to going to the moon, but often times lack simple patience and faith. How could it be that the people, after crying out to God for so long, lose sight of His chosen deliverer, the miracle of the plagues (particularly the last one), be allowed to leave with the plunder of all of Egypt and think that all estimated two million of them (or even one of them for that matter) would be destroyed in the midst of God's hand? It is fascinating that not only do we want to be delivered from our negative circumstances, but that we want it done in a particular time frame, by particular means, in a particular manner. Otherwise we throw up our hands and seek our own means or reconcile ourselves to our situations. In other words, we sometimes would rather enjoy the "luxuries" of slavery than the "inconveniences" of freedom.

Beloved, faith is believing and trusting God. It means that when we pray for deliverance, we leave the who, what, why and where to Him. And if we happen to look out the window and see a threat coming our way, let us look away from that threat and look back at God. He is in control and we are not. And if the day would ever come when we could determine the conditions and features of our own deliverance by dictating them to Him, who then would be God?

Consider this wise piece of advice: "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths" Proverbs 3:5-6 (KJV).



Monday, November 3, 2014

A God of Second Chances 11/3/2014 (rp)

"Then Samson called to the Lord and said, 'O Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me just this time, O God, that I may at once be avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.'” Judges 16:28

This simple passage of Scripture does not readily reveal the profound impact of repentance and the amazing forgiveness of God, but careful study of the story and the man, Samson, will leave the fervent seeker awestruck, humbled and grateful.

In those days, the people of Israel were in a wretched cycle of being blessed by God, turning their backs on Him in favor of other gods, being subjected by force to the whims of other nations, crying out to God for relief and being rescued by Him. On this particular occasion, the people had been under the subjugation of the Philistines for 40 years. God, in His infinite mercy, sent his angel to a woman and, among other things, instructed her that she would bear a son and that through him, Israel would begin to be "saved from the hands of the Philistines," Judges 13:5. This was the beginning of the story and purpose of Samson.

Now the rest of his story is well known. He was born a Nazirite (one who is particularly dedicated to God, typically by vow and the observance of certain habits and restrictions), grew in supernatural strength, became a judge of the people and famously fought and defeated the Philistines on numerous occasions. It is also well known that Samson was a very flawed man. He had habits and desires that were not in keeping with his calling. He frequently made mistakes in judgment and failed to comport himself at some critical times and was known to visit prostitutes. He is perhaps best known for his involvement with the treacherous Philistine woman, Delilah. It is to her that, despite proving herself unworthy of his trust on at least three occasions that might have resulted in his death, he reveals the secret of his strength resulting in the breaking of his Nazarite vow and the loss of his power.

Beloved, it is easy for us to sit in judgment of Samson. We ask ourselves how he could have been so stupid, thereby inferring that we could never be guilty of such transgression and lack of good decision making. But is that strictly true? Has not God created each of us for His own glory? Has he not instructed us in His ways and given us a mission to do battle with the enemy? Have we not been distracted by the perceived benefits of that same enemy and actually done business with him? In some ways, times and situations, we are all Samson.

That said, we serve the same God as Samson. When he had come to fully understand the error of his ways, he remembered his purpose, he remembered his God given ability and he remembered his God. Through His amazing love and forgiveness, God came to the aid of Samson, even as He had to the people of Israel through Samson, and strengthened him for his original intended purpose. God never forsakes us. It is we who leave Him. But just as the father of the prodigal son, He constantly awaits our return and receives us when we come. All praises to Him for being a God of second (and third and fourth and fifth...) chances.