Wednesday, July 19, 2017

How Faint a Whisper We Hear of Him

And these are but the outer fringe of his works; how faint the whisper we hear of him! Who then can understand the thunder of his power?”
Job 26:14

A while back I got bored with reading Scripture. I tired of going to church. I wasn't quite arrogant enough to say I knew everything there was to know about God, but I was convinced I'd read it all before and there really wasn't anything new for me to find in the Bible. You have to understand, I've been in church since I was four. I was convinced I'd heard all the stories, learned all the lessons, and sat through all the sermons. But I couldn't have been more wrong! This was nothing more than a tactic of the Adversary. I was deceived. Satan had actually succeeded in convincing me that learning about God - the most beautiful, powerful, interesting, and exciting being one can imagine - was boring. Today's verse captures well just how blind I was. 

The heart of theology is to know God; and when you set out to know an infinite being, you can never be finished learning. If God is infinite, there simply cannot be an end to what you don't yet know about Him. All that I have learned about God in my many years of church attendance and seminary study barely scratches the surface of what His Word reveals about Him. Even if I plumbed the depths of His revelation of Himself through Scripture, even that is only the outer fringes of His works. It's just a faint whisper of who He really is. But oh what a whisper it is! 

If I were to uncover all the mysteries of His creation, if I were to gain understanding of His great wisdom in ordering events and overwhelming chaos, if I were to grasp the unfathomable might of His power that He exercises in all His deeds... even then I still would not be any closer to exhausting all there is to know about our infinite and eternal God. There will always be more to His goodness, His wisdom, His being than we can comprehend. There will always be more reasons to praise Him. Knowing God is truly a lifelong task. Indeed, one lifetime is not nearly enough time, but it is all we have. So let's spend our lives studying what God has revealed about Himself to us in His Word, and then may we know the great joy of spending our eternity studying the fullness of God's glory face-to-face.

For further reading...
  • If you are looking for help getting to know the depths of who God is, I suggest a little book written by A. W. Tozer entitled The Knowledge of the Holy.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Matthias Waited

And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.
Acts 1:24-26

Have you ever been passed over for something that was then given to someone who didn't deserve it? Maybe it was a promotion at work that went to the kiss-up. Or perhaps your crush chose someone else over you, someone who just wasn't good for them. Whatever it was, I bet you've felt this way at least once. And if you are anything like me then you probably whined and complained and raged about the unfairness of it all. Well, the next time you feel this way, think about Matthias.

Scripture tells us that Matthias had been with Jesus and the twelve disciples from the very beginning, "from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us” (Acts 1:22). But in spite of that Jesus didn't choose Matthias to be one of the twelve. From all that we know, Matthias was a faithful follower with a good reputation who had followed Jesus for three and a half years right alongside the other disciples, yet he had been passed over...for Judas. 

I wonder if Matthias ever felt overlooked? Did he ever think Jesus had made a mistake not choosing him? We know that Judas not only betrayed Jesus in the end but that he also embezzled money from the ministry along the way (John 12:4-6). Did Matthias ever question Judas'  place among the twelve? If he did, Scripture doesn't mention it. In fact, this is the only passage in all of Scripture that mentions Matthias at all. He is never mentioned before or after his selection to replace Judas. So why does it matter?

Consider what Jesus said to the twelve disciples (including Judas) in Matthew 19:28: "Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." Jesus said this before Judas was revealed as a traitor. At the time, Matthias could not have known that this saying would one day apply to him. He was overlooked on earth from a human perspective, but he was not unnoticed. Although he may have felt unappreciated for years, God had a special place reserved for him in eternity. On earth, Matthias wasn't chosen for a center stage role. He was called to work behind the scenes, to humble himself and faithfully follow the Lord while he waited for God to lift him up. He trusted that God saw his good deeds and that God would reward him in due time. And God did! 

So don't be discouraged if you feel underutilized or passed over or forgotten by God. He has a part for you to play and your reward is secure. Don't waste your time coveting someone else's role. If you will be zealously faithful in doing what God has called you to do, you can be confident that even if you feel passed over in this world you will not go unnoticed in heaven.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Poison Sumac Praise

Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” But [Job] said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
Job 2:9-10

I'm miserable. I have large goose egg blisters on my elbows and forearms from a poison sumac plant I managed to get into as we cleared brush at the church this past weekend. I've had poison ivy and poison oak many times but these are the largest blisters I've ever seen. It is uncomfortable for me to bend or move my arms because they are all blistered around my elbows. And it is nearly impossible to rest them on my desk or on the arms of my chair without hitting a blister and causing pain or discomfort as well. So again, I'm miserable.

It makes me think of Job. He was covered with boils from head to toe. He had it a lot worse than I do. Job's words challenge me today, "Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” Who am I to tell God what I will and will not receive from Him? I have no right. God is God, so I will simply trust Him and receive what He sends my way. So today I choose to rejoice. Not in my painful blisters, but in all the amazing blessings God has poured out on me. The fact of the matter is that this little outbreak is the only thing in my life that I have to complain about. In every other way I am blessed beyond measure. 

You know if we aren't careful it's easy for us to focus on the few negative things in our lives and let them sour our attitude toward God, when what we should really be doing is offering up to Him unending praise for the countless blessings He has poured out on us. If you are tempted to grumble and complain about your condition or some situation in your life, take a break from focusing on the negative and choose to spend a minute thinking about all the positive things God has given you. No ask yourself Job's question. Is it right for you to receive good from God, but refuse to receive evil? God is God. Trust Him. And praise Him no matter what.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

When God is Against You

So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them. And he sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies. Whenever they marched out, the hand of the Lord was against them for harm, as the Lord had warned, and as the Lord had sworn to them. And they were in terrible distress.
Judges 2:14-15

Many believers act as though God doesn't care about our sin. "After all," one might think, "Jesus has already paid for my sin so why does it matter?" This attitude leads many Christians today handle their sin with a kind of a wink and a smile, but not so with God. God hates sin! He is Holy, pure, and perfect. Sin is an affront to His very nature. It is rebellion against Him. It is an insult to Him. God never deals with sin lightly. He never overlooks it. The atonement proves this. God's unwillingness to overlook our sin is why Jesus had to die. The only way any of our sins could be forgiven was for God's wrath against those sins to be fully satisfied. God poured out the punishment for our sins on Jesus as our substitute on the cross. But do not be so mistaken as to think that just because the eternal punishment of our sin has been dealt with that God no longer cares about your sin or that there will be no consequences to your sin. 

The above passage from Judges reveals that God set His face against His people because of their sin. He turned against them and put them in great distress. Don't think He won't do the same to you if you harbor sin in your life and in your heart. But even here there is good news, for our God is good. Even as God punished His people He showed them mercy and felt compassion for their suffering. The New Testament teaches that God disciplines believers like a Father disciplines the son whom He loves (Hebrews 12:5-7). He punishes us to bring us back to Himself. Punishment isn't reserved for the lost, rather redemptive punishment shows that you are a beloved child of God.

Does it seem as though God has been against you lately? Search your heart and your life for unconfessed sins and sins you have asked forgiveness for but aren't turning away from. Don't dare to ask God to forgive you of some sin, while having no intention to stop committing it. Instead take Scripture's advice. Fear God and fear His punishment (Proverbs 1:7, 3:7, & 16:6). Even though we know God's discipline is merciful and compassionate, it is still dreadful. So turn from the sin in your life and double your commitment to walk closely with the Lord.