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.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

I Love Your More than Candy

How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Psalm 119:103

My wife and I sometimes use childish terms to express our love to our children. We'll say things like, "I love you more than I love pizza." Or "I love you more than peanut butter!" Or, if we really want to express the full height of the human emotion of love, we'll say, "I love you more than I love candy!!!"

Psalm 119:103 smacks of this kind of communication. By comparing His Word to honey, God stoops to use a metaphor we'll understand to help us see just how good His Word is. Now I can't claim to be an ancient Middle Eastern culinary expert, but I believe honey was the primary, and possibly even the only, sweetener the ancient Israelites had at their disposal. So to say that God's Word tastes sweeter than honey in that culture is really saying something. It's like saying God's Word is sweeter than sugar. It's better than candy.

Most believers have experienced this sweetness that God's Word can provide.  There's nothing sweeter than when the right passage of Scripture hits you right when you need it in just the right way. It isn't merely that in these instances the Bible hands us exactly what our souls were desperate for, but it is also the arrestingly beautiful way God's Word communicates these truths that makes it so good. 

But God's Word can't meet you where your need is if you never read it, If it's never in front of you, if you never find the time to pick up your Bible to read and think deeply about what it says, then it won't be sweeter than candy to you. Instead it will be more like that bowl of hard candy your great aunt leaves out at her house on her side table that no one ever eats. How sad!

So "taste and see that the LORD is good!" (Psalm 34:8). Take a moment and read a chapter of God's Word today, and the next day, and the next. Make room in your life for something good. I promise you won't regret it.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Is it worth it?

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
Psalm 16:5-6

Do you ever feel like you're doing everything right and nobody notices? You do all the work and someone else gets the credit? You make all the sacrifices, try to do all the right things, but you never seem to get ahead. Is it even worth it? Should you keep doing what's right even if it never seems to work out for you?

Yes!!! Let me tell you why. Believers can persevere in doing what's right because we know God promises that we will receive our reward in the end and because He Himself holds our future in His hands. 

The verses above say that God is our cup. The Bible uses this term to describe a person's deserved lot in life, or their due reward for their actions. A person's cup could be bad as in Psalm 11:6, "Let him rain coals on the wicked; fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup." Or a person's cup could be good as in Psalm 23:5, "You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows." For believers, God Himself is our cup. He is your reward! No matter how much this world cheats you out of what you deserve, know that God is watching and He has promised to give you not only crowns and a rich inheritance but also the greatest treasure of all: direct access to Himself (Revelation 22:4).

Believers also take comfort in the knowledge that it isn't the alignment of the stars, dumb luck, or the whimsy of the Fates, but God who holds our future. He has determined our destiny. He holds it up and supports us in it that we may not fall. Whatever you hope the future holds for you, relax and trust God. Whether He chooses to make your dreams come true or not, He has already promised to work it all out for your good.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose... What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:28, 31-32)