Wednesday, January 10, 2018

A Stone in the Lord's Hand

So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him.

David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the Philistine’s sword and drew it from the sheath. After he killed him, he cut off his head with the sword.
1 Samuel 17:50-51

When we read the story of David and Goliath, many of us want to read ourselves into David's role. We are the underdog fighting an epic battle, and whoever or whatever opposes us is our Goliath. If we will only trust God, then we know we can defeat our problem with His help. 

I once heard a pastor note that this reading of the story is all wrong. David foreshadows the Messiah, not the modern believer. If anyone is David in the story it's Christ. He is the great warrior who saves His people from the enemy who is too big for them. 

Well, if I can't be David, then perhaps I can be the stone. 

The above passage goes out of its way to point out that God ordained for this mighty warrior Goliath to be killed not by a sword or a javelin or a spear but by an ordinary stone. Verse 50 tells us that there was no sword in David's hand when he killed the giant. And verse 51 re-emphasizes that Goliath was already dead (from the stone) before David cut off his head. 

It was an ordinary, small, smooth stone which was hurled at that giant and killed him. A stone which had sat in a stream bed being rubbed smooth by the passing of water and time for who knows how long before its day of glory came.

I'm not saying that this is allegorical. This is a real story. And the stone doesn't represent us in an allegorical sense. Rather, this very real stone reveals something to us about how God works and what types of things (and people) He uses. God often uses small, overlooked, weak, and despised things and people to do glorious things to advance His cause. We see this in countless other Bible stories and characters as well. I could recount stories of fishermen who turned into apostles, of a small boy's lunch that fed 5,000 people, of a prisoner who became second in command over all Egypt, and a nursing cow who proved to the Philistines that Israel's God was real. But today it was this little stone that resonated with me.

Lord, I may be more of a blunt instrument than a sharp tool. I may be ordinary, but I know that You make a habit of using ordinary people and things to glorify Your name. Let me be a stone in Your hand, Lord. For even a little stone in Your hand is far superior to the sharpest weapon in the hand of the enemy. Send me out to do Your will. Keep me on the narrow path, aimed directly at all You would have me do. And when my life is over, Lord, when my purpose has been served, let none of the glory fall on me. Let me be as forgotten as that stone in Goliath's forehead, so that the name of my Savior may abound more and more.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Pet Sins

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 
I John 1:5-7

There once was a little boy who loved snakes. A pet snake was all he wanted for his birthday. His parents were a bit squeamish but they acquiesced and got him a snake which the pet store said was a ball python. The little boy couldn’t have been happier. He loved and cared for his snake and it grew to be rather large, over 7 feet long in fact. And then one day the snake stopped eating. The boy tried everything to get the snake to eat, but nothing worked. So after a time he took it to the vet. 

The vet listened carefully as the boy explained the situation. Then he asked the boy some questions. He asked whether the snake ever slept by him at night. The boy replied that it did. Then the vet asked if it ever snuggled close to him and stretched itself out alongside his body or wrapped itself around him. The boy replied, “Yes he’s been doing it every day. That’s how I know he loves me and it makes me so sad that I can’t help him feel better.”

Then the vet said something shocking. “Young man, this is not a ball python but a reticulated python which grows to be much larger and is much more dangerous. And sadly this snake doesn’t love you and he is not sick. He is preparing to eat you. He’s been sizing you up every day so he knows if he has grown large enough to swallow you yet. And he has stopped eating so he has enough room to digest you."

While this story is an urban legend it serves as a powerful metaphor for the way Christians relate to habitual sins in our lives. Most believers have a time of sanctification after we first get saved during which we put off sin and begin to live a new life. But over time, many believers get tired of fighting against the flesh every day and they end up with several stubborn sins that they fail to rid their lives of completely. Eventually we give up hope of ever being free of these sins. We stop fighting against them. We accept them and start to think of them less as sins and more as character flaws or bad habits. Whether it's arrogance, selfishness, materialism, anger issues, sexual  immorality, lust, or slander; eventually we grow comfortable with the idea that these few sins will be with us for the rest of our lives. 

The scary truth is that we have gotten so used to these sins as a part of our lives that we’ve forgotten how dangerous they are. These sins are dangerous! And Satan wants to use them to damage the reputation of Christ, steal our joy, hurt our relationship with God, and ruin our witness. 

In the passage above, Scripture tells us that those who walk in darkness can’t be walking with the God who is Light. No matter what a person says. If they claim to be a Christian but are walking in darkness then they are a liar. Warren Wiersbe says it this way, “darkness and light cannot exist in the same place.”

So don’t get comfortable with your sin. Fight against it! I am not advocating perfectionism. I will never be rid of my sin nature completely on this side of Heaven. Which means that I will never be completely free from all sin. But that doesn’t mean that it’s okay for me to willingly walk in sin every day and impose on God’s grace. That doesn’t mean that it’s okay for me to continue to live enslaved to certain sins and give up hope that I will ever beat them. 

Refuse to be enslaved to a sin that Jesus died to rescue you from! Fight against the sin that remains in you. Reject the lie that Jesus can’t set you free from some particular sin. And seek to become more like Christ each and every day.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

God is Light

God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.
I John 1:5

How amazingly appropriate it is for God to present Himself to this dark world as a pure and perfect light. For our world was nothing but a confusing mess, shrouded in darkness, until God said, "Let there be light" (Genesis 1:2). Yes, God created light, but men loved the darkness anyway. So, thousands of years later, God sent His Son into the world to shine a light on those walking in darkness (Isaiah 9:2 & John 1:4-5). He promised that those who believed on Him would be delivered from the dominion of darkness (Colossians 1:13) and would become children of light (John 12:36) shining in the darkness (Matthew 5:14). (Elements of this paragraph were inspired by Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible & The Names of God by George W. Knight)

So God is light, but what does that mean?

It means that God is good and holy. He is without sin, stain or blemish. He is perfect. God is honest, and true. There is no deception in Him. He is the source of all life, of everything that is good, and of all that is beautiful. It also tells us that God is not a god of confusion, but one of revelation. He doesn't trip us up; He lights the way. God is a god of knowledge. Everything is revealed to Him. He doesn't grope around in darkness but rather He lives in unapproachable light (I Timothy 6:16). All of this makes God trustworthy and right. 

So praise the Lord that we have a true light we can turn to when the darkness is overwhelming. When we are confused, we have someone to light our way. When we are scared we know someone we can trust. When we receive anything good, we know who to thank for it. 

It is unfathomable how terribly dark this world would be if God were anything but pure light. So be thankful! Praise the Lord and look to Him for hope, joy and guidance as you navigate through the darkness.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

God Doesn't Hurry (W.o.W. Rewind)

But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.
Galatians 4:4-5

I loved philosophy in undergrad. I'll never forget talking about Aristotle's ideal man. My professor explained that this ideal man would be tall, have a deep voice and he would never be in a hurry. He invoked John Wayne's slow, swaggering gait as an example. To hurry meant to be late, which meant you had made an error. The ideal man always had time to slow down and swagger. I knew right then and there that I was ruled out on all accounts. I was a short tenor who often had to run across campus to get to classes in time. 

I don't really know what the ideal man is like, but I am convinced that any God worthy of worship is never in a hurry. I mean what kind of a god would be in a hurry? One who didn't know the future? One who procrastinated or who had lost control? That's not a god I want to serve. 

Thankfully, the God of the Bible passes this test. He is never in a hurry. Over and over again in Scripture we see that God, knowing all future events, simply waits until the right time to act. God waited until Abraham was 99 years old before He gave him a son. It had been 24 years since He first promised him a child. Then once Israel went down into Egypt God let their numbers increase for 430 years before He rescued them from slavery. And when they fearfully refused to enter the Promised Land, God didn't hesitate to banish the entire generation to live out their remaining years in the wilderness. He would simply take the next generation into the Promised Land. Why not? He has all the time in the world.

We find the same God at work in the New Testament. During the time between the old and new testaments God was silent for roughly 400 years, biding His time. By the time Jesus finally was born it had been more than a thousand years since God first promised a Deliverer. What happens then? Basically nothing until Jesus is thirty years old. After Jesus' birth and circumcision we only have one story about His entire adolescence recorded in Scripture. He was roughly thirty years old before anyone really took notice of Him. The Messiah was living right under people's noses and they didn't notice... and God took His time revealing it to them.

What does this mean for us? Well, it means that God isn't in a hurry in your life either. Now don't mistake God's patience for indifference. You can be sure that God has a plan for you (Ephesians 2:10) and that He cares that He will not tolerate disobedience. But you can also be sure that He is not going to rush you. He will prepare you for what lies ahead and He will make sure it happens in His time. So relax. Trust the process. Trust God. Focus less on where you are right now or on how quickly you are moving forward. Focus more on being in right relationship with Him today and taking the steps of obedience you need to take right now.