What parent has not been the brunt of a child’s anger when they have had to discipline them or deny them of something they wanted to do? The parent is accused of being hateful or unloving. Or sometimes its the response, “everyone else is doing it, why can’t I?”. We know the very opposite is true. The parent is not being hateful or unloving. It is because of love that the parent sets boundaries, and denies certain things that can be harmful. We want the best for them. The same thing is true when we, as Christians, speak out against behaviors and actions that Scripture says are harmful, particularly those involving human sexuality. Many centuries ago King Solomon wrote, “There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.”(Proverbs 14:12) God is our Father. When He has set boundaries for our lives in his Holy Word, He has done it out of love and for our best good. When we uphold those values it is because of His love we desire all people to know.
As Christians we believe that the death and resurrection of Jesus are central to our faith. It is in these sovereign acts of God’s grace that we have forgiveness of sins, and a new and eternal life. This is the Gospel, the old old story that has been repeated for many generations. Recently I’ve been reading a work by a theological professor writing on the meaning of the cross. He brings out a depth of truth I had not thought of before. I have found it exciting to see aspects of God’s grace that are deep and wonderful. There is excitement for a new Christian when they realize that in Christ they have been cleansed and made righteous before God. But that’s not all. There is an infinite depth in our Lord that can never be exhausted. The excitement continues as the Lord draws us closer to Himself. Continue to read, think, and pray. There is always more grace, truth, and real excitement in walking day by day with Jesus Christ.
Coming into the fall season the baseball pennant race is heating up. The football season is getting under way. Team members are demonstrating how much effort must go into their sport in order to be successful. Each player has spent years of intense work to get where they are today. The same is true for those who achieve success in academics, and other fields. They apply desire, skill, determination, and years of work. These qualities also need to be applied to our “search” for God. When Paul was in Athens he said to the people, that God made man “so that they should seek Him, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.” (Acts 17:27) To the Philippians he wrote, “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”(3:12) God has first reached out to us. Otherwise we would not even consider Him. God loves us, and is always close at hand, but to truly know Him and understand something of His nature it takes desire, study, discipline, and persistence. He is with us all along the way, and His love draws us more deeply into His life.
There is a difference between a mirror and a photograph. They both show an image, but a photo can be touched up to make the subject look good. A mirror shows it like it is. At the Tabernacle, the Old Testament Jewish worship center, there was a bronze basin in which the priests would wash before going into the Holy Place of the sanctuary. To make that basin they collected the highly polished bronze mirrors of the ladies, and shaped them into a large bowl. This basin is symbolic of God’s Word, the Holy Scriptures. When we read the Bible it shows fallen human life as it is with all of its warts and blemishes. It shows us our own life with all of its failures and sins. While the bronze bowl of God’s Word shows us just as we are, it also holds the water for our cleansing. We are washed in the redemptive waters of our baptism, made clean, and able to walk into the presence of God. In Jesus Christ we are made new, not just touched up. God now sees us through the righteousness of Christ. “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God…”(Ephesians 2:8) And we can only bow in humble worship.
Scripture uses a number of forms to convey its truth. Some things are quite literal, other figurative or allegorical. We don’t set aside our human reason when we read the Bible, but we do need to be careful how we apply it. I ran across one example, perhaps minor, in Psalm 147 verse 4. “He determines the number of the stars, and calls them all by name”. Well now, we know from astronomy that there are billions and billions of stars. We’ve looked into the heavens and can’t even fathom its magnitude. It is not within human reason to know the full number of them, and to give each one a name – really? But this is Almighty God we are talking about. Is it not possible that such a statement is literally true? How about a great fish swallowing a man, or creating the cosmos in six days? Let’s be careful how much reason we apply to Scripture. Let the Bible be its own interpreter. We weren’t there when creation came into being, nor were we on the boat with Jonah. Our God is a awesome God, and capable of more that we can ever imagine. “Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.”(147:5) Let us bow in worship.
Hurricane Florence is battering the eastern coast of the U.S. There were necessary preparations and evacuations in the Carolinas. There will be a great cost and effort to rebuild after the storm passes. Tragically, some lives may even be lost. Whether natural disasters or trials cause by the sinfulness of man, we are faced with the truth that we live in a fallen world. Yet it is a world into which God has come with His redeeming love. It’s hard to see that love in the midst of the storm, but it is there. It is seen in the lives of people who give aid. Ultimately, it will be seen in the fulfilled promise of God making all things new. At one of the most critical and frightening times in the lives of His disciples Jesus said to them, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”(John 14:27) We may lose property. We may even lose physical life. But we cannot lose the love of God who will make all things new.
Jesus told us that “temptations are sure to come”. We are all tempted to sin in one way or another. But even the word sin implies that we have been given a standard, a value, that we should not transgress. In a day when society seeks to reject any values as absolute there are still some universally recognized, murder and sexual crimes among them. So it is not so easy to get rid of the word sin. And the fact of sin implies that there is an absolute good (our Lord) against whom all actions are measure. As we are tempted to sin it is always by something we like, something we want, something we desire to gain. In the Genesis account of creation we are told that “the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food, and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom…”(3:6) That is what makes resisting temptation so difficult. It is an internal battle between “I want” and “I know it’s wrong”. The motivation for resisting temptation, for overcoming the “I want”, is that we desire to please and bring honor to the One who is the Good above all.
Little blue letters on the computer screen – click on them and they will get you today’s news and weather, or a Bible passage, or a porn site. Satellite companies advertise that they bring 600 channels of TV into your home. The computer provides a thousand times that and more. In our modern world we are presented with such a vast array of choices that it boggles the mind. It is really a question of what we want. Do we want those things that strengthen our lives, that can serve as good for others, and that draw us closer to our Lord? This is more than deciding on a few clicks of a computer mouse, or TV remote. It is the basic attitude we establish for our lives. When Mary, the sister of Lazareth, sat at Jesus’ feet listening to Him, He said of her, “Mary has chosen the best portion, and it will not be taken from her.”(Luke10:42) In all the choices that confront us daily, Lord help us to choose the best portion.
Don’t ever lose the wonder! A few weeks ago we were in the office of our orthopedic doctor. On the walls of his examining room were six charts of various parts of the body – the hands, the legs and feet, and so forth. One of them was even called “The Amazing Back”. There is such a complexity to the body that even the artists who did the drawings found it amazing. And we know that the body is so complex that we need specialists for each part. I looked at the chart of The Amazing Back and thought, “my God made that”. It is the wonder, the majesty, of my God and yours who brought us into being. Even further, He made us with a human spirit which separates us from all others of the animal kingdom. The wonder goes on as we understand that He knows and love each one individually, and has redeemed us by the precious blood of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. We are so much more than a chart on the doctors wall. Don’t ever lose the wonder, and bow before Him in worship.
We teach children the simple table grace, “God is great, God is good, and we thank Him for our food.” Simple, maybe even a bit simplistic for adults, but it is also profound. God is great! There is none greater, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. He is creator of all things. He made us and all that is. He gives us every breath that we take. If He made us He also has shown us the best way in which we can live. God is good! He is a Father, our Father, who always seeks the best for us, and uses all things for our good. He is not just a general force out there somewhere. He is a person who knows and cares about each one of us personally. We could go on for many lines about His greatness and goodness, and we should in our own times of prayer and meditation. Because of all of this, He is due our overwhelming thanks. Not just for food, but for everything that comes to us. Maybe we need to remind ourselves again about the simple things we teach our children. They really are true.