When God Judges

As I have been reading the F260 material from the Old Testament, it has struck me that much of Scripture speaks of God’s favorable/unfavorable view of Israel, or the Jewish people, as a nation. The lives of individuals such as the prophets and important characters like Ruth, David, Samson, etc. are detailed. However, when God speaks of favor for those who follow and punishment for those who don’t, it is very often outlined in broad terms. In the past I have reflected on the inequity of these broad brush strokes of God, deciding in my own shallow and sin-stained mind that “surely the remnant of faithful followers received better treatment” , or in times of repentance, “those who continued to turn away from God must have been held accountable for their individual actions”.

This morning I was reading the last two chapters of Malachi (the last book in the Old Testament, before 400 years of silence from God). Chapter 3 begins and ends as follows:

“”Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts…….. “Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed his name. “They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.”

Generalizations are often full of exceptions, and what I am about to suggest is no different. But it seems to me that part of God’s story for humankind begins with individuals (Adam & Eve), transitions to a chosen people (Israel – OT), and then ends (will end) with a one-on-one judgement (Great White Throne / Bema Seat). Two things in all this stand out to me.

First, what happened to individual Jews in the Old Testament, or what may happen to each of us today, may seem fair or unfair, depending on our faith and trust in God (Prov. 3:5). Cancer or starvation vs. perfect health or fortune would seem to us as very different life experiences. However, what we so easily pass up  is that peace and joy come from a relationship (with Christ), not from physical conditions. The more we (and the Israelites) can (could) accept what God offers recognizing it will ultimately be in our best interest, (Matt. 6:26)  the better we will be.

Second, if the Prosperity Gospel is truly false (which it is) and yet God is the perfect judge (which He is) then this short earthly life is almost exclusively about His will, and not the place where the scales of right and wrong, sin and Christian sacrifice are weighted and apportioned (Rom. 9:14-18). If the saved (redeemed and forgiven) and the lost (sinners in the hands of an angry God) can be rich or poor, sick or healthy in this life, then it should only make eternity more compelling for some and more terrifying for the rest.  Each of us needs to reflect on the question of all questions…. Is our name written in the Lambs Book of Life?

Jeff Hilles

Advertisements

Friend of Sinners

I want to take some space to follow up with some lacking information from Sunday’s sermon. We live in a world of people that are different in values and lifestyles.  There will be many who will vehemently disagree with a life surrendered to Christ and His ways.  Yet, Jesus was known as a friend of sinners and those who follow Jesus should be also known in the same way.

Some may object, and implore the authority of scripture for reasons to separate from unrepentant sinners.  There are some grounds for that in a believer’s life but maybe not as much as one might think.  Often 1 Corinthians 5 is utilized to provide such an argument which states, “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

However, I would observe that this text is uniquely addressing professing Christians that are repeatedly falling to a specific temptation and/or no longer calling the sin wrong.  The instruction to disassociate with “sexually immoral people”  is explicitly directed to professing believers and not to those in the world.  So there is an implication that we are to be involved in the lives of those in the world.  Indeed, seek to love them and befriend them in the context of being an active and interdependent part of the local body of Christ.  We are not to be the ones that make recipients of our love “jump hoops’ before we can love people.  We do not have to approve everything that others do.  Who can do that anyway?  Jesus is the only one we can wholly approve.  There are many times I do not approve of myself specifically because I love myself and expect more.  However, we can love and respect people while not at the same time approve all of their decisions.  This means that as we examine the multiple interactions with those outside we can lean more toward “yes” to invitations and responses.  We will pray for wisdom to examine when our activities with friends may become an approval of their actions.  Many times those implied approvals can be negated with a frank and loving conversation about our lifestyles convictions.  At the same time, understand that anyone who follows Jesus’ commands on sexual expression will be increasingly bizarre in a society that wants the freedom of sexual expression to rank as high as freedom of speech, and religion.   This takes us to the essential command to allow Jesus to cross our will as we trust and love Christ and His work.

While Jesus had many friends who were sinners there were only a few that He entrusted himself to “because he knew what was in their hearts.”  This is evidenced in John 2:24 where Jesus differentiates levels of friendship yet He loved them all.  This “entrusting” idea is a very conscious decision of the level of influence we give to someone to shape our thinking and identity. Jesus looked to the Father for his identity and sought the Father’s voice in the words of others around him.    We don’t have the benefit of the knowledge of heart Jesus possessed, though words and actions can reveal much of our heart.  The principle of degrees of friendship is a wise principle.  These friendship degrees will be separated by our level of entrusting ourselves to a friendship and thereby determining the level of influence.

A helpful resource to help you think through your relationship and friendship can be found in Brad Hambrick’s book.Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk: Why and How Christians Should Have Gay Friends

Jarrod Scott.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mothers

Sunday was Mother’s Day.  Outside of Easter, Christmas, and Thanksgiving, I’m not sure there is a more deserving focus of recognition than mothers.  To be sure, Father’s Day has its place, as God has given fathers their unique calling and place in the structure and design of the home and society.  And as significant and historic as was the accomplishment of our nation attaining its independence, I would still place Mother’s Day ahead of July 4th.  And though setting aside a day of the year to remember and honor our servicemen who have died for our country is hardly thanks enough for their sacrifice, Memorial Day also takes a back seat to Mother’s Day.  Certainly holidays such as New Year’s Day, Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, and Labor Day pale in comparison to the day chosen to honor our mothers.

One of the things that makes mothers, and by extension Mother’s Day, so special is that they are worthy of honor simply for who they are, and not because they have done anything extraordinary.  But do not misunderstand, what I might refer to as less than extraordinary would be for the males of our race literally inconceivable.  But beyond the ability to conceive and carry a child (or more), the splendor of a mom is revealed in the thousand little things that make them who they are, things that come out as naturally as you and I breathe, things which would be extraordinary for a mere human.

For moms are superhuman, aren’t they?  At least, I hope you see yours as so.  I certainly view mine that way.  God blessed me with a mom who grew in faith in the Lord only after I had become an adult.  And whereas Christ was far from a priority for her as she raised us, in her later years, He became central to her thoughts and behavior.  But all the while, through an unhappy marriage and jobs that demanded so much of her time and energy, her love for me never wavered, and her vigor seemed to never deplete, even to the day before she went to heaven.  Ultimately, God took her body and soul simultaneously, and for that I am extremely grateful.

And now, my kids have the same kind of mother.  She works circles around all seven of us, and her heart is tender to the slightest offense in them.  She loves and serves her husband, and has God’s glory as the desire of her heart.  Her faults are just like yours and mine, small and momentous, occasional yet recurrent.  And they remind her of her need for a Savior who loves without condition.  Yes, as Proverbs 31:10 says, she is a virtuous wife worth far more than rubies.

Your mom deserves a day.  She probably deserves a month, maybe even her own planet.  For God could have started and grown families in a million other ways, but He chose to give each of us a mother.  And for that, I say thank you.  Mothers, I hope your day was special.

Rich Holt

Full Joy

Who is the most joyful person you know?  Have you wondered why they are so joyful or why you are not as joyful as they?  You might have contributed it to some personality quirk or maybe they just don’t care as much as you do and thus not burdened by life.  Maybe this joy-filled individual just needs some more responsibilities in their life?

However, I believe that the Bible presents the most joyous being as God Himself, who is the creator and sustainer of all things.  You could respond that we would have joy too if we had all power and wisdom.  Did you know that God desires you to experience His very own joy?  We can walk our life with all of its cares, burdens, and responsibilities and do so with God’s very own joy in our heart.  Consider what Jesus had to say in John 15:10-11,

If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in HIs love.  These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.

The secret to experiencing the very joy of Jesus and that at its fullness is to remain under the authority of Jesus.  Whenever we choose to disobey Jesus, we may get what we want, but we will lose what we most desperately need.  This day we may get fleeting happiness or we may experience enduring joy.  May we think clearly when it comes to the attitudes and decisions of our heart today.  A suggestion that I have recently have received is to find those people who can be your “Joy mentors.”  As a joy seeker, I could use a guide from someone who has walked similar paths and did so with joy.  Joy in living gives great glory to God as we worship and live for Him.  Consider a spouse who grudgingly is faithful or joyfully commits, which options speak of greater love to the spouse?  So too, don’t settle for just duty to God but seek the delight of the Lord in our living.  May the joy of the Lord be your strength today.

 

Jarrod Scott

Cherishing Gods Gifts

This week marks a significant date in my life as I am blessed to celebrate 26 years of Marriage to the Love of my earthly life Lisa.  The moment I saw her walk into our office on Glenwood over 28 years ago I was taken by her beauty and I haven’t been the same since…..And if you knew me 28 years ago you’d certainly say that is a good thing!  Now of course at that time I thought things were going just fine in my life but Thank God He knew exactly what I really needed in my life, so in walked the blessing of Lisa Armbrister.   In Genesis 2:18 Gods word says: “Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone, I will make him a helper fit for him.”
Isn’t it amazing that God knew exactly what we men would need to help us understand the love He has for us and aren’t you glad it was woman, bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh?  And to top it off, He made them more beautiful, more caring, more loving, and more of all of the things that we would need to get a true picture of His love for us.  Our marriages and the love and loyalty of our wives is a beautiful shadow of God’s love for us and we should be on our knees daily thanking Him for this great blessing.
Next to the saving grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ it’s the absolute best gift I could ever receive. So on this day and every day that I am blessed with life, I’ll thank God for His love and for the love of my wonderful wife Lisa, who fills my heart and life with a joy that I could  have never dreamed of and certainly never deserved.
Make sure you Thank God for your Wife today and then make sure she knows how blessed you are to have her in your life.
Happy 26th my love, thank you for loving God so much that I get the beautiful overflow of love in your heart.
Chris Best