Why do we insist on challenging God? "God, where were You when the planes flew into the towers on 9/11? Where were You when our children were slaughtered at Columbine High School? Where are You now when I'm sitting here hurting?"
How often have we asked these questions? "How can God be real if all these bad things keep happening? Wouldn't a good God stop these tragedies and all this pain from happening?"
Hear His reply: "My poor lost and confused children, only 26 verses into the Bible, I said, 'Let Us make man in Our image.' I did not say, 'Let Us change Ourselves into man's image.' "
Every day, all over the world, people are trying to shape God into their image. We don't want to face His wrath; so, we ignore the scriptures on eternal damnation. We say we want to attract young people to our services; so, we don't preach against pre-marital sex or abortion or homosexuality because it's not "politically correct" today and some might be offended and not come back to our services.
At every football game, I see a sign that reads "John 3:16." I'm waiting for one that says "John 3:18." Do you think I'll ever see it?
Because we don't want to admit our sin, we run from place to place in search of something that always seems to elude us. We recreate God in our image so we can avoid His righteous condemnation and judgment. Cathy Ciaramitaro wrote in her recent book "The Cross," that: "We live in a day when, if we stand for righteousness, we are classified as bigots by many. 'Close minded,' 'judgmental' and 'intolerant' are common accusations heard by Christians who stand up for morality in our land."
God created us in His image as spirit beings. We have fleshly bodies; but, we are at our core, spirits... spirits with the freedom to choose our paths. Jesus said "Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!" (Matthew 7:22-23) How much more clearly can the Lord make His teaching?
Many religions today, want to "cherry pick" scripture. They only quote select verses that seem to support their idea. God gave us His Word as a complete work... His complete will. We must study all of scripture. When one verse seems to contradict another, it is our understanding that is in error, not His Word. In those cases, we are to keep reading, praying and studying His Word until, with the help of the Holy Spirit; we understand the complete message... His complete will.
Noah was ridiculed as he labored to build the arc; but, he chose to believe God. He and his entire household continued their labors as God commanded. As a result of his belief, he and his house were saved.
Abraham chose to believe God that he would have a son by supernatural means. After that son was born and God told Abraham to offer him as a sacrifice, Abraham believed that God would raise his son from the dead and keep His promise. Abraham made a choice to believe God.
God has told us that we should "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself" (Luke 10:27) and that "If you love me, you will obey what I command" (John 14:15)
Brethren, he never said to pick and chose what we would obey or believe. He gave us His Word so that we might understand His heart and know His unbounded love for us. We are the ones who added "chapter and verse" so we could take His loving Word apart and try to justify our actions by quoting only the parts that seem to satisfy our actions.
Diligently study the Word in its entirety. It is His love letter to us and it shows us His heart. We have the power to accept it and live God's way; or, we can reject it, reformat it to our image and live our way. We have the free will... the choice is ours.
"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus." - Philippians 2:5
When I was nineteen years old, my parents decided to build a new brick home with three bedrooms, a formal living room and dining room, and a den! We put our old house up for sale and it sold about six months before we were ready. That meant moving into very cramped temporary quarters with two bedrooms, one bathroom, and a one car garage (which we used for everything but cars). The closet in my bedroom had been converted into a kitchen pantry, so I lived out of a suitcase during those months. I didn't complain much, however, because my younger sister slept on the couch.
The worst part about it was being in transition all that time, knowing that nothing was permanent. I can't say that I know how the Children of Israel felt during their years of wandering, but it was as close to their experience as this city boy wants to get!
At last, Jehovah told David that is was time to settle down. "I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought Israel up out of Egypt to this day. I have moved from one tent site to another, from one dwelling place to another." (1 Chronicles 17:5) Why did God decide to exchange His tent for a temple? Some think the temple was built after Israel became firmly established in the Promised Land. Others say that the temple, built on a firm foundation of solid rock, pointed toward the coming Messiah... the rock of our salvation.
Some Christians spend their lives being "unsettled" in their relationship with God. Instead of enjoying a life built upon a solid foundation of faith, they ride the roller coaster of inconsistency. Beloved, become settled in your Christian walk. Allow the Holy Spirit to teach you the unchanging truths of God's Word. Enjoy the blessings of a firm foundation by exchanging your nomadic relationship with God for one that is secure, solid and safe.
GospeLines Prayer: (Borrowed from Psalm 84)
"How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my
flesh cry out for the living God...
Better is one day in your courts than a
thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper
in the house of the Lord my God than dwell
in the tents of the wicked."
'Bleak, black and icy comes night's damp fingers.
With uncertainty and restlessness it starts.
Gradually, gracefully, almost unknowingly you are
blanketed by the luring of its blackness.
Sing out, O night...you have waited the day;
grasp in your clutches the things in your way
But beware of the morn, and watch out for daybreak.
For then you must hide...your life is at stake!"
(T. Harrison, 1962)
Darkness creeps upon us before we know it! The days get longer in the spring but they never seem to be long enough. Life is like that as well. We celebrate our good days, and for Christians there are many of them; but inevitably, they are followed by times of darkness. The question is, how do we handle the bad times? What can we do to help the situation when the light goes out of our lives?
In his Easter message last year, a pastor friend suggested five things we can do in times like these.
Pray... prayer is always appropriate in good times and bad.
Think it through... remain calm. God is able to overcome.
Seek encouragement... there is strength in numbers!
Hold on... don't listen to those who say, give up.
Trust God to hold on to you... His everlasting arms will never grow weary of holding you.
GospeLines Prayer: "Father, it is easy to see your face in the daytime. But when the light goes out, I sometimes feel as though I am slipping into faithlessness, and it frightens me. Encircle me with friends who encourage me to hold on, and remind me that darkness is only temporary." Amen and amen.
I was at peace, sitting at my desk researching some obscure Hebrew translation. My wife was making dinner and the kids were doing their favorite thing... just "hanging."
Without warning, one of the girls started crying and screaming... at her mother! It seems Mom had asked her to turn off the TV and help with dinner. Instead of saying, "Yes, Mom" she went into melt-down. Suddenly, my peace was gone and I was angry.
A friend tells of driving to church on a beautiful winter morning. The ground was covered with new snow and the bright sun made the country side look like it was on fire. Her thoughts were filled with joy as she anticipated singing in the choir. At that moment, a careless driver cut in front of her causing her to slam on the brakes to avoid a collision. Suddenly, her mood became dour and she was angry.
A fellow pastor attended a special service at our church recently to hear Billye Brim. She was brilliant and we were both were blessed and renewed by her message. At the conclusion of the service, another attendee, in a rush to speak to Billye, bumped into my friend with such force that it almost knocked him down. Suddenly, his thoughts of Christ were replaced with anger.
Have you ever had this experience? Suddenly, without warning, Satan attacks and changes your mind from one that has the attitude of Jesus to one of the world. Maybe you recover quickly; but, the risk is ever present that in that brief moment, you may do or say something very hurtful to someone you love. That someone always includes Jesus.
How can we stop? How can we keep our emotions from reacting quicker that our minds can control?
We can't... on our own. But with help, we can. What we need is a way to keep our mind focused, always working like the mind of Christ. The only way we can do that is to keep our thoughts focused on the cross.
The “Old Rugged Cross” is more than a song we sing; it represents the center of God's plan for us before the beginning of time. It sole intent was to bring us back into God's presence as His children, clean and pure, redeemed and forgiven.
As Jesus endured all the beatings, all the unbelievable pain, suffering and torment, His thoughts were of how much He loves us. When He screamed, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do," He was talking about us! We have no idea how much we hurt Him every time we "lose it" or allow Satan to gain even momentary control of our minds.
After His resurrection, He provided us a way to keep the cross centered in our lives. He gave us a Comforter, His Spirit, to always be with us and to teach us all His ways (John 14:25-27)
He also left us His Peace. "...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."
If we keep the cross and all it represents uppermost in our minds, it will be a ready weapon, a Sword of the Spirit, and His Spirit in us will react faster and all the forces of darkness combined.
It's Ok to keep symbols of the cross no the walls, setting on your desk or positioned in any prominent place. But first and foremost, keep the cross ready in your mind. When Satan attacks suddenly, your defense will be ready.
"...for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. (1st John 5:4)
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” - Philippians 2:5