Saturday, March 17, 2007

Help Yourself

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our
troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God
(2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

Our God is a God of compassion. When we show compassion for each other, we join God at work in the world. We also share what God has shared with us and, in this way, we experience again the joy of God’s care for us.

A man named Thomas Browne once wrote –

“By compassion we make others' misery our own, and so, by relieving them, we relieve ourselves also.”

The best way to help yourself is to help someone else.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Truth & Truthiness

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. (John 14.16-17)

The world tries to tell us there is no truth, only personal opinions. Truth has been replaced by “truth-i-ness”. If it seems true to you or to me, then it must be. Truth is only approximate truth, “inclusive” of a wide range of perspectives.

In the face of this, the exclusive truth of God’s Word seems downright intolerant, even volatile. But those of us who have been transformed by the faith of Christ see things differently.

Thomas Ledyard Cuyler wrote –

“Conversion by the Holy Spirit is a spiritual illumination of the soul. God's grace lights up the dark heart. And when a man has once been kindled at the cross of Christ, he is bound to shine.”

In a confused world, we are to shine in the Spirit of Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Far Country

After he drove the man out, he placed him on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life. (Genesis 3:24)

I can see in the strip malls and the phone calls
The flaming swords of Eden
In the fast cash and the news flash
And the horn blast of war
In the sin-fraught cities of the dying and the dead
Like steel-wrought graveyards where the wicked never rest
To the high and lonely mountain in the groaning wilderness
We ache for what is lost…

(Andrew Petersen from “The Far Country”)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Pillows & Dunghills

So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.

His wife said to him, “Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!” He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”

In all this, Job did not sin in what he said. (Job 2:7-10)

I’ve known many people who struggle through such a depth of suffering you wonder how they hold onto their faith. I’ve also known many who seem to live in the lap of luxury who give up on God.

Faith in God does not depend on the situation we find ourselves in. Throughout the Bible, God lifts up the humble and lowly and casts down the high and mighty.

One of our Puritan ancestors, Thomas Watson observed -

"How soon are we broken on the soft pillow of ease! Adam in paradise was overcome, when Job on the dunghill was a conqueror."

Are you broken on a pillow of ease or conquering on a dunghill?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

When God Steps Away

"Why do you hide your face and consider me your enemy?" (Job 13:24)

Job was a righteous man but, for reasons known alone to God, God allowed him to be tested. For a time, God let Satan test Job’s faith by bringing on him terrible afflictions.

Sometimes God leaves us alone to struggle with inexplicable suffering. This is part of the faith journey of all who follow the One who cried out on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Puritan preacher William Gurnall summed up our dilemma of faith when he said –

"The Christian must trust in a withdrawing God."

It’s easy to believe in God when He is right there with us, but what about when He chooses to step back and let us work things out for ourselves?

Monday, March 12, 2007

Unlimited Calling

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:17-18)

God desires that everyone be saved. But not everyone is. Not everyone receives the faith of Christ. We can’t know why this is. We can only appreciate the gift of faith we receive out of Christ’s saving love.

Our faith ancestor, John Calvin, has been over the years critically evaluated for the doctrine of “predestination”. This doctrine has been understood and explained in various ways. Simply put, Calvin ( and many others in the Reformed tradition) sees in Scripture evidence that God is charge of salvation, that saving faith is a gift from God. There is nothing we can say or do to get into heaven. We all deserve to be eternally punished for our sin, but God shows mercy on those whom God has chosen to show mercy.

While salvation is limited to those with faith in Christ, God calls out to everyone. We can’t blame God for not accepting everyone into heaven. Calvin put it this way –

“No man is excluded from calling upon God, the gate of salvation is set open unto all men: neither is there any other thing which keepeth us back from entering in, save only our own unbelief” (John Calvin)

As you consider the gift of salvation, are you grateful to God or are you resentful that not everyone receives it?

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Leaving God Behind

[The LORD says] “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” (Isaiah 29:13)

How genuine is your faith? I’ve wondered this about myself many times. When I began to worship God on a regular basis, I often questioned my motives. There were times that my worship seemed to have little impact on my life. I would speak the words, sing the songs, says the prayers – all the while feeling empty inside.

When we experience this emptiness in worship, it is natural for us to question God’s presence in our lives. The Psalmists do this quite often, wondering where and why God was hiding from them. But there is another way to look at these. Maybe we are hiding from God.

The Christian mystic, Meister Eckart wrote this --

“God is at home; it is we who have gone for a walk.”

Have you gone for a walk and left God behind?